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Pennsylvania BDS conference draws controversy, attacks

By Uri Horesh

This past weekend, some 300 activists met in Philadelphia to discuss the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, in a conference that drew much attention and controversy among local Jewish-Zionist circles. The conference was organized locally by a group of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania, and modeled after a similar conference held in 2009 at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Unsurprisingly, there were plenty of people and organizations that did not want us to assemble at Penn, and even tried to dissuade the University from allowing Penn BDS, a registered student group, from hosting the event on the Philadelphia campus. One Penn professor tried to intimidate Jewish students from attending the conference by likening them to “Nazis” and “Capos.” Several articles in The Jewish Exponent, a newspaper serving the greater Philadelphia region’s Jewish community, tried to claim the conference had a “hidden agenda” of racism and anti-Semitism.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, the city’s primary daily, offered op-ed slots to representatives of both opponents and proponents of the conference, a week before it convened. Former CIA director R. James Woosley and his deputy at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Jonathan Schanzer, predicted in their article that the conference would “be an exercise in disinformation and propaganda,” harmful to Israelis and Palestinians alike. The second op-ed defending the conference was written by Ali Abunimah, its keynote speaker.

It is worth noting that the president of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Amy Gutmann, went on record several times clarifying to BDS critics that the University was not in any way supportive of the conference or of sanctions against Israel. After Dr. Ruben Gur’s particularly draconian op-ed in the student publication The Daily Pennsylvanian, in which he called Penn BDS a “hateful genocidal organization,” President Gutmann and David L. Cohen, the chair of the university’s board of trustees, responded in the same paper with a faint affirmation entitled “Protecting speech we may not like.”

I was one of a handful of Israeli participants in the conference, but the diversity amongst the audience and the presenters was so great that it was hard not to feel at home. Among us were Palestinians, Jewish-Americans, Queer activists, rabbis, imams, pastors and atheists, students, professors, laborers, senior citizens and even high school students. The demographic makeup of the conference attendees alone was enough to refute accusations that we were nothing but a war-mongering hate group. As Ali Abunimah, the co-founder of Electronic Intifada, put it in the opening remarks to his keynote address, “We stand together against all forms of bigotry: against racism, against Islamophobia, against anti-Semitism; we are one against sexism, against homophobia, against discrimination due to physical ability; we affirm and embrace the rights, dignity and equality of all human beings; and all are welcome here tonight.”

A prevalent theme in the various sessions of the conference was the analogy between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and South African apartheid. This comparison is rightfully gaining ground in the global discourse, yet many in the Israeli left are still quite hesitant to take part. The conference opened with a pre-premiere screening of the documentary Roadmap to Apartheid, followed by a Q&A with co-director and co-producer Eron Davidson. The film meticulously and convincingly analogizes Zionism and the Afrikaaner ideology on the one hand, and the Palestinians and the indigenous African population on the other.

The South African analogy lends itself to practical aspects of BDS, as many would argue that the actions against South Africa in the 1980s – which were vehemently opposed by many prominent leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – were the primary factor leading to the eventual fall of apartheid in that country. Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, presented such practical actions taken by adherents to the Israel-Palestine BDS movement at the conference. The organization has been involved in a campaign against the U.S. pension giant, TIAA-CREF, which is heavily invested in companies profiting from the occupation. JVP’s initiative is working to persuade shareholders to divest from those companies, include Caterpillar, which make the bulldozers that demolish Palestinian homes; Veolia, involved in “apartheid road” 443 and the Jerusalem light rail; and Elbit, which contributed to the building of the separation wall.

As a gay man and a queer activist, I have been disturbed by Israel increasingly touting itself as a gay oasis in the midst of an evil, homophobic, Middle East. In Philadelphia, where I currently reside, an annual event entitled “Equality Forum,” which celebrates LGBTQ pride from a global perspective and each year chooses a “Featured Nation” on which to focus, chose Israel in 2012. This is one example of the “pinkwashing” trend that has recently gained attention, and it was addressed at the conference by queer Palestinian activists, as well as by Dr. Sarah Schulman of the City University of New York, who recently wrote a controversial op-ed  on the matter in the New York Times (a shorter version later appeared in Hebrew in Haaretz). Schulman got a big round of applause when she called for a boycott of Equality Forum, for honoring a country where equality is nominal at best.

While the opponents of BDS were busy name-calling, the people at the conference were engaged in pointing out the facts on the ground: practical facts, historical facts and legal facts, presented by experts in international human rights law like Noura Erakat, who provided the conference with a comprehensive overview of the complex legal system under which Palestinians live. Some people may seek to hide these facts. But we will continue to work to change them.

