Posts Tagged BDS

Ivory tower watch: sure you hate the homosexuals, but if you kill Americans you are in the ‘global left’

Pro-BDS, ‘post-structuralist’ academic Judith Butler has controversially been given some German award that nobody had heard of until they decided to give it to her. But apparently is a big deal in the city of Frankfurt.

I, for one, am completely indifferent outraged!

Well, when I say ‘for one’, what I mean is ‘as one of many’. This incident seems to have sparked a bombardment of Frankfurt the likes of which have not been seen since… the Allies dropped 12,197 tons of explosives on the city in the World War II (more like: World War TOO soon).

Anyway, as Kenan Malik explains, Butler is known less for supporting BDS and more for her godawful writing, which is almost impossible to understand and, for those who have the patience to get their heads around it, says nothing very interesting anyway.

Oh, and there was also this little doozy that seems to have been brought-up a fair bit during said bombardment of Frankfurt:

Benjamin Weinthal and Richard Landes: The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler –

Participating in an “Anti-War Teach-In” at Berkeley in 2006, Ms. Butler answered a question about Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s place “in the global left.” These are two of the most belligerent movements within the warmongering, anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic world of Islamist jihad. Yet while criticizing violence and “certain dimensions of both movements,” Ms. Butler told the students that “understanding Hamas [and] Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important.”

And there we go: exactly what I’ve been complaining about all this time! This is a self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ claiming two groups to her cause that are not merely conservative, but are actually bent on returning to a 7th Century society in which homosexuals were hung, adulterers were stoned to death and women were neither seen nor heard unless they were being beaten or raped, in which case it was probably their fault and they may be liable for death by stoning since they did technically commit adultery while they were being raped.

Oh and that’s not to mention the whole ‘driving the Jews into the ocean’ thing. Or the part about going to heaven for killing a Jew.

Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty damn progressive to me. Lucky we have people on the global left to fight against injustice by firing rockets towards civilian areas and hoping to hit something.



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Palestinian women, silencing domestic abuse and unconscious antisemitism

When I read the article this week in the Forward by Jay Michaelson on his break with the extreme anti-Israel “left”, I knew that I had to write something about it. Michaelson has been active for years in the LGBT movement and is well-versed in the social science theories of discrimination that are popular with the far-left and that I have been reading a lot of recently, so I recognised straight away what he was referring to and really connected with the striking observations that he was making about the anti-Israel movement.

I recommend reading the full piece, but I also want to concentrate on the following points:

When the Right Is Right About the Left –

Just as I try to remind myself of my white privilege, my economic privilege and my male privilege in my anti-oppression work, so, too, anti-oppression activists should be aware of the reality of anti-Semitism and the way it informs political discourse. If you single out the Jewish state for criticism among all countries in the world, the onus is on you to demonstrate that your discourse is free from conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism. Even if you’re Jewish.

For those who don’t quite follow, what Michaelson is referring to is a phenomenon known as “unconscious oppression” — people who are not members of a disadvantaged group are often completely oblivious to behaviour that is actually prejudiced towards someone from one such group.

This is the source of all of the arguments against things like black people being constantly portrayed as thugs and gangsters in movies, or the amount of scenes on TV showing a woman falling apart and crying hysterically while a man comforts her, or joking about how your new Asian friend must be good at maths. It’s the kind of subtle prejudice whose criticism has certain people saying things like “come on love, we were just joking!” or “oh God, the PC-brigade are at it again!”

Michaelson makes the point that the people who champion this idea more than any other at the same time are doing precisely the same thing to Jews. This links in to another point that Michaelson made and a news item from today.


But the flattening of Palestinian society is even worse. Ironically, given the critics doing it, it’s Orientalist to depict the Palestinians … as noble victims of European colonialism, free from blemish and fault. Such oversimplifications are no different from those of noble “Indians,” noble poor people, or noble savages in general and are offensive to Palestinians and Israelis alike.

For example, in one of the accounts of an LGBT trip to the Palestinian territories last year, one participant expressed dismay at being told not to be visibly affectionate with her female partner. This naiveté is revealing. Palestinian society is patriarchal, homophobic and conservative. The Palestinian Authority has done little to prosecute so-called “honor killings” (that is, murders of LGBT people or unmarried women suspected of sexual activity), and there are hundreds of LGBT Palestinians living, legally and illegally, in Israel as a result. … There’s pinkwashing on both sides of the political fence.

As if on cue, Angela Robson had this story in the Guardian yesterday on the terrifying prevalence of domestic abuse in Gaza (my bold):

Women in Gaza: how life has changed | World news | The Guardian.

Before the blockade, my husband used to make good money working in Israel,” she says. “With the blockade, that all stopped. When he can’t find any work and we have nothing to eat, he blames me. He is a like a crazy animal. I stay quiet when he hits me. Afterwards, he cries and says, if he had a job, he wouldn’t beat me.” …

Violence against women has reached alarming levels. A December 2011 study by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, PCBS, revealed that 51% of all married women in Gaza had experienced violence from their husbands in the previous 12 months.

