Israel Fighting Potential Ban from World Soccer

FIFA-football-soccer-ball-773x403Israel is facing a possible ban from international soccer competition, including the World Cup, unless it improves conditions for Palestinian players and coaches, according to media reports.

Jibril Rajoub, the head of Palestinian football and a former PA security official, is pushing for the FIFA ban, claiming Israel’s travel restrictions on Palestinians amount to a form of oppression. FIFA, the Federation of International Football Associations, is the governing body of international soccer competition.

The FIFA Congress is scheduled to meet in Sa0 Paulo in June to decide on the issue. FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he plans to visit the region in April and hopes to have a written agreement between the two sides signed before or during the congress.

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Israeli Football Association CEO Rotem Kemer said Israel was making an effort to meet the needs of the Palestinians but warned that politics may have seeped into the issue.

“We don’t think this is right,” Kemer told Inside World Football. “It has never been the policy of FIFA and UEFA to mix politics and sport. We are making our best efforts in order to help the Palestinian association. We are trying to make things easier for them.”

In February, FIFA set up a mediation task force to resolve the issue, but Rajoub dismissed the results as unsatisfactory.

“It’s not just players,” he said. “You are talking about instructors, consultants, anyone who wants to come to Palestine. They have to wait for hours to get permits.”

The attempt to push Israel out of FIFA is in line with the stated goals of the BDS movement, which seeks a world-wide boycott of “Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions.” The BDS supporters have also launched a petition on the issue that has already reached nearly 10,000 signatures. The petition makes a direct comparison between the current situation and that of Apartheid-era South Africa:

When FIFA formally suspended the membership of the South African FA between 1964 and 1992, its action contributed to international pressure to end apartheid.

Therefore, the petition asks FIFA to follow this precedent and suspend the Israeli FA. The Israeli government must at some point take notice.

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April 1, 2014 13:03 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

Boycott Threats as a Tool of Diplomacy

diplomacyOne of the most authoritative sources on BDS news and analysis is the monthly BDS Monitor report published by the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). The latest edition looks at the trends that emerged throughout the month of March, most notably the use of boycott threats against Israel in the sphere of diplomacy.

The report notes that President Barack Obama made an apparent allusion to the potential increase in BDS-style pressure on Israel if peace talks collapse. America’s “ability to manage international fallout is going to be limited,” he told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg.

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At the same time, Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, touted the “huge opportunities in trade, research, innovation that will benefit both Israel and the Palestinians” if an agreement is signed.

Obama’s and Ashton’s comments demonstrate the manner that BDS has been linked to the current round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; it is used as a threat which is then partially disavowed by the US, and used in conjunction with unspecified benefits by the EU, that is accompanied by funding of NGOs that support BDS. Some observers expect the spread of informal boycotts by European firms if negotiations fail.

If the current negotiations collapse, as most observers expect, and as has already been telegraphed by Palestinian and Arab League leaders, the Palestinian moves are already clear. Fatah Party and Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Nabil Shaath stated that the PA would seek a full South African style boycott of Israel by international institutions as well as bringing cases to the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice.

A South Africa style boycott, however, will be hard for the Palestinians to implement, at least as far as their own territories are concerned. Reports show that Israeli imports to the Palestinian territories are going up, not down. And if the Palestinians themselves do not lead the boycott, many others might think twice about it as well.

Image: CC BY-NC-SA flickr/Steve Lyon

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March 31, 2014 15:11 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

Comments and the Roar of the Crowd – 7

The latest from my inbox. Are readers left out by our comments system? And the perils of poor punctuation.

GMail1. About a year ago, HonestReporting switched its comments to a Facebook-hosted system. Some readers, unfortunately, feel left behind.

From: …
Date: Fri, March 28, 2014
Subject: Comments

I thank your staff for giving me the ability to forward your newspapers to my contacts. However, as I have gmail, I am not able to send comments to Honest Reporting. While I used Hotmail, I had that ability. Then, Honest Reporting told me that comments could be sent only through Facebook. I had computer problems for a while, and now see that I may use various sights to post comments. However, gmail is not one of them.

Please remedy that situation.

 We used to allow free comments to everybody. Due to abusive comments and “comment-spam,” we decided to move to a subscriber-based commenting system (hosted by Facebook). It only allows registrants of Facebook, AOL, Hotmail or Yahoo to post comments. At this time, unfortunately, GMail is not compatible with the commenting system.