Uri Horesh is an Israeli linguist, educator and activist. He has taught linguistics and Arabic at Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Georgetown University, the University of Texas at Austin and Franklin & Marshall College. As a graduate student at Penn, he was among the co-founders of FPAN, the Free Palestine Action Network. He tweets frequently here

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Steve

      Is it wrong to want to boycott Uri Horesh, and anyone who associates with him, then?

      Just asking. Hope this isn’t an offensive question.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Steve

      Wow, this Uri Horesh guy retweets Max Blumental, Joseph Dana, and all the other leading “undo Israel’s existence as a Jewish state and pretend it’s for peace” activists on the internet. Some piece of work

      Reply to Comment
    3. Steve

      Uri Horesh wrote: “As a gay man and a queer activist, I have been disturbed by Israel increasingly touting itself as a gay oasis in the midst of an evil, homophobic, Middle East.”

      Reality Check: But that is EXACTLY correct. Compared to the nations that surround Israel, Israel ABSOLUTELY IS an oasis for gay people.

      Israel-haters tend to hate facts and reality that don’t fit into their agenda of urging the world to hate Israel as much as possible.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Aarondellaria

      Steve, there’s an existential need for Israelis to know what their country stands for. Unfortunately we only hear bad hasbara from the foreign office on the form of the infamous ayalon videos telling how israel wants peace. Israel doesn’t want peace and Zionism, it’s core internal drive, has become no other than a land ideology- how is that suppose to represent all Jews? How are Jews expected to believe in a Jewish state that is turning more and more in a pariah state not only to ties who are aware of the facts, the diaspora and the million of Palestinians living under occupation. I don’t believe in bds but it’s a reality check for supporters of israel who need to confront the growing national religiosity camp and the obnoxious israeli firster.

      Tel aviv is indeed a gay paradise but pretending the gay rights represebt israel political scapegoat for a libertarian country is misleading. a visit to the occupied territories would make anyone to keep the rainbow flag in your bag and put on a kaffiyeh instaef

      Reply to Comment
    5. Steve, a couple of weeks ago a large number of disabled people and their supporters held a protest against the welfare cuts in Britain that are hitting disabled people and those with long-term illnesses disproportionately hard. A Conservative Party councillor Luke Mackenzie took to Twitter to announce: “I hear there are a bunch of unwashed people at Oxford and Regent Street, if you don’t like capitalism move to North Korea.” I was one of many people to write him an e-mail thoughtfully explaining that when we consider the standard of care and support to which disabled people ought to be entitled as their right, we don’t find North Korea a particularly helpful moral benchmark. I think you need to absorb the same lesson here. I say ‘absorb’ because it has been pointed out to you again and again that ‘But it’s worse in other places!’ does not suddenly make something OK. As Uri Horesh is both Israeli and gay, this issue is of particular importance to him as a citizen: as he makes clear in his post (which you’ve managed to ignore completely in your comments, choosing to focus instead on whom he follows on Twitter) he isn’t comfortable with gay rights in Israel being used as a publicity tool to mask ugly state policies against Palestinians. Pinkwashing is not something abstract for LGBTQ peace and justice activists; it’s personal. The existence of a thriving gay scene in Tel Aviv doesn’t somehow compensate for the absence of basic civil rights experienced by millions of Palestinian people – gay, bi, straight, asexual, whatever – and it shouldn’t be treated as though it does.
      .
      Your second favourite talking point – the idea that any political action undertaken against Israel’s policies is motivated by hatred, and not by concern for the welfare of those millions – is undermined by Abunimah’s opening speech. You have these two stock points, and they’re pretty much all you ever post. I am not going to waste any more time or derail even more discussions by refuting them in every single thread.
      .
      Uri, thank you for this description of the conference. I was following live updates from the event and I was glad to see that it went so smoothly and with such enthusiastic participation from a diverse group of people. (I was rather pessimistically expecting it to get shut down or forced to move.) I think this is one of the signs of strong activism – drawing on lessons learned from other struggles for justice, and recognising that any movement for true justice has to set itself in opposition to every sort of discrimination. To me BDS is part of a far wider ethical outlook, and I’m really glad that the conference reflected that.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Richard Witty

      The South Africa analogy on Israel/Palestine is a poor one.

      There are common and wrong features to Palestinian subordination. It is different in each of the three sectors (West Bank – apartheid like, Palestinian majority but restrictions and military law; Gaza – Hamas and factional rule, blockaded except for tunnels, less than equal rights for non-Muslims; Israel – theoretical equal rights, functional and symbolic discrimmination).

      The difficulties in any comparison with apartheid are that apartheid was a setting in which 10% ruled 90%, and in a classic colonial relationship originating in a classic colonial setting.

      Israel/Palestine the numbers are 50/50, with communities divided geographically, a history of mutual war, and not a classic colonial relationship.

