The BDS Bill is needed now more than ever

It is sickening that after the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust there are calls for it to be scrapped


People take part in a 'March For Palestine', in London on October 21, 2023, to "demand an end to the war on Gaza". The UK has pledged its support for Israel following the bloody attacks by Hamas, which killed more than 1,400 people, and has announced that humanitarian aid to the Palestinians will be increased by a third -- an extra £10 million pounds ($12 million). Israel is relentlessly bombing the small, crowded territory of Gaza, where more than 3,400 people have been killed, most of them Palestinian civilians, according to the local authorities. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP) (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)

October 25, 2023 07:57

This afternoon the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill returns to the Commons. Better known as the BDS Bill, it removes the ability of local councils and organisations to target and punish Jews for being Jews.

Let’s make no bones about this – especially now. The BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) is deeply, fundamentally and purposefully antisemitic. It singles out the world’s only Jewish state and demands that it – Jews – and only it – only Jews – are boycotted. The Jews of Israel are seen by the BDS campaign as standing alone in the world for their unparalleled evil.

You might think that now of all times, when the world has witnessed the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, there would be a clamour, a rush, even a demand for the BDS Bill to be passed. Now of all times, surely, is the time to stand up and say we see where Jew hate leads.

Well, you would be wrong. Astonishingly, the calls have been for the opposite – that the progress of the Bill be delayed or even dropped altogether. And there are a series of amendments proposed designed to neuter it.

Except it’s not astonishing at all, is it? It’s exactly what you would expect to happen. For one thing, the demand has been led by a roll call of the hateful, the obsessed and the usual suspects. The response of thousands of people to Hamas’s barbaric murder of 1400 Jews and their kidnapping of 200 others - taking to the streets to protest not against Hamas, the perpetrators, but Israel, whose citizens were murdered – says everything that needs to be said about the need for the BDS Bill. Because this is a deranged hatred, a pathology that sees the Jew as a disease in society that has to be neutralised.

That means, for Hamas, neutralising Jews for ever, with weapons and savagery. But for the more refined Jew haters, who, unlike Hamas, claim not to have any issue with Jews per se, only with a collection of Jews, aka Israel (if only it was meant as a joke it would actually be funny), it means finding other ways of neutralising them: hence BDS.

In 1944 Jean-Paul Sartre wrote Anti-Semite and Jew (Reflexions sur la Question Juive).The book itself meanders, has some odd judgments, and is not especially worth the effort of reading. But this one paragraph redeems everything else: “Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”

The application of his words is almost endless, but the resonance to BDS is startling. Repeatedly, its advocates assert that BDS has nothing to do with antisemitism. It’s just about Israel. But even to write that is to point out the absurdity of the argument. It’s not about Jew hate; it’s about boycotting Jews.

“They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert.” No one has better described how those who campaign against Israel conduct themselves, the spurious arguments, the attempts to persuade the gullible that the victims of hatred are the real haters.

As for those gullible, that comprises many (most?) of the 100,000 who marched on Saturday. Despite 9/11, despite ISIS, despite decades of evidence, so many in the West still recoil from the idea that there are people, organisations and even some nations, such as the Iranian regime, who are driven not by what we, with our secular rationality, consider to be coherent and logical considerations, but are instead motivated by religious fundamentalism - to the extent that their own death, let alone that of their enemies, is not viewed as something to be avoided but as a positive boon.

This inability to acknowledge reality helps explain why so many who have no obvious stake in the issue – they are not Palestinian and likely have never been near the area or even bothered to read its history – are nonetheless willing to march over it. Further, it explains what should rationally be the mother and father of cognitive dissonances: the LGBTQ Pride flag being waved at a rally in support of Gaza. Anyone waving a Pride flag in Hamas’ Gaza would soon find that out.

Even to march in Gaza for Palestinian freedom, as those in London claimed to be doing, would mean starting the world’s shortest ever march; those who did so would be lucky to escape with their life.

Which brings us back to BDS. As with those on the march, you will not find BDS advocates who will tell you that Jews are the problem. No, no, no, we don't hate Jews at all.
But start to press, and the usual tropes always emerge, albeit dressed up in modern progressive language.

Jews run the world, for example. It’s not put like that, of course. Rather, it’s expressed in the form of complaints about the media or about Western financing of Israel and the Israeli lobby’s power.

Then there’s the blood libel. Again, it’s not expressed as Jews literally sucking gentile blood. But witness the glee with which reports of supposed Israeli – Jewish – blood lust are seized upon, no matter how non-existent the evidence may be, such as the supposed bombing of a hospital in Gaza. Of course it was the Jews: that’s what they do.

And that’s before we consider how the response to the worst single massacre of Jews since the Holocaust was to go on a march for Palestine.

The point here is that while there are those whose antisemitism is blatant (on Saturday, for example, there were the usual calls for jihad and for the “Muslim armies” to rise up) even for those who protest they are pro-Palestinian rather than anti-Jewish, when you dig you find that the traditional anti-Jewish tropes are the foundation of that supposed support for Palestinians and for the singling out of Jews to be boycotted for being Jews (sorry, for being Israeli).

And that is why the BDS Bill is more necessary now than ever.

October 25, 2023 07:57

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