As you doubtless know, there has been, and continues to be, an international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Jewish state. This BDS campaign against Israel is dishonest -- it tells less than half of a complex story, borrowing Palestinian lies and fables to bewitch unthinking Westerners whose only formula for peace lies in the destruction of the only national home for the Jews, possibly as well as the post-Nazi destruction of the Jews themselves.
Most interesting are remarks made in 2012 by Norman Finkelstein, an American academic who has made it his business to pursue hatred for Israel. He has expressed solidarity with Hezbollah and Hamas, and approved their policies of targeting Israeli civilians. In 2012, however, he declared that the BDS movement a "hypocritical, dishonest cult like the Munchkin cult in Oz" that tries to pose as human rights activists while in reality their goal is to destroy Israel. "I'm getting a little bit exasperated," he said, "with what I think is a whole lot of nonsense. I'm not going to tolerate silliness, childishness and a lot of leftist posturing. I loathe the disingenuousness. We will never hear the solidarity movement [back a] two-state solution." He also declared that the BDS movement has enjoyed few successes, and that, as in a cult, the leaders pretend they are hugely successful even though the general public rejects their extreme views.
Anti-Israel protestors in Melbourne, Australia in June 2010. (Image source: Wikimedia/Takver)
Coming from someone such as Finkelstein, this hatred of the boycott campaign is startlingly refreshing. Of course if a real boycott of Israel were to take place, we would be unable to use our computers or take countless medicines, and thousands of Arabs -- who, with Israelis, are building real bridges of peace, as we have seen recently with the company SodaStream -- would be thrown out of work.
On the cultural front, here, for instance, is Jennifer Grout, an American in her twenties from Boston reaching third place in the 2013 Arabs Got Talent show. You'll find several clips On YouTube of her singing very different sorts of Arabic songs, including one in which she plays the oud and sings part of Ba'id 'ani, a classic song by the great diva of the Arab world, Umm Kulthum. She does it brilliantly. The audience and the judges, laughing at her to begin with, are knocked sideways. They apparently cannot believe that a young blonde American woman, who now lives in Marrakesh, can do this.
And here are two more musicians: Riff Cohen and Ester Rada. Both are Jews and both are Israelis. Born anywhere else, they might well by now be international stars. Both cross boundaries and show a degree of multiculturalism that can only be envied. But neither can enter "Arabs Got Talent."
To the BDS campaigners, Riff and Ester are personae non gratae, as are all Israeli musicians, writers, artists, dancers, and actors. The offense they commit is to have been born where they were. This is the egalitarianism of the far left and the Muslim extremists. Your race does not matter, your nationality does not matter, your religion does not matter – unless, of course, you are Jewish and Israeli, in which case you are nothing but the scum of the earth.
Every time an Israeli theater or dance troupe sets out on a world tour, it is pursued by bigots -- not merely bigots, but bigots who portray themselves as the epitome of enlightenment, fairness, and love among men. Except when that love concerns Jews. Then the smiles drop and the sparkle goes out of the eyes. BDS campaigners impose a cultural boycott on Israeli performers, yet their preferred style of protest -- interrupting events, shouting and screaming to drown out music, accosting fans as they try to enter a hall or committing acts of violence on European and American campuses, or at Canada's Concordia University, in a display of outright fascism not seen since the 1930s in Germany -- show deep contempt for Enlightenment fairness and culture in any form. They burn books and boycott artists perhaps to satisfy some adolescent fantasy of perfection: Aryan beauty against Jewish brains, the Workers' Paradise against successful economies, the law of God against all manner of heretics and infidels. And behind it all lies an ignorance so deep it is unreachable.
Today it sometimes seems as if there are two Israels. One is a Jewish state under the rule of law, a democracy that venerates human rights, a compassionate country that gives new hearts to Palestinian children and sends aid to other countries in times of crisis. The other is the deliberate opposite, in which everything is evil: the people (by which is meant the Jewish people, regarded as innately evil) and their actions. Israel allegedly practises apartheid, it is a Nazi state, it kills and maims without compunction, it is a terrorist state, it commits genocide because that is the Jewish way, it is the single evil country in the world, even when set beside all the rogue states. For pure evil not even the greatest dictatorships can be compared to it.
Anyone who has been to the first Israel and knows it will not believe the second Israel. But most of Israel's detractors, including the BDS supporters, have never set foot on its deserts or sailed on its seas. Their motives for believing lies, and citing them as the justification for their crimes, are, for some, the longing for a world remade in some romantic image. For others, it is the longing to impose the Islamic faith and its political ideologies on the world. What better place to start than with the Jews, with Israel, a country that was built to be a haven for those most likely to be persecuted?