      As such, the strategy to realize change is not parallel, and risks becoming a shunning and only of a single ethnicity.

      To function as a clear human rights effort, it would have to affirm the desire for self-governance on the part of the two distinct communities.

      A human rights campaign would have to follow up on affirming the equal rights of all minorities in all communities.

      Reply to Comment
    7. mike livingston

      Uri, if they were so interested in debate, why did they hold the conference at an undisclosed location?

      Reply to Comment
    8. garygoodguy

      The author of this piece by his very existence proves Israel is a free flowing democracy.he taught at universities in Israel spewing his false nonsence.try that in an Arab country they would kill you.and the fact that you are gay is that much worse for the them.if you want to be an a tivist Instead of a hater protest the mass killings I. Syria or Sudan.
      .

      Reply to Comment
    9. Steve

      To VICKY:

      The Israel-hating activists think that ANYTHING Israel says that is good about itself is “___washing” to “hide” some other stuff that isn’t as agreeable. That’s how the rabid Israel-haters work.

      Israel is FAR NICER to gay people than the surrounding countries in that entire region. NO ONE would disagree with this! But the antisemites out there don’t like ANY fact that makes ANYTHING about Israel look good in any way, so they need to twist it negatively even if it’s TOTALLY ILLOGICAL to do so.

      You can be openly gay in most of Israel and be fine. You CANNOT be openly gay in most of the ENTIRE surrounding region of Arab countries and still be as fine. Yet this ANGERS the “pro-BDS” guy… because he needs to promote hate of Israel, even if it means lying to himself and lying to others

      Reply to Comment
    10. Steve

      The Palestinians voted for Hamas, who want to KILL gay people.

      So should there be BDS against Palestinians?

      If “pinkwashing” means Israel is nice to gay people but not nice to people who vote for gay-killing Hamas members, then what should be done with people who actually SUPPORT the gay-killing Hamas members?!?

      Reply to Comment
    11. aristeides

      Joseph Dana, Max Blumenthal, Ali Abunimah, JVP, and other participants in the BDS conference are certainly worth listening to.

      .
      Not so the troll who has nothing to say except “Israel-haters.”

      Reply to Comment
    12. AbeBird

      AARONDELLARIA

      Israel has no partner for peace among the Palestinians. Abu Abbas made some pre-conditions for going back to peace talks, as full Israeli withdrawal and accepting the “right of return” for the sons and grandchildren of “1948 refugees”. Now Fatah Abu Abbas and Hamas Mashal signed a unity treaty that makes all claims of how Arabs offers are serious to be a joke.
      “Visit to the occupied territories would make anyone to keep the rainbow flag in your bag and put on a kaffiyeh instaef” sohws that Arabs are just Arabs. Never had been changed!

      Reply to Comment
    13. ‘Pinkwashing’ is nothing to do with ‘being nice’. It’s to do with the use of gay rights as a marketing strategy designed to improve Israel’s image abroad. It’s an explicit part of the Brand Israel campaign. That name wasn’t coined by BDS activists, but by the Israeli government itself. LGBTQ Israelis have every right to complain if they find themselves and their experiences being used against their will in a political branding project. Telling them, “But your lives would be much worse if you lived under Hamas – here we are nice to you!” is a way of co-opting their voices as well as their experiences, and that sort of patronising paternalistic language isn’t exactly compatible with an enlightened approach to LGBTQ issues either.
      .
      Secondly, it should be noted that the strongest voices in support of the BDS movement come from LGBTQ Palestinians. There is even an organisation dedicated to promoting it, Palestinian Queers for BDS, which unites LGBTQ Palestinians from both within the Green Line and the Territories. The prime reasons for their interest in BDS have been identified by Uri in his article – it’s inclusive, it encourages its adherents to think about the dynamics of power and oppression and how they affect many different minorities, it draws on the experiences of other groups who have experienced oppression, and it has been used successfully in one other major struggle for justice and equality (South Africa). The initial BDS call was not issued by Hamas or by any other armed group, but by a community of Palestinian academics; it is a non-violent form of civil resistance. As such it has a very large pacifist support base.
      .
      Thirdly, the BDS call was issued in response to decades of occupation and dispossession. Hamas, like the BDS call, evolved as a result of those things. Non-violent civil resistance such as BDS is a powerful alternative to militancy and as such it has my full support as a pacifist. I oppose the tactics and the values of Hamas, but at the same time, I am not about to draw a false equivalency between the state-sponsored violence of an occupying power and the reactive violence of a group that only came into existence because of the occupation. Hamas was founded in 1987; Palestinians were suffering long before they arrived on the scene. At the last elections, Hamas were able to present an attractive alternative to an increasingly corrupt Fatah – they had a history of social betterment projects, and their leaders tend to lead visibly simple lives that contrast starkly with the opulence of Abu Mazen’s and other Fatah officials. This was why they garnered the support that they did, and these were the issues that kept recurring in Palestinian political discourse at the time. (Protest voting also played a significant role.) Given the rarity with which the death sentence is implemented in Palestine, it is difficult to argue that desire to kill gay people was a primary motive for those who voted Hamas at the last election.
      .
      Your last comment reveals what is most objectionable about your arguments. You write about gay Palestinians under Hamas rule as though you care about them. Yet you support a punitive occupation that is keeping them prisoner. What practical thing have you ever done to improve their lives? While we’re on this subject, what have you ever done to improve the lives of other people in the Middle East, whose plight you mention so frequently? You only seem to care about these people in so far as you can use them as props to illustrate Israel’s humanity. Do you really think they appreciate that? Just as Israeli LGBTQ activists don’t exist to be anyone’s pink paint, LGBTQ Palestinians don’t exist to serve as the paintbrush.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Steve

