BDS

Do British Jews have a future?

Israel_-_Boycott,_divest,_sanction

Speaking at a service in London to commemorate those killed in the terror attacks in Paris, British Home Secretary Theresa May has said the UK must redouble its efforts to “wipe out anti-Semitism.”

She added: “I never thought I would see the day when members of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom would say they were fearful of remaining here in the United Kingdom.”

So do Jews in Britain have a future? Yes, they do, but only if the British – especially politicians and the media – do something about their Israelophobic bigotry.

The driving force behind contemporary anti-Semitism is anti-Zionism. This prejudice usually involves prejudicial, stupid and vitriolic condemnation of Israel, with absurd characterisations of the Jewish state as an apartheid nation that tortures Arab children.

This is little different from accusing Jews of poisoning wells or using the blood of Christian children to make Passover bread.

Far too often, universities, political institutions, charities, churches and media outlets provide a platform for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists to disseminate their hatred of Zionism and therefore Jews.

If Theresa May is really committed to safeguarding British Jews, then she will speak out against the one-sided criticism of Israel and the culture of incitement before innocent Jews are killed in a kosher supermarket in London or Manchester.

In other words, the anti-Zionist hate speech must be challenged at the highest level.

 

 

 

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Was IsrACTION day a cynical gesture?

Food bank investigation by the Sunday Mirror

As editor of the Jewish Media Agency I am being attacked on social media because I did not cover the recent IsrACTION day, held in the UK on Sunday December 21st.

IsrACTION day involved the purchasing of Israeli-made products from supermarkets and delivering the food to homeless shelters and local food banks.

With the slogan “Beat the Boycotts – Help the Homeless,” the nationwide campaign was led by Sussex Friends of Israel and Northwest Friends of Israel.

I am a passionate Zionist but the reason I took exception to this campaign is because it is quite obviously a publicity stunt –  a cynical gesture designed to raise the profile of certain grassroots Israel advocacy groups.

If the Jewish community wants to help the homeless, then it should do so without fuss. Homelessness and food poverty are serious issues. But Sussex Friends of Israel and Northwest Friends of Israel have hijacked these problems for their own self-promoting ends.

Yes, the end result is good – lots of food for the poor. But the motive behind IsrACTION day is questionable.

And that’s the reason why the I didn’t cover the story.

A violation of the Jewish people’s biggest tragedy

A Facebook page (“I Acknowledge Apartheid Exists”) supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign has uploaded a modified image of Jewish concentration camp survivors holding anti-Zionist placards.

BDS-flyer

The manipulated picture shows prisoners of the Nazis holding up signs that read “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza,” “Free Palestine” and “Gaza the world’s biggest concentration camp.”

 

What can one say about this image? Cruel? Disgraceful? Obscene? No words can really sum up this picture. It is beyond words. An image such as this can only provoke a feeling of horror. The viewer senses that something sacrilegious has taken place. It is a malevolent violation of the Jewish people’s biggest tragedy.

Of course, the purpose of the image is to disturb and distress. It is meant to provoke widespread revulsion. And so it does. But it does more than that. It invokes a kind of moral panic – and that is why it’s so difficult to talk about the photo. No matter how many words we use, there is something inexhaustible about the image, always something that remains to be said. That’s what horror does to us. It renders us speechless, senseless, unable to formulate a satisfactory response.

[The original image, before it was manipulated, can be viewed at http://www.ushmm.org/lcmedia/photo/lc/image/66/66297.jpg]

 

TEN WAYS TO SUPPORT ISRAEL

Ways to help Israel

In times of trouble, Israel advocates (especially those who are new to the cause) may ask themselves, ‘How can I help the Jewish State?’ or ‘How can I support the Jewish people?’

Here are ten ways you can support Israel and the Jews.

  1. Support Israel’s export market by purchasing gifts online from websites like shopinisrael.com and israel-catalog.com. Buy Israeli produce from your local supermarket.
  2. Shun trade unions and businesses that have signed up to the boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) agenda.
  3. Report all instances of anti-Semitism to the Police and/or relevant authorities.
  4. Write to politicians and the media to express your concern about anti-Semitism, anti-Israel hostility and media bias.
  5. Organise and/or take part in pro-Israel marches and demonstrations. Hand out leaflets, talk to the public.
  6. Become familiar with Israel’s history, its ancient roots and its modern rebirth. Alan Dershowitz’s Case for Israel and Efraim Karsh’s Palestine Betrayed are excellent books.
  7. Use social media to make the progressive case for Israel – a democratic state where there is freedom of worship and expression, and protection of minorities.
  8. In conversations and in the media, highlight the Arab people’s history of political rejectionism and their refusal to live alongside the Jews in the Middle East.
  9. Give to charities that help Israel, such as Magen David Adom, which is Israel’s only medical emergency response service.
  10. Punish the “Islamoconomy” by not buying goods or services from Muslim countries. Instead of holidaying in Turkey or Dubai, holiday in a “non-Muslim” country, preferably Israel.

