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Allies resort to McCarthyism to rescue Israel

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Mohammad Fadhel Al Obaidly

Advisor, Public Opinion Research Center

Tag: Foreign Policy Public Policy Security
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Two weeks ago, the famous British scientist Stephen Hawking announced that he would boycott a scientific conference sponsored by Israeli President Shimon Peres in protest against the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine. This decision not only gave the Palestinian struggle an influential supporter but it also sounded the bell for the real painful battle for Israel. Finally, the movement known as boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), which was started in 2005, has become the real challenge for Israel now.
The Guardian said on May 13 that What really winds up Israel is that this rejection comes from a famous scientist, and it is science that drives its economy, prestige and military strength, adding that Hawkings boycott threatens to open a floodgate with more and more scientists coming to regard Israel as a pariah state.
Hawkings decision came in response to a call by Palestinian academics. But the boycott of Israel has gone far beyond academics to include companies, banks and artists in Europe, the United States, Latin America and Africa. A growing number of companies, banks, unions and universities are lining up to boycott Israel, as part of the BDS movement that is increasingly gaining traction. Addressing a conference of Israeli diplomats on January 5, Peres (who bears responsibility for the Qana massacre in south Lebanon in 1996) announced that the economic boycott [was] more dangerous for Israel than security threats, according to Israels Channel 7. And on January 31, he told the economic newspaper Globes: We live from exporting and its enough that one company averts its face ... from us such as Dutch water company [that] cancelled its contract with Israeli water company [Mekorot]. Today, [such] damage is more effective than the dangers of war. On security issues, we can request help from the US but in economic affairs they cant help us.
But the Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid explained the painful impact of the BDS movement in figures. In his speech at the National Security Studies centre conference in Tel Aviv University on January 29, Lapid said that the estimation of the loss to the economy [as a result of] the boycott will be 20 billion shekel (around Dh22 billion) and in the industrial sector it will be 11 billion shekel and around 9,800 workers will lose their jobs this year .... Earlier, on January 10, Lapid in a statement to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth criticised the Israeli government announcement to build new colony units saying that the boycott will cause damage to every Israeli and the damage [is] already becoming tangible.

In an article full of existential anxiety in The Huffington Post (March 26, 2014), M.J. Rosenberg said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devoted 25 per cent of his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March to condemning the BDS movement. But it seems (as usual) that Rosenberg is more horrified than Israeli leaders when he wrote that the BDS movement is about dismantling Israel, not the 1967 occupation.
With the growing boycott movement against Israel worldwide, the statements by the finance minister and other Israeli officials are enough to understand whats behind Israels dread. But what deserves attention is the hypocritical attitude of political elites and governments in the West. While Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders use the old canard of anti-Semitism against the BDS movement, some western governments rush to Israels aid, given its western heritage and due to the mentality of McCarthyism.
According to Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, who is also a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace, There has been a vigorous campaign to pass anti-BDS legislation, both in Israel and in the US. In an article published in The Huffington Post on March 26, Cohn said that Anti-boycott legislation introduced earlier this year in both New York and Maryland, which would punish institutions that endorse the boycott, was withdrawn after several educators and legislators criticised the bills as an attack on academic freedom. She added that In early March, the Protect Academic Freedom Act was introduced in the House of Representatives, which would deny government funding to any US institution that endorses the academic boycott of Israel. Furthermore, bills have been introduced in several state legislatures to penalise universities if their faculty members participate in professional organisations that express a political viewpoint by endorsing a boycott. In another campaign against the BDS movement, some universities, including Northeastern, have banned Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) from campuses and threatened disciplinary measures against some SJP members. This appears to be part of a coordinated effort by the Israeli government and the Israel lobby to blacklist all student groups that challenge the official Israeli narrative, according to Cohn.
And in France, despite French court rulings that the boycott of Israeli products is clearly in the context of freedom of expression, enshrined by the European Convention on Human Rights, a circular issued in 2010 by the late minister Michle Alliot-Marie which provides for criminal prosecution for boycott calls against Israel is still in effect.
But the lesson here is for Palestinians and Arabs because this battle, which drains Israel and has awoken the McCarthyism hysteria among its allies, was led by Palestinian civil society activists and academics nine years ago. Working diligently and through perseverance, BDS is piling up victories, and the results are there for all to see. They remind us of the incandescent era of the Palestinian struggle in the 1970s and 1980s and the significant role of Palestinian intellectuals and academics in gaining international support for the national rights of the Palestinian people. The BDS approach provides an answer to all those approaches of nihilistic violence and narrow-mindedness from the Palestinian political elites of all parties that only had a negative impact.


Mohammad Fadhel Al Obaidly is a media consultant at b'huth, he has an extensive background in journalism working with news publications and agencies such as AFP.



Originally published in Gulf News, June 2 2014.


Image:Israeli President Shimon Peres at a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, 2013

Source: Secretary of Defense, Wikipedia.

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