This new commenting system has helped us reach a wider audience on Facebook, and has significantly lowered abusive and inappropriate comments.


donkey2. The perils of poor punctuation. I can only imagine what he or she posts on Twitter or Facebook.

From: …
Date: Thu, March 20, 2014
Subject: (no subject)

You donkeys are controlling everything I’m with hezbollah and eat garbage

 Uh, which of us is eating the garbage?

(Image of donkey via Wikimedia Commons/Matthias Feilhauer)

March 31, 2014 14:57 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , , , ,

Liberal Zionists Emerging as Toughest BDS Fighters

media-controlFrom the high profile dust-up over SodaStream through the recent spate of divestment debates on campuses, some of the strongest voices against the BDS movement have come from critics of Israeli policy.

Peter Beinart, the de facto spokesman for Liberal Zionism, famously called for a boycott of the West Bank in 2012. In the same article, however, he also called for the increasing investment inside the Green Line, in order to distinguish “Zionist BDS” from the predominant BDS movement.

“Boycotting anything inside the green line invites ambiguity about the boycott’s ultimate goal — whether it seeks to end Israel’s occupation or Israel’s existence.”

MJ Rosenberg, a longtime critic of Israel’s West Bank policy, who was spurred by last week’s debate at the University of Michigan, to write a detailed piece about the duplicity of the BDS used the same argument:

The reason why BDS keeps failing despite the almost universal recognition that the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the blockade of Gaza, are illegal and immoral is that the BDS movement is not targeting the occupation per se. Its goal is the end of the State of Israel itself.

In its view, all of historic Palestine is occupied territory; that means Tel Aviv and Haifa as much as Hebron and Nablus. Obviously, a movement dedicated to eradication of Israel as a country is never going to achieve support other than from a radical fringe.

Rosenberg and other supporters of the two-state solution – including those who support a “limited boycott” of the West Bank for that purpose – are best positioned to see that the BDS movement is not a “peace” movement and does not aim for a Palestinians state alongside a Jewish state.

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In fact, Liberal Zionists are the ones whose ideology is most threatened by BDS. When people on both sides, but especially the Palestinians, start to tilt towards a one-state solution to the conflict, the concept of democratic Israel with a strong Jewish majority is threatened.  And that’s pushed Liberal Zionists to draw sharp distinctions between their own two-state agenda and the destructive measures promoted by the BDS.

Or as anti-Zionist Steven Weiss of the anti-Israel Mondoweiss website writes scornfully, “In their effort to preserve Jewish status in Israel, some of these liberal Zionists would seem to be… conservative.”

But by supporting any part of the BDS’s tactics, such as a West Bank boycott, Liberal Zionists are unwittingly helping the BDS movement grow. Young activists who are deeply concerned about Palestinian rights often fail to make the clear distinction Liberal Zionists are trying to make, and end up throwing their support behind a movement that ultimately seeks Israel’s destruction as a Jewish state.

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March 30, 2014 15:47 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

Is it ‘Taboo’ to Defend Israel on Campus?

horrendous-headlinesEven though Israel Apartheid Week – and the shrill spectacles it inspires on many college campuses – has come and gone, the anti-Israel climate at a number of universities refuses to cool.

A case in point is the University of Michigan, where the student government voted down a call for divestments from Israel. The vote, 25-9, with five abstentions, ended a tense week of campaigning, which included threats and intimidation of Jewish students on campus.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, some students even requested a police investigation into threats that have created “an atmosphere of fear among pro-Israel students” on the campus.

University of Michigan police were contacted Wednesday evening after two pro-Palestinian activists allegedly threatened a student who refused to support their boycott initiative.

The threatening rhetoric used by these pro-Palestinian activists is part of wider campaign by the University of Michigan’s pro-Palestine group Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), which is part of the virulently anti-Israel Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement (BDS).

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Writing about an “open forum” taking place at the Vasser College, Jonathan Marks of Commentary, noted the pro-Israel speakers were shouted down when they attempted to express their views.

At least at this Vassar forum, it was not even possible to have a debate about the desirability of BDS because the students who support BDS have no intention of engaging in a debate or even letting their opponents speak without disrupting them.

