Drawbacks to BDS in Canada, Germany, and Britain

12.05.22

Editorial note

Some crucial developments concerning Israel that occurred in the last few days are worthy of attention.

In Canada, McGill University has warned the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) after students voted overwhelmingly for the “Palestine Solidarity Policy last month.” The resolution commits SSMU to take a stand against “Israel’s system of racial discrimination.” In response, B’nai B’rith, the Jewish organization in Canada, released a statement labeling SSMU’s behavior as antisemitic. B’nai B’rith called on McGill University to “immediately cease funding SSMU until it rescinds this bogus referendum result.” The administration responded to the resolution by threatening to terminate its Memorandum of Agreement with SSMU, which regulates fees, the use of the name, etc. The administration claimed the Palestine Solidarity Policy encourages “a culture of ostracization and disrespect due to students’ identity, religious or political beliefs.”

In turn, pro-Palestinian activists announced that Mcgill “waged a multiyear campaign against student democracy and Palestinian solidarity” because SSMU calls for divesting from and boycotting “corporations and institutions complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians.” Pro-Palestinians now urge the community to act. “It’s important for outside forces to publicly embarrass McGill’s administration, pressure wobbly student representatives and embolden the student organizers driving the struggle on campus. As the Israel lobby fully understands, the struggle for Palestinian rights runs through student activism.”

There are also battles in Germany, where pro-Palestinian activists complain that Germany’s foreign policy is pro-Israeli. For this, they recruited Ilan Pappe, an Israeli professor and former lecturer at the University of Haifa, a notorious Israel-hater. Pappe wrote an appeal to the German government, asking it not to be “twice on the wrong side of history.” He claims that Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians is “racist to its very core… You would have expected Germany to lead the anti-racist campaign, not only in Europe but in the world at large, instead of leading the support, as a state, to one of the longest racist projects in our times in the historical land of Palestine.” For Pappe, “There is no telling when and how this erroneous and immoral German position will come back to haunt Germany.”  

Pappe has a long history of using academic writings to trash Israel while whitewashing Palestinian conduct. For instance, in The Rise and Fall of a Palestinian Dynasty: The Husaynis, 1700–1948, he downplayed several well-documented examples of Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the Palestinian Mufti’s incitement to violence and especially his high-profile advocacy of the Nazi Final Solution, and his contribution to the Nazi war efforts. Pappe complained that “Israeli historiography would claim, with very little evidence, that by this time the Mufti endorsed the Nazi ideology.” But later admitted that the “Palestinian historiography was long uncomfortable” with discussing the Mufti’s and Nazi Germany’s “ill-fated liaison.” Pappe explained that the Mufti and his pro-Nazi associates were “a few individuals who were detached from Palestine and its politics.” Pappe emphasized that the Mufti’s “identification with the Nazi death machine made it difficult for him to reintegrate into Palestinians politics.” Still, Pappe lamented that “many historians in the world, especially in Israel, have depicted him as a mini Hitler, unjustifiably and inaccurately.” Pappe’s lack of moral integrity is especially galling because he calls himself the son of Holocaust survivors. 

Throughout the years, whitewashing the Holocaust earned Pappe admirers in Iran, where the regime has engaged in a decades-long effort of Holocaust denial. As well known, the Iranian authorities had invited notorious Holocaust deniers from Europe and the United States to frequent Holocaust denial conferences. Pappe’s writings on how Israel exploited the Holocaust to subjugate the Palestinians have been translated into Farsi and featured on some of the regime’s propaganda platforms. 

In the UK, the BDS movement has encountered some strong headwinds. The Queen’s Speech marking the opening of the British Parliament announced that legislation would be introduced to stop BDS policies that target Israel. The annual address to parliament, outlining the government’s plan for the next session, confirmed the inclusion of the anti-BDS Bill this year to “prevent public bodies engaging in boycotts that undermine community cohesion.” The Bill would empower the government to ban public bodies from conducting boycott campaigns against foreign countries or officials “inconsistent with official UK policy.” The British government has argued that the “boycotts may legitimize and drive antisemitism” by too much focus on Israel. Once the Bill is passed, Britain would lead in this regard, and other countries might follow.

