When a Methodist church in central London decided to hold a small exhibition about life for Palestinians under Israeli occupation, its members probably did not expect to be smeared as antisemites in the pages of The Times.
Yet that is precisely what happened to the members of Hinde Street Methodist church in Marylebone, in response to its “You cannot pass today” event, held as part of an annual “World Week for Peace in Palestine/Israel”. Read more
The Israeli government and its supporters routinely play down the significance of West Bank settlements as an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. One recent example of this came from a Jewish Agency spokesperson, who tweeted: “Jewish communities in the West Bank take up under 2% of the land; that is, over 98% of the West Bank contains no Jewish residents at all.”
So is this true – and exactly how much of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) do Israel’s settlements take up? Read more
Earlier this year, I took a look at a booklet by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) called ‘The Apartheid Smear’, authored by staffer Alan Johnson. Intended as a “vital tool” for fighting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, the publication is full of errors and omissions; for example, it doesn’t mention the illegality of Israeli settlements even once.
I am returning to BICOM and Alan Johnson, following the latter’s interventions in recent debates on BDS and antisemitism. Johnson presents himself as a leftist when arguing Israel’s corner, especially in contexts where Israeli apartheid gets short shrift (e.g. campuses). He also tends to repeat the same points again and again – so here is the BICOM guide to defending Netanyahu’s Israel. Read more
Israel has defeated the BDS movement, declared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. According to Bibi – who “pulled out a world map, colour-coded to illustrate how Israel’s foreign relations have improved” – BDS is “on the defensive”, and “taking hits on many fronts.”
Netanyahu made his remarks during a meeting of the State Control Committee, the background for which, as Ha’aretz described, “were two state comptroller reports published on May 24 exposing a list of Israeli failures against the BDS movement and in the state Hasbara (public diplomacy) system.” Read more
In 2005, a group of activists launched the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, a global civil society campaign aimed at pressuring Israel to end human rights violations.
Over the years, BDS has gathered momentum and picked up support amongst Palestine solidarity groups, trade unions and on university campuses worldwide.
The impact reached French companies in 2015, when Orange and Veolia, as well as Irish building materials group CRH, all withdrew from the Israeli market following long-running campaigns by BDS activists which, in the case of Veolia, cost the multinational company millions in contracts. Read more
In 2005, a draft, working definition of antisemitism was circulated by the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). To the dismay of its critics, the document confused genuine antisemitism with criticism of Israel, and was repeatedly, and erroneously, promoted by Israel advocacy groups as the EU definition of antisemitism.
By 2013, the EUMC’s successor body, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), had abandoned the politicised definition as unfit for purpose. Just this week, in response to a motion passed at NUS conference, the FRA explicitly denied having ever adopted the definition. Yet on March 30, Eric Pickles, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues and chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, revived the discredited definition by publishing it on the government’s website. Why? Read more
On February 17, British Cabinet Minister Matthew Hancock stood alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and announced the publication of “new guidance” for local authorities concerning procurement. The move was trailed – and presented by the government – as designed to ‘ban’ boycotts of Israeli goods and services by councils.
But did the procurement guidance really criminalise boycotts – and what about additional, pending moves by the British government to restrict how local authorities choose to invest pension funds? What is really going on behind this attack on local democracy, in the name of shielding the Israeli state, its institutions, and complicit corporations from a growing global boycott campaign? Read more
The case for a boycott of Israel is straightforward, based on: the reality of Israel’s policies of colonialism and apartheid; the Palestinians’ appeal for solidarity, including the 2005 call for a global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign; and the effectiveness of BDS as a tactic.
But what about a cultural boycott? This is a problem for some people who agree with the above argument – yet it is also based on a similar, logical argument. Read more
Apartheid, in the words of the Rome Statute, is when inhumane acts are committed “in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
Increasingly, Israel’s “inhumane acts” against the Palestinians are being understood not as mere aberrations or excesses, but as part of a system of discrimination and segregation: an Israeli form ofapartheid. In response, support for campaigns like Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) is growing.
Recognising these developments, pro-Israel lobby groups are worried. In 2014, one such organisation, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, orBICOM, published a booklet called ‘ The Apartheid Smear’, written by staffer Alan Johnson. Read more
“We are here to stay.” These were the words of Israel’s Science and Space Technology Minister Ophir Akunis, as he attended the ceremonial opening of a new “heritage centre” in Ariel settlement on 17 January. “I want to send the EU ministers a message from here, the city of Ariel,” the minister said. “No step or decision that you take will remove us from our land.”
Ariel, established in 1978, is one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank, with some 20,000 residents, as well as a university. The colony lies some 12 miles from the “Green Line”, and was “strategically built to wind its way along a mountain ridge surrounded by Palestinian towns and villages on all sides.” The Ariel “finger”, or bloc, includes a dozen or so separate, official settlements. Read more