Two thirds (65%) of women surveyed by the PCBS said they preferred to keep silent about violence in the home. Less than 1% said they would seek help. Mona, my 22-year-old interpreter, is astonished when I later ask what support there is for women such as Eman. “If her husband, or in fact anyone in the family, knew she had talked about this, she’d be beaten or killed. As for places for a woman to run to safety, I don’t know of any.”

Clearly, the implication is that Israel is responsible for this abuse because it imposes a blockade on Gaza. As a letter this morning from one Abdul Hamed demonstrated, this was not lost on the Guardian’s readership:

Letters: Israel, Hamas and blame for the plight of women in Gaza | World news | The Guardian.

Reading Angela Robson’s depressing report (Behind the blockade, G2, 31 July), one could be forgiven for thinking that the horrors she describes are self-inflicted and largely attributable to the election of Hamas. This would be wrong, because long before that election the Israelis were systematically making any cross-border movement, particularly economic activity, unpredictable and arduous. … As a result, economic conditions in Gaza worsened, ensuring the election of Hamas. Today, that election is held up as the stumbling block to peace by the Israelis, just as Yasser Arafat was before his death.

Hamed believes that Israel deliberately stifled Gaza’s economy to get Hamas elected so that there could be an excuse not to negotiate a peace deal with a Palestinian Authority that is currently refusing to negotiate with Israel. Riiiiiight.

Putting to one side the crazy conspiracy theories and the argument over whether or not Israel is justified in blockading Gaza, Hamed seems to be implying that Hamas is responsible for all these abuses anyway. Well this is true to an extent, but unfortunately the other side of the Palestinian divide does not seem to be faring much better:

Palestinian women outraged by Bethlehem market murder | The Times of Israel.

The brutal killing of a battered wife in front of horrified witnesses in an open-air Bethlehem market prompted angry accusations Wednesday that Palestinian police and courts ignore violence against women. Nancy Zaboun, a 27-year-old mother of three, had her throat slashed Monday after seeking a divorce from her abusive husband of 10 years. …

Zaboun was regularly beaten by her husband … at times so severely that she had to be hospitalized … Even so, [he] was never arrested. Police only made him sign pledges he would stop hitting his wife …

But see, the PA are better than Hamas. Sure they do nothing to prevent husbands from beating their wives, but they at least punish husbands for killing their wives rather than killing the wife for speaking-out about being abused.

Last year, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed a decree that ended a long-standing practice of treating killings within a family with leniency. Justice Minister Ali Mohanna said such killings are now treated as any other slaying, and claims of assailants that they were protecting “family honor” are no longer taken into account.

Before I make my final point, I want to note these disgusting comments by an Arab-Israeli Member of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and the Jerusalem Post editorial accompanying it:

Zoabi’s incitement – JPost – Opinion – Editorials.

It sounded quite unthinkable, but Knesset member Haneen Zoabi (Balad) blamed Israel for the recent slaying of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. “Israel is not a victim, not even when civilians are killed,” she declared in an interview with Channel 10.

Zoabi elaborated: “Israel’s policy of occupation is at fault. If there was no occupation, no repression and no blockade, then this wouldn’t have happened.”

This, again, is a common theme amongst anti-Israel groups that has been adopted by the anti-Israel “left” — the idea that innocent Israelis and Jews who are killed by terrorists claiming to act on behalf of the Palestinians somehow had it coming to them because of what Israel does. (I say “and Jews” because, as Mohammed Merah made very clear a few months ago by shooting some kids at a Jewish school in France to “avenge Palestinian children”, most terrorists do not see any difference.)

Remember that line I highlighted before where the abused wife’s husband blamed his unemployment for his beating her? Could there be a parallel mentality, in that the criminals are represented as the victims?

Put it this way, in blaming all evil on Israel and absolving the Palestinians of any of their own wrongdoing, the narrative of the anti-Israel “left” is horribly similar to the way the Nazis used to blame all of Germany’s woes on the Jews using many of the same tropes.

In saying that, however, I am opening myself up to the very common accusation of trying to silence critics because “to Zionists, any criticism of Israel is antisemitic”.

This is why Michaelson’s criticism was so incredibly perceptive and on-point. For the feminist movement — with which most of the anti-Israel “left” identify — “lighten-up love, we were just joking” is one of the worst things that a man can say. No one knows better when they are being discriminated against than the victim and, often, no one knows worse than the perpetrator. Discrimination is not something that is always done consciously, it flows from internalised preconceptions of how a group of people “must be”.

The anti-Israel “left” know this, and yet they still dismiss every charge of antisemitism that is raised at them.

