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The Right to Boycott

An Open Letter

It is with dismay that we learned of the decision of the City of Dortmund to rescind the Nelly Sachs Award for Literature from Kamila Shamsie because of her stated commitment to the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

As a statement by more than forty progressive Jewish organisations says, ‘dangerously [conflating] anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel’s policies and system of occupation and apartheid ... undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism. It also serves to shield Israel from being held accountable to universal standards of human rights and international law.’

In Germany, the attacks on BDS are among the most fierce. In May 2019 the Bundestag passed a motion labelling the movement as antisemitic. Yet on 13 September, the Administrative Court of Cologne became the third court in the country to rule in favour of the right to boycott.

In its ruling the court wrote: ‘The motions of the Bonn City Council ... and the German Bundestag (17 May 2019), do not constitute legislative acts but are political resolutions or expressions of political will. These motions alone cannot justify, from any legal perspective, the restriction of an existing legal right.’

Yet a few days later, the City of Dortmund chose to punish an author for her human rights advocacy while simultaneously refusing to make public the statement she wrote on learning of the decision.

So we publish Kamila Shamsie’s statement here:

In the just concluded Israeli elections, Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to annex up to one third of the West Bank, in contravention of international law, and his political opponent Benny Gantz’s objection to this was that Netanyahu had stolen his idea; this closely followed the killing of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli forces – which was condemned as ‘appalling’ by the UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process. In this political context, the jury of the Nelly Sachs Prize has chosen to withdraw the award from me on the basis of my support for a non-violent campaign to bring pressure on the Israeli government. It is a matter of great sadness to me that a jury should bow to pressure and withdraw a prize from a writer who is exercising her freedom of conscience and freedom of expression; and it is a matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modelled on the South African boycott) that campaigns against the government of Israel for its acts of discrimination and brutality against Palestinians should be held up as something shameful and unjust.

What is the meaning of a literary award that undermines the right to advocate for human rights, the principles of freedom of conscience and expression, and the freedom to criticise? Without these, art and culture become meaningless luxuries.

Khalid Abdalla, Alaa Abd el-Fattah, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Sohaila Abdulali, Nadia Abu el-Haj, Diana Abu-Jaber, Susan Abulhawa, Lila Abu-Lughod, Maan Abu Taleb, Ammiel Alcalay, Kazim Ali, Monica Ali, Nir Alon, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Carlos Manuel Álvarez, Suad Amiry, Tahmima Anam, Sinan Antoon, Lisa Appignanesi, Nicole Aragi, Arnold Aronson, Elsa Auerbach, Zeina Azzam, Kafah Bachari, Annie Baker, Sunandini Banerjee, Frank Barat, Mourid Barghouti, Josh Begley, Joel Beinin, Linda Benedikt, Phyllis Bennis, Susan Bernofsky, Omar Berrada, Dwayne Betts, Akeel Bilgrami, Nicholas Blincoe, Leah Borromeo, Brian Boyd, Victoria Brittain, Virginia Brown, Simone Browne, Jehan Bseiso, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, John Burnside, Margaret Busby, Diana Buttu, Carmen Callil, Juan Cárdenas, Zeynep Celik, Hayan Charara, Amit Chaudhuri, Anne Chisholm (Vice President, Royal Society of Literature), Noam Chomsky, Susannah Clapp, Jennifer Clement (President, PEN International), J.M. Coetzee, Teju Cole, Michael Collier, Irene Cooper, Cindy Corrie, Craig Corrie, Molly Crabapple, Michael Cunningham, Selma Dabbagh, William Dalrymple, Najwan Darwish, Angela Davis, Natalie Zemon Davis, Katy Derbyshire, Kiran Desai, Natalie Diaz, Laurence Dreyfus, Marlene Dumas, Hilda Dunn, Geoff Dyer, Barbara Ehrenreich, Ben Ehrenreich, Deborah Eisenberg, Inua Ellams, Annie Ernaux, Brian Eno, Nick Estes, Richard Falk, Rose Fenton, Sylvia Finzi, Erica Fischer, Richard Ford, Adam Foulds, Maureen Freely (Chair, English PEN), Duranya Freeman, John Freeman, Ru Freeman, Bella Freud, Esther Freud, Ruth Fruchtman, Tess Gallagher, Cristina Garcia, Tomer Gardi, Suzanne Gardinier, Apoorva Gautam, Ashish George, Ralph Ghoche, Noelle Ghoussaini, Eileen Gillooly, Georgina Godwin, David Gorin, Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Subhi Hadidi, Rawi Hage, Omar Robert Hamilton, Yasmeen Hanoosh, Jeremy Harding, Githa Hariharan, Joseph Harris, Rodrigo Hasbún, Iris Hefets, Jehan Helou, Mischa Hiller, Marianne Hirsch, Jane Hirschmann, Elizabeth Hodges, Rachel Holmes, Amy Horowitz, Jennifer Ruth Hosek, Jean Howard, Aamer Hussein, Kim Jensen, Ruth-Ellen B. Joeres, Lucy Jones, Fady Joudah, Louis Kampf, Remi Kanazi, Ghada Karmi, Brigid Keenan, A.L. Kennedy, Omar el Khairy, Mona Khalidi, Rashid Khalidi, Hannah Khalil, Shamus Khan, Elias Khoury, Naveen Kishore, Naomi Klein, Alexander Kluge, Nancy Kricorian, Hari Kunzru, Rachel Kushner, Olivia Laing, Nick Laird, Laila Lalami, Léopold Lambert, Patrick Langley, Rickey Laurentiis, Paul Lauter, Paul Laverty, Kiese Laymon, Mason Leaver-Yap, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Ben Lerner, Alan Levine, Richard A. Levy, Ken Loach, Zachary Lockman, Claudia Castro Luna, Ruth Luschnat, Sabrina Mahfouz, Jamal Mahjoub, Laurie Marhoefer, Javier Marías (Nelly Sachs Award Laureate), Jen Marlowe, Lori Marso, Yann Martel, Dave Mason, Ahmed Masoud, Zeinab Masud, Diana Matar, Hisham Matar, Khaled Mattawa, Farid Matuk, Nyla Matuk, Colum McCann, John McCarthy, Tom McCarthy, Fiona McCrae, Sarah McNally, Askold Melnyczuk, Helaine Meisler, Maaza Mengiste, Ritu Menon, Christopher Merrill, Lina Meruane, Brinkley Messick, Claire Messud, China Miéville, Gail Miller, Pankaj Mishra, W.J.T. Mitchell, Nadifa Mohamed, Aja Monet, Jenny Morgan, Benjamin Moser, Michel Moushabek, David Mura, Nancy Murray, Eileen Myles, Karma Nabulsi, Karthika Naïr, Mary Jane Nealon, Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark, Marcy Newman, Donna Nevel, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Lulu Norman, Naomi Shihab Nye, John Oakes, Andrew O’Hagan, Richard Ohmann, Ben Okri, Michael Ondaatje (Nelly Sachs Award Laureate), Susie Orbach, Ursula Owen, David Palumbo-Liu, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, William Parry, Shailja Patel, Ian Patterson, Ed Pavlic, Jeremy Pikser, Shahina Piyarali, Sheldon Pollock, Vijay Prashad, Paul B. Preciado, Alexandra Pringle, Philip Pullman, Pary El-Qalqili, Omar al-Qattan, Rania Qawasmah, Shazea Quraishi, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Cynthia Rimsky, Bruce Robbins, Howard A. Rodman, Sally Rooney, Constancia Dinky Romilly, Jacqueline Rose, Andrew Ross, Alice Rothchild, Pru Rowlandson, Bee Rowlatt, Arundhati Roy, Joe Sacco, Nayantara Sahgal, Mariam C. Said, Rebecca Saletan, Mohamed Salmawi, Preeta Samarasan, Sapphire, Shuchi Saraswat, George Saunders, James Schamus, Sarah Schulman, Felicity Scott, Stephen Sedley, Karen Seeley, Gamini Seneviratne, Rebecca Servadio, Rachel Shabi, Elhum Shakerifar, Anton Shammas, Solmaz Sharif, Adam Shatz, Raja Shehadeh, Farhana Sheikh, Jack Shenker, Adania Shibli, Ahmad Shirazi, Ann Shirazi, Avi Shlaim, Marc Siegel, Rick Simonson, Tom Sleigh, Gillian Slovo, Ali Smith, Nirit Sommerfeld, Ahdaf Soueif, Linda Spalding, Gloria Steinem, Amy Kepple Strawser, William Sutcliffe, Billie Swift, Janne Teller, Kate Tempest, Jacques Testard, Madeleine Thien, Colm Tóibín, T.C. Tolbert, Carles Torner (Executive Director, PEN International), Salil Tripathi, (Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee for PEN International), Monique Truong, Jennifer Tseng, Chika Unigwe, Tanya Ury, Karen Van Dyck, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Lawrence Venuti, Margo Viscusi, Gauri Viswanathan, Ocean Vinh Vuong, Dirk Wanrooij, Roger Waters, Marina Warner, Terry Weber, Eliot Weinberger, Irvine Welsh, Ben White, Mabel Wilson, Jeanette Winterson, Jacqueline Woodson, Jay G. Ying, Mona Younis, Dorothy M. Zellner, Alia Trabucco Zerán


