The campaign to pressure artists to boycott is part of a highly organised mass movement. As with pro-Palestinians generally, the so called BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanction) Movement continually draws parallels between apartheid South Africa and Israel. Although some try to qualify this by saying they aren’t exactly the same, comparisons between these states are clearly absurd. Yet the effort to label Israel as “apartheid” continues to grow.
The commonly stated aim of this endeavor is to improve the conditions of Palestinians. However, a sinister motive can be found behind the humanitarian language. When referring to the success in dealing with apartheid South Africa, they are of course talking about the successful role boycott played in destroying the state as it was. While few would think this was anything other than a good thing, the same “successful” methods are being applied to Israel, indicating the same conclusions are envisaged: the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. This stance is evident in the inferred or explicit opinions of those supporting boycott and found in boycott documentation. To quote an average (relatively moderate) BDS document by the “MA’AN Development Center” (sic) called “Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions – lessons learned in effective solidarity”:
The similarities between apartheid South Africa and Israel are, sadly, well known. However, one analogy may prove particularly useful: South Africa’s resistance history offers useful lessons around local and international civil protest and more notably regarding the potential impact a coordinated campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) could have. Just as occurred in South Africa, existing solidarity for Palestine needs to be galvanized to transform current feeling. By increasing awareness of the movement and drawing upon the successful South African experience, the report aims to inform civil society movements of how to better harness the mass outrage felt by so many over Israel’s violations of the rights of the Palestinian people. … these efforts must occur at all levels; locally, regionally and internationally. Moreover, boycott, divestment sanctions is a tactic that can be adopted by individuals, companies and governments, meaning we all have the agency to make a difference.
There is a peculiar assertion in the document: “Boycotting Israeli products cannot be successfully accomplished without a transition to, and promotion of, Palestinian products.” Numerous organisations have been established such as PalTrade, which promotes trade of Palestinian products locally and internationally. Thus the aim is not only to weaken Israel. They want a strong Palestinian economy that could eventually shift the balance of power from a weakened Israel. This is clearly going beyond the stated aim of forcing Israel to improve the lot of the Palestinians.
The BDS campaign often crosses into outright bigotry by using anti-Semitic imagery. It attacks Israel’s essence as a Jewish state despite the presence of its explicitly Islamic neighbours. It condemns, à la extremist Palestinianism, instead of attempting to change policies in a constructive fashion. It is part of the strategy adopted by NGOs during the infamous Durban I Conference, which was supposed to combat racism but turned into an anti-Semitic hate-fest.
The prime figure of the boycott movement is Omar Barghouti, who is a founding member of PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) and one of the movement’s principal strategists and advocates. His words are a telling indicator of the extremism of the movement. For example, at a conference at London University he stated: “Those who imagine they can wish away the conflict by suggesting some forums for rapprochement, détente, or ‘dialogue’ — which they hope can lead to authentic processes of reconciliation and eventually peace — are either clinically delusional or dangerously deceptive.”
Barghouti opposes any association with Israel and seeks a one-state solution – the destruction of Israel: “It is not the occupation of the West Bank that is the problem, but the existence of Israel itself.” He also has links with terrorists, such as a family connection with Marwan Barghouti, who committed some of the more depraved acts of terror in the history of this conflict.
Omar Barghouti condemns academic and artistic collaborations between Israelis and Palestinians as “providing Israel with a figleaf covering up Israel’s relentless colonisation of Palestinian land and its crimes against the Palestinian people.” Palestinians who have engaged with Israelis are “guilty of moral blindness and political shortsightedness.” He thinks such people are tempted by the “lure of project funding, prestige and personal gain.” Thus, it should be a source of great amusement to know that he is studying a postgraduate degree in philosophical ethics at Tel Aviv University, at least partially to enhance his own prestige, and is reportedly being funded by Israel, the very same state he seeks to annihilate.
When an Israeli newspaper asked him for comment about his never-ending degree, he said: “My studies at Tel Aviv University are a personal matter and I have no interest in commenting.” It caused an understandable level of anger in Israel, but Tel Aviv University refuses to expel him despite a 65,000 signature petition. This is the same university that allows its academics to frequently cross the line by advocating the boycott of its own institutions, and of Israel generally. Their philosophy department houses the likes of Barghouti, lecturer Anat Kam, who presented herself as a heroine after stealing classified military information, and other lecturers that campaigned to prevent Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, formerly of the IDF law division and the target of a sustained pro-Palestinian smear campaign, from lecturing on law. Playing the victim card, PACBI called the Barghouti petition “McCarthyist,” and argued the accusation of hypocrisy is “an absurd position, given the complete lack of alternatives available” for Palestinians who endorse BDS, but study at Israeli universities. Peculiar then that this “Palestinian” was born in Qatar, grew up in Egypt, and moved to the West Bank in adulthood.
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