Broken Britain: UK Jews suffer anti-Semitic backlash

In a fascinating article for The Tower Magazine Benjamin Kerstein convincingly argues that a global pogrom against Israel and the Jewish diaspora is being conducted by an alliance of anti-Semitic Islamists and Far Left agitators.

In recent weeks the Jewish community in Britain has seen its fair share of alarming hatred from this obscene Islamist-communist alliance. In the UK there has been a 36 per cent rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents since the start of Operation Protective Edge. Businesses in Manchester, Whitechapel, Brixton, Brighton and Birmingham have been attacked and/or forced to close because of pro-Palestinian protestors. Jews have been attacked in the street and the windows of a Belfast synagogue have been smashed.

But it is in Greater Manchester and London – home to Britain’s two largest Jewish communities – where Jews are experiencing the worst and most sustained anti-Semitic hatred. Protestors have barricaded businesses, thrown eggs and drink cans at Jewish pedestrians, and hurled torrents of racist abuse. Jews (and non-Jewish supporters of Israel) are regularly subjected to accusations of bloodletting and baby-killing, thus recalling the detested medieval blood libel.

Events in Manchester have come to symbolise the plight of British Jewry. The city centre has witnessed an unprecedented wave of anti-Semitism since the start of the Israeli-Hamas war. Pro-Palestinian protestors make Nazi salutes and make obscene comments about Jewish suffering under the Nazis. Zionism is routinely equated with genocide and Nazism. Shoppers are prevented from entering shops that sell Israeli products because they apparently “fund the Israeli war machine in Gaza.”

It is not just Jews who are suffering. Stores which have nothing to do with Israel have have pulled down the shutters because of the chaos. Shop workers who have no connection with the Middle East are intimidated and harassed by the marauders. The local economy is suffering and Manchester’s reputation as a multicultural and commercial powerhouse is under threat. Not surprisingly, the city council has had furious rows with the police who are blamed for not doing enough to prevent public disorder.

To be fair, the police have done their best to maintain a balance between the legal right to protest and the right for shops to trade freely. But they have been overwhelmed by the size and the persistence of the pro-Palestinian mob. A leading police chief has said the ongoing stand-off between pro-Palestinians and pro-Israelis could be the start of a breakdown in community cohesion. In my view, the ethnic and religious divide between Muslims and Jews in Manchester is now beyond repair.

The situation in London is just as bad. For the third time in a month, tens of thousands of anti-Semites have brought the capital to a standstill. Pro-Palestinian protestors have bullied their way through London’s streets, intimidating passers-by and verbally abusing Jews and anyone else who gets in their way. Douglas Murray, writing for The Spectator, has described these rallies as “disgusting” and “anti-Semitic.” These protestors, he says, are nowhere to be seen when Isis ravages Iraq or Boko Haram commits atrocities in Africa.

A new and disturbing development is the flying of the Islamic State flag in Britain. The black flag of jihad has been spotted in Manchester and London. The fact that Asian youths feel free to fly the Isis flag on an east London housing estate is one more sign that nothing substantial is being done to prevent the radicalisation of British Muslims. This, of course, spells disaster for the Jewish community, which is in no position to withstand the growing presence of Islamic State sympathisers. (Christians in the UK should not be complacent either. Church buildings and Christian culture are hardly immune from the threat of radical Islam.)

Meanwhile, the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is in full swing. As well as calling for an end to arms exports to Israel, the BDS campaigners want an economic and cultural blockade on all things Israeli (including Israeli people). Shops, banks, universities, theatres and even entire towns are being targeted by BDS bullies.

A London theatre is refusing to host the UK Jewish Film Festival because it is sponsored by the Israeli embassy, while the National Union of Students wants a boycott of Israeli products on British campuses. Several town halls in England and Scotland are flying the Palestinian flag in a “gesture of solidarity.” And the ridiculous (but dangerous) George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, has unilaterally declared Bradford (a town in northern England) an Israel-free zone:

“We don’t want any Israeli goods; we don’t want any Israeli services; we don’t want any Israeli academics coming to the university or the college. We don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford even if any of them had thought of doing so.”