In 2012, Israel's famous dance troupe, Batsheva, founded in 1964 by Batsheva de Rothschild in association with Martha Graham, was greeted by loud, angry protests in London and Edinburgh. Even though its current artistic director, Ohad Naharin, has been described by the New York Times (a paper not given to saying anything pleasant about Israel) as "one of the most fascinating dancemakers on the planet", the BDS campaigners want no dance lovers anywhere to watch Batsheva's dancers perform. Is that not vandalism in the oldest meaning of the word?
When the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra came to London, an admiring audience turned up at the Royal Albert Hall to find itself surrounded by masses of vociferous protesters who tried to drown out the music. The BBC had to postpone its broadcast. No one was prosecuted: officials from the Hall refused to cooperate with Jewish lawyers who tried to bring disruptive shouters to justice. The Royal Albert Hall, one of the most important centers for classical music, would not help bring these vandals to book. Have they no shame?
Again, in 2012, when Israel's well-regarded theatre company, Habima, came to Britain to perform in London, the BDSers were again out in force. Famous actors, such as the painfully misinformed Emma Thomson, supported the boycott, and painted a great theatre company in the worst possible light.
With so many attacks on Israel's culture and her diplomats, are we not reminded of the Nazis, who burned modern art and encouraged bad-taste paintings that celebrated the ideals of kinder, kirche und küche [children, church, and kitchen]? They made bonfires of books, destroying everything they could not understand, whether books by Marx, Freud or any other Jew -- and eventually anyone whose ideas they found uncomfortable. James Joyce's Ulysses went up in flames along with thousands more. These self-appointed arbiters of "good" despised jazz, which they called Negro music; and the Reichsmusikkammer banned atonal music, pop, country, and, naturally, anything by Jewish composers, as apparently threatening to tear down the entire edifice of German civilization.
The Nazis did not invent the boycott -- that was done by my Irish fellow-countrymen back in 1880, when we boycotted landlords for their severe exactions, starting with land agent Captain Charles Boycott, whose name has stuck ever since. But the Nazis invented the Jewish Boycott, and went on from there to the Holocaust.
Not content with destroying anything cultural of which they self-righteously disapproved, the Germans wiped out a people who had helped make Germany great. Jewish professors, teachers, musicians, writers, businessmen, and psychiatrists were first boycotted, then shot, then gassed -- and by the war's end, Germany, which had been a prosperous nation, stood in ruins, utterly bereft of any culture to speak of, its erstwhile leaders dead or on trial for war crimes, its people in rags, its much-vaunted superiority in tatters, and its greatest "enemies" -- the Jews -- on the verge of creating what is now one of the most successful nations on earth.
If some boycotts produce good results -- most famously the international boycott of South Africa, which helped destroy the apartheid system there -- they will work as long-term solutions only when they bring real promise of change for the better, when they are fair, when their targets are genuine, and when there is at their heart some real sense of decency. Given so many sick societies in the Middle East, a boycott of Israel can only intensify this sickness.
The BDS campaign is not just dishonest, it is racist: it targets only Jews -- not the Turks for occupying Cyprus, the Pakistanis for invading Kashmir or the Chinese for obliterating Tibet. It is genocidal: it supports and rewards whoever works -- often through violence -- to abolish the state of Israel and then possibly the rest of the Jews.
Rather than see the dispute as a pack of Arab and Muslim nations trying to destroy the one non-Muslim state in its midst -- a state the size of Vancouver Island that is trying to defend itself against attacks ultimately meant to destroy it -- Israel's adversaries see the dispute as it has been crafted for over thirty years by leading public relations agencies, hired by oil-rich Muslim nations. They see the dispute as if a small but vicious nation wakes up each day and thinks about how to make the Palestinians' lives as miserable as possible -- when nothing could be farther from the truth. The dispute, according to those with this mindset, can only apparently end by capitulating to all Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim demands. The Palestinians, it seems, do not have to do a thing.
This view is ill-informed. If the Israelis did give the Palestinians what they want without even their least attempt to work for peace, it would spell an end to the only truly free country in the Middle East – because that is what the Palestinian demands boil down to.
Such a view is unjust: how come the leaders and citizens of truly corrosive regimes, such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are never the focus of any boycotts, cultural or otherwise? It is actually also cruel to the Palestinians: they are denied accountable leadership, equal justice under law from their own rulers, no possibility of free speech or free media or even the possibility to earn a decent living so long as they disdain peace and make suicidal demands on their neighbor. One might well ask if the boycotters' real concern is the welfare of the Palestinian or actually, as it clearly appears, the obliteration of Israel. It is the wrong boycott in the wrong place at the wrong time.