A wonderfully Orwellian way of making sure that pro Palestinian campaigners can’t be antisemitic is by defining for Jews what antisemitism is and what we’re allowed to find offensive. This is the BDS way.
When it comes to Israel everyone loses their ability to think. In London, and I guess all over Europe, it’s particularly ridiculous, perhaps a better word is tragic. The farce over Matisyahu, the American Jewish reggae artist has already been all over the news and blogs. The theory being that because he was a Jew he needed to denounce Israel. When he refused, those who had called on him to do so felt doubly justified in insisting that he bend the knee and bow to the opinions they declare he must hold in order to perform.
In the end it all turned into a farce. The backlash in favour of Matisyahu turned out to be stronger than the force calling for him to be barred from the festival, so now he’s playing again. My question is how many Palestinians were helped by this fiasco? How many would have been helped had Matisyahu been denied the opportunity to perform?
Today in London, there was what was billed as an international conference entitled “Palestine and Latin America in the 21st Century”. Of course, the conference had little to do with Latin America and very little to do with Palestine. Speaker after speaker lined up to slam Israel over the course of a day of talks.
And you know what? That’s fine. I slam Israel all of the time, maybe sometimes Israel needs slamming, maybe Israel needs a good kick up the backside and someone to ask Israel’s government what the hell is going on? Why it is that if Israel really wants peace and two states between the river and the sea, it’s still moving people into the West Bank, still building houses on occupied land and selling them to Israeli citizens at a premium, I could go on and on.
But I’m an Israeli and I go on and on because I’m looking for an end to all of this.
What are they looking for?
There seems to be no real rhyme or reason for the polemic and the blog posts and articles. Over and over the attacks come, they serve no purpose. They have helped no Palestinians. In the case of Matisyahu, they expose the need of those involved to gain attention for themselves as much as their cause. In Mondoweiss, they go into the issue a little bit, even talking about where Matisyahu’s lyricist lives. But they miss the bigger point. An American Jew was being told he couldn’t perform at a Spanish music festival because of Palestine. Music is about freedom of expression; this is about telling Jewish artists what it is that they’re allowed to think if they want to perform their music. If the BDS activists really had faith in their cause, they should simply have publicised Matisyahu’s views and allowed the audience to decide for themselves.
And really this kind of dictatorial style cuts to the heart of everything BDS does. It’s utterly hypocritical to talk about Israel’s record on human rights in a critical fashion, only to invite Azzam Tamimi, a man who states what an honour it would be to be a suicide bomber onto the podium. It’s the perfect example of the contradiction that sits at the heart of BDS. If you’re campaigning for human rights and equality how on earth can you promote Hamas supporters?
Since they’ve taken over in Gaza, they have displayed their penchant for religious coercion, dictatorial rule, arrest and imprisonment without due process and summary executions of their own people almost without end. How can they keep a straight face when they attack Israeli military rule over Palestinians on the one hand and defend Hamas on the other?
What’s especially galling, however, is the attempt by members of the BDS movement to dictate to Jews what is and what is not anti-Semitism. Ali Abunimah, one of the founders of the BDS movement says the following in his blog about Matisyahu;
Let us be clear that if the only reason Miller had been asked to state a position on Palestine was that he was Jewish that would indeed be discriminatory and unacceptable. It is, however, Zionists and anti-Semites who insist that being Jewish and being Zionist are synonymous. This is a position long rejected by many Jews and of course by the Palestinian-led BDS movement.
It is this kind of high minded nonsense which will ensure BDS will never have a real effect on the ground in Palestine. I am a Jew, my Judaism and my Zionism are synonymous with one another, I will not be told by Abunimah or anyone else what my religion is allowed to be or what I as a Jew am allowed to believe. For the zealots of the BDS movement the truth is also clear, their cause is far too important to allow for any reflection amongst themselves as to the methods they’re using.