Galloway’s incendiary words came after a Jewish man in Bradford was repeatedly called a “f**king Jewish bastard” by men collecting money for Gaza.

A number of Westminster politicians have also thrown their weight behind the delegitimization campaign. Baroness Warsi chose to resign her job as Foreign Office minister the day after a ceasefire came into place. She claims that her government’s even-handed approach to the Israeli-Gaza crisis is “morally indefensible and not in Britain’s interests.” It’s a pity she didn’t resign when the government failed to act over Syria.

On the Labour side, Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary during the Iraq war in which more than 100,000 people were killed, has referred to Israel’s war in Gaza as an “unspeakable horror.”  And in a transparent attempt to shore up the left-wing and Muslim vote, Labour leader Ed Miliband has condemned Israel’s actions in Gaza as “wrong and unjustifiable.” Miliband claims to speak on behalf of the British people but it is quite clear that he is an opportunist trying to outmanoeuvre Prime Minister David Cameron.

The British media must also accept a large share of the blame for the anti-Semitic upsurge. Apart from The Telegraph, newspapers and other news outlets have spewed anti-Israel vitriol. It is quite clear that most of the British media are offended by Israel’s strength of purpose – which is to protect its citizens.

The BBC, Channel 4 and Sky have consistently failed to report the facts, preferring to take Hamas statements as gospel truth. Plus, the macabre obsession with the death toll in Gaza – combined with the media’s inability to explain why the Israeli death toll is comparatively low – has fuelled the irrational belief that Israelis and Jews are genocidal maniacs.

If Israel is demonized, Hamas is exempt from criticism. For example, The Times newspaper refuses to run an advert that criticises Hamas’ use of children as human shields. Why? Because “the opinion being expressed is too strong […] and will cause concern among a significant number of Times readers.”

Back in Manchester, the mood is pessimistic. Despite a feeling of comradery, a sense of insecurity and foreboding hangs in the air. Some people are openly talking about emigrating to Israel. Others are prepared to stay in Britain and fight the BDS movement but are unsure how to proceed. Stay or go, many people share the belief that Britain and Europe are on the verge of a Kristallnacht-style scenario.

If the media is not capable of telling the truth and politicians are too afraid to stand up for Israel and the police are incapable of protecting the most vulnerable minority, then the UK should no longer consider itself to be a beacon of liberal democracy. If anything, Britain is broken. And there is no indication that anyone is prepared to fix this ailing country.

 

 

 

Intimidation on the streets of Manchester

The British city of Manchester is currently under siege from a pro-Palestinian mob protesting the existence of an Anglo-Israeli shop on one of the city’s most upmarket streets.

The shop under siege is Kedem, a store that sells cosmetics made from minerals extracted from the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. Kedem is not a political shop. It is a registered British company, paying British taxes. Nonetheless, Kedem is now the focus of the malignant boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The pro-Palestinians have declared Kedem an “easy target.”

For two weeks Kedem has been subjected to a daily eight-hour-long siege. But Kedem’s products have nothing to do with Gaza or even with the “settlements” in the so-called West Bank. It is just a shop selling soap and exfoliating cream. When the protests first started, the shop was forced to shut for four days. But a large contingent of Israel supporters has come to the rescue. Day after day, Manchester’s Jewish community have turned out to support the shop and to oppose the pro-Palestinian protesters.

The pro-Palestinian contingent is mixed. There are Islamic fundamentalists (including one man who claims to be Hamas’ leader in Britain), anarchists, hardcore leftists, self-styled peace activists, Pakistani gangsters, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and even Druids. Many of these people are already known to Greater Manchester Police, who have seen the same faces at anti-fracking demonstrations.

The protesters love to chant anti-Israel slogans. “One, two, three, four, occupation no more” is a particular favourite. “Palestine will be free, from the river to sea” is another. Pro-Israel supporters are regularly subjected to accusations of murder, baby killing, genocide, ethnic cleansing. One of my Jewish friends was told he was “not a Jew but a Nazi.”

Insults like “dirty Jewish pig” and “ZioNazi thugs” are commonplace. And yet the protesters continue to insist they are not anti-Semitic.