References

https://www.palestinechronicle.com/mcgill-university-administration-amps-up-anti-palestinian-campaign/
McGill University Administration Amps up Anti-Palestinian Campaign

May 7, 2022 Articles, Commentary

By Yves Engler

The McGill administration and Israel lobby have waged a multiyear campaign against student democracy and Palestinian solidarity and recently threatened the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) financial arrangement after students voted overwhelmingly for the “Palestine Solidarity Policy”.

A month ago, 71% of students voted for a resolution that commits SSMU to take a stand against Israel’s system of racial discrimination. The resolution called for a host of measures including SSMU divesting from and boycotting “corporations and institutions complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians.”
In response, B’nai B’rith released a statement labeling “SSMU’s behavior…antisemitic”. It “called on McGill University to immediately cease funding SSMU until it rescinds this bogus referendum result.”

The administration responded by threatening to terminate its Memorandum of Agreement with SSMU, which regulates fees, use of name and other matters between the university and student union. The administration claimed the Palestine Solidarity Policy encourages “a culture of ostracization and disrespect due to students’ identity, religious or political beliefs.” But the resolution does not mention any ethnicity or nationality.

The administration’s bid to portray their student body as anti-Jewish is not new. As students have sought to express support for the long-oppressed Palestinians, they’ve repeatedly made similar claims.

Between 2014 and 2016 there were three votes inspired by the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement at biannual SSMU general assemblies. Fearing students at the prestigious institution would support BDS, the Israel lobby went into overdrive. Among a slew of pressure tactics, they got Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau to tweet that “the BDS movement, like Israeli Apartheid Week, has no place on Canadian campuses. As a McGill alum, I’m disappointed. Enough is Enough.”

In February 2016 a motion mandating the student union support some BDS demands passed the union’s largest ever general assembly. But after the McGill administration, Montreal’s English media and pro-Israel Jewish groups blitzed students the online confirmation vote failed. The resolution’s constitutionality was subsequently challenged by Zionists who sought to have SSMU’s Judicial Board outlaw any motion that expressed support for BDS.

Students challenged the effort to block their ability to collectively challenge Israeli apartheid. An October 2017 challenge of the SSMU Judicial Board’s decision to declare a BDS resolution unconstitutional prompted Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee activist Noah Lew to smear other students. After failing to be re-elected to the Board of Directors Lew claimed he was “blocked from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity and my affiliations with Jewish organizations.” Lew’s claim received international coverage and McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier sent out two emails to all students and faculty concerning the matter.

But an investigation by the administration found no basis for Lew’s claim.

The principal form of racism on display on this subject is the university power structure’s deep-seated anti-Palestinianism. As I previously detailed, McGill administrators openly associated with the Jewish National Fund, an explicitly racist organization that excludes Palestinian citizens of Israel from living on land stolen from Palestinians.

Fortunately, students have persevered in campaigning for Palestinian rights despite the smears, underhanded moves and outside attacks. The large margin that voted for the recent Palestine Solidarity Policy suggests that support for Palestinian rights is growing.

But Israel lobby and administration pressure led SSMU’s unelected judicial board to reject the constitutionality of the Palestine Solidarity Policy. They also impeached the elected president of the student union, Darshan Daryanan, in part due to his sympathy toward student democracy and Palestinian rights.

Happily, there’s some pushback. Students have organized rallies and outside groups have petitioned the administration. Rock legend Roger Waters, author Yann Martel, former MP Libby Davies, author Chris Hedges and 200 others signed a recent public letter criticizing the administration’s threats as anti-democratic and anti-Palestinian. Signed by 40 organizations, the letter also applauds McGill students for pushing their union to fulfill its stated commitment to leadership in “matters of human rights and social justice.”

It’s important for outside forces to publicly embarrass McGill’s administration, pressure wobbly student representatives and embolden the student organizers driving the struggle on campus. As the Israel lobby fully understands, the struggle for Palestinian rights runs through student activism.

 – Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit his website: yvesengler.com.

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https://www.jewishnews.co.uk/queens-speech-includes-bds-bill-to-stop-public-bodies-targeting-israel/
Queen’s Speech includes ‘BDS bill’ to stop public bodies targeting IsraelPlanned government 

bill aims to prevent boycotts which ‘may legitimise and drive antisemitism’

By LEE HARPIN May 10, 2022, 11:45 am  

Legislation aimed at stopping local councils bringing in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) policies that target Israel have been announced in today’s Queens Speech marking the state opening of parliament.

