A foul stench of hypocrisy hung in the air last night as Omar Barghouti spoke about his new book BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights at the London Review Bookshop.
Barghouti unashamedly studies in Tel Aviv. He consumes Israeli goods en masse and says he would take Israeli live-saving medicine should he ever require it.
“I have no choice. I don’t know what you think about Arabs but we are not suicidal,” was his answer to my question on that last point. He was being slightly disingenuous as my question was not about Arabs, but him specifically.
That said, there are more than just a few Arabs who are suicidal and who think nothing of taking the lives of the innocent with them in the act, but when have you heard any condemnation of this from the so-called protectors of human rights within the BDS movement?
I couldn’t understand why, out of choice, Barghouti studies in a country that he so despises. He also studied in America, the one country he blames for its rock solid support of Israel. But he argued that he has the right to be in Israel because he is a refugee and has the right to return there. He was born in Qatar and spent his first eleven years in Egypt.
On the question of consuming Israeli goods, once again, he argued he has no choice as he lives in Israel.
He claimed that he couldn’t find anyone to debate him about the ethics of a boycott “so we are debating with ourselves”. But, he said, he had set out all the questions and answers about boycotting Israel in his book.
But it was only recently that Prof. Daniel Hochhauser destroyed Dr. John Chalcraft’s arguments on this exact same topic at the London (or is that Libyan?) School of Economics.
There are many more people who can also demolish Barghouti’s arguments and show up the BDS movement for the purely anti-Semitic movement that it is.
There I go playing the anti-Semitism card, which is exactly what Barghouti told the audience that Israel’s supporters do, but he implored them to be brave and to continue making the case for boycotts despite such allegations.
But if a movement does not propose a boycott of America, Britain, China, Russia and Turkey etc. for the occupations that they are all embroiled in then I really don’t know how a movement can consider itself to be anything other than anti-Semitic. Perhaps Barghouti addresses this point in his book.
So Barghouti consumes Israeli products but travels the world encouraging audiences to boycott those same products, and more, until the BDS movement achieves its three main objectives:
1. Ending the occupation and dismantling the wall.
2. Giving the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel complete equality.
3. Respecting the rights of the Palestinians to return under UN Res. 194.
Like Chalcraft he claimed that the boycott only targets institutions, not individuals although, as Hochhauser, pointed out individuals belong to institutions and so people are, in effect, being targeted individually.
He described settlement products as “contraband”, which should be seized on entry to the UK, and claimed that the BDS movement had achieved “success beyond our dreams”.
The call, he said, was issued in July 2005 but the movement has so far achieved more than the anti-apartheid movement did in 20 years and now included a boycott by the Trades Union Congress that covers some seven million workers and a cultural boycott by the likes of Meg Ryan, Roger Waters and The Pixies etc.
Even if his claims were true, surely the boycott movement would be even more successful if he was also boycotting Israel.
Barghouti would, no doubt, argue that he is effecting change from within Israel. He is part of “Boycott From Within”, but claimed repression is on the rise against Israeli citizens who support BDS, although, apparently, the Foreign Ministry recognises that Israel “will lose its last veneer of democracy in the West” should this continues.
He cited Ilan Baruch who resigned from foreign service claiming that Israel needs to study “the South African experience”. Baruch had, however, recently been turned down for the post of ambassador to Egypt.
Barghouti claimed that mainstream Israeli officials, and even Mossad, now think Israel is “a pariah”.
The main problem for BDS is that, as Barghouti stated, Israel’s economy is “triple A rated” and so the movement must go for strategic victories like those against Veolia, which is responsible for building transport links in Israel. He claimed Veolia had been trying to sell its share in the Jerusalem light railway project, but that there were no buyers.
But he did reveal doubts over the so-called Palestinian right of return. He questioned “whether it is feasible or not”, despite this being one of the three main objectives of the BDS movement!
In summary, Barghouti is taking the very best that Israel has to offer and is allowed to publicly air his criticisms while, hypocritically, denouncing Israel as being undemocratic and an apartheid state.
Israel feeds him, educates him, houses him, clothes him and looks after him medically, all while he attempts to destroy it from within.
(I wasn’t allowed to take photos, although other audience members were, but here’s the audio: Omar Barghouti talk and Q&A (Chaired by Victoria Brittain).)
For some great “Israel Apartheid Week” posters see elderofziyon