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To BDS or not to BDS – Why Boycotts, Disinvestments and Sanctions against Israel are Counterproductive

December 19, 2010 – 5:58 pm32 Comments

Parent Circle-Families Forum, a peace-building initiative that would be boycotted under the framework of BDS

In the wake of the NSW Greens officially backing a BDS policy against Israel, Phillip Walker, a Greens candidate in the recent Victorian election, argues that BDS is counterproductive.

For people seeking a just, equitable and peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine issue, the question has arisen of the purpose and impact of the call for Boycotts, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) on the state of Israel. Invariably proponents of the BDS campaign draw analogies between Israel and sanctions introduced against Apartheid South Africa. The BDS movement calls for “the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the Apartheid era. … until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law”.

In this regard imposing BDS is a tactic for exerting pressure and could, just as appropriately, be applied, for example, to China in support of the Tibetans, Indonesia in support of the West Papuans, or Russia in support of the Chechens. Tactics however must suit the context and should have some realistic chance of contributing towards the intended objective. My position is that BDS is actually counterproductive to its intended purpose and in fact could have a negative impact on achieving a just peace in the Middle East, and that the analogy between Apartheid South Africa and Israel is superficial and inaccurate.

Israel is a recognised member of the United Nations. South Africa was not regarded as a legitimate regime; the UN declared Apartheid a crime against humanity and South Africa was suspended from membership. The UN General Assembly imposed the first set of economic sanctions on South Africa in 1962, although international campaigns were required to both strengthen and enforce sanctions. No UN sanctions have been endorsed against Israel.

Sanctions against South Africa were designed to bring down the Apartheid state and replace it with one unified state with majority rule. The BDS call is to support the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination however the BDS Movement does not give any indication as to what form that inalienable right will take. In the unlikely event that the BDS movement achieves its aim of bringing Israel to its knees, it is unclear what outcome the BDS proponents foresee. Some might visualise the eventual destruction of the Israeli state. One of the founders of the BDS Movement, Omar Barghouti, is quoted as saying “a Palestine next to a Palestine, rather than a Palestine next to an Israel”.

Accordingly, the key question for BDS proponents is whether they accept the existence of the state of Israel. I do, recognising that both Jews and Palestinians have countless generations of unbroken occupancy of the land, that Israel is home for millions of Jewish people and that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are best met by the creation of their own unified state. The Australian Greens also take this position calling for “the creation of a viable state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel based on the pre 1967 borders and the right of all peoples in the region to peace”.

In Apartheid South Africa the call for sanctions was a key demand of the African National Congress (ANC) and supported by its allies. They recognised that sanctions would have an important impact driving White South Africans towards acceptance of majority rule. The same situation does not pertain to Israel-Palestine; the Palestinian authority and al Fatah, along with progressive Israeli organisations such as Gush Shalom call for a limited campaign of boycott and sanction directed against the Occupation and the West Bank Settlements. The BDS movement acknowledges this, stating that “the BDS campaign is not a Palestinian government initiative” but they then blur the distinction between the West Bank settlements and Israel by citing support from people who call for boycotts on the West Bank settlements, while also demanding boycotts of Israelis who hold the same position.

Unquestionably sanctions against Apartheid South Africa were important both economically and morally. Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery cites a discussion on the impact of sanctions with South African Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu. In 1989, the moderate white leader, Frederic Willem de Klerk, was elected President of South Africa. Upon assuming office he declared his intention to set up a multiracial regime. Tutu says “I called to congratulate him, and the first thing he said was: Will you now call off the boycott?”

While economically impacted by sanctions the Apartheid government did find ways to bypass them. Manufactured products did not display country of origin and continued to be sold throughout Africa; a government owned company called SASOL was formed that used a highly-polluting process to convert coal into oil; South Africa and Israel secretly shared military technology. But the biggest impact on South Africa was on morale – they felt rejected by the world and they were denied access to sporting links (like Australians, South Africans are sports mad, imagine the reaction here if international sporting links were broken).

