Saturday, September 26, 2020

Israelís apostles and its critics

By J.J. Rhies - May 27, 2019
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [BDS] [zionism]


The morning sun beat down on hundreds of Palestinians who marched through the streets of Ramallah on 22 May to protest against the German parliament’s recent motion calling the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement anti-Semitic.


The Bundestag’s official declaration effectively constrains the movement in Germany.


“Government offices cannot have any longer contact with NGOs and other organisations who support BDS,” Emmanuel Nahson, a spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Palestine Monitor.


“They cannot finance those organisations, they cannot have contact with them,” Nahson continued. “We see it really as a ground-breaking motion and we hope that other countries in Europe will follow.”


The German government’s decision is part of a larger trend across the Western world to combat BDS, a movement that is critical of Israel’s actions and policies against Palestinians in the West Bank and beset Gaza Strip, which are Israeli-occupied territories and thereby violate international law.


Through boycott and sanction pressure, it “aims to end Israel’s military occupation and apartheid regime and secure the right of return of Palestinian refugees ethnically cleansed from their homeland,” according to Alia Malak, a spokeswoman for the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which is affiliated with the movement.


An anti-Semitic movement?


BDS is inspired “by the peaceful international solidarity against apartheid in South Africa,” Malak explained, and “rejects all forms of discrimination and racism, including anti-Semitism.”


The anti-apartheid movement (AAM), which originated in England, called for a boycott of South African apartheid-made products as well as cultural and economic sanctions on the government.


More than 30 years after AAM began, South Africa lifted its apartheid policies in 1994. The United Nations and countries across the Western world—including the United States—were also fundamental in pressuring South Africa to end its codified racism against black South Africans.


Nahson disagreed with Malak’s characterization of BDS: “It’s an extremely dangerous movement, not so much because of its economic implications, because those are relatively small, but because it legitimises anti-Israel feelings,” he explained, adding that “it legitimises a whole discourse that puts in question the legitimacy of Israel.”


Similar rhetoric has been used by the United States and other Western countries to delegitimise the movement. Some 27 U.S. states have passed anti-BDS laws, stifling legally protected free speech and support for Palestinian human rights. The first state law, which was passed in 2015 by Tennessee, reads that BDS is “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state.”


Additional state laws reiterate the state’s unconditional support for Israel, and others still claim that BDS is “antithetical” to social justice and human rights.


The recent German motion, for its part, officially declared that “the argumentation patterns and methods used by the BDS movement are anti-Semitic.”  


'Making Zionism and Judaism the same’


But while Nahson and other Israeli officials, as well as politicians and governments throughout the European world, describe BDS as an affront to the “Jewish state” of Israel, others believe that Israel cannot properly be characterized as such.


Indeed, “the state is definitely operating on a more Zionist than Jewish idea,” according to Danny Brodsky, a Jewish-Israeli activist from Jerusalem.


Eitan Bronstein, a Jewish-Israeli activist from Tel Aviv, echoed Brodsky’s claim, and said that “Zionism is using and manipulating Judaism.”


“They [Zionists] use these memories that it’s good to have more nationalistic sentiments,” adding that such memories have “nothing to do with Judaism.”


“The problem is, unfortunately, that now, in the world, Israel—and in this I have to admit that Bibi [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] is really unbelievable and having unbelievable successes—but he brought it to the top, to make Zionism and Judaism the same.


“Zionism doesn’t care anything about Judaism, doesn’t care about Jewish memories, doesn’t care about Jewish victims of the Shoah [the Holocaust],” Bronstein added. “Zionism, in fact, is much closer to anti-Semitism than to protecting the Jews and the Jewish memory. They are using, many times, anti-Semites’ stuff.”


Furthermore, questioning the legitimacy of Israel is distinct from demanding an end to the state’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.


The BDS movement’s international call for states and other entities around the globe to boycott and sanction Israel is only meant to make its occupation politically untenable, according to Brodsky.


“Even if materially [Israel] is still fine, when you have that much diplomatic pressure where your hands are tied,” he explained, “you lose political power, and that’s what the occupation is built on.”


“I think that it’s a good thing to have boycott, divestment and sanctions,” he added, “because no one is going to starve here because of it—only politically starve.”  


The international community has a responsibility not to abet the Israeli occupation, according to Malak, the PACBI spokeswoman.  


“Independent cultural organisations in Europe and the U.S. should take measures to ensure they are not complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses, including by refusing to accept sponsorship from the Israeli government or its lobby groups, as a minimal step of solidarity,” she said.


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