According to the BDS fanatics, it is not anti-Semitic to boycott a Jewish-owned shop. But we remind them that Jewish shops were targeted in the 1930s. But they don’t listen. They don’t care that Jews in Britain are genuinely afraid of where this situation is heading. For example, five cars full of men drove through a Jewish residential district in Manchester waving Palestinian banners and shouting anti-Semitic remarks including “Heil Hitler.”

Despite the hatred emanating from the pro-Palestinians, the Jewish community has been galvanized. Jews of all creeds – from atheists to Hasids – have come together to support Kedem and the State of Israel. On some days we have managed to outnumber the opposition. Plus, our speakers are much more eloquent (and often louder). Many Jews and non-Jews have stepped up to the microphone to make the case for Israel. Our arguments are cogent, intelligent and respectful. On many occasions we have drowned out the opposition. Indeed, the pro-Palestinian side seems to have been taken aback by the strength of Jewish support for both Kedem and Israel.

A former film maker from Canada is lending his support to the Israeli contingent. His name is David Semple and he is currently writing a book about Jerusalem. David is a righteous gentile. He is passionate about Israel, Judaism and the Jewish people. He has a thorough knowledge of Middle East affairs and history. David’s speeches are utterly brilliant and they seem to have had a demoralising effect on the opposition.  One policewoman told me she had learnt a lot about Israel’s history thanks to David.

Another encouraging factor is the support of the public. I’ve had Jews and gentiles who work and/or shop in Manchester offering their support. American tourists have congratulated us for our efforts. On the other hand, some members of the public have accused us of “having blood on our hands.” One man called us “animals” and “scum.”

As well as making the case for Israel, we try very hard to highlight the hypocrisy of the boycotters. It is all too easy to boycott an innocent shop that sells soap but why don’t the protestors discard their USB flash drives and instant messaging software which were both invented in Israel? Why don’t they throw away their laptops and computers which are powered by Israeli Intel processors? Why continue to use Microsoft Office, Windows XP and Windows Vista when they were invented by Microsoft Israel? We tell them to stop using Google because Google uses an advanced text search algorithm invented by an Israeli student.

We remind them that mobile phones, voice mail and the mobile camera function were all invented in Israel. But the BDS fanatics either don’t believe us or don’t care. One protester said he didn’t want to throw away his Smart phone because he needed it to ring his mum and dad. Do such people know the meaning of the word hypocrisy?

We ask them why they single out Israel for criticism whilst ignoring the fact that Israel is a democracy where one in five citizens are Arabs who have the right to vote and sit in the Israeli parliament. We ask them why they support Hamas when they use their own people as human shields and spend millions of dollars of aid money building terror tunnels. Their response: outright denial.

We admit that Israel isn’t perfect, just like the UK or France isn’t perfect. But constantly demonizing Israel –whilst ignoring the massacres in Iraq and Syria or the exploitation of workers in India and China – isn’t constructive criticism. It is racism.

Kedem is tired of being an easy target. The Jewish people are sick of being intimidated and abused. But after thousands of years of persecution, Jews are no longer prepared to be led like lambs to the slaughter. And as long as this horrible situation continues we will do all we can to support Kedem and the State of Israel, even if it means standing outside a soap shop for eight hours a day.

 

 

 

Christians must reject unethical BDS

The debate continues. Should Christians boycott Israel? That is the question on the lips of the Methodist Church in Britain, which is planning to write a report about the viability of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

In July 2013, the Methodist Conference launched a consultation in order to consider how to respond to the BDS movement. The Church’s deadline for public contributions to the debate expired a few days ago but the debate goes on as Church leaders use their findings to establish the question of whether Israeli products, academics and cultural events should be shunned by British churchgoers.

This may not cause much of a stir in Israel. After all, the Methodist Church in Britain has only 300,000 members, which equates to around 0.5 per cent of the UK population. But before Israelis stifle a yawn, they might want to consider the positive effect of a Methodist rebuttal of BDS.

First of all, the Methodist Church is an important (if underappreciated) component of UK society, thanks to its historic influence on the British Left. There is an old saying that the British Labour Party “owes more to Methodism than to Marx.” There is a lot of truth in this. With the exception of the hard left, socialism in Britain is rooted in the New Testament rather than Das Kapital. What the Methodist Church decides on the issue of BDS may have a knock-on effect inside the Labour Party (and a future government).