Hamed’s letter effectively absolves Palestinian men from the horrible abuse that they are perpetrating and encouraging. Worse, it lays the blame on a group of people who have historically played the role of scapegoat for all manner of crimes: Jews.

That Michaelson quote that I began the piece with spoke of putting-aside his privilege to see the discrimination that he was really perpetrating. As most feminists would tell you, the way to end domestic violence is for men to be able to put-aside their societal conditioning and stop seeing women as weak objects to serve and be controlled by men.

Sadly, it seems that these same people are unable to put-aside their societal conditioning that when things go wrong it is the Jews that are to blame. In fact, they refuse to even recognise it.


UPDATE: I’ve been accused of not practising what I preach/being full of unconscious anti-Arab prejudice/not acknowledging Palestinian suffering. I did quote a few people speaking about this without contradicting them, but I guess that wasn’t enough for some people.

So apparently I need to say this: Israelis are responsible for a lot of Palestinian suffering, there is a lot of racism in the Zionist movement and here are some things that I have written on that subject. It just wasn’t the focus of this post.


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It’s not censorship: Limmud Oz and BDS activists

Limmud Oz, the “festival of Jewish learning”, is taking place this weekend. As occurred last year, they are not permitting BDS-supporters to speak at the seminar.

AJDS have gotten on a high-horse as a result and are condemning the “censorship” taking place:

Stop censorship at Limmud Oz 2012 | The Australian Jewish Democratic Society..

This culture of censorship within the Australian Jewish community is dangerous and only conveys the message that dissent will not be tolerated. This is a major freedom of speech issue for the Jewish community and the wider community concerned with a resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict.”

For one thing, I think that there is a lot of merit in the argument that Limmud is doing AJDS’ job for them. Limmud works with Israelis and brings Israeli speakers to Australia, therefore technically the BDS supporters should not be participating anyway.

Of course that doesn’t stop them, because they only support boycotting Israel in its entirety when that doesn’t take away their soapbox.

Secondly, what is happening there is not censorship. Censorship is preventing someone from speaking or preventing a certain message from being heard. Not inviting someone to speak at your conference does not constitute “censoring” them.

AJDS are perfectly free to say whatever they want — in fact they do that, all the time.

It’s the same line of thinking used when people like AJDS complain that the mainstream media “censors” them. That is not the case — the reality of holding fringe views is that people probably will not want to listen to you. I sure as hell don’t, and I spend half of my life reading fringe views.

Crazies have a place, but that place is not in mainstream fora. Limmud is not censoring AJDS, it is exercising its discretion and determining that BDS not something that fits the Limmud mandate.

If AJDS are so upset, they should hold their own conference. Of course no one will go — but that’s kind of the point.

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Good job Norwegian government, I’m convinced

After a few Jerusalem Post articles detailing Norway’s anti-Israel history, the Norwegians figured that they would respond. Some of what they say is fair enough, but others seem a little far-fetched.

One that I found particularly amusing was this:

What ‘Post’ readers of conscience nee… JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

Claim: In October 2010, Norway’s Foreign Ministry announced that it would not permit the German shipbuilder HDW to test its Dolphin-class submarine, built for the Israeli navy, in Norwegian territorial waters.

Fact: It is true that Norway has strict rules for the export of arms, including services, to countries that are at war or where there is a threat of war. This applies to many countries around the world, so there is no singling out of Israel.

So Norway will not export arms to a country that is facing a threat of war. Why else would a country possibly buy arms? That’s like a restaurant that only serves people who aren’t hungry.

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Beinart boycotting West Bank settlements and MK going to blog-war

Friend of the blog Liam Getreu and I were having a private email conversation over Peter Beinart’s recent New York Times op-ed — and upcoming book — which calls for Jews to boycott West Bank settlements. The piece has been creating a huge stir on the old interwebs, with responses being thrown-around everywhere and a particularly amusing-yet-insightful Twitter debate going on between Beinart himself, Palestinian researcher Hussein Ibish and MK favourite Jeffrey Goldberg.

The conversation between me and Liam has partly gone public in a post on Liam’s blog. Naturally, I feel that I must also respond in public. Here goes nothing:

Reaction to reactions to Beinart’s settlement boycott proposal – Liam Getreu.

while Beinart’s suggestion of boycotts is, yes, aimed at changing settlers’ behaviour (which may have a degree of naivety, if we think it’s going to instantly deconstruct everything overnight), but it’s also about making a moral stand: I do not support the settlement enterprise, and I don’t want my money going to support it. That’s an entirely legitimate point of view.

… Of course a boycott isn’t going to end the occupation, but it will help to undermine the economy that many have going there. And Beinart’s suggestion, that the money you would otherwise spend on settlement products is instead spent on democratic Israel’s products (or, another suggestion, split between that and Palestinian businesses?), is a good one. Your purchasing behaviour may help change realities, in some small way.

