My Word: Uncivil society, ruffled feathers and bitter Waters

BDS (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
It was no dove of peace taking flight when Bjornar Moxnes, leader of the Red Party in the Norwegian parliament, released his nomination of the international BDS movement for the Nobel Peace Prize last week. In fact, I found myself thinking of Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot” sketch, featuring the deceased bird with “beautiful plumage” “pining for the fjords.”
The first falsehood marketed by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is that it is pro-peace. The second is that it is pro-Palestinian rather than anti-Israeli in nature.
I frequently receive press statements, particularly from South Africa, claiming a “victory for BDS.” But every BDS “success” marks a loss for peace and humanity.
Parroting clichéd lies about “apartheid” and urging people to boycott the one Jewish state is not normal, or to put another way: It is anti-normalization and it is antisemitic. Old hatred, modern guise.
I was asked about BDS last week in a radio interview on Radio New Zealand. I hadn’t heard of Kiwi singer Lorde until she announced she was dropping Israel on her world tour, but then I had a crash course.
Lorde is 21. Let’s be charitable and say she is politically naive and impressionable.
I’m not the first person to note the hypocrisy of her backing out of a concert in Tel Aviv but appearing in Russia as if it were a bastion of peace and democracy – even as Russia bombs civilians in Syria, violates Ukrainian sovereignty, represses journalists and persecutes homosexuals.
If she had really wanted to do something meaningful with her music, Lorde would have appeared in Tel Aviv and used the opportunity to get her message across to the Israeli crowd. Or she could have added a performance in Ramallah, the Rawabi amphitheater or Bethlehem and reached out to Palestinians in person.
Losing Lorde is no hardship for me, but a bit of my youth died when Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters became the most active artist campaigning for the boycott of Israel. (Coincidentally, he performed in New Zealand last month.) Brick by brick, lie by lie, Waters is building a wall between Israel and the Palestinians. Unlike the much maligned security fence – built to keep terrorists out – it is destroying the chances for even a modus vivendi, let alone peace.
And unlike Lorde, Waters is old enough to know exactly what he’s doing. Perhaps like the recent rantings of Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, part of Waters’s campaign is a bid to remain relevant when the world’s attention is focused on the tragedies unleashed by the “Arab Spring.”
Like most Israelis, I don’t see much chance for a viable peace process in the foreseeable future (To quote Python again: “Mate, this bird wouldn’t ‘voom’ if you put four million volts through it!”). That’s what makes the ordinary human contacts, the economic and cultural ties, the improving of everyday life, so much more important.
BDS is not having an economic impact on Israel, and so many bigname artists have put Israel on their itinerary that friends complain that the main financial effect is the outlay for the costly tickets and they have a problem choosing between performers, including Radiohead, Rod Stewart, Justin Bieber, Nick Cave, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Guns N’ Roses and Aerosmith.
The biggest BDS “victory” locally was the campaign against SodaStream, which resulted in the company relocating from over the Green Line to the Negev. Hundreds of Palestinian workers lost their jobs with above average wages and good working conditions in the process. A BDS backfire.
I’m loath to give BDS the extra publicity. It is not a strategic threat. Finding the correct way to tackle its actions without turning BDS activists into the victims is a balancing act, and I’m not sure that Israel is going about it the right way. Throwing huge sums into “the battle” is pointless if it serves to promote the movement’s standing.
One approach is that taken by Shurat Hadin, which tackles the boycott movement in court, and recently filed a lawsuit against Nadia Abu Shanab and Justine Sachs, two New Zealanders active in urging Lorde to cancel her gig.
One sinister effect of BDS is the professed distinction between Israel and “the territories.” It creates an atmosphere in which “settlers” are perceived as a legitimate target. As Israelis mourn two victims of terrorism within a month – Itamar Ben- Gal and Raziel Shevach, who left 10 young children between them – such a situation is particularly painful, shameful and dangerous.
BDS supporters often compare Israel to apartheid-era South Africa and cite the international boycott that contributed to the regime change as their inspiration and model. This is based on either ignorance or ignoring what really took place in South Africa during that period and utterly distorting the picture of life in Israel.
The false analogy is based on a misconception that makes the South African model even more invalid. Some 75% of the Israeli population of nearly nine million is Jewish. This is no minority rule and the Jewish Israelis are not going to go away, on the contrary: Antisemitism abroad is pushing many Jews to move to the one Jewish homeland.
Indeed, as Israeli activist Hen Mazzig told The Jerusalem Post’s Tamara Zieve this week, the BDS movement is “the epitome of colonialism repackaged for 2018; Europeans push Middle Eastern people to fight each other in a campaign to never solve this conflict...
“It’s no surprise that a Norwegian politician will nominate them, Yasser Arafat was the laureate of Nobel Peace Prize and the BDS movement is nothing short of Arafat’s agenda – a racist deadly campaign that will continue attacking Israelis even if it hurts Palestinians.”
BDS is also hurting people far beyond the Middle East, including in South Africa itself. The water crisis in Cape Town is so severe that residents are counting down to Day Zero, April 12, when supplies are expected to be so low that water will no longer be provided via faucets. Residents will turn on their taps and nothing will come out. It gives a new take on Monty Python’s idea of “pining for the fjords.”
The Post’s Ilanit Chernick, who has covered both the crisis and South Africa’s strong BDS movement, noted that the impending disaster could have been averted in part by using the technology and know-how that has made Israel a world leader in desalination, water recycling, irrigation and water preservation.
Two years ago, BDS South Africa gloated over the cancellation of a water crisis conference that had been scheduled to take place in Johannesburg with Israeli participation. Last month, as Chernick wrote, former ambassador to Pretoria Arthur Lenk tweeted, “South Africa’s Israel-haters should be held to account for pressuring to limit sharing of Israel’s water management technologies. Hope they fail and people of Cape Town thrive.”
An online petition has been launched demanding that the ruling party, the African National Congress, “cease importing the politics of the Middle East and taking an anti-Israel unilateral stance. Demand that the South African government commence immediate talks with Israel to ask for help with solving our water crisis.”
Israel is not the source of the world’s ills nor does it have the ability to cure all the world’s problems. Nonetheless, fighting the water shortage – and prejudice – not one drop at a time, but by gallons and gallons of goodwill, is more positive than singling out one particular country – and people – to be blacklisted.
Nomination to the Nobel Peace Prize might be a feather in the cap of the BDS movement, but it is the dunce’s cap.