While sanctions hurt South Africa the ANC cadre that I knew and worked with commonly cited three primary reasons for the fall of Apartheid:

First, internally the United Democratic Front (UDF) campaign of mass civil disobedience was making the country ungovernable.

Second, in 1986 the battle of Cuito Carnivale in Angola – when Cuban, Angolan and ANC forces fought the South African military machine to a standstill – started the strategic retreat of Apartheid.

Third, and significantly, was the collapse of Soviet bloc. The new global political climate associated with the end of the Cold War gave the South African government the confidence to boldly move into unbanning the ANC and entering into negotiations.

Many readers of this article may well have seen the movie Invictus which deals with the period in South Africa immediately after democratic rule was achieved in 1994. The movie highlights the attention Nelson Mandela gave to understanding the Afrikaner psyche, and the concessions he was prepared to make, even in defiance of his own party, to accommodate their interests so that they could learn to accept living under Black majority rule (something they had been raised to believe was unfathomable). It is a lesson many could learn including, it would seem, the proponents of BDS.

To form insights into the emotions and motives of the ‘other’ is to be able to appreciate base concerns which can lead to accommodation of interests, and in return compromise and concession from them. Without this insight it is questionable whether any resolution can be achieved. I continue to be surprised by the number of compassionate Jews who display little empathy for what the Nakba and 43 years of Occupation means for Palestinians. Political progressives often find common ground with progressive Jews and then fail to understand why there is a sudden differentiation when it comes to the Israel-Palestine question. Likewise, an unfavourable comparison between Israel and Apartheid South Africa unintentionally or otherwise antagonises many Jews. The legacy of the Holocaust makes comparison with an ideology that had fascist origins offensive and diminishes opportunities for compromise or even dialogue.

The legacy of centuries of persecution has undoubtedly impacted on the Jewish psyche. Insecurity and mistrust lead many to perceive the world as an existentialist military threat. If a just resolution to the conflict is to be achieved then it has to be premised on Israel knowing that its continued existence is guaranteed and not threatened. Israel needs to feel the sense of security to be flexible and accommodating to the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for their own state. The BDS campaign is unlikely to soften the attitude of Israeli people; rather it will reinforce the view that “the whole world is still against us”. Accordingly BDS is defeatist as it despairs of the possibility that Israel can be a partner for peace.

There is another corollary from South Africa that for the Middle East context remains aspirational. The period from February 1990 (when the ANC was unbanned and Nelson Mandela was released from prison) and April 1994 (when the first all-inclusive democratic elections were held) is a positive example of how previously implacably opposed foes were able to negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution. During the negotiation period extremists from both left and right, along with an insidious ‘Third Force’ associated with Apartheid security agencies, were instigating violence and setting off bombs in an attempt to derail the movement towards democracy. On more than one occasion the country was on the verge of civil war. The South African Human Rights Commission has estimated that during this period up to 15,000 people died as a result of political violence.

In this context that South Africa was able to successfully transition to democratic rule is testament to the political will of the leadership of all the parties involved. Instead of using politically instigated violence as a pretext to cancel negotiations in fact it became a reason to push ahead and reach agreement. In the Middle East, while there have been times when it appeared that agreement has been in reach, unfortunately the political will to overcome the final hurdles has been lacking. In writing this I am not apportioning responsibility for failure (I will leave the finger pointing blame game to others), rather highlighting that it is only rarely that maturity of political leadership from all sides exists in sufficient quantity to reach a solution, and that it is achievable and we must keep on trying.

BDS extends to the boycott of joint Palestinian-Israeli dialogue promoting peace-building initiatives such as Combatants for Peace, Parents Circle and the Hand in Hand Schools. It means cutting ties with advocates of the stature of Uri Avnery. Efforts have already been made to impose a boycott on the Said-Barenboim Foundation and its associated West Eastern Divan Orchestra.

In summary, while boycotts against Apartheid South Africa contributed to pressure that led to the negotiated dismantlement of the Apartheid system, BDS against the existing state of Israel will not further peace initiatives but polarise positions and diminish opportunities for achieving a just outcome.