Liam is correct in that boycotts can be a legitimate political tool and, for the record, I am also in favour of the Israeli government ending the ludicrous and counter-productive tax breaks and other incentives that it still gives to Israelis who move over the Green Line.

That said, the circumstances surrounding a boycott of West Bank settlements make it impossible to make the point that Beinart and Liam want to make through a boycott of them.

It is important to remember that, with a few fringe exceptions, Jewish communities worldwide (Liam and Beinart included) are completely opposed to the BDS movement. The movement is dishonest to its very core, it claims to be about “Palestinian rights” and that it takes no stance on a one or two state solution to the conflict, however its fundamental tenets effectively call for the destruction of Israel and reject the idea that Jews are entitled to nationhood or self-determination. Boycotts are particularly touchy for Jews as they bring back spectres of the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses that served as a prelude to the Holocaust.

Beinart’s boycott idea is derived from Jews who are not comfortable supporting the BDS movement but still feel the need to “do something”; meaning that the West Bank boycott can never be wholly separated from the broader BDS movement. Indeed, as Omri Ceren observes, such initiatives regularly metastatise into full-blown BDS.

This is where Beinart’s thesis starts becoming increasingly problematic. Accepting a partial boycott of Israel is ostensibly akin to accepting some — if not all — of the BDS movement’s ideology. This leads to Read the rest of this entry »

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Occupy AIPAC and that awkward moment when you just feed into the other side more

A woman getting thrown out of the AIPAC policy conference because she doesn’t want to be “silenced” by pro-Israel groups on campus. See, pro-Israel groups did not accept her anti-Israel group into their fold and that apparently amounts to “silencing” her. That’s like Santorum supporters complaining that they are being “silenced” at a pro-life rally.

(via Liam)

For the record, I’ve been to an AIPAC Policy Conference. It’s an amazing event, I met all sorts of interesting people from evangelical Christian pro-Israel groups, Hispanic pro-Israel groups, black pro-Israel groups and others. That said, as these things often are, it was less about open discussion and determining the future of the America/Israel relationship and more about schmoozing. Most of the breakout sessions followed one of two themes: a) “look at all of the awesome stuff I’ve done over the past year, please give me money”; and b) “I’m really knowledgeable and smart, please buy my book”.

In fact, everyone who went to the conference was pretty much on the same page – they were from a surprisingly diverse range of ethnic backgrounds and political beliefs (it was not at all the “right-wing” organisation that some would have you believe it is), but they were, without exception, not only pro-Israel but pro-Israel enough that they would pay $500 for the conference + accommodation to be with other pro-Israel people and discuss pro-Israel things.

Which brings me to my real point: what exactly does this woman think she is achieving? Who is she trying to convince? The crowd reacted exactly as anyone would expect them to – they booed her until security came to escort her out. She has absolutely no chance of convincing anyone; in fact, she will most likely just reinforce peoples’ perception that they are being attacked. At best, she has wasted a total of three minutes of a session about pro-Israel activism on campus and has given a couple of hundred people a funny story to tell.

This complete lack of self-awareness is why the BDS movement will never get the momentum that it has deluded itself into thinking it has. Norman Finkelstein is wrong about a lot of things, but he’s right about that. It can be seen in the responses that pro-BDSers have had to him, as they huddle in their closed circles and defend themselves to each other. Take Sean O’Neil here:

In flinching move, Finkelstein slams boycott movement.

Everything about the interview is classic Finkelstein: his demeanor, his tendency to raise his voice, his adversarial, passionate approach, everything, that is, except for the things he’s saying.  In a bizarre turn of events, he comes off as a Zionist bully, or for that matter, any other angry right wing pundit.  He accuses activists for Palestinian civil rights of having a secret agenda, that of destroying Israel.

… I recently witnessed BDS’s growing clout at a meeting I attended with a woman working with an Israeli artist helping set up a series of salons in New York to explore and question the Birthright Israel programs, and the idea of a “birthright” in general. The project sounds very interesting, but the woman was visibly frustrated at their inability to find people willing to work with them in the city. They are partially funded by the Israeli Consulate, and as a result have had the proverbial door shut on them by activists, artists, and professors, Arab and Jew alike. This would have been incomprehensible five years ago, when I first heard of the BDS movement at the annual Bil’in conference and it was, at that point, divisive even among conference attendees.

… Finkelstein’s sudden hostility to the solidarity movement is a symptom of this paradigm shift. It is easy to rail against Israel when the existence of a Jewish nation-state seems guaranteed in perpetuity. But that guarantee seems to have eroded a bit. For some this will be scary … For others it is liberating, and you can count among these an increasing number of Israelis who see coexistence – real coexistence, not the tenuous kind that reigns in Jaffa, among other places – as a more attractive guarantee to their security than the ethnocratic state. As the ground continues to shift, some of those who are afraid will flinch, and retreat to safer, more moderate arguments. Finkelstein flinched.