      Ben White, Joseph Dana, Max Blumenthal, Ali Abunimah are disgusting and the biggest Israel-haters on the planet. These people almost all want the “one-state solution” that makes Israel cease to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Steve

      VICKY: You, like some others, seem to force yourself to work hard to bash Israel no matter how illogical and dishonest it is to do so.

      Israel is nicer to gay people than the surrounding Arab countries.

      Nobody is pretending that this fact makes any “occupation” stuff OK or NOT OK. One has nothing to do with the other.

      But it says a LOT that Palestinians can elect gay-hating Hamas terrorists to represent them and NOBODY COMPLAINS ABOUT THAT, while Israel is MUCH nicer to gay people and people claim that Israel is somehow bad for it.

      It’s dishonest garbage. But that’s what the Israel-haters have to do.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Jazzy

      Steve: Chill out. BDS is not a threat to Israel. Statistically speak, there are always going to be a handful of simple-minded people who don’t properly understand what a useful idiot is. Its really nothing to worry about…

      Reply to Comment
    17. Steve

      VICKY said: ” It’s to do with the use of gay rights as a marketing strategy designed to improve Israel’s image abroad. It’s an explicit part of the Brand Israel campaign.”

      My response: ANd that’s what angers you. That some good things about Israel are revealed to others.

      The fact is, Israel DOES respect gay rights more than the other countries in the region. IT IS TRUE. But it’s a POSITIVE thing about Israel, so certain dishonest hatemongers feel a need to somehow twist it into something bad.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Steve

      VICKY: Now tell us, since the Palestinian majority collectively chose to vote for gay-hating Hamas terrorists to lead them, should gay people boycott the Palestinians?

      Yes or no, and why?

      Thanks in advance!

      Reply to Comment
    19. Richard Witty

      BDS is threat to Israel so long as its principles do not clarify that they mean a two-state approach.

      Currently, they remain as stated vaguely, to appeal to the multiple constituencies that would potentially support the BDS approach: western idealists that assume that Israel is the US (melting pot), but also pan-Arab and pan-Islamic that regard “any Israel” as occupation of Arab land.

      But, BDS does not mind if it offends those that sympathize with Zionism.

      If its criteria for targets were clearly and undeniably directed at policies and practices, and applied only to policies and practices, then they would be undeniable. Right now they are deniable.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Steve,
      Would you like to actually deal with some of the specific points I raised in my comment, especially dealing with a.) the Israeli government’s Brand Israel campaign, and its use of LGBTQ life in Israel b.) the origins of BDS as a counterpoint to militancy and the support it receives from one of the most marginalised groups of Palestinian society, and c.) the circumstances in which Hamas were elected? Simply repeating the same assertions won’t make the assertions true. I made the effort to substantiate my points, and if your idea of refuting them seriously consists of ‘but Israel is nicer to gay people than all the neighbours!’ then we have strikingly differing standards of logic.
      .
      “But it says a LOT that Palestinians can elect gay-hating Hamas terrorists to represent them and NOBODY COMPLAINS ABOUT THAT…”
      .
      I dealt with the question of Hamas’s electoral success and the nature of reactive violence in my other comment, so I won’t repeat it. I will ask you whether you honestly think Hamas has no political opponents in Palestine? That there are no Palestinian organisations or NGOs advocating against militancy and in favour of universal human rights? They are out there and they are vocal, yet here you are declaring that ‘nobody’ complains. If you familiarised yourself with the peace and justice movement in Palestine you could learn more, but you only seem to be interested in shoehorning people into a box labelled ‘hates Israel’, and this means filtering out Palestinian voices. If you genuinely want to know the best way to respond to the homophobic attitudes of Hamas, you should contact LGBTQ Palestinian organisations and ask. They’d be delighted to give their views. If you want to donate to them, or to a wider human rights group such as PCHR, so much the better. But I don’t think you do want to know; once again, you are clutching at straws to try and prove that the BDS movement – designed to overcome the very oppressive system that midwifed Hamas into existence, and supported by LGBTQ Palestinians – is motivated by anything other than the welfare of the people who called for BDS in the first place.
      .
      Finally, everything I write here stems directly from my experience as a peace worker in the Occupied Territories. ‘Occupation’ is not some abstract distant concept for me. I see what it means and what it does, and I tell people about it. Impossible as it may be for you to believe, when I am working with a severely traumatised child, Israel is not at the centre of my thinking: that child is. She matters, and I will act in her interests, following the very simple principle that the best way to act in life is to look after the most vulnerable. It is a good antidote to hatred and a way to protect your integrity. This is why I will work quite happily in vulnerable Israeli communities, because my work and that of far more experienced peace workers has taught me that it is such people who are hit hardest by conflict and the toll of life in a heavily militarised society. They need to be cared for irrespective of where they’re from; what matters is not their origin but the degree of their hurt. This principle was reflected in the inclusivity of the PennBDS conference. This work is not about hatred.
      .
      I hope that your comments are giving the wrong impression and you do have some genuine involvement in social justice, either in your own locality or internationally, that will lead you to the point where you at least stop trying to use other people’s suffering as stage make-up for a government’s shameful policies.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Steve

