BDS/Zionism

The growing collusion between activists, terrorists and food shops

It is probably reasonable to say that most of us on the anti-Zionist Left in western countries stay with our ‘own’ news sources regarding Palestine. This is usually Palestinian activists in Palestine or trusted, non-corrupt human rights NGOs; but it is helpful on the occasion to take a cursory glance over the great divide into the realm of the deluded Zionist. This is a healthy political exercise since it forces us to perform seriously challenging intellectual acrobatics to understand what it’s like to be a Zionist.

The Daily Telegraph writes for middle class people who identify as British. When they open this newspaper, they leave the 21st century and enter the British Empire, somewhere between the death of Queen Victoria and the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Apart from that, you get the occasional snippet of what occurs today, albeit through the lens of the some middle-aged white man who can’t remember the last time he left London.

It is, then, pretty shameful to buy this imperial toilet paper, but to pick up a crumpled copy of it in an airport waiting area is fine. This is where the recent article by the truly impressive Stephen Pollard was found. His article should be held as paragon of the favoured Zionist argument today: that anti-Zionism is simply antisemitism cloaked.

This is a series of responses to key points in the article.

Terrorism takes many forms. But whether it is Islamist extremists on the streets of London or IS beheadings in Syria and Iraq, it has one common thread – it is designed to instil such fear that a society or community changes its very way of life.

Opening sentence to frame discussion in context of terrorism, which sets the scene for later discussion on anti-Zionism. The focus is of course on Muslims only, and non-state terrorism only.

On Saturday, a branch of Sainsbury’s removed all kosher food from its shelves over fears that anti-Israel protesters picketing outside would attack the shop. Compared with the impact of the 7/7 murders, Sainsbury’s behaviour was certainly banal. But it was more than that, because in its way it was both giving in to, and colluding with, a form of terrorism.

The behaviour of one manager in one shop in one town is not an action by the company. Reference to 7/7 is a clear indication of unsound mental faculties.

In response to protesters calling for a boycott of Israeli goods … the manager ordered his staff to clear the shop of all its kosher goods. Clearly the manager is not the brightest spark in the firmament, since kosher produce – which is the only food observant Jews are allowed to eat – is not the same as Israeli produce – which is simply food produced in [sic] Israel.

It’s easy to imagine what went through the manager’s mind: “Israelis, Jews – here, they’re all the same. Let’s just get rid of this stuff pronto and keep the protesters happy.”

Kosher is not the same as Israeli, correct. A people is not the same as a state; the manager – inadvertently or not – conflated Jews generally with the Israeli state, which is unacceptable. The truth is, nobody knows what the manager was thinking… even Zionists that write for broadsheet newspapers.

I can think of no other description for Sainsbury’s behaviour than it is a “hate crime”. How else should one describe the targeting of Jews – by removing kosher food from a shop – simply because of the actions of a foreign government with which they have no connection other than religion, and with which they may or may not agree?

Sainsbury’s can’t be said to have committed a hate crime (don’t know why Pollard used quotation marks) when it was an action by an individual member of staff. Jews were not ‘targeted’ by the shop, or by protesters.*

Yes, Jews as a group are not responsible for the crimes of the Israeli state. They are not connected at all, and certainly not through religion – the Israeli state is a Zionist construct; an ethnocracy which identifies Jewish as a nationality.

Worse, the idea that the best way to deal with a mob of angry anti-Israel protesters is to give them even more than what they want, by removing all Jewish produce in the hope that they will then go away, is not merely spineless. It is, in the broadest terms, exactly the response that terrorists seek. Some hapless Sainsbury’s spokesperson issued a statement saying that the company was “an absolutely non-political organisation”, and went on: “It was an isolated decision made in a very challenging situation.”

This is a pivotal point in the argument: that the removal of Jewish products as a political extension of boycotting Israeli products, framing the call for boycott as fundamentally antisemitic. A deceptive insertion of racism into the narrative. The aims of the Sainsbury’s campaign can be found here.

Sainsbury’s “challenging” remark is indeed shite.

Challenging. What a wonderful word that is designed as a catch-al to excuse all sorts of inexcusable acts. So – given how challenging things are in Iraq at the moment – presumably Sainsbury’s will be removing all halal goods from its shelves because Islamic State is slaughtering Yazidis. No? You mean Sainsbury’s does not believe all British Muslims should be punished for the actions of a foreign body with which they have no connection?