See? He seems to take offence to Finkelstein’s accusation that BDSers have a secret agenda of destroying Israel, only to later reveal his secret agenda to destroy Israel like there was nothing ironic happening there.

Also, the fact that an anti-Israel woman was struggling to find other anti-Israel people to come and talk about why Jews should not have a “birthright” does not mean BDS has “growing clout”. That means BDS has been adopted by people who hate Israel, but those people hated Israel anyway, the only disagreement was in methodology. Here’s how you measure whether BDS has “clout”: are tens of millions of dollars still pouring into the Birthright program every year? Yes? BDS has no clout.

This is in stark contrast to AIPAC. Unlike groups like StandWithUs, who try to counterbalance the BDS movement’s idiocy with some idiocy of their own, AIPAC very carefully consider the best way that they can make an impact in favour of their agenda. While BDSers are annoying a few AIPAC donors, AIPAC are selling the merits of increasing US-Israel security cooperation to Congress. The results speak for themselves.

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That awkward moment when even your supporters think you’re all idiots (BDS)

A video (below) is being sent around of Norman Finkelstein aggressively criticising what he calls the “Solidarity Movement”, referring to the movement of people who claim “solidarity” with Palestinians. For those of you who aren’t aware, Finkelstein is a crackpot “academic” who is the son of Holocaust survivors, yet he has made a career out of downplaying the significance of the Holocaust by claiming that it was “just another genocide” and creating a conspiracy theory whereby it has been turned into some sort of “industry” to further the goals of a “Jewish elite”. Well I say “career”, he was denied academic tenure and has become pretty marginalised and discredited over the years. For more on this, see Harry’s Place HERE, Will Yakowicz HERE and Armin Rosen HERE.

As you may have guessed, Finkelstein has for a while been a poster-boy for the anti-Israel and antisemitic world. Amongst other things, he has the dubious honour of being named as one of the “good Jews” by John Mearsheimer, when Mearsheimer was distinguishing between the few righteous Jews out there and the rest. This is why his criticism of that very movement is so significant.

Note: contrary to what some have been saying, particularly in pro-Israel circles, Finkelstein was not criticising the BDS movement. In fact, Finkelstein is in favour of BDS and was quite clear about that – what he was criticising is the Solidarity movement in particular, which is the movement behind BDS but is not the same as the tactic of boycotting Israel. That said, I will use them interchangeably below, nuances aside.

Finkelstein’s flaws aside, he makes a very important point in the last five minutes, one that he is in a rare position to actually make first-hand, having been immersed in the BDS movement for years: the claim about BDS being supported by “Palestinian Civil Society” is complete rubbish. BDS is supported by a few hundred NGO’s and Unions based in Ramallah and under the direct control of the Palestinian Authority, most of which don’t seem to actually do anything except support BDS. The idea that this is “Palestinian Civil Society” is a complete propaganda exercise; these groups have no legitimacy at all in making that claim, they are all following the agenda of what amounts to a dictatorial regime.

The other important point that Finkelstein makes is that the Solidarity movement is a small, inward-looking cult whose members constantly reaffirm each other’s viewpoints and think they are duping the rest of the world, when in fact their goals are completely transparent.

For instance, he points out that while the Solidarity movement tries to maintain that it has no stance on whether they support a one or two state solution, it is quite clear that they actually support a one-state solution and Israel is not that state. This is well-documented, but it’s good to hear it from an insider – especially since, as he points out, the BDS architects “think they’re so clever” by arguing for “human rights” and “the return of refugees”.

Finally, he makes a good point about selective use of international law: despite the fact that Israel was recognised as a “Jewish state” under international law, they seek its destruction, and yet they use international law to criticise Israel’s presence in the West Bank etc. I would argue that the pro-settler Israelis demonstrate the same hypocrisy, but the status of the West Bank is far more ambiguous than the recognition of Israel.

Anyway, I did see one response to this amongst the numerous (and pretty amusing) outraged members of the Solidarity movement, so allow me to rebut that quickly:

In Response to Norman Finkelstein Interview «.

Mr. Finkelstein criticized BDS movement of being picky about the law. He says that the law is clear. “It is also correct that Israel is a state,” he said. “If you want to use the law as a weapon to reach the public opinion you cannot be selective about the law.” UN Resolution 273 (III) admission of Israel to membership in the United Nations recalls “its resolutions of 29 November 1947 and 11 December 1948” as the basis of accepting Israel as a state. The membership of the State of Israel in the UN is dependent on their respect to resolution 194 and the right of return. UN Resolution 194 (III) article 11 states that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes…should be permitted to do so”.

This is one of the worst pseudo-legal arguments I’ve read. The funniest part is that it can be completely rebutted just by looking at the words that the author decided to omit between “return to their homes” and “should be permitted” – there was a huge qualifying “and live at peace with their neighbors” there. Kinda disqualified all of the refugees at the time, and it is now no longer “practicable” to let them all return, so there goes that argument.

