Of course, it wasn’t going to be long before the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) stuck their oar into the Methodists’ big debate on BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel http://www.methodist.org.uk/bdsbriefing, which included a public consultation questionnaire.
The BoD has now pubished their 33-page ‘Response to the Methodist Church in Britain’s Inquiry into the Tactic of BDS’ http://www.bod.org.uk/content/Board%20ResponseMethodistBDS.pdf.
Vice-president Jonathan Arkush complains that “BDS has the unacceptable aim of delegitimising Israel, encourages the rejectionists of peace, hurts moderates and sows divisions”, and activists should “invest in peace and reconciliation projects” instead.
The Deputies evidently hope enough people will accept their definition of the Holy Land situation without question, and to that end their document relies heavily on the scribblings of the propagandists in Tel Aviv. The Introduction and Executive Summary are so liberally laced with distortion that this reader had had enough after the first 5 pages . If I were a Methodist I’d be deeply offended by the BoD’s presumptuousness.
Here are some of the things they say……..
We begin with a shared vision for peace and justice in the Holy Land. The majority of Israelis and Palestinians (as well as the British Jewish community) desire a two-state solution to end this conflict.
Does anyone seriously share the Jewish/Zionist Establishment’s vision for the Holy Land? As more illegal ‘facts on the ground’ are created with impunity by the Israeli regime the prospect of a two-state solution fair to both sides fades. It has already become unlikely, even impossible, say the experts. The point may have been reached where one-state is the only realistic answer.
BDS is a divisive strategy that seeks to strike at the legitimacy of Israel.
The methods used to establish the Jewish state – terror, dispossession of its neighbours at gunpoint, disregard for the UN Partition Plan, defiance of international law, and without declaring its borders – are bound to invite questions about its legitimacy.
As a tactic, BDS has not shown any signs of success in resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. BDS actually hurts some the most constructive voices on the Israeli side…
Constructive voices on the Israeli side, admirable and welcome as they are, have made little difference to the continuing illegal land-grab and colonisation of Palestinian territory, destruction of Palestinian homes and theft of Palestinian natural resources. BDS activists, however, claim that their campaign is being felt in Tel Aviv. The desperate tone of the BoD response seems to confirms it.
It is a matter of common assent that, with the situation of ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, people of goodwill should investigate ways that might have a positive impact.
‘Soft’ measures have been tried for decades and the situation for the Palestinians has simply gone from bad to worse. Understandably, activists feel it’s time to play a more robust game – like BDS.
To those who are engaged in promoting peace, it is clear that BDS is a false choice, as there are far more positive and effective ways that people can and do act for peace in the Middle East.
Name any that have been effective. It’s no use supporting peace if you don’t also call for justice. Apart from BDS and EU trade sanctions, the only action that’s likely to work is filing charges in the International Criminal Court.
This report will show why people supporting peace should reject the demonisation and stigmatisation that emanate from the BDS campaign, and instead together grasp the possibility of assisting those in the region seeking reconciliation and creating an environment conducive to reconciliation.
Reconciliation isn’t going to happen until justice is restored and the occupation ended.
The one-sided nature of BDS campaign, and its application to Israel alone among all the countries of the World, is also alarming for the Jewish community…
We are dealing with the Holy Land, not the rest of the world. The Holy Land is precious to the three main religions and cannot be under the domination of just one.
Justice and mercy are only found amongst those who are willing to walk humbly together – Micah.
Justice and mercy are nowhere to be found in Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine. Who wants to “walk humbly” with such cruel oppressors or their supporters?
The report will highlight the positive alternatives that promote dialogue and reconciliation, which we as faith communities can support together.
A failed formula.
For the realisation of the two-state solution… there needs to be a culture of reconciliation, understanding and confidence building which is harmed by the divisive tactic of BDS.
No, there first needs to be an end to the illegal occupation, compliance with international law and respect for Palestinian rights to freedom of movement and self-determination.