      VICKY: That’s interesting. You manage to talk about everything EXCEPT (1) Palestinians elected gay-hating Hamas terrorists as their leaders – so should the Palestinians be boycotted for it? Or are Arabs NEVER responsible for what they choose to do, and Israel is ALWAYS responsible for EVERYTHING that EVERYONE does? (2) Israel is absolutely more respectful of gay rights than any of the nearby countries in that entire region of Earth.

      And instead, you go in circles, trying to avoid dealing with these realities, because the only real agenda here isn’t peace or social justice, it’s just to try to unfairly bash Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Lauren

      Thank you Uri…. well said.
      I personally haven’t noticed a big wave towards Boycotting Israel. At least not in NYC. I have always boycotted people or organizations who are racists, homophobic and hateful.
      Those who scream antisemitism, jew-haters, etc. at every perceived insult, should just stop whining. Not everyone is going to agree with each other. Instead of acting like a victim and closing discussion, open yourselves to other points of view… maybe you will learn something other than what you are told to believe. Your arguments fall flat when you insist on dogma and name calling attacks.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Steve

      There is nothing wrong with Israel CORRECTLY pointing out to everyone that they are more respectful of gay rights than most of that part of planet Earth.

      Because it’s TRUE.

      SORRY!

      Reply to Comment
    24. “You manage to talk about everything EXCEPT (1) Palestinians elected gay-hating Hamas terrorists as their leaders – so should the Palestinians be boycotted for it…”
      .
      I dealt with the election of Hamas explicitly in my second comment. Go back to it and look, especially in what I say about reactive versus state-sponsored violence. Then you might want to take up my suggestion of asking Palestinian LGBTQ activists for details of the policy they would like people outside Palestine to adopt towards Hamas with regards to LGBTQ rights. I believe in taking the lead from people who are most affected by a situation. Finally, you could suggest what you mean by ‘boycotting Palestinians’. They do not have a functioning economy of their own – the occupation crushes it, and Israel dictates exactly what can be exported or imported. Their right to education is hampered by the occupation, especially in terms of academic funding and the ability of academics to further their knowledge through conferences abroad, etc. University admissions are also affected – international students and prospective staff at Palestinian universities need to get permits from Israel in order to study or work there, which often aren’t granted. Palestinian orchestras, singers, and writers are routinely prevented from travel, and cultural events in Palestinian are often shut down by the army. How is it possible to stage any sort of boycott (economic, cultural, or academic) when people are living in these conditions, with a significant chunk of the population below the poverty line?
      .
      All Palestinian resistance (including terrorism) has to be seen in this context, because this was the environment in which it evolved. It is the product of an illegal and unjust occupation. You are drawing a false equivalency between state-sponsored oppression and sporadic, reactive violence on the part of people who have been oppressed for decades. The two aren’t comparable. If there were a Gazan orchestra affiliated with Al-Qassem Brigades in the same way that the Israel Philharmonic is affiliated with the IDF, and it was travelling to Paris to perform next month, the question of whether or not to boycott it would be warranted. But there is no such orchestra and travel would be impossible even if one existed. Hamas is both a response to the occupation and its perverse offspring (it received monetary support from the Israeli government at the outset, as part of a divide-and-rule strategy devised in response to secular pan-Arabism). Consequently I feel that the best way to put an end to its militancy is to cut it off at the root, which means targeting the occupation itself. Meanwhile, groups such as PCHR provide practical support to Palestinian minorities who are discriminated against both under Hamas rule and the corrupt rule of the PA. They are fostering political alternatives to militancy, and so I continue to give them my full support. This means promoting alternative resistance such as BDS.
      .
      In choosing BDS over militancy, in forming a plethora of justice and peace groups, simply by ‘getting up every morning and teaching life, sir’, Palestinians are taking responsibility for their lives and for their liberation. Commitment to peace requires an acceptance of responsibility to yourself and to your community on a deeply personal level, and it’s vital in the Palestinian context – it’s a way of taking back some control over lives that are regimented from dawn until dawn again by army rule and unjust laws. There is no shortage of responsibility or integrity in the Palestinian activist community, and the fact that I tell you to contact LGBTQ Palestinians if you really want to know about their lives is an affirmation of that – they are the leaders here. But acknowledging this is not the same as being willing to blame the victim. Don’t try and conflate the two.