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A plea to save Israeli democracy

Those of you who were following this blog regularly would have noticed that I haven’t posted anything for a few weeks. This is because I found another outlet for most of the stuff that I was putting here, so I had no need for this site anymore.

That said, there is something that I need to write, and it cannot go in my regular forum. Therefore, I will use this site to publish it.

For those that are unaware (which hopefully is not many), the Israeli Knesset yesterday passed an anti-boycott bill. The best opinion piece that I’ve read on this piece was the editorial in The Jerusalem Post. It rightly criticises the boycotters vehemently, but notes that this is far from the correct way to go about combating them:

The bad boycott bill – JPost – Opinion – Editorials

Legislation that infringes freedom of expression is not the way to battle the local BDS movement. Boycott initiatives should be allowed to compete for support in the free market of ideas. Judging from the minuscule backing BDS receives locally, we can rest assured that reason will continue to win out.

Attempts to legitimize Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem through the stifling of criticism may just achieve the opposite, by providing BDS proponents with a truly worthy cause to champion – their own right to freedom of expression.

I will go into more detail on this bill shortly, but first I am going to say this for the record, and if you don’t believe me, please feel free to type “BDS” into the search field to your right and see for yourself:

I am completely and totally against BDS, or any other boycott of Israel.

BDS is a disgusting, racist policy that denies Jewish peoplehood and the Jewish right to self-determination. It apportions all of the blame for the Palestinians’ suffering on Israel – completely overlooking any culpability held by the Palestinian leadership, the Arab states or the international community. It makes disgusting, offensive and unfounded comparisons between Israel and Apartheid South Africa and even, on occasion, Israel and Nazi Germany. It undermines the suffering of people who truly lived through Apartheid and it practically spits in the faces of the victims of genocide, a crime that has been all too real in Sri Lanka, Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda and Cambodia while these self-proclaimed “humanitarians” have been shouting at Israel and turning their backs to the true criminals of the world.

BDS is an insidious attempt to destroy the Israeli state and create an Arab-majority state in its place. Its founders have made the amoral and reprehensible decision to use the language of Western human rights and democracy to push what is a truly anti-democratic and racist policy and then they have the gall to claim to be helping Palestinians, when in actual fact they are pursuing an irrational and venemous hatred of the Jewish State and nothing more.

Now, where was I? Oh that’s right.

Having said all of that, the strongest defence against BDS is that its proponents are lying. They are defaming Israel, and truth is the best defence to defamation. Israel is not, as they claim, a colonial or theocratic nation – it is a multicultural democracy, the only true one in the Middle East. Or at least, that’s the argument that I would give now. As we shall see, that may be changing.

The Boycott Bill

The only actual translation of the bill that I could find comes from The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, so if anyone with better Hebrew than me can track it down and translate it, please send it to

I also will disclaim that I am not a qualified lawyer, I am halfway through a law degree in Australia. The Israeli legal system is built on the British Common Law, as is Australia’s, so my arguments should be valid; but I am not claiming to be an authority. That said, there are some VERY problematic aspects of this bill that I want to run through with people who are not familiar with the foundations on which a Western democracy sits.

In s 1, the definition of “boycott” is as follows: [emphasis added]

deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or another factor [sic] only because of his ties with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage.

The key thing to notice here is the wording in bold – “an area under [Israel’s] control”. It is not difficult to decode what is being said here, there is only one area that is not in the State of Israel, but is under Israel’s control: the land on the West Bank of the Jordan River. This phrase was inserted in order to protect the settlements from damage.

Criminalising a Boycott?

Then, s 2 outlines the civil offence of “boycott” created under the Bill:

(a) Knowingly publishing a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel will be considered a civil wrong, to which the civil tort law [new version] applies, if, according to the content and circumstances of the publication, there is reasonable probability that the call will bring about a boycott and he who published the call was aware of this possibility. 

(b) [regarding breach of contract – not so relevant]

(c) If the court will find that a wrong according to this law was deliberately carried out, it will be authorized to compel the person who did the wrongdoing to pay damages that are not dependent on the damage (in this clause – damages, for example); in calculating the sum of the damages for example, the court will take into consideration, among other things, the circumstances under which the wrong was carried out, its severity and its extent.

s 2(a) is a very odd law, but there may be an explanation. The key difference between civil offences, including torts, and criminal offences, aside from the burden of proof, is that criminal offences require what’s called a mens rea (or intent) and an actus reus (action), whereas civil offenses generally require only the actus reus. This is because torts are not necessarily concerned with deterrence or punishment, they are offences that intend to undo damage that has been done. Defamation is an example – if you defame someone, you will be liable for defamation, no matter what you were intending to do.