Phillip Walker was the Greens candidate for Caulfield in the 2010 State election and for Melbourne Ports in the 2007 Federal election. From 1991 to 2000 he lived in South Africa and was a member of the African National Congress (ANC). He is writing in his personal capacity.

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  • Alex says:

    Why is the phrase ‘writing in his personal capacity’ necessary?

    I personally will not be voting for a political party that is even questioning (amongst its branches) whether or not to support the BDS movement.

    The Greens is a party of limited influence. They can put any policy on their website and it will be of little consequence.

    One can get a better idea of the character of the party and what it stands for by listening to the rhetoric of the key Greens party figures: Bob Brown, Adam Bandt, Christine Milne, Lee Rhiannon, Sarah Hanson-Young and perhaps Greg Barber. Just do a quick Google search with any one of their names and ‘Israel’.

    After researching these key figures and their backgrounds, research their associations with the rabidly anti-Israel unions.

  • Ari says:

    The entire BDS movement seems to be another tool of the extreme left which seeks to undermine the entire notion of peace negotiations. Either they want Israel to withdraw unilaterally to pre-67 borders and leave a power vacuum in their wake, thereby exposing the Palestinian population to the likes of Hamas or they wish to pressure Israel as part of the negotiation process – something which in and of itself undermines the process of negotiations. As was pointed out in this article – say Israel listens to the far-left and withdraws tomorrow – what then? Rockets on Jerusalem? PA security forces being overthrown by Hamas? Sometimes the far-left is too concerned about their sense of what is right and not concerned enough about pragmatics and listening to the what others believe to be their rights – or perhaps they would love for that to happen and then blame Israel again as a way for justifying those Palestinian rockets on Gilo.

    At the end of the day for the negotiations to be successful they need to be built on mutual recognition of rights. It cannot begin with Fatah refusing to recognise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and then demanding a full right of return for refugees. It has to begin with Israel recognising the need for a Palestinian State and Palestinian connection to the land and Fatah and their allies recognising the right of the Jews to this land and a Jewish state.
    The world seems to have forgotten the latter – I guess that is what you get in the Middle East for being a little less dogmatic in the hope of reaching a negotiated settlement – or even negotiations at all. Once again showing many in Israel, myself included, that it is just too risky to negotiate when you cannot defend yourself when it goes bad.

  • ariel says:

    I agree with Alex’s first statement: why is Phillip writing in his personal capacity? I would like to see his viewpoint signed off on by the Greens leadership.

    During the most recent Federal election campaign, the Greens candidate for Wentworth was asked about Greens’ policy on Israel. He said it called for a return to the borders as described in the 1947 partition plan. See here for what that would look like and how out of touch and dangerous the Greens are:

    There can’t be peace until the world accepts that Jerusalem is to the Jewish people what Mecca is for Muslims.

  • Liam says:


    Jerusalem may be to the Jewish people what Mecca is to the Muslims, but that doesn’t account for the fact that Jerusalem, whether you like it or not, is also an integral part of Christianity and Islam, which distinguishes itself from Mecca.

    That, and the facts on the ground of almost a quarter-of-a-million Arabs that live in East Jerusalem mean they are very different situations.


  • Eli says:

    Liam, Jerusalem does not figure at all in Islam. It does not appear in any of the liturgy with any importance placed on it all. Its importance only gained any significance with the defeat of the crusader, as a symbol of triumph and nothing else. This is why many mosques are built on top of previous synagogues and Churches as a permanent reminder of Islamic victory over the infidels.

    Christianity’s relevance to Jerusalem is simply an outgrowth from its connection to its roots in Judaism.