Comments


  • 23 September 2019 at 11:44am
    Joachim Helfer says:
    Let me answer from a German perspective and as a writer committed to the ideas of free-speech, freedom, democracy, the fight against racism, sexism, imperialism et .: The open letter states that "a few days later, the City of Dortmund chose to punish an author for her human rights advocacy". That, however, is not quite the case: Not to be awarded a prize simply does not constitute a punishment. Kamila Shamsie's rights of expression are not infringed upon. She is free to advance the agenda of the BDS movement. The German Bundestag is equally free to label the BDS movement as antisemitic because it calls into question the legitimacy of the very existence of the State of Israel. Such a labelling does indeed not constitute an act of legislation but a political declaration. The City of Dortmund, thus, would have been free to give a price, named after a German Jewish writer and designed explicitly to foster cultural exchange to a writer who explicitly engages to curtail cultural exchange and implicitly endorses calls for the destruction if the State of Israel. Yet, the City of Dortmund was equally free to reconsider such an improper choice for the Nelly-Sachs-Preis. The rhetorical concluding question "What is the meaning of a literary award that undermines the right to advocate for human rights, the principles of freedom of conscience and expression, and the freedom to criticise?" simply misrepresents the facts.
    Joachim Helfer

    • 23 September 2019 at 2:27pm
      RH says: @ Joachim Helfer
      Hi Joachim. The BDS doesn't "call into question the legitimacy of the very existence of the State of Israel". What it tries to do is "to pressure Israel to comply with international law".
      This is how the BDS describes itself on its website:
      Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.
      Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.
      BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Thirteen years since its launch, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.

    • 23 September 2019 at 9:08pm
      Graucho says: @ Joachim Helfer
      It may not be punishment, but it certainly is discrimination.

    • 24 September 2019 at 9:22pm
      apemantus says: @ RH
      In addition to Heifer's misstatements on central BDS position on Israel's right to exist, his description of the process is also dubious: "Not to be awarded a prize simply does not constitute a punishment."

      But "simply" that is not what happened. If Shamsie was not awarded the prize for any in camera reason it would obviously not be a punishment. Yet, she WAS awarded the prize and then it was withdrawn by the Dortmand Council and a public message of anti-BDS opprobrium was directed at her with the intimation of "antisemitism". That certainly sounds like punishment to me.

      Of course the Dortmand Council's right to free speech should not be infringed on. It is free to award, and retract awards, and stigmatize anyone they want --with no fear of libel as long as the smear intimates "antisemitism". But perhaps, to avoid future confusion and paperwork, the prize promoters could have a statement that "active supporters of justice in Palestine will not be considered".

  • 24 September 2019 at 1:11am
    Mark LeVine says:
    I believe Joachim Helfer is a novelist; does this account for his inability to tell the difference between fact and fiction? There is no "German perspective" that is unique in its understanding or criticism of BDS. There is only the facts, and then the misperceptions and outright distortions of the facts. The facts, to start with the most minor issue, is that Kamila Shamsie had a prize rescinded after it was awarded. This is not the same as not awarding it in the first place as he described it, and demonstrates as openly as possible that political pressure was put on the committee to rescind a prize already awarded to a writer.

    This is not free speech, this is coercion, and punishment in any normal meaning of the words. It actually stifles free speech because it tells other authors that if they adopt a political position based on human rights and international law they put their careers at risk, given how important literary prizes are to a writer's ability to earn income in various ways.

    Second, while the German Bundestag "is equally free to label the BDS movement as antisemitic because it calls into question the legitimacy of the very existence of the State of Israel," the fact remains it's exercising that freedom based on a claim that is demonstrably false -- the BDS calls into question the "very existence of the State of Israel." As a writer one imagines Mr. Helfer would be very careful about how language is used, and that it accurately reflects the arguments and words it claims to represent. But as so often is the case when it comes to Israel, he seems unable, unwilling and/or uninterested to strive for a level of accuracy and objectivity he would, I imagine, hope to be deployed when analyzing his own work.

    No, BDS doesn't threaten "the legitimacy of the very existence" of Israel. What BDS demands is that Israel stop engaging in systematic violations of human rights and int'l law on a massive scale for over half a century. It demands Israel treats all the people under its control and jurisdiction with dignity and in accordance with the most basic principles and instruments of said international law, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions, and the international conventions and treaties against racism, Apartheid and other crimes against humanity. No doubt, changing the very character of the Israeli state to no longer commit such violations as the core of its governance structure would entail a fundamental change in the nature of the state. Many even believe that it would necessitate moving away from an ethtno-religious-nationalist model that privileges Jewishness over all other communal identities of the inhabitants of the country: that is, an end to Israel as an exclusivist Zionist state. One might disagree with this goal, but calling for Israel to become a state of all its citizens or a binational state is in no way the same thing as challenging "its very existence" any more than calling on any other state to stop discriminating against large numbers of the people who live under its jurisdiction challenges its very existence.

    Yet such language as deployed by Helfer is clearly meant to frighten Jews, Israelis and, of course, Germans, given in light of the Shoah, where our "very existence" was in fact threatened. But transforming Israel into a non-discriminatory full democracy cannot be compared to threatening the "very existence" of the Jews that live there; and again, as a well-known and even celebrated writer Mr. Helfer surely should know this, so his comment here is either disingenuous or sloppily written, or both.

    Finally, pointing out several times that the prize that was withdrawn was named after a Jew and that because of this giving it to someone who supports BDS would be "such an improper choice" is as startling as it is a gross misrepresentation of what BDS is and who supports it. Surely Mr. Helfer knows--or should know, given his literary reputation--that a large and growing number of Jews, both in and outside Israel, actively support BDS. Indeed, the fastest growing Jewish organization in the US, Jewish Voice for Peace, is not just pro-BDS but actively anti-Zionist. Attempting to tie--and smear--BDS to anti-Semitism by stating that it's improper for a prize named after a Jewish person to be given to a BDS supporter betrays not only complete ignorance of what BDS is and who supports it but reveals an appalling disregard for accuracy and fairness.

    Ultimately if sadly, Mr. Helfer's almost slanderous attacks on both BDS and on Kamila Shamsie and the BDS movement, like the withdrawal of the prize itself by the City of Dortmund, merely serves to highlight the intellectual and moral laziness and bankruptcy of the forces attempting to silence the movement, even as it demonstrates their ongoing political power. Tragically, as the Occupation and the crimes committed every day to maintain it continue well into its sixth decade, its becoming equally as hard to defend Israel's actions as it is to condemn those who would use international law and the norms of human decency to see them stopped. Prize or no prize, Kamila Shamsie is on the right side of history. Mr. Helfer and the City of Dortmund are not.