The word “knowingly” is adding a mens rea to a tort offence, essentially making this a criminal offence with tort liability. The truth is that the authors of the Bill originally wanted a criminal offence, but were pressured into removing it; so what we have instead is a criminal offence dressed-up as a tort and with a civil standard of proof (“on the balance of probabilities” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt”).

Now, look at how broad the definition of “damage” is. “Economic damage” is simple enough – any money lost as a result of a boycott – but what exactly constitutes “cultural damage” or “academic damage”? Does this mean that an Israeli musician who declines an invitation to play at a nightclub in Efrat is liable for “cultural damages”? Or similar for a professor at Tel Aviv University who refuses to conduct a research project with a counterpart at the University of Ariel? How would the Court ever quantify that? How much money is participation in an academic study worth in damages?

Well, s 2(c) makes it clear that the damages being paid do not even have to do with the value of the damage caused – the implication being that they are punitive. This again goes against the idea behind tort law, which, in general, aims to return the plaintiff to the situation that they would be in had the offence never occurred. This is not about compensating people for loss suffered, it’s about punishing people who knowingly commit an act. Again, it is not a civil offence, it is a criminal offence in disguise.

This is nothing if not an assault on freedom of expression. Under this law, if a newspaper published an opinion piece that called for a construction company to refrain from building a block of apartments for Jews overlooking Ramallah, the paper and the author would be liable for punitive damages. If a theatre group refused to perform in Ma’ale Adumim, they would be liable for “cultural” damages. The law punishes Israeli citizens for voicing an opinion about the actions of other Israeli citizens, or for doing things that constitute political statements.

This is completely draconian, it doesn’t belong in Israel, it belongs in the USSR (where Avigdor Lieberman seemingly learned his political tricks).

Separation of Powers

Now I’ll turn to ss 3 and 4:

3. The Finance Minister is authorized, with the agreement of the Justice Minister and the approval of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, to set the regulations of this matter [special cases where it will be limited] and to limit the participation of he who knowingly published a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel, or who committed to take part in a boycott, in a tender that must to be carried out according to legislation.

4(a) The Finance Minister, with the approval of the Justice Minister, may decide in the case of someone who knowingly published a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel or committed to take part in a boycott [in special cases] that… [goes on to list a number of tax penalties and limits on government grants].

Again, this goes completely against the foundations of the democratic system. These provisions place the responsibility of placing sanctions on people and organisations with the ministry. This means that the ministers, the executive arm of government, are determining guilt and then applying what they see as an appropriate punishment.

The difference between Western democracies and authoritarian states comes down to this issue. In any of Israel’s neighbours, if someone does something that the government doesn’t like, they will find themselves being punished by the law. You see, the countries do not have an effective separation between the judiciary and the executive, meaning that the judges will do what the politicians ask (or the judges are the politicians). This is not the case in the US, the UK, Australia or most of Europe and until yesterday, it was not the case in Israel.

Under a democratic system, if a person commits a civil offence, they are tried in a court of law and the court applies whatever punishment it sees fit. This Bill bypasses the courts and places the judicial function in the hands of the people who write the law – a flagrant breach of the doctrine of “the separation of powers”.

In case you don’t believe me

In fact, Yisroel Beitenu MKs have not left a shred of doubt that this is the case. As soon as the Bill had been signed, they used it to launch an action against an Arab MK, Ahmed Tibi, who has called for a boycott of Ariel. The Beitenu officials allege that his calls would “make investors hesitant”.

Again, this is authoritarian thinking. They didn’t have a law to go after Tibi with, so they made one, and now he can be punished for voicing his opinion.

To re-iterate, I don’t agree with Tibi’s opinion in the slightest. Ariel will remain a part of Israel in any peace agreement and Tibi knows this. Beitenu knows this. As the Palestine Papers revealed, the US knows this and so does the Palestinian Authority. To call for a boycott of Ariel is only going to increase hatred, fuel the conflict and encourage Israelis to vote for dickheads like Lieberman.

That said, in a democratic society, as a MEMBER OF THE PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION, he has a right to call for a boycott of Ariel if he so chooses. In suing him under this law, the government is suing a member of the opposition for opposing a government policy.

To give an Australian comparison, this is like the Greens creating a law that it is illegal to criticise Australia’s asylum seeker policy, then immediately filing a lawsuit against Scott Morrisson. It’s is absolutely obscene, it’s not the Israeli society that I know and love.

It’s also not the end:

Lieberman: Court should not intervene – Israel News, Ynetnews

On Tuesday Ynet learned that Yisrael Beiteinu is already planning its next move with another bill, which will establish parliamentary inquiry commissions on the activities of left-wing organizations.

Now the Knesset will again be playing judiciary and punishing organisations that disagree with government policies.

There is hope

Of course, the situation is very depressing, but I don’t want to leave you by saying “the end is nigh”. Fortunately, Israel is still a democracy and does still have a functional and independent judiciary with a strong and proud history of taking on the Government. Groups know this and are using the system to defeat this attempt to destroy Israel from the inside:

Gush Shalom first to appeal ‘Boyc… JPost – Diplomacy & Politics.

