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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Some BDS Critics Are Playing The Race Card

From California to Las Vegas To Florida and finally to Israel, the word on some streets is that supporting BDS is now  racism, anti-Semitism to be precise. And the same goes for opposing Zionism and even offering any criticisms of Israel. Engaging in such actions can subject some to official sanctions at California's state universities. Otherwise, the worse that can happen thus far is that your name will be dragged through the mud by being labeled a racist. And this is what we see some who oppose BDS. They play the race card to gain an advantage over their adversaries  And the question we have to ask is whether describing people who oppose Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories by supporting sanctions that are meant to motivate Israel to end the Occupation as racists is right. We also must ask the same question of those who criticize the Israeli government and/or who oppose today's Political Zionism.

Before we go on, we should note that BDS stands for Boycott, Sacntions, and Divestment.  And what that specifically refers to here is the global movement to get all sorts of institutions and even states to boycott, pass sanctions on, and divest from Israeli businesses in order to pressure the Israeli government into ending its occupation against the Palestinian people.

The case for using the race card on BDS starts with a working group report prepared by the regents of California's state universities (click here for Appendix 1). As with many reports, there are good and bad parts. The strength of the report is the concern over and intent to act because of actual harassment experienced by Jewish students in the California state universities. Such includes acts of vandalism, anti-Semitic dialogue, 'social exclusion,' 'stereotyping,' and attempts at intimidating Jews. Now some of these complaints are too ambiguous, especially with regard to the final opinion of the report, to comment on. For if voicing disagreement with Zionism is anti-Semitic, then the bar for anti-Semitism is set dangerously low to the extent that criticizing Israel's policies is now considered to be racist. Such can an equation can be the result of opportunism or of overreacting. One can look at the following part of the introduction to see for oneself:
In particular, opposition to Zionism1 often is expressed in ways that are not simply statements of disagreement over politics and policy, but also assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture.
Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.
 The report uses State Department documents as references (click here). And note how our own State Department defines anti-Semitism with regard to statements made about Israel
DEMONIZE ISRAEL:
Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions

DOUBLE STANDARD FOR ISRAEL:
Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations

DELEGITIMIZE ISRAEL:
Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist

Thus,  the regents' working group report that classifies anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is not saying anything that our government has not said. But such does not imply that racism has actually occurred when even Israel or its right to exist as a Jewish nation are challenged. All the above shows is the government's position regarding how one is allowed to talk about Israel.

Finally, one of the telling weaknesses in the part of the report referred to here, and such was probably true for those who wrote the State Department's statements on anti-Semitism, is the lack of input from Jewish groups who oppose Israel's Occupation and even Zionism itself. There are a number of Jewish organizations that oppose Zionism itself. One of them is an orthodox branch of Judaism called the Neturei Karta (click here). Another possible group, I say possible because I am not sure of their relationship to the Neturei Karta, ar the True Torah Jews (click here). So how should we square the equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, as expressed by both the regents in California and the State Dempartment with the existence of Jews who oppose Zionism? 

But the California state universities are not the only ones who are targeting BDS and criticisms of Zionism. So is business leader Sheldon Adelson who not only owns Tribune Publishing Company, he is the Chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. The person Adelson whom has left in charge to battle BDS, David Brog, has said the following about it (click here):
‘BDS’ is a catch-all for various efforts to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel. Even if you could ban BDS activities on campus, the problem wouldn’t go away. The battle is bigger than BDS, so our effort has to be bigger.”

Here, we should note what follows his description of BDS: it tries to 'demonize' and 'delegitimize' Israel and its existence. And what follows that description is a statement of intent to silence BDS. And that banning their activities on college campuses is not enough. So not only does Brog engage in some demonizing of BDS itself, he says that he intends to eliminate it. 

From here, we can go to Florida and Governor Rick Scott's signing of a bill that challenges BDS. Only instead of focusing on the law he signed, we need to listen to what he says about BDS and those who do not agree today's Zionism (click here for the article).


The BDS movement, which claims to seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians, is not a peace movement at all. In fact, it is an insidious form of economic warfare that must not be permitted to grow.
Omar Barghouti, a leader of the movement, has stated the aim of BDS is not a two-state solution, but rather a Palestinian state next to a Palestinian state. In other words, the goal of the BDS movement has nothing to do with the welfare of the Palestinian people, but the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. We must keep this in mind and call out the movement for what it is — a hateful anti-Semitic form of warfare, which must not be tolerated in our state or our country, or among those who value freedom and democracy.

Here, we should note how not only does Scott paint the BDS movement as a monolith that is 'hateful' and 'anti-Semitic,' he takes the sentiments of the leader, Omar Barghouti, and assumes that they are the objectives of everyone in the group including Jews such as Jewish Voice For Peace (click here) and Jeff Halper's group Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (click here). The links provided here clearly show that Scott has tried to say too much against BDS. 

But not only that, we should note that what he calls economic warfare is simply the same strategy used to battle Apartheid in South Africa. Would Scott call that effort economic warfare to destroy South Africa when the end of apartheid meant the end of the use of boycotts, sanctions, and divestments? 