    • 24 September 2019 at 4:26pm
      Joachim Helfer says: @ Mark LeVine
      Dear Mr. LeVine, you are certainly right in stating that "There is no "German perspective" that is unique in its understanding or criticism of BDS." I have not made any such claim, but merely labeled my own perspective as a German one. The facts about the true intentions of BDS are exactly what people differ on, within Germany as well as within the UK, US, the wider world, and even Israel. The city of Dortmund had to take guidance on that issue by informed and reasonably trustworthy institutions. A political declaration adopted by an overwhelming bi-partisan majority of Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, surely qualifies as such. The declaration of the Bundestag in turn was informed by the majority opinion of international scholarly experts on the Middle-East conflict and on antisemitism. I am no expert on the issue nor do I claim to be. I, like the city of Dortmund, have to take guidance by sources I trust. To link BDS with antisemitism is no smear-campaign of my making but the majority opinion of scholars working on the issue. What I can speak about with some authority are issues of free-speech. And here, indeed, there is a specific German perspective, informed by our specific history. Most experts on Antisemitism conclude that BDS - willingly or unwillingly - is using classical antisemitic strategies such as moral double-standards for Jews, demonizing Jews, or calling into question the legitimacy of Jewish institutions. Such speech is free, even in Germany. But the freedom of speech does, in my opinion, not entail a right to be awarded prices for fostering or supporting such strategies. This disagreement notwithstanding I certainly share your criticism of Israels policies and actions in the occupied territories, and your wish for peace, freedom, democracy and justice for all the people of the Middle-East.

  • 24 September 2019 at 4:13pm
    stettiner says:
    BDS is a brainchild of the infamous 2001 UN Durban Conference’s NGO Forum. The ground was prepared earlier the same year at a regional judenfrei conference in Tehran.

    At the Forum, in a fashion later perfected by the movement, dissenting voices were shouted down, people were called ”Zionist pigs lovers” and ”Jewlovers”, pamphlets glorifying Hitler were distributed. A declaration was issued, signed by groups like HRW and Amnesty, accusing Israel of “perpetration of racist crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing, acts of genocide”.

    A few years later, the BDS which until then was a concern of mostly Western leftists felt a need to present itself as a grass root movement of Palestinian Arabs. Mr Omar Bargouthi from Quatar was recruited as a ”co-founder”. He is the man who famously uttered the words that define the BDS: ”we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine”.

    • 25 September 2019 at 11:20am
      Feltpen says: @ stettiner
      Dear Stettiner,
      Instead of engaging with the arguments in the letter, or with actual statements made by the BDS movement, your comment resorts to smears, invention and personal attacks, including ripping a quote out of context in order to suggest a malicious intent.

      The fact is that the BDS movement's commitment to anti-racist principles is fundamental to its demand for a rights-based solution in Palestine-Israel. In 2017 it re-iterated these fundamentals in a document titled “Racism and Racial Discrimination are the Antithesis of Freedom, Justice & Equality” which says "the BDS movement does not tolerate any act or discourse which adopts or promotes, among others, anti-Black racism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia, or homophobia."

      The selectively butchered quote from Omar Bargouti is in fact an argument for equal rights between ALL people (its in The National, also on Youtube):

      “A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically. Just as we would oppose a ‘Muslim state,’ or a ‘Christian state,’ or any kind of exclusionary state, definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine. Accepting modern-day Jewish-Israelis as equal citizens and full partners in building and developing a new shared society, free from all colonial subjugation and discrimination, as called for in the democratic state model, is the most magnanimous, rational offer any oppressed indigenous population can present to its oppressors. So don’t ask for more.”

    • 25 September 2019 at 11:28am
      PT says: @ stettiner
      This is a mis-quote of Omar Barghouti. If you refer to this video at 5:30 (https://vimeo.com/75201955) you can see that what he actually says is this:

      “A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically.

      Just as we would oppose a ‘Muslim state,’ or a ‘Christian state,’ or any kind of exclusionary state, definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.

      Accepting modern-day Jewish-Israelis as equal citizens and full partners in building and developing a new shared society, free from all colonial subjugation and discrimination, as called for in the democratic state model, is the most magnanimous, rational offer any oppressed indigenous population can present to its oppressors. So don’t ask for more.”

      As for the theory that BDS is a conspiracy of Tehran in combination with Western leftists, well, we can just leave that sitting there.

      If people would like to refer to BDS’ own statement on racial discrimination they can read it here: https://bdsmovement.net/news/%E2%80%9Cracism-and-racial-discrimination-are-antithesis-freedom-justice-equality%E2%80%9D

    • 25 September 2019 at 1:04pm
      stettiner says: @ PT
      Both Feltpen and PT quote Mr Barghouti denying Jewish peoplehood as an example of his pure intentions. Smashing.

      Both quote BDS’ own statement on racial discrimination, but don’t tell us that BDS’ view on Jew hatred is like Mr LeVine’s: we decide what’s racist and hating Jews we don’t like is not racist.

      Regarding my “conspiracy theory”, I can only pity PT’s inability to understand written text.

  • 24 September 2019 at 7:09pm
    Ariram says:
    The UN has recently released a report on antisemitism linking the BDS movement to antisemitism.
    The City of Dortmund was right to rescind the Nelly Sachs Award.

    • 25 September 2019 at 10:32am
      Feltpen says: @ Ariram
      This is patently false. The UN report on antisemitism actually said: "international law recognizes boycotts as constituting legitimate forms of political expression, and that non-violent expressions of support for boycotts are, as a general matter, legitimate speech that should be protected"

      Fuller context:
      "Critics of BDS assert that the architects of the campaign have indicated that one of its core aims is to bring about the end of the State of Israel and further allege that some individuals have employed antisemitic narratives, conspiracies and tropes in the course of expressing support for the BDS campaign.

      The Special Rapporteur notes that these allegations are rejected by the BDS movement, including by one of its principal actors, who asserted that the movement is “inspired by the South African anti-apartheid and U.S. Civil Rights movements;” maintained that they oppose all forms of racism and that they take steps against those who
      use antisemitic tropes in the campaign, and stressed that they employ “nonviolent measures to bring about Israel’s compliance with its obligations under international law.”23

      Concern about the adoption of laws that penalize support for the BDS movement, including the negative impact of such laws on efforts to combat antisemitism have also been communicated to the Special Rapporteur. He recalls that international law recognizes boycotts as constituting legitimate forms of political expression, and that non-violent expressions of support for boycotts are, as a general matter, legitimate speech that should be protected."

  • 24 September 2019 at 7:14pm
    Lars says:
    @joachimhelfer admits he’s no expert on the conflict or on antisemitism. So he must put his faith in sources he trust.

    But if he’s no expert how does he know that “...the majority opinion of international scholarly experts...”, “the majority of scholars...” and “most experts...” believe the BDS movement wants Israel destroyed and is antisemitic?,


  • 24 September 2019 at 7:39pm
    sebagustavo says:
    You can't but tha blame on the jury, which obeid to an order of the Bundestag.

  • 24 September 2019 at 8:18pm
    Rory O'Kelly says:
    I was rather amused by Mr Helfer's comment"I am no expert on the issue nor do I claim to be. I, like the city of Dortmund, have to take guidance by sources I trust. To link BDS with antisemitism is no smear-campaign of my making but the majority opinion of scholars working on the issue. " To summarise, I think that what he is saying is that he was only obeying orders.

  • 24 September 2019 at 8:58pm
    Mark LeVine says:
    Mr. Helfer, it would behoove you to ensure you have evidence to back up your assertions before making them publicly, especially when they're so easily disproved by the public record.

    Perhaps you could explain to readers whom you consider to be "informed and reasonably trustworthy institutions" from whom you are taking guidance that have declared BDS to be fundamentally anti-Semitic, and who are the "the majority opinion of international scholarly experts on the Middle-East conflict and on antisemitism"?

