By Gilad Atzmon
With BDS, it’s never boring. Although formed initially to mount pressure on Israel, increasingly BDS campaigns are now, bit by bit, focusing on silencing any pro-Palestinian voice with an IQ over 90. For the BDS leadership, intellect is a threat – and they may be right.
For a year now, we have noted BDS’ repeated assaults on leading activists and intellects such as Ken O’Keefe, Prof. Norman Finkelstein, Silvia Cattori, Greta Berlin, Daniel Barenboim, yours truly and many others. But this weekend, the BDS found a new potential punch-bag: British MP George Galloway.
On Wednesday, MP Galloway walked out of a debate at Christ Church, Oxford. Galloway was upset to find that he was about to be in debate with an Israeli. "I was misinformed" he said. "I don't debate with Israelis. I don't recognise Israel." Galloway later wrote on Twitter "No recognition, No normalisation. Just Boycott, divestment, sanctions."
Now surely, Galloway’s reaction, though impulsive, must be accepted or at least understood by Palestinians and their advocates. Not so, it seems. The ‘Jews in the movement’ were really distressed, so much so that Israeli BDS enthusiast Rachel Shabi confirmed on The Guardian yesterday that the BDS national committee was quick ‘to issue a statement’ to disassociate itself from Galloway’s attitude. It looks like the BDS Committee in Ramallah has, once again, had to bow to its paymasters.
On The Telegraph Toby Young maintained the exact same line. “Following George Galloway's dramatic exit from an Oxford University debate” Young wrote, A leading Palestinian organisation (BDS) has issued a press release saying it doesn’t condone boycotting individuals.” Young concludes, “It seems the Respect MP hasn't simply lost the respect of his political opponents after his antics at the Oxford debate. He's losing the respect of his political allies, too.” Somebody in Ramallah better advise us why did BDS joined the Hasbara campaign against MP Galloway. Seemingly in the BDS committee they are yet to grasp the notion of solidarity.
The BDS statement, brilliantly original as ever, reads as follows:
“The global BDS movement has consistently adopted a rights-based approach and an anti-racist platform that rejects all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”
Pretty impressive. Anti-racism is certainly important except that Galloway did not once refer to Jews or to race. He referred to Israel and refused to debate an Israeli national. Now, I happen to think that Galloway was wrong but still, his decision, a purely political one, was entirely legitimate.
Interestingly, BDS leader Omar Barghouti is not exactly himself much of an anti-racist. In fact, it has amply demonstrated what a banal, racist mind he has. Recall how last year Barghouti was caught on video exploring some extremely vile, racist, biological determinist terminology when this essentially banal mind launched an attack on the White race.
For a while, Barghouti’s open racism bewildered me but I then realised that this Palestinian petty Marxist probably fell asleep during the relevant lesson and missed the most important bit. Israel is not South Africa and it is not the ‘White State’ or the ‘White man’ who plunders Palestine, it is actually the ‘Jewish state.’
In her Guardian article, Israeli Rachel Shabi explained in the clearest of terms why she has a problem with Galloway. “One reason that many left-leaning Jews don't join the BDS movement is precisely because the boycott is perceived to be about rage against people, rather than an effective political tool.” There you go, plain and clear, according to Shabi BDS is there to appease the ‘Left-leaning Jews’. It is not about Palestine or the Palestinians, not even about justice or universalism, it is just a ‘political tool’. In fact, this clumsy statement by Shabi may explain why more and more of us regard the BDS, in its current form, as nothing short of a ‘controlled opposition’ dominated by Jewish tribal interests. (According to some Israeli sources, it is also largely funded by liberal Zionist George Soros’ Open Society.)
But here are some critical questions for the BDS Committee, Shabi and Soros. Do you really want to form a totalitarian movement dominated by an intellectually lame ‘big brother’ that will tell us exactly what we may talk about and how we may express ourselves? Do you really want to turn Palestine into a synagogue and the solidarity movement into a yeshiva? Does the prospect of intellectual and spiritual freedom not appeal to you? After decades of abuse, don’t the Palestinian people deserve freedom?
Let me be clear. I believe that BDS is a force for good but BDS leadership had better reflect a little and start to focus on the real enemies of justice and of Palestine rather than harassing the most dedicated voices in this discourse.
But still, one question is still unresolved. Almost a year ago we discovered that BDS had compromised the most fundamental of Palestinian rights: the Right of Return. In an entirely underhand way the BDS National Committee had changed the wording of its mission statement from demanding that Israel ends
Its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands (http://www.bdsmovement.net/call)
Its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 (http://www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro)
BDS made this change without alerting its affiliated organization. In fact an Israeli BDS activist confirmed to me that the change was made to appease the ‘Jews in the movement’. However, in spite of the wide publicising of this strange conduct by BDS, the organisation has, to date, failed to clarify its position. For more than 8 months since this crucial question was raised, BDS remains silent – but it took the BDS Committee in Ramallah less than five hours to react to Galloway and to disassociate itself from him.
The message is clear. BDS, in its current form, is an occupied territory. If it wants to save itself, (and I hope it does), it must be de-Zionised - and immediately. If it fails to do this, it will be remembered as possibly the most repugnantly treacherous chapter in the history of the Palestinian struggle. And this is indeed painful and tragic.