The yearly address to parliament, which outlines the government’s agenda for the next session, confirmed the inclusion of the government’s anti-BDS proposals which would “prevent public bodies engaging in boycotts that undermine community cohesion.”

The BDS and Sanctions Bill follows a 2019 Conservative Party manifesto commitment to preventing local authorities from “adopting their own approach to international relations.”

It was one of 38 Bills announced by the government on Tuesday, alongside moves to bring in criminal offences against protesters who cause serious disruption, and the replacement of the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights.

Prince Charles took on the head of state’s ceremonial duty on Tuesday, reading out the Queens Speech on behalf of the Queen, who “reluctantly” announced she would miss the state opening of parliament the previous day.

Reading the speech, the Prince of Wales confirmed the inclusion of the anti-BDS Bill which would ban “boycotts that undermine community cohesion.”

Last year former Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told a communal event it was his New Year wish for parliament to pass a law imposing “an absolute ban” BDS.

Jenrick’s successor in the role, which now includes Levelling Up duties, Michael Gove has long been an outspoken opponent of BDS.

Speaking to MPs in the Commons in March, Gove said that one way of tackling the “evil of antisemitism” was to “stand up to the BDS campaign.”

Arguing the case for an anti-BDS Bill, the government has now argued “boycotts may legitimise and drive antisemitism” by focusing so much on Israel.

The Bill aims to empower government to ban public bodies who conduct their own boycott campaigns against foreign countries or officials, when they are “inconsistent with official UK policy.”

It would also prevent public institutions from using BDS to target the sale of goods and services from foreign countries, and UK firms which trade with such countries or territories.

The government has responded angrily to motions passed by councils such as Lancaster City Council, which in June 2021 passed BDS motions against Israel, and Leicester City Council, who voted to boycott goods from Israeli settlements in 2014.

The Bill has also taken into consideration evidence suggesting boycotts have gone beyond targeting just the state of Israel and have “contributed to the horrific rise of antisemitism in the UK.”

It is claimed kosher food had been removed from supermarket shelves, Jewish films have been banned from festivals and Jewish student societies have been blocked as a result of “unofficial boycotts.”

Boris Johnson has included similar commitments to tackle the BDS movement over claims they “overwhelmingly target Israel” in the last two Queens Speeches.

The Duke of Cambridge was also alongside Prince Charles at the state opening of parliament.

The decision to allow Charles to read the speech with Prince William required a special rule change in the form of a legal instrument known as Letters Patent.

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https://www.palestinechronicle.com/germany-and-palestine-twice-on-the-wrong-side-of-history/
Germany’s Position on Palestine: Twice on the Wrong Side of History?

May 9, 2022
Activists protest against the anti-BDS resolution adopted by German parliament. (Photo: Courtesy of BDS Website)

By Ilan Pappe

There is no doubt that Nazi Germany was on the wrong side of history, and it took an enormous amount of international effort to bring Germany over to the other side of history after the end of the Second World War. A noble way of doing it was by strengthening the democratic basis of post-Nazi Germany, and by re-writing its educational curricula as well as granting it a leading role in the struggle against racism at the heart of the continent. This was complemented by a noble attempt to regulate the local arms industry and arms exports so as to ensure as a comprehensive restitutive process as possible.

However, one important element of this restitution, still believed to be crucial by the German political system, is unconditional support for Israel. A position that creates the impression that Germany, as a State, might err again. This time, it is much less dramatic than the previous deviation from normalcy and humanity but, nonetheless, is highly worrying and deeply disappointing that Germany as a State – and hopefully not its society – did not deduce fully and honestly the moral lessons its darker history should have taught it.

Germany, that is West Germany until the late 1980s, and the West in general, believed that the road to West Germany’s rehabilitation and re-admission to the “civilized nations” had to go through the legitimization of the colonization of Palestine. Thus, within three years after the end of the Second World War, the West was asking the world to grant, simultaneously, legitimacy for the new Germany and for the creation of a Jewish State over much of historical Palestine, as if the two demands were logically and, worse still, morally connected. Hence, Israel became one of the first states to declare that there was a “new Germany”, in return for unconditional support for its policies, complemented by huge financial and military aid from West Germany.