    In fact, like your previous comments, your words here are inaccurate, disingenuous and misleading. It is simply not possible that "the majority opinion of international scholarly experts on the Middle-East conflict" have determined that BDS is inherently or fundamentally anti-Semitic. As one of those experts I can assure there is no such opinion among my colleagues; indeed, the most important international association of scholarly experts on the Middle East -- the Middle East Studies Association -- has explicitly declared the opposite (https://mesana.org/advocacy/committee-on-academic-freedom/2018/04/18/exposing-canary-mission). Its British counterpart, the British Society for Middle East Studies actually voted to support BDS, and many of the most vocal supporters of that resolution were Jews and Jewish Israelis (https://bdsmovement.net/news/british-society-middle-eastern-studies-endorses-palestinian-call-boycott-complicit-israeli).

    Might I suggest you and the Bundestag should consider checking your facts and utilizing different sources before making public pronouncements?

    You might say that well, perhaps it's not the Middle East scholars who make the connection between BDS and anti-Semitism, but surely the scholars of anti-Semitism do. But here again, you would be wrong. While there are certainly a large cohort of pro-Israel "experts" on anti-Semitism that attempt to make this claim, the majority of Jewish scholars who work on the issue do not support this, and specifically state that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism, and even when they disagree with BDS do not argue that supporting that is anti-Semitic. Again, you must surely know that 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust signed a letter earlier this year rejecting just the notion that BDS is equivalent to anti-Semitism (https://www.scribd.com/document/412475185/Call-by-240-Jewish-and-Israeli-scholars-to-German-government-on-BDS-and-Anti-Semitism). It was widely reported in the German press and submitted to the German Parliament. Sadly, just for tweeting about it the Jewish Museum, Peter Schäfer, another one of these "scholarly experts" you imagine support your argument, was fired from his job.

    Moreover, your arguments, and in fact your words, conflate the "Middle-East conflict" with the Israeli Occupation; these are not the same thing in any regard. Indeed, there is no "Middle-East conflict" in the real world. There are only multiple conflicts, civil wars, proxy wars, occupations and alliances and back table agreements, some of which are interconnected in various degrees but which cannot be reduced to one all encompassing conflict. To do so is to badly misrepresent a very complex situation and you, as a prominent intellectual and writer, should know better. Indeed, it's precisely this sloppiness that helped bring on the US invasion of Iraq and so many other Euro-American foreign policy disasters (and far greater disasters for the peoples of the region). Like the anti-BDS resolution adopted by the Bundestag, the support for the Iraq invasion and broader nightmarish policies of the Bush Administration was voted on by the "overwhelming bi-partisan majority of" the US Congress.

    So, yes, linking BDS to anti-Semitism is a "smear campaign" and while it might not be "of your making," you are now certainly complicit in its spread. Meanwhile, Israel continues to deepen the Occupation every day, making the chance for any resolution to the Occupation besides full democratization of the entirety of historic Eretz Yisrael/Palestine increasingly impossible to envision never mind achieve. Your unwillingness to look honestly at the situation and willingness to conspire in smearing scholars, activists and ordinary people who are trying to change it will, whether you intend it or not, hasten this outcome.

    • 24 September 2019 at 11:07pm
      Joachim Helfer says: @ Mark LeVine
      Dear Mr. LeVine, thanks for these questions:

      "Perhaps you could explain to readers whom you consider to be "informed and reasonably trustworthy institutions" from whom you are taking guidance that have declared BDS to be fundamentally anti-Semitic, and who are the "the majority opinion of international scholarly experts on the Middle-East conflict and on antisemitism"?

      The first one is easy to answer: I consider the parliaments of my own country, Germany, as well as the US and numerous others to be such reasonably trustworthy institutions.

      The second is less obvious, and maybe indeed not to be solved by way of a head-count, as I have suggested with perhaps some of the sloppiness you scold me for. Yes, there are numerous scholars who do not consider BDS to be anti-Semitic, and/or actively support it. Yet, among the many who, to the contrary, consider BDS to be anti-Semitic, are those working for and/or advising the Simon-Wiesenthal-Centre and the Anti-Defamation-League. Surely, their reasoned opinion counts a lot, don't you think? Who, if not these institutions, are to be taken serious in detecting and warning of anti-Semitism?

      For the case at hand, namely the rescinding of the Nelly-Sachs-Preis in Dortmund, what matters is not ultimate proof of BDS being anti-semitic or not; such proof is illusive anyway. What matters is the strongly and credibly reasoned suspicion that it is. It suffices to disqualify a writer who supports BDS from being given the Nelly-Sachs-Preis.

      Quite apart from the question whether or not BDS is anti-Semitic or not, it would be rather odd to give a prize for the fostering of cultural exchange to somebody who supports cultural boycotts.

    • 25 September 2019 at 5:12am
      Mark LeVine says: @ Joachim Helfer
      This is why you need to talk to actual experts in the field. the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre are not "trusted" experts. They are highly partisan, "pro"-Israel organizations that are not considered reputable when it comes to anything having to do with Israel/Palestine or the Occupation by scholars and the experts you seek to have endorse your position. Indeed, the ADL has engaged in spying on various progressive groups since the anti-Apartheid movement. The SWC has been similarly condemned by the scholarly community for endorsing the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act and other bills meant to criminalize criticism of Israel and use definitions of anti-Semitism that have been abandoned even by the scholars who first came up with them.

      Again, this is all in the public record. If you want to know what experts think, don't talk to partisan organizations with well known agendas favoring one side of an argument; talk to scholars who actually study the issues in question. Why does this even need to be said in 2019 in the LRB?

    • 25 September 2019 at 8:31am
      Joachim Helfer says: @ Mark LeVine
      Dear Mr. LeVine, so it all boils down to the question which sources to trust. Epistemic virtue would entail to tap into various and diverse sources, each of which can be expected to be of some relevance. For me, it seems obvious that the first people to ask are those who are afflicted by the phenomenon in question. Women may not have exclusive power to define what constitutes sexual assault; but they certainly are the first ones to ask, no? I, as a gay man, would expect you to listen to LGBT* advocacy groups when investigating the plight of gay people in a given country. Your position, however, seems to be that Jewish organizations like the ADL or the SWC cannot be trusted by definition and are the last ones to ask about whether an act is anti-Semitic. That, however, would be incompatible with epistemic virtue. Rather, you seem to be trapped in a self-feeding circle of preconceived ideas. If your opinion, however, is not the function of relevant information and conclusive arguments there is unfortunately no point debating it with you.

    • 25 September 2019 at 11:21pm
      Mark LeVine says: @ Joachim Helfer
      The ADL and SWC are "diverse sources"? That is not a very "epistemically virtuous" claim, I can assure you. As for your argument that "the first people to ask are those who are afflicted by the phenomenon in question," aside from the fact that every single member of my family in Europe was murdered by the Nazis, which I suppose qualifies me as an afflicted person worthy of being consulted, most every Jewish scholar, including every single one who supports BDS, has been afflicted by anti-Semitism, and thus could have been equally consulted, including the hundreds who signed the letter criticizing the Bundestag's declaration. What we realize, unlike you for some reason, is that the vast majority of anti-Semites who have afflicted, are afflicting and will afflict us are not Palestinians or Muslims, but are in fact White Protestant Christian men of (usually northern) European ethnicity/nationality.

      I do not trust the ADL and the SWC not "by definition" but because of their easily accessible and verifiable record of policies, actions and attacks on progressive scholars and activists for decades, a fact that you conveniently avoid commenting on, never mind attempting to rebut. As a scholar, my job is to check the reliability of sources I might use to make or support an argument. I did, they don't pass the test by any standard. But then, didn't you say you wanted to consult "experts," not merely the afflicted, who may or may not be experts, after all. I've had malaria but I wouldn't be the best person to consult to figure out how to avoid or treat it. That would be a medical doctor, not a PhD. You see the point...

      Ultimately, nothing you have said in your original post or your replies to my and other criticisms of your argument in any way addresses the points that the claims that BDS is in any way fundamentally anti-Semitic is as empirically false as claims that global warming is either not occurring or isn't manmade. Essentially, Kamila Shamsie remains stripped of the Dortmund Prize after being falsely accused of being an anti-Semite by a group of people who came to that conclusion without doing anything resembling proper due diligence. If this is the level of "epistemic virtue" at which the German letters now operates, it is a sad day indeed.

