Want global security and international justice? Boycott!

By PETER WERTHEIM, ALEX RYVCHIN
November 12, 2014 23:10

An Australian politician has delivered a speech in the Federal Parliament endorsing BDS.




Boycott Israel sign

Boycott Israel sign. (photo credit: REUTERS)

An Australian politician has delivered a speech in the Federal Parliament endorsing BDS as a “perfectly acceptable form of protest” against Israel. Melissa Parke, a former international lawyer who worked in Gaza with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), became the first politician from the center-left Australian Labor Party to publicly support boycotting the Jewish state.

The tone and tenor of Parke’s speech in the Australian Parliament was familiar. An extreme message fashionably attired in phrases like “international justice” and “non-violence.”

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Parke was at pains to distinguish between hatred for the Jews as a people and hatred for the Jews as a people with a national home.

Parke cites former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights Richard Falk, of all people, to support the proposition that BDS is not anti-Semitic and not “intent on the destruction of Israel.”

Falk, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, was widely condemned (including by British Prime Minister David Cameron) for publishing a crude anti-Semitic cartoon on his website, which he then hastily removed. He also drew criticism for providing the cover endorsement of a book by a self-described “proud self-hating Jew” that asks whether “Hitler might have been right after all.”

Falk is known as a fringe “9/11 conspiracy theorist,” and has been widely denounced, including by the secretary general of the United Nations, for vile comments blaming the Boston terrorist attack on “the American global domination project” and “Tel Aviv.”

As noted by the British government’s Equality and Non-Discrimination Team, Falk’s recent writings are “resonant of the longstanding anti-Semitic practice of blaming Jews (through the State of Israel by proxy) for all that is wrong in the world.”

So extreme are Falk’s views that the Palestinian Authority requested that he step down from his UN post because it considered him to be a partisan of Hamas and found his frequent comparisons of Israel to the Nazis to be counterproductive.

To bolster the case for BDS and whitewash its anti-Semitism, Melissa Parke also cites Peter Slezak, a Sydney-based academic and executive member of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN). Just hours after a horrific anti-Semitic incident in Sydney, in which a bus-load of Jewish primary school children were threatened with having their “throats cut” and were subjected to shouts of “Heil Hitler” and “all Jews must die,” Slezak declared: “Jews are fair game because of their influence and militant support for crimes of [the] Jewish state.”

Slezak later insisted that he meant Jews were “only” fair game for criticism, but this is belied by the timing and context of his comment.

Parke’s views on Israel are also influenced by the American activist group, Jewish Voice for Peace. This group opposes sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, claiming that “sanctions are an act of war” and “sanctions hurt people,” while simultaneously lobbying for sanctions against Israel.

Every party in the Federal Parliament and in the state or territory parliaments supports Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, free from military and terrorist attacks and the threat of such attacks. They all support a negotiated two-state solution to the Israel- Palestinian conflict. They have all rejected the anti-Israel BDS campaign in their policy platforms, and leaders of the Coalition, Labor and the Greens have denounced BDS publicly more than once.

More importantly, despite criticisms of Israeli government policies and practices, whether well-founded or not, most Australians have shown no tolerance at all for the fringe groups that have picketed chocolate shops, university centers that try to exclude and censor Israeli academics, or local councils that are inclined to spend rate-payers money on anti-Israel crusades.

By lending her name to BDS and presenting a petition urging her parliamentary colleagues to boycott Israel into submission or oblivion, Melissa Parke has only brought discredit on herself.

The founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, who ironically obtained his PhD from the University of Tel Aviv, a university he now wishes others to boycott, has claimed a Palestinian “right to resistance by any means, including armed resistance,” and denies that the Jews are a people or have a connection to the land of Israel.

Other leading figures in the movement have openly asserted the campaign’s purpose of destroying Israel. As’ad Abu Khalil stated that “justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the State of Israel,” while Ahmed Moor put it in ever plainer terms, asserting that “BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state.”

Parke’s speech in support of BDS is symptomatic of the same psychosis for which Falk has been roundly condemned. It places all the ills of the Middle East, if not the world, at the feet of Israel.

Parke even goes so far as to link the scourge of militant Islam with the actions of Israel and implies that BDS is part of the solution. What connection Israel has to the marauding jihadists consuming much of Africa and the Middle East Parke does not tell us. Israel’s only involvement in the Syrian tragedy, which spawned Islamic State and has claimed, in just a few years, far more lives than the Arab-Israeli conflict has in over six decades, is to help wounded Syrian civilians cross the border into Israel and heal them free of charge in Israeli hospitals.

Parke’s public endorsement of a campaign that is both dishonest and racist will disgust all people of goodwill who support a Palestinian state alongside Israel, something that BDS staunchly opposes. It should also serve as a sharp reminder that we mustn’t be taken in by self-appointed advocates for human rights like Parke and Falk. Too often they are found attempting to divert our eyes to the actions of Israel, a liberal democracy with a vibrant tradition of internal debate and dissent. All the while the voiceless victims of egregious crimes elsewhere are ignored, because for Melissa Parke, they just don’t make it onto her ideological radar.

Peter Wertheim is the executive director and Alex Ryvchin is the public affairs director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the peak representative body of the Australian Jewish community.


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