      .
      “Israel is absolutely more respectful of gay rights than any of the nearby countries in that entire region of Earth.”
      .
      This is true…but this isn’t the point. The point is that the Brand Israel campaign (and with it the misappropriation of LGBTQ people’s lives and experiences in Israel) was devised as a way of deflecting attention from the state’s unjust policies. Israeli culture, art, and technology are also used to this purpose; LGBTQ Israelis serve the same function in the branding campaign as Intel processors. I would be equally angry if the British government had tried to respond to the British army’s war crimes in Fallujah by pointing at the Royal Shakespeare Company and saying, “Look, a stunning performance of ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’!” I am not denying that Britain has a very good theatrical tradition, but it doesn’t compensate for war crimes. This is what critics of pinkwashing are saying.
      .
      “And instead, you go in circles, trying to avoid dealing with these realities, because the only real agenda here isn’t peace or social justice, it’s just to try to unfairly bash Israel.”
      .
      I deal with the realities of occupation every working day when I’m in Palestine. I will continue to deal with them. The effectiveness of my work isn’t contingent on what you think of it or the motives you choose to ascribe to me. In the meantime, you can keep typing, but be aware that no amount of repetition or capitalisation will make what you say any more truthful or accurate than it was the last time you wrote it.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Steve

      I said: “Israel is absolutely more respectful of gay rights than any of the nearby countries in that entire region of Earth.”

      Vicky said: This is true…but this isn’t the point.

      My response: Of course. The point is to just always bash Israel and blame Israel for everything. Arab countries can make war on Israel, but if Israel wins, Israel was in the wrong. Terrorism against Israel is of course not the fault of Arabs, but Israel’s fault. And if Israel responds, that’ sIsrael’s fault too. Israel is a Jewish state, and if it protects its Jewish population from being destroyed, that’s bad too of course. Everything Israel does is wrong, and the desire of the surrounding countries to try to destroy Israel, that’s fine, it’s all Israel’s fault. Everything is Israel’s fault. If Israel would simply stop being a Jewish state, and merge with everyone who wants to destroy Israel, and cease to exist at all, then Israel will have finally done with is asked of it…
      RIght?

      Reply to Comment
    26. Steve

      Israel’s occupation can/will end when Israel can hand land control to sane, moderate people who want peace with Israel and have popular support of the majority of Palestinians.

      But again, bigoted, fake peace activists feel that only Israelis are responsible for anything.

      Bigoted peace activists feel that if Palestinians support crazed jihadists who want to wipe Israel out, they aren’t REALLY responsible for that, it’s still just all Israel’s fault!

      Reply to Comment
    27. Steve

      Should China, Russia, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, etc. be boycotted?

      Oh, just Israel, huh?

      Reply to Comment
    28. If I am buying things new, I will not buy anything that hasn’t been certified Fair Trade or approved by the Ethical Trading Initiative. Most things I get second-hand from charity shops. This is part of sustainable and ecological living, and it safeguards worker rights by protecting against sweatshop exploitation, etc. As I wrote in my comment to Uri, for me BDS is just one part of an ethical outlook on life. It also affects the sort of cultural events that I attend/take part in – I love dance, books, theatre, music, etc., but for me the experience would be spoiled if the artists were involved in covering up human rights abuses perpetrated by their country. Art and inhumanity don’t mix.
      .
      There is a specific boycott of China that has been organised by grassroots activists. Look up Tibetan freedom organisations for information on this (although Tibet isn’t the only reason for the boycott, these organisations have got the most comprehensive info). There is an interesting book called ‘A Year Without Made in China’ that you might like to read if you are genuinely interested. Additionally, Isabel Losada’s ‘For Tibet, With Love’ is a nice introductory read not just to Tibet, but to activism and compassionate living more generally – I really recommend that.
      .
      The boycott of China is prominent because it is such a prolific manufacturer; Iran and Russia are not so prominent, and the average consumer will not come across Russian/Iranian goods with anywhere near the same frequency. However, if Iranian and Russian justice activists called for a BDS campaign against state-sponsored oppression, as those Palestinian academics did, I would honour it. In some cases BDS is more effective than others; the measures used have to be tailored to the situation. But ultimately it is the people experiencing oppression who get to decide on strategy.