Activist Uri Avneri and the Gush Shalom peace movement appealed to the High Court on Tuesday in a request to cancel the “Boycott Law” which was approved in its final reading in the Knesset late Monday night.

According to the petition, which was submitted by Attorneys Gabi Laski and Nuri Ramati, Gush Shalom claimed that the law violates the basic principles of democracy.

… Overnight Monday, four human rights organizations announced that they plan to appeal the new law at the High Court, in a letter sent to government officials prior to the bill’s approval in the Knesset.

Groups participating in the appeal include Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights and Coalition of Women for Peace.

You read that right. In a bitter twist of Orwellian irony, the very groups that support a policy opposing Israel’s existence are now at the forefront of defending its legitimacy. I am placing my faith in the High Court of Justice, who I believe will strike this law down as unconstitutional and undemocratic.

The question, however, is where this leaves Israel. Most reports have indicated that Netanyahu opposed the Bill, but refused to come out against it for fear of damaging his coalition. That shows a contemptible lack of conviction and a frightening willingness to sacrifice Israel’s democracy for short-term political gain.

Zionists everywhere are speaking about the so-called “campaign against Israel’s legitimacy”, but they are misguided. BDS is based on a lie and will never undermine Israel’s legitimacy, so long as Israel remains the tolerant, democratic society that it is and has always been. The true threat to Israel’s legitimacy comes from inside – in fact, from the strongest opponents of the BDS movement.

For those of you still with me after that long article, I have one thing left to say: please, help stop the delegitimisation of Israel. This will go out to many in the Zionist community, all of you have friends and relatives there. Call them, tell them to campaign for their democracy, tell them not to let Lieberman destroy what Ben-Gurion built and what so many have fought and died to protect: Liyot am chofshi, ve’aretzeinu – Eretz Zion ve’Yerushalayim.

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Bin Laden caught using Zionist technology!!!

A little Cut & Paste for you all:

New Evidence about how Bin Laden managed to send emails without detection:

How bin Laden emailed without being detected by US – Yahoo! News

Holed up in his walled compound in northeast Pakistan with no phone or Internet capabilities, bin Laden would type a message on his computer without an Internet connection, then save it using a thumb-sized flash drive. He then passed the flash drive to a trusted courier, who would head for a distant Internet cafe.

And let’s remember what he felt about Israel:

Full text: bin Laden’s ‘letter to America’ | World news |

The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily.

What was that again about “thumb-sized flash disks”?

Dov Moran’s world of total connectivity – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

He invented the revolutionary “portable hard disk”, the DiskOnKey, and sold his company for $1.6 billion, making himself tens of millions of dollars in the process. Dov Moran could have comfortably retired, written his memoirs and devoted himself to playing bridge. Instead he set out to change the world, again.

And one last thing about Dov Moran, the inventor of the flash drive: 

Dov Moran: Executive Profile & Biography – BusinessWeek

Mr. Moran is a Co-Founder of msystems Ltd. He served as Independent Consultant in computer industry from 1984 to 1989. He served in Israeli Navy for seven years and was Director of its microprocessors department.

Well isn’t that ironic…

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Hilarious reply to Fiona Byrne

So Fiona Byrne was in the Sydney Morning Herald trying to justify herself this morning.

The Punch published this brilliant response from sports writer (yup, sports) Anthony Sharwood:

Eskalating pressure gets council out of a pickle | Article | The Punch.

Despite butchering her run at state parliament, not to mention the credibility of both the Greens and her own council over the Israel boycott, Marrickville Mayor Fiona Byrne went down swinging in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, with a bizarre, longwinded justification of her council’s right, nay civic duty, to embroil itself in matters beyond garbage collection.

“Being involved in international affairs is part of being connected to your community and through it the broader community of the globe,” she wrote.

This statement is so laughably meaningless and waffly, it barely deserves shooting down. The simplest, straight-from-the-hip rebuttal is to suggest the council might have first targeted a boycott of all things Chinese, given the fact that Marrickville Council raises the Tibetan flag on Tibet’s national day.

Mind you, with the local councillors’ propensity to yum cha at the excellent Hung Cheung restaurant on Marrickville Rd, that might have made life a little uncomfortable.

In her Herald piece, Byrne also cited section 233 of the Local Government Act. It states that one of the roles of council is “to provide leadership and guidance to the community”.

Well, interpreting this to mean that council should involve itself in the affairs of Israel, or any foreign power, is a logic leap of staggeringly audacious proportions.

Council should provide leadership and guidance? Ok, fine. How about a little leadership in fixing the numerous potholes on Illawarra Road. Some of that guidance would come in really handy in handling the delicate issue of the proposed expansion of Marrickville Metro shopping centre too.

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