We should also note that Scott continues to say that the suffering of the Palestinian people is solely because of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. He seems to deny that Israel has visited any suffering, let alone injustices, on the Palestinian people.

Finally, we go to Israel and an op-ed to the Jerusalem Post written by Benjamin Kerstein (click here). In that op-ed, Kerstein states that because of Israel's exceptional place in history and its current circumstances., all criticism of it must be regarded as anti-Semitic whether racism is intended or not. To disagree with Kerstein's assertion requires that one disagrees with the exceptional predicament Israel finds itself. And then he goes on to say the following:
Nonetheless, these circumstances are not complex, nor are they numerous. They are simply these: A large portion of the world, West and East, has come to believe that Arabs and Muslims have earned the right to murder Jews.

Do we get a picture of SOME of the defensive reactions that exist to BDS? Who in BDS is believes that Arabs have the right to murder Jews? It's not that those in BDS have no faults. The California state regents were reacting to wrongful behaviors exhibited by BDS follows as well as those who oppose Zionism. Though their reaction goes too far, they are reacting to real anti-Semitism. Vandalism, threats, intimidation, scapegoating, and trying to close events (click here for one such attempt not related to what the California state university regents were reacting to) that support or appear to support Zionism are anti-Semitic as well as anti-democratic. But BDS cannot be reduced to these acts and behaviors because the people involved are too diverse. Not all in BDS exhibit, let alone support, such acts and behaviors.

In addition, what is left out of the picture is the object of the BDS protest. What we don't hear about is the daily violence and humiliation forced on the Palestinian people by Israel's Occupation and why the Palestinians were right not to agree to past Israeli offers (click here and there and there and there again). So regardless of what one could say about whether Israel was targeting civilians in their military operations, civilian life is very much targeted by the Occupation itself. Such was not included in Bernie Sanders' references to disproportionate responses by Israel when it sees fit to invade or attack. Israel's disproportionate responses were cited in the Goldstone Report on 'Operation Cast Lead' as well as the UN Report on Israel's 'Operation 'Protective Edge' (click here). One only needs to visit the B'Tselem webpages on statistics to understand where the disproportion is (click here). For further information, we could refer to the number of UN Resolutions Israel has or is violating (click here for up to the year 2010 and there for a more up to date list) as well as the number of ceasefires they have broken (click here).

Finally, as for the destruction of Israel, what is implied in the use of the terminology is a physical war with carnage and murder. But what is actually meant by people like Omar Barghouti who is the founder of BDS, is far different. What many in BDS who oppose Zionism want is a democracy that includes the return of Palestinian refugees. The end of Zionism, as seen by those BDS supporters who oppose Zionism,  is a prerequisite to ending the Occupation--remember that ending the Occupation is the stated goal of BDS. Allowing Palestinian Refugees to return would, under a democracy, "destroy" the Jewish state by demographics rather than by force and violence. So what is actually destroyed here is not a democracy, but a Jewish majority within a partial democracy.

So note what Zionism stands for so we can understand what kind of anti-Semitism is being denounced. Zionism stands for Israel's right and ability to maintain a Jewish majority in a nation that depends on democratic processes to select its government leaders  This is an important point because we are often reminded that Israel is the only "liberal democracy" that is like us in the Middle East. 

But what if the US passed laws that would guarantee that Whites would remain the majority race in our nation or that Conservative Christians would always be in control of the government? Could we then call ourselves a democracy with a straight face? And yet, that is what Israel, whose current Zionists roots started with the emigration of European Jews because they suffered horribly under an anti-Semitism without even counting the Holocaust. Zionism says that these descendants of former immigrants are allowed to make laws that guarantee that they will be the vast majority of people so that they have control over their democracy. And to oppose that kind of Zionism is now being called racism.

Certainly, this post has excluded much information. It has not included the horrible atrocities visited on the Israeli people by the Palestinians. It has not included the sensitive time period when, not too long ago, Israeli public opinion was beginning to become more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight only to be derailed by Palestinian terrorism. And there is a good reason for this exclusion. It is because many people here in the West use a mental filter that blinds them from Israeli atrocities so that the decision to support Israel in all that it does becomes a simple and sentimental decision to support the good guys wearing the white hats. And this prevents the Palestinian side of the story from being told.

Certainly BDS is about the necessary end of Israel's Occupation against the Palestinians. But we should now see is that, for some, there is also a BDS vs Zionism conflict. That conflict is about who will control the demographics of a nation that relies on democratic processes to pick its leaders. And though I support BDS, equating control of the majority population in order to benefit from democratic processes with Democracy shows a wholly inadequate understanding of Democracy. Such shows a commitment to the appearance of Democracy, but not its spirit. 

For the spirit of Democracy, at least to Israeli activist Jeff Halper, is one that says regardless of which group has the most people, there is an equal sharing and owning of the country among all groups. That without that equal sharing, what we have is some kind of partial democracy, which he calls an 'ethnocracy' in Israel's case. Thus, the oligarchy we see in the US could be called a 'classocracy.' And what we see in these partial democracies is that the group(s) that feel entitled to rule become more and more able to rationalize the visiting of all sorts of controls and even atrocities on others  in order for them to obtain or retain the supremacy they believe they deserve.







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