    Judaisms connection to Jerusalem is interleaved throughout its religious liturgy,cultural and literary heritage and is ingrained as a symbol of hope and redemption in the daily life of all Jews, and has been so for at least 3000 years,

    Jerusalem is not just a piece of real estate for Jews. Its is priceless! and non negotiable

  • Marky says:

    In other words, with the formers, it is “sheli sheli, vesheloch sheli”

  • philip mendes says:

    Phillip Walker is to be commended for his unequivocal critique of the BDS Campaign, and for the similar letter that he and three of his Greens colleagues published in the Jewish News this week defending a two-state solution. This is the debate that the Greens have to have. The Victorian ALP was unelectable in the 1970s because the public would not tolerate their extremist views including the anti-Zionist fundamentalism parroted by Bill Hartley and co. Similarly, the Greens will suffer electorally if they do not marginalize their extremists. Walker has demonstrated correctly that the BDS campaigners within the Greens are pro-war rather than pro-peace, and adopt a position of ethnic stereotyping of all Israeli Jews that is reminiscent of parties of the far Right rather than the compassionate Left. The responsible Greens leaders now need to join with Walker and his Victorian colleagues in rejecting the views of Senator Rhiannon and her unreconstructed disciples.

    Philip Mendes

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I would have hoped that everyone posting on this site would have the courage to post his/her names. Thus, the views put by Eli about the non-connection of Muslims to Jerusalem should be at least attached to a real person who can take responsibility for a denialism that is on the same level as denialism of abiding Jewish connection to the Land.

    The fact is, that Jerusalem is holy to Islam (despite claims that it is never mentioned in the Koran, and this position is well-refuted by both secular and traditional Muslim scholars).

    Other than that, Phillip’s argument is thought provoking and insightful about the psychology of the situation and why BDS has gone down a particular path but in the interests of diversity of opinion, it deserves an invited Palestinian response.

    We also need to remember for all those who think that discrediting BDS will solve the problem, that the problem of occupation and ethnic separatism isn’t going away. If anything it is worse, and cocking a snoot at the rest of the world. Israel needs to find a solution. It has the balance of arms, power and economy. There really is no excuse for not doing so any more.

  • ariel says:

    The solution is to completely separate the two populations – Jewish and Arab – with a wall so high that the birds can’t fly over it (Martin van Crewald). The only thing to negotiate is where to build that wall.

    In fact, I’d like a wall like that between me and some of my neighbours…

  • Eli says:

    First of all Galus’ policy is that one is not required to disclose publicly one’s name. The fact that you or anyone does is not significant, since the site is about expressing an opinion.

    That opinion is as worthy as yours or anyone’s here and its validity or strength is not determined simply by the illusion of a reputation or authority attached to a well-known name. Your dismissal smells of intellectual elitism.

    Not sure how providing a “real” name translates into responsibility. That makes no sense, since I am stating an opinion, not making policy or determining an outcome for which I should be accountable.

    I find it interesting that you require “Israel to find a solution”. I thought there were two parties to this conflict. Where is the “responsibility” of the other party? But that’s another discussion.

    Editors,please provide Mr Stillman with my email address, just so he doesn’t feel so alone as the only “real” person. Or you could just click on my name which takes you to my website.

  • Marky says:

    ….and there are quite a few posts on these forums from those with real names who write nonsense. What does it help if they take responsibility for their nutty theories(e.g. 9/11 started by Israel and U.S.), Jews descended from Mongolian clans. The list goes on..)

  • Liam says:

    Regardless of whether Jerusalem is mentioned in the Koran or not, or the basis for the place of the city in Christianity, the fact remains that they consider it an integral part of their religion *now*.

    Peace will not occur while we are questioning the basis for each other’s narratives. It will take the removal of prejudice and judgement, and the acceptance of the equal validity of each other’s positions.

    If not, we’ll just keep arguing and keep killing each other for the next few centuries…


  • ariel says:

    There is no validity in a lie no matter how many people believe it.

    What if people start considering Melbourne to be a sacred Japanese Shinto site? Would we cede it to Japan?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Ariel had mentioned van Creveld, who is no pussycat as an Israeli analyst, and building high walls. He certainly says that, but he also now says: “Should Israeli rule over them [Palestinians] continue, then the country will definitely turn into what it is already fast becoming: namely, an apartheid state that can only maintain its control by means of repressive secret police actions.” http://forward.com/articles/133961/#ixzz18c8awH2d

    Regrettably, if people like he are using the A word, then it only gives credibility to the BDS movement and very hard-line attitudes towards Israel i.e., that it is beyond redemption.