      I really hope you would not allow someone to attack and smear LGBTQ people with the same level as argument as you're deploying here.


  • 24 September 2019 at 10:22pm
    Ron Temis says:
    Funny, she wants the right to boycott but then you all get upset when she gets boycotted? The German Parliament declared that BDS is anti-Semitic. The Germans know a thing or 6 million about boycotting and murdering Jews. Each of the Jews signed to this letter would have been a target, no matter how much they claim to be social justice warriors.

  • 24 September 2019 at 10:31pm
    dmr says:
    Mr Stettiner’s bid to tarnish BDS with the brush of Durban hysteria circa 2001 won’t wash. Nobody but see-no-evil supporters of Israel is buying it. That was then. This is now. In the twenty years since its inception the movement, gathering momentum internationally momentum despite hell-bent efforts to extinguish or muzzle it, has become the force described above so accurately by Mark LeVine. A great many thoughtful and well-informed people in politics, the arts and public life the West, of whom not one could be justly accused of antisemitism, have lent it their considered albeit sometimes qualified support. And even were this not so, what makes Mr Stettiner and those who think like him suppose that the personal opinion of one of its leaders amounts to official doctrine and as such “defines” the movement? BDS is a broad church. It embraces many political opinions on the left and on the right. One man’s viewpoint, even that of a figure prominent within it, hardly constitutes holy writ. As well take the many instances of exterminationist rhetoric on the part of reactionary politicians in Israel when speaking of “the Arabs” as the received view of the country’s government or inhabitants.

    • 25 September 2019 at 9:11am
      stettiner says: @ dmr
      We shouldn’t pay attention to the nazi roots of BDS, because they are so 2001…
      ”BDS is a broad church”. Indeed it is, DMR, indeed it is. From the far-left to the far-right, the hate of Jews connects people who otherwise have nothing in common. That’s why David Duke loves Jeremy Corbyn.

      Mr LeVine applies a simple dichotomy: if you are on his side, you are a scholar; if you have other ideas, you are a “scholar”. Very convenient.

      BDS is a racist endeavour. In SA, its storm troopers attack Jews and vandalise kosher stores. In the US, the campuses are no longer safe for Jewish students. In the enlightened Europe, non-Israeli Jews are stopped from performing: in Spain, Matisyahu; in the UK, Richard Zimler. In Sweden, BDS propagated for making some university programs inaccessible for non-Israeli Jewish students.

      Regarding Mr Barghouti’s role in the movement, it suffices to cite PSC on Twitter from the Labour Conference: “Standing ovation after a very moving end to Omar Barghouti’s speech. So much solidarity in this room tonight!”

      My grandfather was hated for killing Jesus. My father was hated for being a cosmopolitan. I’m hated for being a Zionist. You see the difference? I’m not.

    • 25 September 2019 at 1:36pm
      dmr says: @ stettiner
      Alas Mr Stettiner, the like of you and I will never understand one another. All the efforts in these comments to explain what BDS is actually about are doomed, I see, to fall on the deaf ears of those who insist on seeing nothing but hatred of Jews as its motive force. Apparently it’s enough to repeat - fingers jammed in ears, without a shred of evidence and as if it were axiomatically true - that “BDS is a racist endeavour.” And to repeat this in the teeth of every attempt at refutation grounded in an appeal to reason and observable facts.
      It may be too much to ask, Mr Stettiner, but please re-read the last sentence of my comment to see how sundered from reality is your response based as it is on an accusation of guilt by association. It follows, does it, that because the execrable David Duke approves of Jeremy Corbyn we are to impute this neo-Nazi’s views to the leader of the Labour Party? What illogic. As is the notion that all supporters of BDS from left to right, without exception and across the spectrum of opinion, must be united - deep down and whether they know it or not - in their contempt for Jews. This notion defies common sense. Where on earth do you get it?

    • 26 September 2019 at 3:18am
      eugene lipitz says: @ dmr
      I understand your opposition to guilt by association. I understand the implications of a movement being a "large tent" and no one member defining it. I understand your opposition to the idea that boycotting Israel for its policies is by definition racist--all well and good.

      I do not understand how you can accuse others of treating opinions as axiomatic while at the same time stating that your opponents assert " without a shred of evidence ... that 'BDS is a racist endeavour.'" Clearly some evidence for this has been established. You yourself have acknowledged it, if only by dismissing it as irrelevant history or solitary voices. A casual search for such evidence will find anti-semitic remarks and action perpetuated by some who are associated with BDS.

      At what point do such expressions of hate permanently tarnish a movement? (Or, for that matter, in another context, a monument or a human's life story?) Each of us who care about the issues at stake must decide for ourselves, and, if we are true to all of our values, eventually have a breaking point.

      Perhaps people of good will could see why an author, a body of judges, a parliament, or an angry letter writer might, looking at the evidence, decide differently from themselves? And, indeed, even respect that they had a right to that view and to express is within their own sphere.

      Perhaps our issue is not whether BDS is or is not valid but, rather, whether the current rules of discourse are useful for the society and the human beings we want to become.


    • 28 September 2019 at 12:27pm
      Graucho says: @ stettiner
      "the hate of Jews connects people who otherwise have nothing in common. That’s why David Duke loves Jeremy Corbyn." Jeremy Corbyn hates Jews ? Evidence please.

  • 24 September 2019 at 11:18pm
    Daniel Rotstein says:
    The usual suspects, with some new additions. It's funny how these "intellectuals" and some readers of the LRB don't seem to be able to read and understand what the official goals of bds are (https://www.bdsmovement.net/call)

    Two of their three stated goals read "Ending its [Israels] occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall" and
    "Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194."

    The first demand is only surprisingly ambigous when you think that the formula "all arab land" is really about the '67 green line. Why not say so? Because this demand is about '48, "from the river to the sea", as the popular chant goes.

    The UNRWA and arab states have created a convenient definition of the term "refugee", that does not apply to any refugee anywhere in the world except palestinians. This is why their number keeps growing, despite the people who actually had to flee are getting fewer.

    Despite these facts, a lot of "intellectual" europeans, especially in the british left, keep denying the antisemitic nature of bds in that it does not call into question the legitimacy of the very existence of the State of Israel. There seems to be a weakness in logic somewhere, or the fact that british leftists have such a bad conscience about the empire and the mess it left that they are willing to overlook the blatant hatred against jews and their state by their adopted "noble savages" to absolve themselves from past sins. As a German Jew i can only thank the German Parliament to be less bound by these kinds of neuroses.

  • 24 September 2019 at 11:55pm
    Graucho says:
    There is a "German perspective" that is unique in its understanding or criticism of BDS. It's called guilt.

  • 25 September 2019 at 12:57am
    hag says:
    So as an individual who remembers the rationale behind, and effect of, the anti-Apartheid boycott of the 80s, am I allowed to boycott products and services from Israel without being anti-Semitic?

  • 25 September 2019 at 4:23am
    Rolf Turner says:
    I would like to start by saying that I am fundamentally sympathetic to Kamila Shamsie and to BDS. I find Joachim Helfer's posts to be singularly unconvincing, and conversely Mark LeVine's posts to be well-reasoned and quite convincing indeed.

    But ... there's a but.

    The fundamental reason for the persistence of the Palestine-Israeli conflict is the refusal of either side to admit its culpability. There is substantial guilt on both sides of the conflict and no resolution will be achieved until both sides admit their *own* guilt. Each side raves on at length about the undoubtedly egregious sins committed by the other side, but never acknowledge the equally egregious sins committed by their own side. Which collection of sins is more egregious is
    undecidable and is irrelevant anyway. The question of "who started it" is likewise irrelevant. Claiming that the other side "started it" is childish --- "Mummy he hit me first!"

