Boycott Israeli gays?
Sun 13 Jun, 2010
You know that anti-Israeli protests have reached their nadir when gay pride becomes involved, says JASON WALSH
THE ORGANSIERS of Madrid’s gay pride parade scheduled for the beginning of next month have announced that they are cancelling the invitation of Israeli participants. The Israeli delegation, comprised of members of the LGBT association and the foreign ministry, had intended to run an Israeli float in the parade for the first time since its establishment. (1)
This despite the fact that Israel, for all of its manifest flaws, is the only country in the middle east that even tolerates homosexuality.
The Spanish gay pride move came in the wake of the, heavy handed to say the least, Israeli assault on the flotilla headed for Gaza that left nine people dead.
Despite the clear case of Israel’s using excessive force there is a problem with the criticism currently doing the rounds in the Irish, and international, community: where anti-Zionism ends and Jew-baiting begins is increasingly unclear.
American right-wingers have long smeared the left in particular as anti-Semitic but such accusations have generally been baseless. Academics such as Noam Chomsky, who are in no way anti-Semitic, have been accused of Jew-hating. In the case of Chomsky, himself born Jewish, this is (unconvincingly) psychologised as a manifestation of self-hatred. Likewise, British sociologist Frank Furedi, whose family perished under the Nazis, was censured for criticising the tendency of the Western political elite to use the Holocaust for its own ends, arguing there is growing tendency to detach the Holocaust from its historical context. (2)
It is fair to say that, today, any criticism of Israel is now interpreted as anti-Semitism, and willfully so.
Writing in 1964, radical newspaperman IF Stone, himself Jewish and a supporter of the Israeli project, criticised Israel—and the United States—for inflaming Arab-Jewish tensions:
‘To inflame the Arab-Israeli quarrel is to risk no small conflagration. Eshkol’s statement on the eve of his visit to the United States reiterated previous denials that atomic development in Israel was designed for other than peaceful purposes. But doubts persist. There are circles in Israel which see nuclear arms as a necessity for survival. They fear that neo-Nazi German scientists are using Egypt as a proving ground for ‘unconventional’ weapons. The arms race between Egypt and Israel can become the next hotspot in the proliferation of nuclear arms.’ (3)
Apart from skewering Israeli paranoid self-pity, Stone was also warning that Israeli belligerence was a global threat. As it happens, just three years later Israel not only defended itself but also humiliated its anti-Jewish neighbours in what must be the most embarrassing war in the history of humanity: the Six Day War. Alas, neither Israel nor its neighbours has done much since to calm matters.
In post-war history many accusations of anti-Semitism have been simple falsehoods, designed to alienate right-thinking people from Israel’s critics. Today, however, things are starting to change. The visible change occurred in 2002 years back when academics in Britain voted to boycott Israeli universities and the work of their academics. This politicisation of research, first proposed in a letter to the Guardian newspaper by two British biologists, Steven and Hilary Rose, suggested severing intellectual links with Israel. (3) Although not anti-Semitic itself, this topsy-turvy world view of politics was the beginning of an emotion-led campaign that has since declined into an ugly mess. A 2007 boycott on Israel by the National Union of Journalists, happily challenged from within the union, only serves to illustrate the insanity of such campaigns: if academic research and honest journalism cannot help to break down barriers—and borders—then what can?
Anti-Zionist activists are increasingly dancing to the very tune defined by their American and Israeli critics, actually veering into anti-Semitism.
Last week the Galway branch of Marks and Spencer was invaded by anti-Israeli protestors on bicycles who cycled around the aisles. Their objective was to argue for a boycott on Israeli goods. Fine, politics is politics and although boycotts are useless and counterproductive (not to mention the smug, gestural nature of this protest), people are entitled to argue for them. Why choose Marks and Spencer, though? Is it because it is, or rather was in the distant past, a ‘Jewish retailer’?
It’s not just in Ireland, either. A glowing report in the British edition of the Socialist Worker newspaper claimed: ‘Several hundred people symbolically blockaded the entrance to Israeli goods retailer Marks & Spencer, with a chant of ‘Boycott; sanctions; free Palestine!’ ringing out.’ (5)
But Marks and Spencer is not an ‘Israeli retailer’, it is a multinational enterprise. If a national label must be pinned on it then it is, in fact, British, not Israeli. In this case ‘Israeli retailer’ can mean nothing other than ‘Jewish retailer’. This is anti-Semitism.
Make no mistake, Israel is a belligerent state with an oppressive and repressive machinery at its disposal when it comes to dealing with the Palestinians. It deserves to be criticised and we should have every sympathy with the Palestinians. But that is simply no excuse for either cod-political stunts that are incapable of achieving anything or Jew-baiting.
Last year this Catholic-educated atheist had the privilege of researching and writing two articles on the Irish Jewry and, I hope anyway, made one lasting friendship during the process. forth itself is named in homage to the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper in New York (itself named after an earlier German newspaper). Complaints about Israel are as valid as those about any other country but the recent descent into anti-Semitism is not only a disgrace, it is a joke. But it’s not a funny one.
(1) See: The Second Generation of Holocaust Survivors, Prof. Frank Furedi, Spiked, January 22, 2002
(2) Spanish pride parade doesn’t want Israelis, Yoav Zitun, YNetNews.com, June 8, 2010
(3) The racist challenge in Israel, IF Stone, republished in ‘The Best of IF Stone’, Public Affairs, New York, 2006
(4) British academic boycott of Israel gathers pace, Andy Beckett and Ewen MacAskill, the Guardian, December 12, 2002
(5) Socialist Worker, June 8, 2010
Write a new comment