In our view, the tactic of BDS has two principal, underlying motivations: One is to stigmatise Israel and force her hand in negotiations, the other is the desire to strike at the very legitimacy of the state of Israel, ultimately arguing for the dismantling of the World’s only Jewish state.
Israel is doing a very good job of stigmatising itself. I doubt if the BDS campaign is actually aimed at dismantling the Jewish state. As far as I know it is only intended to persuade Israel to behave decently and restore to the Palestinians what is theirs – including their freedom and dignity. If the BoD doesn’t understand this basic requirement they are not going to be much help.
The Peace Process: This section looks at the times that Israel has offered, or given, land in pursuit of a resolution to the conflict – never in response to the threat of BDS, but because of the incentive of a peaceful future.
Returning stolen land is not a concession. Those so-called offers in any case placed severe restrictions on Palestinian sovereignty and self-determination, and proposed the sort of wretched subjugation no nation could possibly accept.
The ‘Apartheid’ Label: Proponents of BDS attempt to tar Israel with the deliberately misleading label of ‘apartheid’ as a means of eroding Israel’s legitimacy and justifying their campaign... the country is in no way comparable to apartheid South Africa.
Tell that to the Bedouin (see the JVP note below).
Jews are often sensitive to antisemitic motivations behind BDS, particularly when Israel, the Jewish state, is seen to be held to a double standard and singled out.
Civil society does not bow to Jewish/Israeli exceptionalism. We hold Israel to the same standards expected of all nations, even if our corrupted political leaders don’t. Israel, as we see on a daily basis, is a warmongering entity that thinks itself above the law, and its leaders are never held accountable for their monstrous crimes by those whose solemn duty is to do so. This is why civil society now finds it necessary to adopt measures like BDS.
BDS campaigners have often inflicted discomfort and intimidation on Jews in the UK. This has been in the forms of verbal abuse, disruptions to events as well as the targeting of kosher products.
This is regrettable, especially for those Jews who speak out and condemn the Israeli regime. Abuse is always unacceptable. But as Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former Israeli military intelligence chief warned, “Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world”.
BDS activists explicitly identify a settlement boycott as a mere stepping stone to a full boycott of Israel. Such a policy incorrectly places settlements as the key stumbling block, overlooking past Israeli territorial concessions for peace, ignoring terrorism…
We’re back to territorial concessions, which are not Israel’s to make. And who are the real terrorists in the Holy Land? See the death count kept by B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation. The non-stop confiscation of Palestinian land for Israeli colonisation is not a key stumbling block? Really?
Academic Boycott: This is a particularly nasty form of boycott. The notion of discriminating against academics based on their nationality runs contrary to the principles of freedom of thought and the sharing of ideas that are crucial pillars of academia and universities.
So does preventing Palestinian students from travelling to universities abroad and freely returning. So too is the blocking of academics and others from the outside world visiting Gaza. And what about preventing Palestinian students in Gaza from attending their own excellent universities in the West Bank? The BoD would be wise to keep quiet about academic boycott.
Cultural Boycott: Much like the academic boycott this is not an expression of displeasure with certain policies of the Israeli Government...
I’ve heard it said that culture is largely responsible for behaviour and therefore an issue.
…Rather it is an act of censorship of against all Israelis, regardless of their views.
Again, this is regrettable and not something many of us would wish to see. But Zionists are on dangerous ground lecturing others about censorship.
In spite of the efforts of the BDS campaign, Israel and the UK have an important and growing trade relationship and the consequences of boycotting Israel would cause significant harm to both societies. Israel is a leader in a number of sectors including medicine…
The plug could and should be pulled on trade by implementing Clause 2 of the EU-Israel Agreement, which requires Israel to show respect for the human rights of the EU’s other partners including Palestine. Israel has never complied with this essential condition. Suspension of trade would hurt Israel far more than the UK, although an exception might have to be made for medicinal products.
The BoD boasts that Teva is the largest supplier of medicines in the UK, but activists say pharmacists are issuing non-Israeli brands on request.