Secondly, if the Methodist Church decides that BDS is a bad thing, then this may positively influence other churches which are either committed to the boycott or are prevaricating. Moreover, it would be a blow for Israel-bashers if an entire organization such as the Methodist Church in Britain rejects the aims and methods of BDS.

But before we get ahead of ourselves (the report won’t be ready until 2014), it is worth addressing a major concern about the consultation, which comprises fourteen questions, all of which are worded in a fashion that seems to presume Israel’s guilt.

Among critics of the consultation are NGO Monitor and the British Board of Deputies. NGO Monitor describes the questionnaire as “seriously flawed” because of the way it blames Israel for the origins and perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Moreover, says NGO Monitor, the consultation “fails to ask hard-hitting questions of Palestinian representatives regarding their role in the origins and perpetuation of the conflict,” such as anti-Semitic incitement, terrorism and rejection of the right of Jews to live in their ancient homeland.

The British Board of Deputies cites “strong concerns about the premise and the processes around this report.”

Meanwhile, Dexter Van Zile, the Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (Camera) has described the consultation as “a kangaroo court.”

In an open letter to the Methodist Church, he says: “A quick perusal of the questions indicates that the church has already concluded that Israel is solely responsible for the continued existence of the Mideast conflict, and that the Palestinians (and their Arab supporters) bear no responsibility. The only question facing your church is how Israel should be punished.”

The critics are right to be critical of the consultation process. A quick look at the Methodist Church’s website confirms this. The questions include:

“Do you support a boycott of products produced within Israeli settlements?”

“Do you support the call for a wider consumer boycott of all Israeli products?”

“If you do not support the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, could you ever see yourself supporting such a call in the future? Under what circumstances?”

“Do you support an academic boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning.”

“Do you support a cultural boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning.”

Out of the fourteen questions, there is just one question that hints at Palestinian responsibility. But even this is couched in terms that obfuscate Arab accountability:

“What actions other than BDS might members of the Methodist Church take to encourage a political process that could deliver a just and sustainable resolution in Israel and Palestine?”

Fourteen questions and not a single one mentions the decades of rejectionism, anti-Semitism, Arab invasions and terrorism.

Indeed, one could go further and question the entire premise of the consultation. Why is Israel being singled out in the first place? Its human rights record is far superior to that of the USA (see Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel).  Next to Turkey, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as well as most of Africa, eastern Europe and South America, Israel is a model of virtue. It is absurd to question Israel’s ethics while its neighbors are busy slaughtering each other.

What is also worrying is the fact that the Methodist Church’s questions focus on Israel rather than on the methods and goals of the BDS movement. The BDS movement deserves a lot more scrutiny than it is currently getting. BDS is not a fair critique of Israeli policies but is a malicious propaganda tool designed to undermine the political, constitutional, economic and diplomatic foundations of the world’s only Jewish state.

According to the EU’s working definition of anti-Semitism, BDS is anti-Semitic. Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination is anti-Semitic. Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not demanded of any other democratic nation is anti-Semitic. Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis is anti-Semitic.

The Methodist Church should be aware that contemporary anti-Semitism is not restricted to racial slurs and pogroms but includes the unfair delegitimization of Israel. BDS is guilty of this and must be judged accordingly.

Those who are already opposed to Jewish self-determination and/or ignore the reprehensible role of the Arabs and Palestinians will not be persuaded by the EU working definition. But anyone with a mind for fair play and rational thought ought to understand the notion that BDS is not pro-Palestinian but simply anti-Israel. And this is the most troubling aspect of BDS. It is the fanatical hatred of Jewish statehood which is alarming.

So here’s the dilemma. The Methodist Church is questioning whether it is right to support BDS. This is a good thing because far too many Christian organizations have lent their support to the boycott movement without a proper appraisal of its aims. However, the consultation is deeply flawed. The questionnaire is inherently biased against Israel, omits the Palestinian role in the conflict and ignores the anti-Semitic character of BDS.

On the plus side, it is still possible that the Methodist Church will reject the call to boycott Israel. Yes, the questionnaire is defective and its premise is unfair, but there is always the possibility that enough people have used the consultation to explain why BDS is unethical and Israel is in the right. Plus, the fact that the consultation itself has been criticized may cause the writers of the report to rethink their prejudices and be more careful in their use of language in the future.

So I implore the writers of the report and the Methodist Church in general to listen to the complaints of NGO Monitor and other critics. And I call on them to thoroughly reject the claims of the BDS movement. I ask this not because I am part of any Israel lobby or pressure group but because I believe it is the right thing to do.