    In order for the BDS to have credibility it should acknowledge unequivocally that the Palestinians, grossly wronged though they may be, have committed many unforgivable acts. This fact does not of course justify committing equally (or more) unforgivable acts against the Palestinians, as Israel persists in doing. On the other hand, the fact that the unforgivable acts of the Palestinians arose from extreme provocation does not justify these acts either.

    The BDS should also state, clearly and unequivocally, that it *supports* Israel's right to exist. Noam Chomsky has said that *he* does not support Israel's right to exist, and this saddens me and demonstrates a flaw in the great man's thinking. Not only should Israel's right to exist be acknowledged, but also its right to exist in some sense as a Jewish state. Not necessarily a state that excludes or discriminates against other religions or ethnicities but one which is guaranteed to be a *safe haven* for Jews.

    The overwhelmingly fundamental fact that looms in Jewish consciousness is the vile fact of the holocaust. Throughout the world repulsive instances of anti-Jewish rhetoric and vicious acts of violence against Jews persist. Jews thereby absolutely *must* have a safe haven in which they can seek safety from persecution. Other countries cannot be relied upon to protect them, as history has dismally shown.

    The fact that Jews have been persecuted in the past to an unimaginable degree, and continue to be persecuted in the present, does not and never can justify Israel's persecution of other groups such as the Palestinians. However those who seek to end the persecution of the Palestinians by Israel must, if they wish to win others over to their side, repeatedly (over and over to the point of tedium) declare that they acknowledge the suffering that Jews have undergone, that they do *not* wish to inflict further suffering upon them, and that they recognise their need for and their right to a safe haven. The BDS (and their like and their sympathisers) must make it clear that their objective (which is all too easily distorted by their opposition) is not the destruction of Israel but simply the cessation of Israel's immoral and unlawful ill-treatment of the Palestinians.

  • 25 September 2019 at 9:06am
    Alan Posener says:
    Nelly Sachs was a Jewish poet who had to flee Germany after the Nazis came to power. She was among the first poets to thematize the Holocaust. Though she never emigrated to Israel, her spiritual home was Jewish Jerusalem, as she often wrote. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature together with the zionist novelist Joseph Agnon. The Nelly Sachs prize should therefore not be awarded to someone who supports a movememt that not ony the German Parliament but also the UN has now condemned for its links to Antisemitism.
    Ms. Shamsie herself says in her statement that the BDS movement is "modelled on the South African boycott". But to equate Israel with the South African Apartheid regime is not only misguided. It is Antisemitic. Unlike the black majority in South Africa, the Arab minority in Israel enjoys full citizenship rights. Indeed, the Arab parties in the Knesset may well decide who rules the country after Netanyahu. Ms. Shamsie would find it hard to name any Arab country - except perhaps Tunisia - where citizens enjoy the rights taken for granted (and rightly so) by the Arab citizens of Israel.
    The occupation of the area unlawfully annexed by Jordan in the course of the 1948 war aimed at annihilating the Jewsih state and then occupied by Israel in the course of the second Arab attempt to "drive the Jews into the sea! in 1967 is a tragedy for the occupied and the occupiers. If there was an easy solution to the problem, it would have been found and implemented by now. It is very certainly more than just Israeli recalcitrance that has prevented a solution to this day. Therefore, a movement that only targets Israel is per se discriminatory. Discriminating against the Jewish state while keeping silent about the role of Arab states and Arab terrorist organizations in perpetuating the misery of the Arab population in Hamas-occupied Gaza and the Fatah-occupied West Bank, not to mention the Iranian threat to Israel's very existence and the lives of six million Jews, is Antisemtism pure and simple.
    But OK, let's agree that many people don't agree with this assessment of the BDS movement. Given that the controvery rages, awarding the Nelly Sachs Prize to a BDS activist would have been seen and was seen by most German media as a pointedly pro-BDS statement and a misuse of the poet's name. Bad taste, to say the least. The jury said that they would not have awarded Ms. Shamsie the prize had they known of her activities beforehand.
    Nobody opposes publishing Ms Shamsie's books in Germany, inviting her to discussions, awarding her any amount of prizes for her literary achievements. Nobody is trying to curtail "the right to boycott" Israel, if people fotr some reason feel that this is the most urgent thing they have to do, rather than calling on Fatah or Hamas to finally hold elections, stop persecuting gays, oppressing women, maginalizing Christians, rewarding terrorists and suppressing dissent. But this particular prize should not be awarded to this particular person. That's all.
    I find it hard to accept that so many supporters of Ms. Shamsie's right to boycott Israel show so little empathy for those who wish to defend the memory and integrity of Nelly Sachs. I suspect that a majority of the signatories to the protest letter have never read a line of Nelly Sachs's poetry. Had they done so, I think and hope that they would have at least understood - or tried to understand - the decision taken by the jurors in Dortmund. I may be wrong, but if I am, that is all the more disappointing.



    • 25 September 2019 at 1:52pm
      Graucho says: @ Alan Posener
      Of course in Israel all citizens are equal, only some are more equal than others. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/israel-approves-controversial-jewish-nationality-law-1.3570017

  • 25 September 2019 at 2:22pm
    nizza says:
    UNO Hauptquartier in New York

    Ahmed Shaheed, UN-Sonderberichterstatter für Religions- und Glaubensfreiheit, hat am Montag in einem UN-Bericht vor weltweit zunehmendem Antisemitismus gewarnt und Gegenmaßnahmen gefordert. Der Gebrauch antisemitischer Sprache und Vorurteile durch rechte, linke und islamistische Gruppierungen fördere Feindschaft, Diskriminierung und Gewalt gegen Juden. Shaheed kritisierte auch die antiisraelische BDS-Bewegung (Boykott, Kapitalentzug, Sanktionen). Diese bediene sich antisemitischer Vorurteile und bestreite Israels Existenzrecht. Shaheed forderte die Einrichtung einer Anlaufstelle im Büro des UN-Generalsekretärs, die mit den jüdischen Gemeinden weltweit zusammenarbeiten und die UN-Maßnahmen gegen Antisemitismus in den einzelnen Ländern koordinieren soll. (Foto: UNO-Hauptquartier in New York, Pixabay)

    In jeder Gesellschaft sei Bildung und Aufklärung über die verschiedenen Erscheinungsformen von Antisemitismus dringend notwendig. „Antisemitismus ist Gift für die Demokratie und […] bedroht alle Gesellschaften, in denen ihm nicht Einhalt geboten wird“, erklärte Shaheed. Israels UN-Botschafter Danny Danon begrüßte den „beispiellosen“ Bericht, der einen „Wandel“ in der Haltung der UN gegenüber Israel wiederspiegle

    • 25 September 2019 at 4:49pm
      Feltpen says: @ nizza
      This commentary about the UN report on antisemitism is simply false. Why not quote directly from the text instead of quoting from Israeli media?

      The UN report on antisemitism actually said:
      "international law recognizes boycotts as constituting legitimate forms of political expression, and that non-violent expressions of support for boycotts are, as a general matter, legitimate speech that should be protected"

      Fuller context:
      "Critics of BDS assert that the architects of the campaign have indicated that one of its core aims is to bring about the end of the State of Israel and further allege that some individuals have employed antisemitic narratives, conspiracies and tropes in the course of expressing support for the BDS campaign.

      The Special Rapporteur notes that these allegations are rejected by the BDS movement, including by one of its principal actors, who asserted that the movement is “inspired by the South African anti-apartheid and U.S. Civil Rights movements;” maintained that they oppose all forms of racism and that they take steps against those who
      use antisemitic tropes in the campaign, and stressed that they employ “nonviolent measures to bring about Israel’s compliance with its obligations under international law.”23

      Concern about the adoption of laws that penalize support for the BDS movement, including the negative impact of such laws on efforts to combat antisemitism have also been communicated to the Special Rapporteur. He recalls that international law recognizes boycotts as constituting legitimate forms of political expression, and that non-violent expressions of support for boycotts are, as a general matter, legitimate speech that should be protected."