A Better Way: Invest in Peace. There are numerous projects that are bringing Israelis and Palestinians together, breaking down the barriers… It is through supporting and working with these admirable and inspiring initiatives that we can promote our shared aims of peace, security, prosperity and equality for Israelis and Palestinians.
Those “shared aims” again… Alas, Israel’s ideas of peace, security, equality etc are very different from anyone else’s.
Playing fast and loose with the truth
Skimming the rest of the document I was disappointed to find old fairy tales shamefully retold. For example: “In 2005, Israel fully and unilaterally withdrew from Gaza”. The BoD knows perfectly well that Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters have remained permanently occupied by Israeli warplanes and gunboats, Gaza’s fishermen are still barred from most of their territorial waters and fishing grounds, Gaza’s borders to the outside world remain sealed and the sea lanes to Gaza’s port are still blockaded. And Gazans are denied access to their offshore gas-field, which the Israelis are attempting to steal. Israel’s troops may have pulled out but their murderous incursions continue and so does the Israeli stranglehold. The bottom line is that Israel still controls virtually every aspect of life in Gaza and goes out of its way to ratchet-up the human misery.
And how about this? “Since 2005, there have been over 8000 rockets fired at Israel; an average of three rockets aimed at Israeli civilians per day.” 8000 garden shed rockets, my-oh-my… And how many state-of-the-art Israeli bombs, guided missiles, tank shells and other ordnance, including banned phosphorus explosives, have been launched from land, sea and air into the tightly-packed humanity of the Gaza Strip where civilians have nowhere to run or hide? The BoD doesn’t say.
Most of those primitive rockets from Gaza were fired at Sderot, which the Israelis bleat about so much. Sderot is built on stolen lands belonging to the Palestinian village of Najd, which was terrorised, seized and ethnically cleansed by Jewish militia in 1948. But the BoD doesn’t mention that either.
Playing fast and loose with simple truths only casts doubt on the veracity of anything they say.
The main thrust of the BoD’s response, as one would expect, is to steer people away from meaningful civil action and confine them to endlessly sterile inter-faith woffle. I think everyone by now has concluded that’s a waste of time.
“If Israel’s elected officials think this is what democracy looks like…”
I have just received a note from Rabbi Alissa Wise of Jewish Voice for Peace which says:
“In just a few days, the Israeli Knesset will debate the Prawer Plan, a proposal to forcibly remove over 40,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel from their ancestral homelands.
“If we can get 20,000 names saying No to Prawer within the next 24 hours, our partner on the ground, Avaaz.org, will hand-deliver our list to the Knesset.
“Join the 18,000 who have already signed: www.jvp.org/StopPrawer
“As US Secretary of State John Kerry urges both sides to negotiate for peace, the Prawer Plan highlights why peace talks haven’t worked: the plan was developed without the input of Bedouin communities directly affected by it, and treats Bedouin citizens of Israel and Jewish citizens differently.
“If Israel’s elected officials think this is what democracy looks like, it is no wonder that illegal settlement-building has only increased during decades of so-called peace talks.”
Thank heaven for organisations like JVP. There can surely be no doubt who Mr Arkush’s “rejectionists of peace” really are. Is the BoD planning to add their considerable weight to efforts to save the Bedouin? Or would such heroic reconciliation, which they preach, be inconvenient to the Jewish state’s relentless expansion?
Stuart Littlewood worked on jet fighters in the RAF then pursued a career in industrial marketing.
More recently he worked as a freelance and with innovation consultancies. Psychology degree Exeter University, Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Served as a Cambridgeshire county councilor 1993-97 and on the Police Authority. Associate of the Royal Photographic Society. Since retiring has been a newspaper columnist and produced two photo-documentary books. He is a regular contributor to a number of internet news magazines.
Stuart’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, tells the plight of the Palestinians under brutal occupation. It can now be read on the internet by visiting RadioFreePalestine.org.uk.