BDS and Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects

May 18, 2015 by J-Wire News Service
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Melbourne academic Philip Mendes will address the Caulfield branch of the ALP on the negative effects BDS has on the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The presentation to be made tomorrow is entitled “How the BDS destroys prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace and reconciliation”.

J-Wire reproduces it in full:

Dr Philip Mendes

Dr Philip Mendes

By any reasonable judgement, the month of March 2002 was a particularly horrific episode in the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During that awful period, there were eight separate suicide attacks by Palestinian Islamic terrorists on Israeli civilians resulting in the deaths of 63 people and many hundreds injured. The final straw was the attack on the Passover Seder in Netanya’s Park Hotel which killed 30 people and injured 140. This attack provoked the Israeli invasion of the leading West Bank cities known as Operation Defensive Shield in an attempt to destroy the terror networks, and stop the carnage.

Yet it was precisely at this point that the international campaign for a boycott of Israel commenced. Two UK academics Steven and Hilary Rose proposed a boycott of all Israeli academics and academic institutions. Their initiative was copied in May 2002 by two Australian academics John Docker and Ghassan Hage, both of whom had a long-time record of hardline criticism of Israel. Their boycott petition, which was signed by 90 Australian academics, was based on the binary opposites of good and bad nations, and made the following key points:

  • While the Palestinians are rightly requested to reign in their extremists, the Israelis have elected their extremists to power’;
  • Israel has perpetrated ugly murder, rampages, systematic crimes of war, and an anachronistic act of colonization in the West Bank and Gaza;
  • Israel is impervious to moral appeals from world leaders;
  • While some academics and intellectuals in Israel oppose the government and some also are involved in cooperative Israeli/Palestinian research projects, the vast majority have either supported the Israeli Army onslaught on the Palestinians, or failed to voice any significant protest against it;
  • As with boycotts against apartheid South Africa, international action is now required to stop the massacres perpetrated against the Palestinian people;
  • We call for a boycott of research and cultural links with Israel. We urge our colleagues not to attend conferences in Israel, to pressure our universities to suspend any existing exchange or linkage arrangements, and to refuse to distribute scholarship and academic position information.

Even putting aside the question of whether this petition may have been interpreted as supporting the Palestinian perpetrators of suicide bombings rather than the Israeli victims, the philosophical intent was obvious. The Australian BDS movement did not endorse the national and human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, and did not seek to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace and reconciliation via a two-state solution. Rather, its sole concern was to stereotype Israeli Jews as an evil oppressor people, and to urge measures that would undermine the basis of their national existence.

In contrast, a petition based on a two-state perspective might have noted the following:

  • Palestinians are not solely defenseless and innocent victims;
  • A large number of Israeli academics are prominent in supporting the Israeli peace movement, and defending Palestinian human and national rights in the Occupied Territories;
  • There are many Palestinian and Arab academics who support violent attacks on Israeli civilians;
  • There are extremists and moderates on both sides;
  • Whilst the Israeli presence in the West Bank has some superficial similarities with South Africa, the analogy cannot reasonably be applied to Green Line Israel given the civil and political rights enjoyed by its Arab citizens. Moreover Israel does not involve a small white population exploiting a much larger black majority;
  • A selective boycott of Israeli West Bank settlements and their products might be appropriate as opposed to the boycotting of an entire national group.

As we note in our book “Boycotting Israel is Wrong”, the BDS movement’s extremist agenda has not changed since 2002. The major local manifestations include:

  • The Max Brenner chocolate shop protests led by angry far Left extremists from the Socialist Alternative group who urge the restoration of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea which means the elimination of the State of Israel;
  • The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney whose Director Jake Lynch ironically boycotted the visiting Israeli peace academic Dan Avnon. Lynch has publicly argued that Jewish financial pressure was responsible for the ALP switching leaders from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard in June 2010.
  • The NSW Branch of the Australian Greens which voted in December 2010 “to boycott Israeli goods, trading and military arrangements, and sporting, cultural and academic events as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian territory, the siege of Gaza and imprisonment of 1.5 million people and Israel’s institution of a system of apartheid”, later resulting in the embarrassing Marrickville Council BDS saga.
  • The Victorian Trades Hall Council which hosted a BDS Conference in October 2010 with the American BDS activist Anna Baltzer, who favours the abolition of the State of Israel, as the key-note speaker.
  • The Sydney University Staff for a BDS who construct Israelis as monolithically evil oppressors whilst its powerful supporters around the world allegedly bully and threaten any who challenge its hegemony.

The common theme here is that the BDS movement is not concerned with ending the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, or challenging specific Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. Rather the sole aim is to paint Israel as an allegedly racist and colonialist state which has no right to exist, and to transform Israel into an international pariah similar to South Africa under the former apartheid regime.