      Reply to Comment
    29. “My response: Of course. The point is to just always bash Israel and blame Israel for everything.”
      .
      No. The point is in the rest of my paragraph, which you didn’t quote. I am not going to dismantle your strawmen; I will only point out that this is an article on a BDS call issued by Palestinians in response to their situation in Palestine. It has nothing to do with surrounding countries, and attempting to lump all Arabs together as somehow the same and to imply Palestinian responsibility for the actions of surrounding Arab nations – another threadbare tactic – won’t work.
      .
      Ethnocentric nationalism is a big part of the problem. You are right there. I wouldn’t support Britain’s right to exist as a white Christian state, and I don’t support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state either. A Jewish homeland for Jews who exerience it in that way? Most definitely, because you can feel a spiritual and cultural affinity with a place without having to deny other people their basic freedoms. Non-statist Zionism exists, as I have pointed out to you before; and Jews who subscribe to this notion would argue that their Jewishness is best expressed through principles of equality than through a nationalism that privileges them over the land’s other inhabitants. Britain is my home, but it’s also the home for my Hindu friend of Ugandan origin, and I’m
      .
      The attendees at the PennBDS conference were diverse in their attitudes to one state, two state, etc. One thing that they did have in common was an interest in equality. Trying to equate ‘believing in a state for all citizens’ with genocidal intent is pretty shabby.
      .
      “But again, bigoted, fake peace activists feel that only Israelis are responsible for anything.”
      .
      This particular peace activist feels that your time might be better employed in reading an informative book (try ‘For Tibet’ – it’s terrific!), doing some social justice work yourself, and actually getting to know the Palestinian peace and justice community rather than scrabbling around to try and find a smear that will stick.
      .
      I think I have said all I can say on this topic. Now I have things to do. Once again, thank you to Uri for the article.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Accidentally deleted a paragraph as I submitted: “Britain is my home, but it’s also the home for my Hindu friend of Ugandan origin, and I’m more than happy for that to be so. It’s the way things should be. We are both richer for it.”

      Reply to Comment
    31. aarondellaria

      ABEBIRD

      Israel is breaching several conventions of international and human right law and has proven to be no partner for peace, continuation of settlement construction, the violation of human rights through the occupation and have you forgot about the pre-condition to be recognised as a jewish state by the pals?? meaning that no right to return would ever be discussed. This is a massive insult to the Palestinian narrative….but you rather play blame game.

      The Israeli leadership said for the last years they wont negotiate because Abu Mazen does not represent the whole of the Palestinian and any offers of a deal have been repeatedly rejected because they do not represent the whole people, despite being backed by an Arab League offer in 2002 and 2007 , but then when Palestinians do attempt a representation of the whole they are told to choose between Hamas and “peace”. Why not just put Abbas’ coalition to the test and sit down for negotiations?

      Reply to Comment
    32. Steve

      Vicky is someone who has no understanding whatsoever that Israel is surrounded by people who have done everything possible to murder Israel off the face of the planet, and that Israel’s actions are DEFENSIVE in order to protect themselves from the likes of Syria’s Assad, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, full wars from entire countries, etc.

      But, so be it.
      So people will have to “BDS” against jihad-supporters, in the near future.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Steve

      AARONDELLARIA: Who are the real “partners” for peace, first-world, Westernized Israel who would much rather be focused on creating even more tech companies and making advances in medicine that save humanity, or Syria (Assad), Lebanon (Hezbollah), Palestinians (Hamas), Iraq, Iran, and then of course Jordan and Egypt get financial bonuses for maintaining peace.

