"It's very fashionable these days to be against Western modernity, to see the modern world as destructive and problematic. Some time over the past 20 years the meaning of what is to be radical changed to self-loathing, to hate your own history, to hate your own nation.
What I think Israel represents to a lot of Western radicals and others is the kind of most outward symbol of that old-sense Western modernity. It's seen as obsessed with sovereignty, obsessed with national territory, brutally progressive, capitalistic and constantly talking about freedom – all those things that we in the West used to do, but we don't anymore because apparently we grew up.
I think Israel has become a proxy for people to express their own sense of Western self-loathing. I think it is the reason that so much contempt is visited upon Israel. More than North Korea, more than China, more than Belarus, and more than any other country, because Israel is seen as doing all the things that civilised Westerners don't think we should do anymore."
So says Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked online magazine, who's currently in Australia, in an interview with the current, hot-off-the-press Australian Jewish News.
As the following excerpt from the transcript shows, Mr O'Neill was the only panellist who spoke up in support of Israel during the egregiously biased Q&A program earlier this week, about which I blogged here:
BRENDAN O'NEILL [to former Aussie foreign minister Bob Carr, a fellow panellist]: Well, the suggestion in your book is actually that foreign policy was effectively outsourced to these groups and that's something slightly different than what you're saying now because what that echoes, in my mind, is this old, quite ugly prejudice about Zionist groups or Jewish groups being the puppet masters of politics and that is a prejudice that has...
BOB CARR: But I don't hold that view. I’ve never held a view remotely like it.
BRENDAN O'NEILL: No, but it is the impression one gets from your book, where you talk about the outsourcing of Australian policy on the Middle East to these groups and there are a lot of lobby groups in the world. They lobby on all sorts of issues but it’s always the Jewish lobby or the Israel lobby that is depicted as being particularly sinister, blackmailing politicians, controlling politicians, making politicians fall at their feet and I think that's a real double standard on Israel at the moment. Not only is their lobby group treated as uglier than every other lobby group but also Israeli artists are the only ones who are generally boycotted by trend westerners. Israeli academics are boycotted, whereas other academics from very authoritarian countries are not. There is a real double standard in Western discussions about Israel at the moment and I think that does come across in some of your commentary on...
BOB CARR: Well, hold on. Hold on.
BRENDAN O'NEILL: ...on these groups. And what I would say is there is – I come from a continent where there is a long history of blaming Jewish or Israeli groups when political things don't go your way. There is a long history of that and it has - and it’s an ugly history and I would just say if you failed to convince Julia Gillard to go with your view of what happened to the Middle East, that's your fault. Don't blame these lobby groups.....
BRENDAN O'NEILL: I think, you know, Nigel [Kennedy, a fellow panellist, and fervent BDSer] talks about being censored by the BBC, but now you know what it feels like to be an Israeli academic or an Israeli artist or an Israeli actor.
NIGEL KENNEDY: Or a Palestinian actor though.
BRENDAN O'NEILL: Because when they come to Britain to do Israeli performances, they are jeered off stage. They are booed off stage. An Israeli violinist was booed out of the Proms. So that is what the BDS is about. It’s about censoring Israeli voices and it’s a very authoritarian approach. I don't think people who criticise Israel are anti-Semitic at all but I am concerned about the way in which criticising Israel has become the most trendy, fashionable cause amongst every leftie in the west, above everything else, and it’s people are - now define themselves through their loathing of Israel. You are basically not allowed into polite society these days unless you are, you know, signed up critic of Israel and that, I think, is damaging because it imbues the conflict in the Middle East with this kind of great western kind of culture war. It turns an ordinary war into culture war. It entrenches both sides and it makes a solution actually more difficult."Alas, Mr O'Neill is too trusting. Sure, criticism of aspects of Israeli policy is not necessarily antisemitic. But his stated assumption that Israel's critics "are not antisemitic at all" is naive and jejune, one that can be ardently contested, especially as seen in the true aims of the BDS movement.
The grandson of refugees from Nazism, Nick Dyrenfurth, an adjunct research fellow at the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University in Melbourne who happens to be opposed to the "Occupation" and (like O'Neill, if I read him correctly) is hardly on the political right, has written a rather fine article on the BDS movement and the Jake Lynch affair in which he states, inter alia:
Yet it is not the usual suspects on the right that are arguably causing the most angst among the Jewish diaspora, or indeed Jews in Israel. That honour goes to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement associated with elements of the global left....
In fact, the BDS campaign possesses three specific aims. The first is to end the Israeli occupation of lands occupied in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem, and dismantle the West Bank security barrier. The second is to achieve full equality for the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel. Finally, there is its demand of a “right of return” for all descendants of Palestinian refugees to “Green Line” Israel as stipulated in UN Resolution 194, itself actually conditional upon the acceptance by all parties of the earlier partition of Jewish and Arab states in Palestine.
The implacable demand for the “right of return” gestures towards the ambivalent attitude of BDS supporters regarding a negotiated two-state solution within roughly Green Line borders. The movement’s spiritual leader, Qatari-born Omar Barghouti, along with Australian supporters such as the journalist Antony Loewenstein, explicitly calls for the establishment of a “secular democratic state” of Palestine. This is the so-called one-state solution, which would see a single, non-Jewish state created between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, ushering in the end of the state of Israel after 66 years in existence. BDS is justly regarded by many as a war against Israel by means other than violence....
.... [I]t singles out Israel for boycott and ignores far worse human rights abuses; it punishes all Israelis for the actions of their state; it educates followers that the “racist”, “colonialist” Jewish state is at the centre of all that is wrong in the world; it pushes Jewish defenders of Israel’s right to exist out of progressive movements; it recycles images of Jews as bloodthirsty oppressors exercising disproportionate influence over politics and the media; and it pushes the idea that people who raise the issue of anti-Semitism are only doing so in order to silence criticism of Israel. It has nothing to say of Palestinian rejectionism, especially of the racist, religious fundamentalist Hamas variety...." [Emphasis added]See, too, Canadian columnist Robert Fulford, focusing here on the brouhaha over Scarlett Johansson and SodaStream:
"The people who defame Israel and wish to undermine its status in the world are not anti-Semites — or so they will tell you, every chance they get. Their denial of anti-Semitism is essential to their moral position. In their own view they are good progressives, therefore absolutely innocent of racial or religious discrimination. Their propaganda campaign, which they hope eventually will escalate into economic warfare, is intended merely to reshape Israel’s policies.
....My own belief is that the BDS people and their fellow travellers, whatever their background, are anti-Semites. They do all they can to stigmatize the Jewish state and reduce its ability to defend itself. They know that Israel is surrounded by neighbours who will never recognize its existence, much less sign a treaty developed in a “peace process” quarterbacked by Washington. The Palestinians and the Arab states who claim to support them are not hoping for a more generous Israel or a BDS-approved Israel or an Israel willing to hand over the West Bank. They are working for a day when Israel will be gone forever.
In order to satisfy this generation’s anti-Semites, Israel must meet standards that no other country in the world has ever met or ever will. At the United Nations Israel is condemned more often than all other countries combined. [Emphasis added here and below]
It is, of course, an imperfect democracy, like Canada and all other free countries, and its human rights record could certainly be improved. But its treatment of Palestinians has never been even remotely comparable to China’s oppression of Tibetans or Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women, two among many outrageous practices that apparently never trouble the students who direct their anger at Israel...."