After the unification of Germany and the hegemonic role it played since then in the EU foreign policies, the German position on Israel and Palestine became paramount and influenced the continent’s overall policy. It is only recently that those of us who are active for, and on behalf of, Palestine noted the slippery road on which Germany – as a state – slides once more onto the wrong side of history.

It was unavoidable that large sections of the German Civil society, especially among the younger generation, would navigate successfully between their acknowledgment of the Nazi past and their contemporary local and international moral agendas. In fact, the past produced a generation of conscientious young Germans joining others in the West in fighting for human and civil rights, wherever they are violated.

For any German with a modicum of decency in them, it would be impossible to exclude from this moral conversation the racist Israeli policies. The inevitable result was the emergence of a strong German solidarity movement with the Palestinian people and their just struggle for liberation.

As happened elsewhere, in particular after the First Intifada, and even more so in this century, Israel reacted forcefully to this shift in European public opinion. When this original solidarity impulse swelled into a massive social movement, galvanized and encouraged by initiatives such as the BDS – Israel went to war. Israel weaponized anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in order to prod the German political system to do its utmost to silence the more conscientious voices in its civil society.

I experienced the result of this campaign. Every now and then, my lectures in Germany were canceled at the last moment, and the organizers had to move me and other speakers to alternative venues, organized in haste and with little time to re-publicize the events, which was the main purpose of these acts of intimidation from above.

German politics deteriorated further and even deeper into a moral abyss when, on May 17, 2019, almost three years ago to date, the German federal parliament – the Bundestag – passed a resolution in which the BDS movement was condemned as anti-Semitic. Governmental institutions of Germany were called on not to support any activities of the BDS movement or any groups that “are anti-Semitic and/or demand the boycott of Israelis and Israeli companies and products”. This unusual move of the parliament was consensually endorsed by all the political parties: the Christian Union parties (CDU and CSU), the Social Democrats (SPD), the Liberal Party (FDP) and the Green Party.

The distorted logic of this resolution is based on equating anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel and Zionism. Since it was passed, it led to the cancellation of academic and cultural events associated with Palestine or – which is more draconian – it applied to any event organized by people known to be pro-Palestinian. Moreover, German citizens were in danger of losing their jobs and jeopardizing their career prospects if they take part in pro-Palestinian demonstrations or any act of solidarity.

In its overall foreign policy, Germany is no different from other member states of the EU. A policy which is a mixture of indifference towards Israel’s abuse of Palestinian rights, while solidifying strategic, military and economic ties with Israel. At the same time, it succumbs to pro-Israeli lobby groups in an attempt to bring down politicians who dare to identify with the Palestinian cause and stifles any significant debate on Zionism and Israel’s policy. In Germany, however, the policy of silencing is even more draconian, and the military aid and economic connections are even stronger than of any other EU member State.

This is not just fear of Israel or guilt about the Holocaust. These factors are important but there is another darker history that official Germany does not want to face. Even a relatively cursory discussion on Germany’s responsibility for the suffering of the Palestinians will show clearly that it was post-Nazi Germany that enabled the world to absolve, not only West Germany but Europe as a whole, from the Holocaust, by fully supporting the dispossession of the Palestinians. It was much easier to choose this road to rehabilitation than to properly deal, not only with anti-Semitism, but with all forms of European racism, manifested mainly nowadays as Islamophobia, but also as racism against “non-European” or “non-white” minorities all over the continent.

Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians is racist to its very core, and one cannot create hierarchies of racism or a club of “accepted” racism, or a legitimate one. You would have expected Germany to lead the anti-racist campaign, not only in Europe but in the world at large, instead of leading the support, as a state, to one of the longest racist projects in our times in the historical land of Palestine.

There is no telling when and how this erroneous and immoral German position will come back to haunt Germany. What is clear, and encouraging, is that there are a large number of Germans who do not want to slide on this slippery road and are doing all they can to stop this immoral deterioration and demanding the making of a real “new” Germany, which we are all craving for as conscientious and moral human beings.

– Ilan Pappé is a professor at the University of Exeter. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa. He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, The Modern Middle East, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, and Ten Myths about Israel. Pappé is described as one of Israel’s ‘New Historians’ who, since the release of pertinent British and Israeli government documents in the early 1980s, have been rewriting the history of Israel’s creation in 1948. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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