Why boycott culture? Outcome of the debate.

You can now download an audio recording of the Why boycott culture? debate at the South Bank Centre.

The Israel eliminationists won.

Jonathan Freedland, who is for dialogue without preconditions, talked about entrenchment of conflict in his summing up (beginning 1 hour 38 min 45 sec) – “the people who pay the price won’t be you … the price will be paid by Palestinians on the sharp end of occupation”. He ended:

“Here’s the very last point – tonight has been hugely revealing to me, because I thought my disagreement with the boycott movement was because I want to see the end of occupation, you want to see the end of occupation and it’s an argument about tactics.

“What has come through loud and clear tonight is your motivation – there’s nothing wrong with this but it’s clarifying – is not actually just the end of occupation but it is with Israel itself you have a fundamental problem with, you [shouts of disagreements from the audience] … Omar Barghouti made it clear.”

Hat tip: Alan A, Harry’s Place.

17 Responses to “Why boycott culture? Outcome of the debate.”

  1. Gideon Swort Says:

    Let’s be open minded enough to understand that this was/is a proverbial “lynch” which Jonathan presumably walked into with full knowledge that the audience will be hostile. He made a “wager” with his fellow debaters prior to proceedings. His arguments were top notch, logical, intelligent and well reasoned. No one can debate closed minds.
    His summary at the end of the debate reveal some sort of a realization of a personal mindset shift. Comments about “pennies dropping” and as such are out of place. I’d risk a presumption that we’ve just heard the sound of Jonathan hitching his own wagon.

    • Zkharya Says:

      ‘I’d risk a presumption that we’ve just heard the sound of Jonathan hitching his own wagon.’

      Hi Gideon, could you please clarify what you mean, as I don’t think I understand.

    • Carol Gould Says:

      Last week one of the organisers did admit to me they had no end of difficulty getting anyone to appear on the anti-boycott side. Where are our rabbonim? Board of Deputies? Embassy personnel? Actors? Lawyers? Poets? Novelists? A few weeks ago I debated the PR head of Hamas who refused to face me and sat with his back to me, but I did it. A fortnight ago I debated Omowole Rupert, who spent the entire proceedings referring to my country as ‘US Satan’ and this past week took on four debaters live on al Alam — all four men detest the USA, the UK and Israel. Why is an American the only one defending Israel day in and day out at various venues and TV studios in the UK? We need more activists ‘out there.’

  2. Zkharya Says:

    Jonathan makes clear how the debate was a set up. Normally, in a debate, those proposing the motion speak first. But in this case, it was those speaking against had first to speak. That is a much harder to do, because you are defending yourself against arguments that have not yet been specifically made. Anyway, he did well, and his summing up is well worth hearing.

  3. Gideon Swort Says:

    Hi Zkharya,

    Hi Gideon, could you please clarify what you mean, as I don’t think I understand.
    It’s in reference to Jonathan’s “circling the wagons” metaphor.

    That is a much harder to do, because you are defending yourself against arguments that have not yet been specifically made.
    Yes, wagon before the mule….😉

  4. The boycott campaign bears fruit in Israel’s new boycott prohibition law « Greens Engage Says:

    […] The general assumption seems to be that the Israeli street support the law and don’t want their tax shekels to fund any kind of boycott, even one to weaken the settler economy. I’m not so sure – I speculate this perceived support might be a case of demagoguery by politicians who were all too easily able to jab their fingers at the boycott campaign and say “This boycott isn’t about ending the occupation – it’s about ending Israel and ending you“. After all, this is still widely true. […]

  5. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    There is an interesting article on CIFWatch regarding Jonathan Freedland:
    http://cifwatch.com/2011/07/17/an-open-letter-to-jonathan-freedland/#comments

  6. Babs Says:

    Actually, Mira, I gave the link you attributed to Brian Goldfarb..

    Not really important, but it pays to be accurate doesn’t it?

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      I think Brian arrived at the link independently, Babs. At any rate, the attribution of comments to commenters is in WordPress’ hands, not ours.

  7. Babs Says:

    Does anyone know how the audience was comprised? Was it by invitation only (and if so how on earth did Tony Greenstein get an invitation) or could anyone walk in?

    I heard the recording and was appalled by Barghouti’s lies (although I shouldn’t be – I’ve heard them before and he’s an arch hypocrite as someone wrote below the line on CiF Watch) and that no-one attempted to shut up the hecklers, who were silent as the grave when the great Barghouti was propagandising.

    Gideon, how do you know about the wager? Did you witness it?

    And you are right that one cannot debate with closed minds.

