More on Hawking, Israel … and the truth about BDS

May 14, 2013 at 11:09 am (academe, anti-semitism, celebrity, civil rights, Human rights, intellectuals, internationalism, israel, Jim D, New Statesman, palestine, protest)

Matt Hill, writing at the New Statesman website, makes some very interesting comments on the Hawking “boycott” and the BDS movement in general. It’s well worth reading the entire article, but this section is especially telling:

The problem with the BDS campaign is that the message it sends Israel is anything but clear – and, as a result, it risks being counterproductive. In his letter to the conference’s organisers, Hawking wrote about his concerns about “prospects for a peace settlement”, saying that “the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster”. But Israel’s supporters claim that the BDS movement has little to do with the occupation, peace, and government policy, and is instead intended to bring into question the Jewish state’s right to exist.

It’s true that Israel’s supporters throw the word ‘delegitimisation‘ around to portray fair-minded criticism of Israel as invidious and sinister. But when it comes to BDS, the fact is that they have a point. The BDS movement doesn’t have a single leadership with stated goals, but most of the biggest groups within it make little secret of their preferred outcome to the conflict. Instead of a two-state solution, they support a single, Palestinian-majority state that would mean the end of Israel’s existence. Don’t take my word for it. Norman Finkelstein, the heroic pro-Palestinian author and activist, recently launched a blistering attack on the BDS movement, telling an interviewer: “[The Israelis] say ‘They’re not talking about rights. They want to destroy Israel.’ And in fact, I think they’re right. . . . There’s a large segment of the movement that wants to eliminate Israel.”

And just in case any readers haven’t yet seen the clip of Finkelstein (someone this blog would not describe as “heroic”) accusing the BDS movement of fundamental dishonesty about Israel, here it is:


  1. Paul Mabbot said,

    Israel has no right to exist. It stole the land of the Palestinians and ethnically cleansed them to establish its state and is still doing that today. Gaza is ghettoized and the West Bank is subject to constant provocation from Settler Shock Troops backed by the IDF. Down with this Second Rate Third Reich, Down with Ziofascism. How any Marxist can support the actually existing Israel with its entirely self-serving version of `secularism’ and its brutal genocide of the Palestinians let alone the principle of a sectarian religious state with pretentions of becoming an empire is a mystery. Oh not it’s not. We are after all talking about the rat fink Arab hating anti-Semite Denham.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    Your comment has been left in place, Herr Ellis, for purely educative purposes.

    From now on your anti-Semitic, red-brown ranting will be excluded from this place.

    Fuck off, you foul piece of excrement, and don’t come back.

  3. flyingrodent said,

    Israel’s supporters claim that the BDS movement has little to do with the occupation, peace, and government policy, and is instead intended to bring into question the Jewish state’s right to exist.

    I don’t doubt this is correct, for a good many in “the BDS movement”, although it seems to be an argument that’s conveniently broadly applied.

    Nonetheless though, it should be pointed out that the question of “Israel’s right to exist” is entirely bogus, for both sides.

    Recall – Israel’s conventional military is far superior to any potential foe, and it possesses an overwhelmingly massive nuclear capability. While it may be fearful of various threats major and minor, it has repeatedly shown that it can deal with any serious threat to its existence almost effortlessly. This is surely beyond doubt.

    Israel is not going anywhere, anytime soon. Various BDSers may fantasise otherwise, but they’re in for decades of disappointment if they’re thick enough to believe their own propaganda.

    And even if that weren’t true – which it is – has there ever been an example of a state exercising a legal “right to exist”?

    States rise, states fall; they’re subsumed within empires or simply change out of all recognition over the centuries. Where are the Romans, these days? “Tsar” means “Caesar”, to pick an example, and there sure are a lot of columns and eagles in Washington, but only professors and priests speak Latin.

    Whither the Ottoman Empire, or the Soviet Union? Does even the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland bear any serious resemblance to, say, its Elizabethan ancestor?

    Whether states endure for ten centuries or wither within decades, history suggests it has little to do with fairness, and far less to do with legality. Peoples strive for this or that and eventually, the chips fall where they may… And given the advantages that they’ve earned and been granted, I suspect Israel will be at the table a long time yet.

  4. Jim Denham said,

    Rodent: It’s the political issue that’s crucial here, rather than the purely practical (“Israel’s conventional military is far superior to any potential foe): no other state in the world has its right to exist questioned in this way. Israel has had its right to exist questioned continually ever since its foundation, and the genocidal 1948 attack on it by the surrounding Arab states. That’s bound to have an effect on the national psyche and national politics, as it indeed has (draggi9ng Israel to the right over the years).

    The fact that the PSC and the BDS movements lie when they deny that they’re in favour of the destruction of Israel needs to be exposed if any serious debate is to take place.

  5. flyingrodent said,

    no other state in the world has its right to exist questioned in this way.

    I don’t know – I’d say that there have been major questions marks raised by various folk over the legitimacy of the “Northern Ireland” part of GB∋ Of Turkish Northern Cyprus and of South VIetnam (a prime example of a “state” created wholly by its elite and its foreign allies), to pick only a few.

    Hell, even the superpowers of the twentieth century had their detractors. Ask a Mexican, or a Chechen, or Ronald Reagan for that matter.

    And that’s before we get to the notional states that have never existed, but would given the chance – Kurdistan, say, or maybe Palestine.

    And that last one is kind of important here, isn’t it? Because Israel in its current form is never going to allow that last one to come into being in a bajillion years, if its ruling class ever have any say in the matter, and nobody else in the world possesses the will, the power or even the desire to see that particular dream come to fruition.

    Which does, I would say, tell you exactly how horrifying and threatening the possibility of “delegitimisation of Israel” really is, in terms of regional injustices.

    But yes, you are correct. Lots of BDSers are total bawbags in the political, as well as the practical sense.

  6. Sue R said,

    Is that Paul Mabbot of ladybird fame?

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