While the forum may not have sunk to the level of intimidation and anti-Semitism that was reported at the University of Michigan, shouting down or disrupting pro-Israel students has its own chilling effect on free speech and open debate.

But as Marks noted, the tactic is unlikely to serve the BDS movement well in the long term. He also pointed to one of the central conceits of the movement that underlies such behavior:

BDS supporters, who usually say they are fighting a “taboo” against discussing Israel on college campuses, rarely concede that they actually think the taboo is against supporting Israel.

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March 27, 2014 15:29 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

BDS Can’t Get What They Want…with The Rolling Stones

satisfaction-FB-fightingBDS-773x403The Rolling Stones finally confirmed their long-rumored concert in Israel, scheduled for the beginning of June. And since the Rolling Stones are nothing if not a major force in culture, it didn’t take long for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement to try bullying the band to cancel. According  to the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, the concert announcement provoked “a furious response” from the BDS.

“We urge the Rolling Stones to refrain from playing in apartheid Israel and not to condone Israel’s violations of international law and human rights against the Palestinian people,” said Rafeef Ziadah, a BDS spokesman.

Ziadah also said, apparently without irony, that the June 4 concert in Tel Aviv would serve Israel’s “campaign to rebrand itself and will be used as a publicity tool by the Israeli government.”


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What is ironic about Ziadah’s statement is that it’s the BDS movement, not Israel, that’s using the concert to gain publicity. By attacking a group like the Rolling Stones, which hold enormous cultural status and thus commands public interest, the BDS movement and its delegitmization of Israel, get covered in newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph.

This sort of cultural exploitation is one of the main tactics the BDS movement uses to spread its anti-Israel message. Too bad the media is so willing to be used as a tool to promote the BDS narrative.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a group as formidable and sophisticated as the Rolling Stones caving in to BDS pressure. The article, however, did note that BDS supporters such as Roger Waters might get involved. Ziadah herself implied that the campaign against the Stones appearance was far from over. “We will be working with all of our supporters to urge the Rolling Stones to abandon this ill-advised concert,” she said.

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March 26, 2014 15:21 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

Reuters Goes Overboard With Anonymous Sources

anonymous sourcesI can accept anonymous sources up to a point. They’re not ideal, but sometimes, there’s no other way to get the hard info on a story.

But the lack of transparency raises doubts about the quality of the journalism and trust the reporter. It’s a leap of faith.

So whenever we come across an unnamed source, we should wonder:

  1. Who is the source?
  2. Is he really in a position to know what he claims? Has the reporter provided enough background info on the source to help us make our own judgment?
  3. Why can’t he be identified for the story? Are readers given a plausible explanation?
  4. What are the source’s possible motives for speaking to the reporter?
  5. Is he fudging anything?
  6. Could the info have been obtained on the record from somewhere else?

The ethics get even murkier when these anonymous sources move from objective info to interpretation and analysis.

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Which brings us to Reuters. Reporter Dan Williams gives a soapbox to claims that the Klos-C weapons ship intercepted by Israel was delivering arms to Sinai jihadis, and not, as Israel claims, to Gaza.


Unfortunately, all the voices that this report is based on are anonymous. All assess the story, but there are no hard facts that weren’t previously known.

And Israel has already denied the report.

It’s certainly plausible that some (or even all) of the M302 rockets, mortars and bullets were meant for Islamists in the Sinai (or even other parts of Africa).

And I’m open to the possibility that Israel claimed these weapons were destined to Gaza to spare Egypt’s government some embarrassment. As Reuters brilliantly reported recently, Cairo’s having difficulty taking back the Sinai.

But to base a news report on nothing more than the hypotheses of ”a U.S. official and two non-Israeli regional sources,” none of whom are identified, isn’t journalism.

It’s speculation.

And if that’s what Reuters wants to indulge in, I’m perfectly willing to spend an hour with Williams over coffee ruminating on a wide variety of topics, some of which I’m even qualified to discuss. I’ll do it on the record too.

That’s Benson with a B.

Image: CC BY flickr/Julian Carvajal

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March 26, 2014 13:32 By Category : Backspin Tags:, , , , , ,

Fighting BDS – The Power of Pro-Israel Images

camera-image-impact-380x217Anyone who spends time online, and especially on mega-sites such as Facebook or Twitter, can’t help but notice the centrality of images in the fight over Israel’s legitimacy. Shareable images or memes – usually photos or graphics that contain pithy  slogans -  may well be the most effective form of communiciation in a world of media overload.