  • 25 September 2019 at 2:33pm
    stacemeister says:
    On the question of whether expressing doubts about the legitimacy of Israel as a state is anti-Semitic. Let's take a Palestinian whose family was forcibly removed from where they lived in 1948 by those who wished to create the state of Israel. He now lives as a refugee. He has no animus against Jews. However, his righteous indignation at what happened in 1948 is such that he takes the view that the state of Israel is illegitimate and he expresses that view openly. Is he an anti-Semite? And if he is not, why are those who live in Europe or the US who share his righteous indignation but have no anti-Jewish feeling whatsoever, and might indeed be Jewish, anti-Semitic?

  • 25 September 2019 at 6:07pm
    Harry Abrams says:
    Thank you Joachim Helfer for your considered comments. Both as a German National and as a Gay person, Mr. Helfer acknowledges that BDS bears a striking resemblance to Nazi Fascism, and is a dangerous aspect of radical Islamic imperialism. It's no mistake that more and more democratic countries are outlawing it, and guiding themselves by the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which are basicially the two best best ways to thwart this noxious and deceptive movement. As has already been pointed out, the leadership of this BDS have been recorded many times as expressing the nature of this project is the eradication of a country and the extermination and/or displacement of millions of people. Many studies have been done that corroborate these findings, none better than https://4il.org.il/1406/ So it's entirely logical and ethical that this humanitarian award was withdrawn, and not given out to a supporter and promoter of racism, terror and genocide.

    • 26 September 2019 at 1:22am
      dmr says: @ Harry Abrams
      Do you really mean what you say, Mr Abrams? if so, why?

      "Exterminate" is a strong word. If by it you mean to say that BDS, openly or by implication, is in favour of murdering all Israelis, or that the most or all Palestinians thirst for Jewish blood, that is a pretty grave accusation.


      Perhaps I haven't looked hard enough but there is no evidence to this effect to be found anywhere. Can you produce any?

      "Eradicate" too is a strong word and used irresponsibly here. In advocating radical political change in South Africa and parity of black and white, did the ANC wish to "eradicate" the country? Physically to destroy it? Certainly BDS advocates similar evolutionary change in israel/Palestine, and exists to press for it. A change from a state that is democratic for the Jews and Jewish for the arabs, to one affording full political and civic rights to all its inhabitants, regardless of ethnic affiliation..

      A truly democratic state, in other words - unlike the present, one, based as it is on jurisdictional in equality ( this, despite the fact of universal suffrage and the absence of sings saying "No Arabs Allowed"); see the Nationality Law recently enacted into law by the Knesset.. A state obedient like any other to international law.

      Why is is that a bad thing?

  • 25 September 2019 at 6:14pm
    Harry Abrams says:
    One more thing. BDS is not only about murder and terror. It is fraud, particularly gulling folks concerned about human rights. What is BDS? Everyone should see this. https://youtu.be/xe6NwwX-VCo

  • 25 September 2019 at 7:44pm
    Christoph Müller-Hofstede says:
    This is the final conclusion of Andreas Platthaus, FAZ; check deepl for a translation: https://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/buecher/aberkennung-des-nelly-sachs-preises-fehlgeleitete-erregung-16401311.html
    Otherwise, nothing to add here because Alan Posener has summed it up in an excellent way.
    Die Verleihung des Literaturnobelpreises an Nelly Sachs wurde 1966 damit begründet, dass ihre Werke „das Schicksal Israels mit ergreifender Stärke interpretieren“. Wäre es Kamila Shamsie um so etwas wie Konsequenz gegangen, hätte sie den nach der dezidierten Befürworterin des Staates Israel benannten Preis selbst ablehnen müssen.

  • 26 September 2019 at 8:32am
    Denis Mollison says:
    Having a South African mother, I enthusiastically boycotted South African goods in the 1970s and 80s. Believing the Palestinians ill-treated, I equally enthusiastically boycott Israeli goods today. Whether BDS lives up to the reasonable and peaceful aims set out on its website (and I hope it does) is irrelevant.

    I shall continue to ignore the muddled and biased so-called IHRA definition, so elegantly demolished in these columns by the jewish Stephen Sedley (https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n09/stephen-sedley/defining-anti-semitism).

    But what surprises me is that no-one in this argument on a site that is all about books has pointed to the best response: to the unjust rescinding of this prize. Let's all get out and buy Kamila Shamsie's books.

  • 26 September 2019 at 12:59pm
    dmr says:
    Mr Lipitz:

    Hateful, derogatory, wildly defamatory things about “the Arabs” or “the Palestinians” are said every day by parliamentarians in the Knesset, and by leaders of the illegal colonising movement in the occupied territories. But no Israeli patriot or champion - its enemies are another matter - would allow such statements to define the country’s essence or denigrate the Zionist project as they conceive it.

    The same courtesies should be extended to the BDS movement. Ugly things were said at Durban a long time ago, I don’t deny this. Our friend Stettiner is right to point this out. But are they echoed in what the signatories to this open letter have said? Are they representative of what they and many like them today in the West, Jews among them, think and feel?

    It would be daft to say so

  • 26 September 2019 at 2:33pm
    dmr says:
    I feel sorry for you, Mr Abrams, and pity your naivete if you think, as clearly you do, that this wretched video is an unimpeachable source of information.

    It makes no bones about being the product of 4il.org.il, a propaganda arm of the Israeli Foreign Ministry created to combat BDS worldwide. As government “hasbara” it is a crude, tendentious and unsophisticated affair, reliant mainly on the bludgeon. This, notwithstanding narration by a well-spoken gentleman in a three-piece suit. So excruciating is this video to watch you could almost call it pleasurable.

    As an exercise in parti pris its purpose is not to persuade the undecided but to appeal to the true believe by heating his indignation to boiling point.

    Small wonder Israel has lost the battle to win the hearts and minds of the young the world over.

  • 26 September 2019 at 4:17pm
    sebagustavo says:
    Boycotting Israel is antisemitic as Israel is actually a big ghetto

  • 26 September 2019 at 4:56pm
    dmr says:
    "BDS denies Jewish peoplehood."

    This retort of yours makes no sense, Mr Stettiner. Spluttering rage and passionate zeal are making it hard for you to think straight.

    It's one thing to say that the Jews in an important and obvious sense are a people, an assertion few would disagree with; another thing entirely to maintain that they are therefore entitled to a Jewish ethno-state. And though you will disagree - violently I imagine- it's neither a capital offence nor a mortal sin to say so.

    The one assertion does not follow, logically or historically, from the other. There are plenty of peoples who have no nation-states of their own and more than one form of sub-state existence is conceivable for a people. There is much discussion of these matters by scholars of nationalism. You might care to inform yourself about it, the better to make your case.

    Whatever else can be said about BDS it's not in business to deny "peoplehood" to the Jews. Its business is with the injustices perpetrated by the Israeli state and, by extension, with its arguably unjust nature.

    That is all.


    • 26 September 2019 at 8:12pm
      Harry Abrams says: @ dmr

      OK, DMR can equivocate all they want, but it's long been proven that the BDS movement is a function of organized crime and terror groups, deeply antisemitic and committed to the eradication of millions of innocent people. This is why that woman was refused this literary prize, and why others like Omar Bargouthi are barred from entering democratic countries to spread more poison. More and more Muslim communities are are rejecting this harsh propaganda too. DMR should actually sit down and read the comprehensive report TERRORISTS IN SUITS, to understand for him or herself why BDS has been so universally rejected. All it does is harm prospects for the Palestinians, and cause them economic hardship and push further away the day that they can travel freely without being "profiled" constantly by the law enforcement authorities all over the world. Sadly, Palestinians have earned themselves a bad name for promoting unreasoning terror. This didn't come about by accident. BDS just makes things worse.