In doing so, the movement also demonizes any pro-Israel Jews elsewhere, whatever their varied views on conflict, as the political enemy. This was particularly apparent during the recent and continuing debate over Jake Lynch’s role in the aggressive disruption of Colonel Richard Kemp’s talk at Sydney University. Lynch’s supporters have constructed the debate as an apocalyptic battle between allegedly brave supporters of justice for the Palestinians versus powerful Jewish pro-Israel lobby groups. The BDS movement has arguably become a major source of intolerance in Australian society as has also been the case in the UK and USA.

Dr Philip Mendes is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work, Faculty of Medicine at Monash University, and is the Director of the Social Inclusion and Social Policy Research Unit (SISPRU). 


11 Responses to “BDS and Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects”
  1. Philip Mendes says:

    I actually wonder if Leon Poddebsky and Larry Stillman are one and the same person alternatively writing with different eyes shut.

  2. Larry Stilllman says:

    I’m glad to see that Phillip is in favour of a boycott of the West Bank. I assume that he supports this position, which is one I also support.

    “A selective boycott of Israeli West Bank settlements and their products might be appropriate as opposed to the boycotting of an entire national group.”

  3. Leon Poddebsky says:

    The ‘Palestinian’ president has once again demonstrated his credentials for the pope-conferred title of “angel of peace” and the Obama-conferred title of “partner for peace:” he has expressed a preference that the “Palestinian” victims of the Syrian civil war should die rather than be allowed to settle in Judea/Samaria.
    We can expect him to receive the Nobel Peace prize and the Sydney Peace Prize.

  4. Erica Edelman says:

    That the Caulfield Branch of the ALP NEEDS a lesson on anything to do with BDS is beyond comprehension. In terms of giving legitimacy to a toxic group of people with immoral, ignorant and anti-social goals, one has to ask WHY? What an absolute disgrace that we have to explain ourselves. What a disgrace that the lie of the land dictates that we have to DEFEND ourselves against these ignoramuses. What a travesty against world Jewry that we are, historically and once again, under the microscope – having, once again, to explain the reason for our existence. When is the world going to understand? When will the frustration end?

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      Because the ALP has embraced tightly the values system of Israel’s mortal enemies.

    • Danny Shavitsky says:

      Erica,I am speaking as secretary of the Caulfield Branch of the ALP who invited Philip to speak at the branch meeting. Speaking for myself, I am both Jewish and strongly identify with Israel and do not believe I personally need a lesson on the BDS. I have invited Philip to address tomorrow’s meeting on the basis that he is a respected academic and has written a recently published a book on a relaxant and current debate in the Australian Jewish community being on The BDS and the Palestinian Israel Peace Process. While I am not in a position to speak categorically on behalf of all Caulfield Branch members of The ALP, I can say that the vast majority of them are Jewish and assume that most of them are pro-Israel.

      • Erica Edelman says:

        Hi Danny…Thank you for emailing. I was not so much asking WHY Philip was invited to speak..I know why, and any dialogue that exposes the heinous and despotic work of BDS ..well, I guess needs to be shared and aired.
        What I am so up in arms about is that here we are, again. Having to waste energy and time and precious resources talking about this group of people. The mere fact that Philip has spent many, many hours of his precious time writing about these idiots..well, that’s beyond me too. I meant no rudeness to you or your club, I can assure you. From your description of the audience it sounds like he will be preaching to the converted – had I lived in Melbourne I would be in the front row! Good luck and enjoy.

        • SamT says:

          Poor Erica…As the only colony left on this planet, Israel will always have to keep on, keep on, explaining why it should exist..

          • Erica Edelman says:

            Sam T – hope that doesn’t stand for Thickbush. Read the J-Wire article by Isi Leibler this week.
            You fit in there nicely – sounds like you need a lesson on colonization and the meaning of the
            Word. Maybe you like the idea of a penal colony for yourself, perhaps?

  5. Leon Poddebsky says:

    The people who call themselves “the Jewish left” have a record of contributing to the propaganda of the movement for divesting the Jewish People of its national self-determination.
    They have distorted and falsified historical facts.
    They have credited Israel’s mortal enemies with a non-existent willingness to compromise.
    They have swept under the carpet the copious evidence that the chauvinistic and fundamentalist movement of the Arabs of the Land of Israel has locked itself into a course of absolute rejection of any Jewish claims.
    The “palestinian” parliament said so just a few days ago.

    This presentation before a political party that has allied itself with the Arab side in the Arab Palestinian war against Israel will be futile if not absolutely counterproductive.

    • Hilary Rubinstein says:

      Philip’s a good guy, Leon. Rightwing he might not be, but he’s a noted and much-published expert on the Jewish Left, and is well aware of its excesses.

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