    • Carol Gould Says:

      After the event I signed my books in the foyer — how that did lift my crumbling self-esteem and despair! — but then was escorted upstairs to the Queen Elizabeth Hall Private Dining Room for what the organisers had told us would be a dinner for the panel. To my astonishment the small room was ( wait for it) full to capacity with a considerable percentage of the AUDIENCE ! These people – inlcuding the hecklers — were given a free dinner and drinks by the South Bank Centre. Incredible.

  8. Sarah Says:

    Well, that was the most disturbing thing I’ve heard in a while. Amazing how the audience seemed almost entirely comprised of anti-Zionist Jews (self-identified, of course). It was really intellectually dishonest when Barghouti said the issue has nothing to do with Jews and yet whenever he wanted to quote someone on the subject of Israeli atrocities, he would make a point of saying if they were Jewish (and most of his quotes were in fact from Jews). If the ethnicity isn’t important in the debate, why did he consistently reference it to shore up his own viewpoint? I mean, I know *why* but the bald hypocrisy was infuriating, even though (as someone mostly unfamiliar with him and not biased against him) I thought some of his point were well-argued, even though I disagree with most of them.

    That said, despite the utterly horrible audience, Carol Gould did her side no favors with her petulant, obnoxious tone. (Yeah, yeah, Brits think Americans are dumb – you could try to challenge that opinion by debating properly instead of whining about it.) The only person who came out looking well was Freedland, and to some degree the moderator, who both tried in vain to keep the debate about the boycott issue as opposed to whether Israel should exist or not.

    Found myself literally shaking my head at the applause – from what I’m assuming is largely a white British audience – about how colonizers never give up colonial privileges willingly. I doubt there was a inkling of National self-reflection there.

    • Carol Gould Says:

      Petulant and obnoxious? Do you have any idea how I was trying to quell the loud, scary and truly oboxioius audience? I was making fun of MYSELF with the comments about how people DO think Americans can be pretty dumb and trying to bring a little good humour into the proceedings. I am known for my ability to make people laugh despite my conitnuing battle with recurrent breast cancer. The night before the event I asked my dear friends to take a photo of me because I was convinced it was the last night of my life. I really was fearful of being murdered by a radical at the Purcell Room. Instead of calling me obnoxious and petulant, how about some praise for being the only Jewish person in the UK — along with Jonathan — willing to say yes to appearing at the South Bank and standing up for Israel?

      • Sarah Says:

        Wow. Well, I know nothing of your health issues although you have my greatest sympathy and well-wishes, and I do understand that the audience was absolutely horrible. I was not trying to make a character judgement on you, but express my frustration with your arguments, but I obviously blurred that line and that’s on me.

        I appreciate that you were willing to “stand up for Israel” and I recognize that is a difficult position to take in that poisonous atmosphere. That said, I was frustrated with your arguments because I didn’t feel like you were arguing the point – the boycott – but instead played into the hands of your opponents at every turn by bringing up the issue of Israel’s legitimacy from the get-go. You interrupted the moderator, which no other person on the panel did. You talk about your “humor” but people were laughing at you bringing up Israeli’s relatively minor suffering compared to that of the Palestinians and yes, people laughed in derision. I disagree with their laughter because I think Israeli suffering is important, but in the context it’s not surprising. Honestly, you seemed really out of touch with the discussion and I’m not saying that the audience would have agreed with you or loved you had you presented things better, I’m saying that for THIS liberal Zionist, you didn’t make a very good case or represent the issue well in my opinion. I’m sorry if that upsets you, but I don’t see what your health issues have to do with my interpretation of the debate.

        • Carol Gould Says:

          How could I make my full case when Jonathan Heywood absolutely made it clear to me that I COULD NOT SPEAK and at least five times put his hand out to stop me speaking? He called on endless streams of audience members to rant — not one audinece member for the entire two hours was from an anti-boycott viewpoint — whilst I could not even get a word in. How could I get my points across when I was not able to deliver my full speech? I had to stop short of the end because the interruptions caused me to lose some of my alooted time. I get more airtime for my strong view on iranian al Alam, al Kawthar and Press TV ! On Sunday I did a live one-hour show broadcast to the Arab and Muslim world up against four radical opponents, but they let me have my full say without shutting me down or interrupting. I am quite capable, despite my recent illness, of powerful arguments but the event on July 10th was manipulated from the first moment and I was powerless — as was Jonathan Freedland — to do anything. Many people have asked me why I did not walk out. It would never have crossed my mind to do that. But it was hell trying to get anything out as I was shouted down non-stop.


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