    I again call for other comments on the piece by Walker. Or is it that there is such a cognitive dissonance /confusion /despair over the state of Israel that many people are too reluctant to say anything one way or the other because it might disturb the peace?

  • Mandi Katz says:


  • Ittay says:

    Hi Ariel,
    Jerusalem is mentioned zero times in the Torah. It is also mentioned zero times in the Quran.

    How then did the city become holy to Jews and Muslims?
    When the city is referred to in the Torah, the term “the place that God will choose” is used. There are also refrences to Zion and Moriah. Samartains later understood this reference to “the place that god will choose” to be Mount Grizim. Rabbinic Jews understand this place to be Jerusalem.

    In the chapter 17 verse 1 of the Quran it says “Glory be to Him Who took His devotee (Muhammed) one night from Masjid-al-Haram (in Makkah) to Masjid-al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem), whose vicinity We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs; surely He is the One Who is the Hearer, the Observer.”

    This verse is interpreted by Islamic tafsirs (commentaries) as referring to this journey, with the term “the farthest Mosque” (al-masjid al-Aqsa) referring to the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem, where the mosque stands.

    Jerusalem served as the first qibla (direction of prayer) for Muslims. Whilst Muslims were in Mecca, and also for 17–18 months in Medina, Muslim prayed towards Jerusalem. Early mosques in Medina were built to face Jerusalem. In 625, The qibla was changed to the Kaaba in Mecca.

    The reason I provide these tow examples is to illustrate that both in Judaism and Islam, Jersualem became identified as a holy place after the initial revelation. In the case of Judaism, it was through the Neviim and Ketuvim, whulst in Islam in came through the hadith and latter commentaries and, particularly that of Ibn Hajar, Ibn al-Jawzî and Yusuf Ali.

    This informnation is relevant because both modern Judaism and modern Islam are entirley products of interprrative traditions, with very few Jews of Muslims reading the Torah or Quran literally.

    This is why both Jews and Muslims see the city of Yerushalayim/al Quds as holy today.

  • ariel says:

    Thank you Ittay, much appreciated, I didn’t know this.

    I don’t deny Jerusalem is holy to Islam – I just downgrade it’s level of holiness compared to ours. When the media constantly say ommitingly that the Temple Mount is the “third holiest site in Islam”, but do not mention that it is “the number one holiest site in Judaism”, it exacerbates the problem.

    Also, I think it’s a lot to do with the politics of the matter.
    For example why the sudden importance of Jerusalem to the Palestinian polity only in the last few decades?
    I think they understand that if we’re willing to give up the Jerusalem that we spent 2000 years begging to return to, who knows what else we may give up?

    Yasser Arafat played it very well at Camp David in 2000 when Barak offered to divide Jerusalem and Arafat said that Jerusalem belongs to the entire Muslim world and he has no authority to negotiate over it- he must first go to the Arab League to get consensus.

    Ironically, this should be the line of every Israeli PM (Netanyahu has said similar, but falls short of declaring that he has no right to negotiate as it belongs to all Jews). As @Eli says, Jerusalem is not negotiable for us.

    I already said Walker’s peace is brave for a Green and I’m waiting for his position to be endorsed by the party.

    I think one difference I have is that I don’t believe that any of these reconciliation activities are achieving anything and the best thing to do is what was done many times in Europe: build a border between the two peoples and keep them apart to flourish by themselves until they are ready to be friends.

  • Ittay says:

    Hi Ariel,
    Saul Singer’s argument that the “arabs” do not want peace is an old one that is trotted frequently whenever negotiations seem to be heading somewhere.
    You can read rebuttal to it here:
    and here

    For my part, I think both Levy and Singer singer are wrong. Both of them focus on the glass which is half empty, namely the very vocal Israelis and Palestinians who prefer a military rather than a negotiated solution to this conflict.

    The truth is, that the silent majority on both sides believe in a two state solution. see:

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Very recently, Abbas met 100 members of the Knesset and other Israelis in Ramallah. He made it very clear that he had gone as far as he could –and remember, he is already on the edge with many Palestinians as far as ‘legitimacy’ is concerned.