    • 26 September 2019 at 10:04pm
      stettiner says: @ dmr
      For the last time, DMR. Please, try to understand what you are reading. Mr Barghouti says: "Just as we would oppose a ‘Muslim state,’ or a ‘Christian state, (...) we oppose a Jewish state". But neither Christians or Muslims are nations; Jews are. That's denying the Jewish peoplehood and that's also my point: BDS targets Jews, wherever they are. I didn't mention Israel once in my comments and still you go on ranting about Knesset and ethno-state and whatever. I gave you examples of BDS targeting non-Israeli Jews and if you care to look into it, you'll find many more. So yes, BDS is a racist endeavor. Placing a pig's head on a shelf of a kosher shop is not a legitimate criticism of the State of Israel. But neither you or the Menelauses of today, like Mr LeVine, seem to care.

    • 26 September 2019 at 11:04pm
      dmr says: @ stettiner
      You are deeply confused, my friend.

      The Jews are a people, an ethnos, a collective with roots in a religious tradition and shared memory, members of a great civilization. etc.

      Israel is a nation. Properly speaking, that is. A republic in the Middle east the majority of whose citizens happen to be Jews , in the sense that France is a nation whose citizens are French.

      The two things - people and nation - are not co-terminous or synonymous and should be kept distinct if confusion of the sort you have succumbed is not to arise.

      What you have given me, Stettiner, are no more and no less than examples of antisemitic incidents perpetrated by individuals. What reason is there to think that they have been centrally directed and co-ordinated by the BDS movement ,still less that they enjoy its official approval and the enthusiastic support of all its adherents?

      It should go without saying that the criminal act of this or that disturbed person mischievously calling himself a supporter of BDS has nothing whatever to do with the declared aims of the movement, and cannot be used to smear it or blacken its name.

  • 27 September 2019 at 2:46am
    dmr says:
    Allow me to point out, Mr Stettiner, that if BDS through its spokesmen or adherents were mealy-mouthed or equivocal about condemning anti-semitism, that would be one thing and a pretty deplorable thing at that. You would perfectly justified then in holding it responsible for giving the nod to racist acts and for indirectly inciting anti- Jewish violence carried out in name.

    But that is not the case. Far from it. Read its website again and you will see that the movement explicitly and unambiguously opposes antisemitism in word deed as well as racism in all its forms.

    What more do you want?

  • 27 September 2019 at 3:03pm
    dmr says:
    Mt Stettiner (and Mr Posener for that matter) might wish to consider the incontrovertible fact that Zionism as a political ideology assigns exclusive and superior rights to Jews in Palestine. Rights superseding those of its Palestinians inhabitants. And thus it is that in the State of Israel political status is assigned hierarchically according as to ethnic and religious identity. All are citizens, to be sure, all enjoy the vote. But by law there exist two, unequal, classes of nationality and the country by definition belongs only to one of them.

    In the United States, Britain or anywhere else in the West, an arrangement that privileges one group over another in this way would be considered racist on any definition of that word. But no matter: such, precisely, is the position espoused by all Jewish parties in the Knesset.

    And yet, Mr Stettiner wants us to believe, BDS, which stands in opposition to this state of affairs, " is a racist endeavour."

  • 27 September 2019 at 4:58pm
    Daryl Glaser says:
    1. Should Germans now be entitled to define antisemitism for Jews like myself? Perhaps Germans should allow that we of Jewish ethnicity differ among ourselves on matters of definition, and think twice about delegitimating one side in 'our' internal row? There is a longstanding non-Zionist and anti-Zionist minority tradition amongst Jews; there are also anti-occupation Zionist Jews who support boycotts of, at least, settlement goods.
    2. Do pro-Israel Germans ever worry that their unconditional solidarity with Israel is implicating Germany in new forms of oppression - this time of Palestinians - in ways that compound rather than neutralise their responsibility for the oppression of others? Do they not worry about one day being asked to account for their part in the oppression of the 'Jews of the Jews'?
    3. Okay, given who Nelly Sachs was, I can understand not awarding this prize to someone FOR supporting BDS. But is the award is to be withheld from anyone who HAPPENS to support BDS? Where do trustees draw the line? Will they exclude those who oppose restrictions on BDS on (say) free speech grounds? Will they exclude signatories to the above letter, including two past Nelly Sachs winners? Will they exclude liberal Zionists who support boycotts of settlement goods? What is to be the Nelly Sachs test?
    4. All great causes attract dubious supporters and indeed members. That includes BDS. It includes Zionism too. Both carry an undertow of enthusiasts on the far right, for example. Does BDS do enough to repudiate such support? I'm not sure. Does Israel? Definitely not. But it is a vast stretch to treat as INHERENTLY anti-Semitic ANY movement that seeks, in place of the current Jewish ethno-state, a 'state of all citizens'. Disagree with that goal if you want - say, in the name of a two-state solution - but since when did the anti-nationalist, liberal and universalist cause of fully equal citizenship become morally scandalous? Since when did it disqualify one from respectable company?
    5. Nor can it be anti-Semitic to compare Israel to apartheid. As someone who grew up in South Africa and has returned to it, I can assure you that the resemblances between the two are all too painfully clear. I'll gladly list them on request. There are differences between the two cases too, of course. Some count in Israel's favour. Not all of them do.

  • 27 September 2019 at 7:22pm
    dmr says:
    Well said, Professor Glaser; your penultimate point most especially. I need hardly tell you that one difficulty met with in encountering people like Messrs. Stettiner and Abrams, in print, on line or in the flesh, is their subscription – emotional far more than intellectual - to the central tenet of Zionism. This holds that Jews the world over constitute a nation, albeit one scattered from its homeland and yearning to return to it at the first opportunity. And this, whether they know it or not, and like it or not.

    In effect this means that you are I (for example) are from this perspective in the status of quasi-citizens or para-citizens of Israel. More: we are entitled to conceive of ourselves as honorary citizens of the country, it being metaphysically speaking ours far more than is, say, S.A. or the UK. The egregious Law of Return substantiates this idea of course, as does the official view, proclaimed ad nauseam by Netanyahu et al, that “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.” Not, be it understood, the nation-state of its own nationals/citizens/passport holders and of no one else, as is normally and everywhere else the case. The Supreme Court of Israel has given its imprimatur to this doctrine, ruling it correct.

    In vain does one argue with those who agree wholeheartedly with it. It is an article of faith that cannot be challenged still less subjected to empirical judgement or the test of falsification, as we see here in some of these responses to the open letter.

  • 27 September 2019 at 8:27pm
    dmr says:
    in brief: : a postulate that begs the question and defies rational debate.

  • 30 September 2019 at 3:33pm
    Reader says:
    I see no mention in any of these comments of the fact that on 18 July 2018, the Knesset passed a law, the Basic Law, which in effect creates an apartheid structure within the State of Israel. Citizens who are Jews, and those who are non-Jews, are explicitly given different rights.

    I am a Zionist: I believe that the State of Israel should exist in perpetuity with the right of all Jews everywhere to obtain citizenship there. This seems to me to be a reasonable response to the Jewish holocaust. But I cannot see why this should bring with it the need to discriminate between citizens on the basis of religion or ethnic origin. To the extent that the BDS is drawing attention to this new and decisive step towards an apartheid state, I feel bound to fully support it, despite my pro-Zionist views.

    • 1 October 2019 at 9:49am
      Graucho says: @ Reader
      Actually I mentioned it and it wasn't commented on. Thanks for bringing it up again, as it is one of many actions taken by the Likud and their allies that has blackened Israel's name.

    • 1 October 2019 at 1:13pm
      Reader says: @ Graucho
      I retract my comment, Graucho. You are quite right: I must have lost focus before scrolling down to your remark. I find heavy concentrations of anger and misinformation curiously deadening to the mind.

      I note incidentally that Mr Stettiner, usually so diligent in responding to comments critical of the Israeli government, has not (yet) responded to my and your point. Maybe this is because there is no plausible response that he can make to it, because it is indisputably a fact.

      I'm also a little surprised that the ubiquitous Mr Fred Skolnik, usually so eloquent in defence of Israeli policies on this and other fora, has not made an appearance on this thread. If I may offer a little advice, it might be more effective were Stettiner and Skolnik to take turns to weigh in, like a sort of good cop/ bad cop act. But perhaps they have some sort of agreement to parcel out the hasbara work between them on an amicable basis.

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