      Reply to Comment
    34. aarondellaria

      STEVE

      since when being a first world western country qualifies you to be a peace partner – you seem to ignored my bit about the non-stop violation of international and human rights law and (let me add now) the anti democratic laws the nationalist religious right wing coalition keep putting forward….then is that a partner for peace????
      even with all the research in medicine, the technology, the gay life in tel aviv and the the water purification Israel is not a partner for peace and yet if israel is so western and first world why you use as a becnhmark all the arab countries??

      yes i know there is not other first world western country so corrupted morally and politically you have to go to dictatorship and arab religious kindoms…

      Reply to Comment
    35. zayzafouna

      I support BDS because it is a peaceful way of replacing israel with a free Palestine from the River to teh Sea. The Middle East will not support a colonial entity, and at least with BDS, no one will call us terrorists. While Tel Aviv may be more comfortable with gays, once LGBTQ is recognized as a key ally against Israel, I expect that gays will gain credibility even in Islamist states for their part in the struggle and will gain tolerance too

      Reply to Comment
    36. Hamas is not all of one color; Israel is not all of one color. To force us or them is a trap, one in which many dearly enjoy being in. Steve is right that Hamas will not permit the openly gay. The Ultra Orthodox will not permit the openly gay either. The holy books of both prohibit it. Tel Aviv is open to gays; I doubt Jerusalem is to the same degree. But the issue is not important, to me.
      .
      Vicky, Steve seeks to make you what he needs. He will always fail. There are some people who know how to witness. I don’t; you do (just look at the blog). I now look at 972 to see how the discourse of the two (only two?) sides form each other–and I have come to see this as party of the ailment. Precisely because this is a long battle it is important, in my view, to create a discourse not tailored to reply to the enemy. It is the future to which you (and others) speak.
      .
      Sorry for butting in. Ok, maybe not.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Steve

      ZAYZAFOUNA said: “I support BDS because it is a peaceful way of replacing israel with a free Palestine from the River to teh Sea.”

      My response: Oh look, yet another pro-BDS person who wants Israel to go away and have it be entirely “Palestine”
      This is why there won’t be peace. Still denying Israel’s existence. Pathetic.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Richard Witty

      The moderately interpreted demands of the BDS movement make perfect sense to a Zionist that desires peace between two healthy states.

      Israel should move forward to enact them.

      1. End the occupation (of West Bank and Gaza, and secondarily of Golan)
      2. Step up efforts to enforce equal rights for all within Israel proper.
      3. Apply the right of return, interpreted as right of any former resident of Israel, displaced after 48, to return to be citizens of Israel; and to allow those with title claims to land in Israel to prove their claims. (If land is currently vacant, they and heirs should be allowed to return. If currently occupied, then compensation to family.)

      The questions of single state should be put to rest, unless ratified by super-majority in a plebiscite.

      But, it can’t be put to rest while settlement expansion occurs. It must stop, and Palestine must be sovereign over the contiguous West Bank. (Palestine should be democratic as well, affording equal rights to all residents.)

      Reply to Comment
    39. Steve

      Uh,

      (1) Israel gave all of Gaza away, but has maintained border control along with Egypt because crazy jihadist terrorists are in control of Gaza. Israel will give most of the West Bank up, but not about 5% of it where a couple hundred thousand Jews live.

      (2) Israel proper should respect everyone’s rights, but it’s always going go to be a Jewish state, so Jews will always have additional immigration rights and some other rights. That’s how it’s going to be, just like it is for Muslims in Islamic countries, Arabs in Arab countries, etc. That’s how most of the world works.

      (3) There’s no “Right or return” for Palestinians, just like there’s no “Right of return” for Jews from the Arab countries for Jews. There was a “population exchange” and it’s over.

      Reply to Comment
    40. Carl

      Steve: “Israel is surrounded by people who have done everything possible to murder Israel off the face of the planet”.
      .
      That’s nothing compared to the crimes against the English language you’ve committed.
      .
      Vicky, I commend you and if I ever meet you will buy you a drink, but please – the relief you get from stopping banging your head against the wall isn’t worth starting in the first place. Give yourself a break and let him wear the caps-lock out on his own.

      Reply to Comment
    41. aristeides

      At some point, as this site gets more popular, it’s going to have to confront the troll problem. If not, every comment thread will be flooded with Steves and their repetitive posts, crowding out intelligent commentary.

      .
      It seems that sooner or later, every site dealing with these issues has to confront the same problem.

      Reply to Comment
    42. Steve

      A good idea of a “troll” is someone who thinks the world’s only Jewish-majority state, next to dozens of Arab states and Muslim states, is going to undo its own existence and merge with millions of people who want to see Israel gone forever.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Carl

      Again Steve, but put “troll” in upper case.

      Reply to Comment
    44. aristeides

      A better idea of a troll is a poster who has one stupid idea and repeats it 84 times over in a single thread, and in every other thread.

      .
      Equivalent to “bore.”

      Reply to Comment
    45. Kd

      There cant by any resolution until we accept reality.
      1. There is no Arab palestine and has never been the people who are called
      That became known by that name after the UK renamed the area in 1917

      2. There is occupation, because according the LON/UN charter the jewish
      State i.e. Israel is the only one with legal authority over the area

      3. Arabs are not the indigenous people JEws are.

      Reply to Comment
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