In a recent article, Grant McCracken called photos “the secret ingredient of the Internet Economy”:

The reason they really matter is that they are the single, smallest, richest, cheapest, easiest token of value and meaning online.  We mint them.  We trade them.  We accumulate them.  We treasure them.

In short, photos and images get a message across quicker and with more depth than other media, including video. And when you’re fighting for hearts and minds against supporters of the BDS movement, that makes all the difference.

Chloe Uri Silberman who, along with Adrian Cojocaru, runs The Israel Network, which has produced some of the most striking images in the pro-Israel community, said pictures get better results on Facebook than text links or videos:

A picture or meme is something that quickly captures your attention, doesn’t require any extra mouse clicks, and isn’t time consuming. Most people run through their News Feed and only stop at something which captures the eye. What we are trying to do is to capture their attention within the span of a few seconds.

Most recently, The Israel Network has been capturing a lot of attention with a poster series featuring Israel supporters from all different religions and ethnicities, including some who are not associated with Zionism, such as Israeli Arabs, stating why they support Zionism. It’s the perfect antidote to the BDS lie that Zionism is racism.

“We want to make as many of these as possible in order to show the world that Israel supporters are diverse and come from very different backgrounds,” Silberman said, adding that he has been getting requests daily from people who want to be part of the series.

After all, if photos are the currency of the Internet economy, you can never have too many.


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March 25, 2014 14:43 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

Jimmy Carter Rejects BDS

Jimmy_CarterJCWPJimmy Carter, whose book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid did more to legitimize the Apartheid smear than anything published by the BDS movement, is now publicly opposed to boycotts against Israel, including boycotts limited to the West Bank.

Carter told the AP this week that he and “The Elders”  – a group former world leaders that includes outspoken Israel critics such as Desmond Tutu, among others – had discussed BDS and decided against it. “We decided not to publicly endorse any kind of embargo, or so forth, against Israeli invasion, or occupying troops in Palestine,” Carter said.

The move represents a significant break with Carter’s previous rhetoric on Israel, especially since the publication of his book in 2006. After all, if he still believes that Israel is an apartheid state, why would he not support the same tactics of boycott and sanctions that brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa?

But Carter’s rejection of BDS should not be interpreted with a conversion to Zionism. In the same interview, Carter endorsed the policy of labeling products from the West Bank “so that the buyers can decide whether they want to buy them or not” and rejected the Israeli demand that the Palestinians reconize Israel as a Jewish state.


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Image: CC BY-SA Wikimedia Commons/BstarXO

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March 25, 2014 11:45 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)

Fighting BDS – Can We ‘Buycott’ the Cultural Boycott?

venn-diagram-happy-buycott-380x252One of the most effective strategies in fighting BDS is known as “buycott” – making a special effort to buy products from companies specifically targetted by the BDS for boycott.It’s effective because it not only undermines any economic effect of boycott on a particular business but also makes as much positive noise defending Israel as the boycotters make defaming Israel.

Ultimately, buycott is an effective tactic because it creates unintended consequences for the BDS for every boycott it calls.

The effectiveness of the tactic crossed my mind this morning after I began reading that the BDS was targetting the upcoming concert in Israel by Chris De Burgh and seeing numerous calls for people to go to his Facebook page and post positive comments to challenge a barrage of negative comments from BDS supporters. HelpChrisDeBurgh

By the time I went to visit the page, I found a significant number of pro-Israel comments thanking De Burgh for scheduling an appearance in Israel, though I’m sure the fight isn’t finished just yet.

The attack on De Burgh is far from an isolated incident. In fact, De Burgh is just one of 15 cultural figures targeted on a Cultural BDS Checklist published publicly on Facebook and updated regularly.

The list includes instructions on how express displeasure to all of the major international acts due to appear in Israel, including the Rolling Stones and Neil Young, on their associations with Israel and calls on people to “spare about 10 minutes of your time and add your voice to these wonderful initiatives.”

But in the spirit of buycott, the checklist might provide some “wonderful initiatives” for Israel supporters as well. These are the artists who are willing to stand up to the bullies and deserve to know that Israelis appreciate what it means to perform in Israel in the current climate.

March 24, 2014 16:06 By Category : Backspin Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)