    See what Joharah Baker, one of the most articulate and thoughtful young Palestinians has to say about this. She’s right, the situation is completely imbalanced.

    Yet would Bibi meet 100 Palestinians? No way. No, he just continues building settlements and sadly, Obama has rolled over due internal political pressures.

    No wonder then, that total BDS advocates get so much support.

  • ariel says:

    Ittay, I think the question should be asked about what is taught in Israeli schools about peace and two states and what is taught in Palestinian schools:
    I understand Israeli children are taught that whilst the entire Land of Israel has significance to us, we must be willing to give up a great chunk for peace.
    Meanwhile in Palestinian schools, they are taught that “all of Palestine” is theirs, that the Jews are there but don’t belong and have no rights and that they will never give up on their claims to all of Palestine.
    This, I believe, is the asymetry which Saul Singer is lamenting.

    Also, I like to ask why such a huge percentage of Israeli music is about peace with the neighbours. I don’t speak Arabic, but I haven’t heard any Arabic songs about “the time has come to lay down our weapons and hug our Jewish brothers in Israel” (a reverse theme in many Israeli songs). Perhaps such songs would be banned in Arab and Muslim countries? Again, a huge part of the problem.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Ittay,

    I agree with you that it is not important what is written in our texts. Far too much history taken place since the writing of either the Torah or the Quaran.

    However, I would just add that Jerusalem is mentioned in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) between 600 to 700 times. It is not mentioned in the Chumash (Five Books of Moses) as this covers a time preceding the founding of Jerusalem. I am not knowledgeable enough about the Quaran to say what time period it covers, but it is clearly written centuries after the founding of Jerusalem. I’m also not knowledgeable enough to say whether the Quaran is more the equivalent of the Chumash or the Tanakh.

    Again, I don’t think any of this is relevant to this discussion, so no need to answer here, but I think it would further peace for Jews and Muslims to be more educated about eachother’s religion and beliefs. As I am aware that you have some interfaith contacts, so perhaps you could organise for someone to write an article about this in the future.

  • Shaun says:

    I tend to agree with Ittay that the ‘silent majorities’ of both people believe in a two state solution. What they need is inspired leadership, which is sorely lacking.

    Israelis have unfortunately been let down by the quality of its leadership. Bibi had done nothing but try and score ‘victories’ over Obama. If he was genuinely sincere about a two state solution, he would have continued exactly where Olmert was with Abu Mazen in negotiations in 2008 (whose offers I understand were significantly more generous than anything Barak offered in 2000). Instead, he thinks merely rambling on about a demilitarised two state solution (which most of the Israeli public adoped years ago) is an achievement.

  • Ari Silbermann says:

    “Both of them focus on the glass which is half empty, namely the very vocal Israelis and Palestinians who prefer a military rather than a negotiated solution to this conflict.”

    Regardless what you say, the Israeli’s have paid sorely for their negotiations with the Palestinians. To this day the Palestinians are not willing to compromise on a range of issues and use everything that they have gained during negotiations to attack Israel and declare a state outside of a negotiated settlement.
    When my life is at risk, I prefer to look at the glass as half empty!!
    If the Palestinians had shown themselves to be reliable ngotiating partners, then maybe I could have seen the glass another way. Anyone who interprets Barak’s offer and the Palestinian Intifada in another way cannot be relied upon to interpret things at all and is simply twisting facts to bolster their political opinion – something that is highly problematic.

  • ariel says:

    One of the biggest negotiation issues is that which was raised by Martin Indyk after his years of involvement. He said it was a lesson the US and Europe had to learn (even though the Israelis had told them about it several times and were told off for whinging).

    That is, that the US thinks everyone in the world thinks and behaves like them in diplomacy and negotiations. Indyk says they have to learn that in the Middle East, diplomacy and negotiations are carried out in a different manner (Israel constantly complained that the Palestinians treated the negotiations like a shuk/bazaar, constantly raising the price and trying to deny previous agreements.)