Again, sudden link to groups who identify as Muslim perpetuating atrocities. This entire point is predicated on the falsehood that Sainsbury’s targeted Jews.

“Muslims punished for ‘actions’ of foreign body” is a continuation of the specious people-state-link argument.

A pattern is emerging in which a form of anti-Semitism is becoming normalised – as if it were now acceptable to speak or even act against Jews as Jews, under the cover of acting against Israel.

The key logical fallacy jump. Antisemitism now ‘normal’. There is antisemitism in the UK, just as any other form of racism is found, but the Sainsbury’s case cannot be classed as such. This is a crude and harmful Zionist argument that asserts all anti-Zionist acts are rooted in antisemitism.

Two weeks ago, the Tricycle Theatre in north London decided that it would not be able to host the UK Jewish Film Festival, which had graced its screens for the past eight years. Not an Israeli festival, mind – a Jewish festival. The reason? The festival has received a £1,400 donation from the Israeli government. The Tricycle has happily shown films from Russia, China and other nations with deplorable human rights records and made no demands over the funding of the films.

All Israeli state-funded shows or festivals are boycott targets, regardless of the ethnic or religious composition of the event. Yes, other states violate human rights, but only Palestinians have initiated and called for a global BDS campaign. This is the ‘why Israel?’ argument. No other western-backed state is an ethnocracy, managing a colonial occupation that seeks in rhetoric and action to wipe out an entire people using army, airforce and navy.

I doubt the management of the theatre is anti-Semitic in the sense of believing Hitler was right. But their actions – singling out Israel, alone of all the nations on the planet, for opprobrium and boycott – were clearly anti-Semitic.

Reductio ad Hitlerum. Poor show. 1/10.

For the bien pensants who inhabit this world, theirs is a supposedly more subtle stance. Some of their best friends are Jews, oh yes. But they’re the Good Jews who condemn Israel and to whom it’s acceptable to give house room, rather than the uncouth Bad Jews who, let’s be honest, shouldn’t really be here. They should fly off to Israel if they like it so much.

All Zionists – Christian, Jew and non-believer – are challenged. Anti-Zionists do not seek to deport Jews to occupied Palestine, obviously.

Not that Hitler wasn’t right, according to some of the banners at London marches over the past few weekends. “Hitler Was right”; “Israel = Nazi”; “Jews Babykillers” – they’ve all been given an outing.

If anyone is seen at a demonstration with antisemitic placards, they should be confronted, expelled and excluded from any Palestine solidarity events. It is the responsibility of all activists to do this as being part of a campaign oriented towards human rights and anti-racism.

The comparison with the Israeli state and the Nazi regime is inaccurate and insensitive at best. However, those being politicised for the first time understandably look to what they know as the worst crimes in human history. This is unsurprising, given the genocidal comments made by Israeli members of parliament, supporting the slaughter in Gaza

Over the course of July, the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitism in cooperation with the police, recorded over 240 incidents – and they have been on a similar scale in August. The situation in Britain is not comparable to that in France, where there have been anti-Semitic mobs torching synagogues, but for many British Jews something poisonous has now entered the ether and anti-Semitism, the oldest hatred, is being normalised.

The benignly-named Community Security Trust categorises anti-Zionist activity as antisemitic, so their figures on hate crimes are distorted. This is ultimately harmful, since genuine cases of antisemitism are bunched with actions against the Zionist state.

Reports on the burning of synagogues in France turned out to be untrue.

Last week my own newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle, conducted a straw poll of 150 Jews stopped randomly in the street. The results were not scientific. But fully 63 per cent said they and their friends had, over the past month, discussed whether Jews have a future in Britain.

In the past month, the Israeli state has been slaughtering Gazans and media attention has honed in on it. Zionists continue to conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism, amid increased outrage against the Palestinian genocide, so naturally, Jewish people (particularly Zionist Jews) will question their place in a pro-Zionist country. And how do you stop a Jew randomly in the street? What does one look like?

Stephen Pollard has revealed the desperation of Zionists faced with the global BDS movement, and the crisis Zionism is currently attempting to endure. All that the propaganda campaign has left is terrorism, Hitler and heavy use of antisemitism claims.

* Edited for clarity. Previously read “Sainbury’s can’t be responsible…”.