  • @Ittay – is the rebuttal to “the Arabs don’t want peace” that “the Arabs do want peace” or that “the Jews also don’t want peace”?

  • HJ says:

    Anyone that votes for the ANC represents anarchy, murder, terrorism, marxism and is responsible for the Aids and Crime problem in South Africa.

    The ANC (African National Congress) is the enemy of Israel. The best friends we could ever have was the Afrikaner nation.

    The multicultural ‘rainbow nation’ is a failure and many across the world do not buy this solution for Israel!

  • Daniel says:

    The views of another inner city lefty (not affiliated, non-Jewish), I posted earlier to another blog…

    In Australia, like Israel, we are also a nation of migrants and no doubt you will have heard the argument that this country was inhabited prior to our migration and that many of the original inhabitants still regard us as an occupying force. Being only a second generation migrant hasn’t stopped me feeling at home here, or having a “sense of place”. We occasionally migrate internally to places hundreds of kilometers away and usually come to feel at home within a very short period.

    What connects us to a place and gives us a sense of home isn’t geography, but people, society, and the values that we share. I currently live in Marrickville and feel at home here, but have also in Brunswick, Brixton, Brooklyn, and downtown Tel Aviv. I value a culturally diverse neighbourhood, not because I belong to a particular sub-culture (I’m a straight, white, atheist), but because such places tend to breed (perhaps out of necessity) or attract tolerant people, and offer interesting cross-cultural interactions. What is also necessary is a legal foundation that upholds the rights of minorities, and a regime with the will to do so. Such regimes only form when they are accountable to the population through the universal exercise of democracy, and never when they are composed of religious fundamentalists.

    I believe that the more radical religious elements in the Middle East, both Jewish and Muslim, are the enemies of peace, but I also believe the best hope for a peaceful region is the secular state of Israel. While most international attention towards Israel focuses on the religious fringe and the conflict that it provokes, we need to remember that at its core Israel is a modern democratic state which upholds equal rights for women, religious and ethnic minorities, accepts same sex relationships, and has produced some vibrant multicultural communities as a result. These areas are unique to Israel in the Middle East, as are their legal and institutional underpinnings.

    The question for social progressives ought to be how to extend this liberal “multi-culture” to Palestinian regions and neighbouring states (yes and also some more insular Jewish communities), not how to dismantle the only one that exists. The process may begin by restoring leadership to the secular elements of society, something made more difficult while conflict persists. And how to promote values, that must be shared if true understanding and integration are to happen, rather than a segregated, “walled” existence.

    Certainly criticism of Israel is at times warranted, but does it serve a constructive purpose or will it only isolate more moderate elements? And where are the similar efforts to promote the equality of women, to stop the persecution of gays, lesbians, ethnic and religious minorities, that are endemic in the Arab states in the region? This is not an even-handed, or constructive approach and its effect will likely be counter-productive to its intent. Further I believe the moral contradictions and hypocrisy embedded in this policy will divide the Greens and undermine their efforts to achieve mainstream acceptance. Its not something that I wish for as I support many of their policies and, more often than not they have had my vote. Not this time.

  • philip mendes says:

    It is perhaps worth adding that a successful BDS campaign could potentially turn the six million Jews of Israel into refugees. This is not something I would want weighing on my conscience.


  • Mohan to Mendes says:

    WOW! A BDS campaign will turn six milion Jews into refugees! Great hasbara! Wonder why Israelis Uri Davies, The late Tanya Reinhart and Ilan Pappe et al, not to mention expatriate Israelis in UK and Jewish intellectuals, have supported the BDS campaign.

    We will probably learn that the BDS campaign has turned South African whites into refugees! The fourth biggest military power in the world, unconditional US vetos of Security Council resolutions, billions of dollars in military aid, weapons and tax free donations from the US and a campaign of BDS will turn them into refugees.

    Great hasbara, and abysmal analysis.University prfessors should have better academic standards.

  • larry stillman says:

    What did the ancients say–cum grano salis– take it as a grain of salt, Mohan. A gentleman’s D-, I fear to say.

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