Fighting BDS – Oxfam Comes Under the Media Spotlight

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Today’s Top BDS Stories:

oxfam-magGlass-BDS-comm1. Oxfam’s relationship with BDS has emerged as a hot topic.

New York Times blogger Robert Mackey, who posted three times about SodaStream/Scarlett Johansson/BDS, has shifted his attention to Oxfam’s relationship to the boycott movement.

Mackey made sure to clarify that Oxfam does not formally endorse BDS, which calls for boycotts of all Israeli products, but limits itself to opposition to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which places it in a different category:

While Oxfam’s stated position exactly matches that of Peter Beinart, a supporter of Israel who calls the settlements a disaster for the country, many B.D.S. activists want a total boycott of Israel until it both withdraws from the land it seized in 1967 and acknowledges the right of Palestinian refugees who fled their homes when Israel was created in 1948 to return to what is now the Jewish state. That last demand strikes many Israelis as an existential threat, since allowing the return of those Palestinian refugees and their families could well make Jews a minority in Israel, destroying its character as a Jewish homeland.

As a counter-point, Mackey added a claim from NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg that Oxfam did, in fact support BDS by funding a group active in the movement, but Mackey appeared to downplay the significance of Steinberg’s claim.

Melanie Phillips rebuts some of Oxfam’s claims about the settlements, and how the group has managed to sink as a result.

Oxfam’s most damaging own goal, however, was to open people’s eyes to its real agenda. People who naively believed Oxfam was all about feeding the poor now realised it promotes a Palestine state and makes (false) claims about the status of the land.

It has even been accused of funding the BDS movement, which it denies – but only by maintaining that funds it gives to groups promoting BDS aren’t used for BDS. Yeah, right.

Other articles that appeared this week on Oxfam’s links to BDS include Jenifer Rubin’s post on the Washington Post blog, Matthew Kalman’s outstanding dispatch in Haaretz, and Jake Wallis Simons’ detailed article in the Telegraph.

2. Liberal Zionism and West Bank Boycotts

As Mackey alluded in the article linked to above, Beinart, the de facto spokesman for Liberal Zionism, supports Israel and supports a boycott of Israel’s West Bank interests. This places him outside of BDS, which makes no such distinction. Naomi Paiss, from the New Israel Fund, promotes the pro-Israel, pro-boycott argument in the JTA:

The truth is, Israel has real adversaries who equate Zionism with racism. But it is also true that criticizing Israeli government policy, especially support for the settlement enterprise, is not delegitimizing Israel. According to last year’s Pew study, only 17 percent of American Jews believe the settlements help Israeli security. Do the other 83 percent not think that Israel is legitimate?

By some accounts, the Palestinians who work at SodaStream are well treated by the standards of occupation enterprises. But suggesting that those Palestinians don’t have much choice about their employment because the West Bank is entirely aid dependent, and because it’s hard to have a vibrant economy under foreign military control — that’s not delegitimizing Israel either. That’s the truth as pro-Israel progressives worldwide see it.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Tobin at Commentary magazine argues that West Bank settlements have little impact on the growing boycotts emerging out of Europe:

Since Israel has just agreed to Kerry’s framework for negotiations—the ultimate goal of which is a peace deal with the Palestinians that will grant them a state in much of the West Bank—the existence of the settlements can’t logically be represented as an obstacle to peace. That’s a point that should have been made clear to the Europeans when the Palestinians rejected offers of statehood including a share of Jerusalem in 2000, 2001, and 2008. Nor need one support the existence of all the settlements to understand that most of them—located in blocs near the 1967 lines—will remain within Israel in the event of a peace treaty.

So if the existence of the settlements doesn’t explain the recent upsurge in support for boycotting Israel, what does? The simple answer was supplied by the State Department when it described in its report on religious persecution a “rising tide of anti-Semitism” that was sweeping the continent. Since the publication of that report in 2012, evidence of even more violence against European Jews, widespread support in Europe for new laws that restrict Jewish religious practices, as well as efforts to smear Israel and its supporters have all increased and have grown ever more virulent.

The Commentator adds that settlements are not as high a priority to Palestinians as they are to activists, who are increasingly out of synch with one another.

The legality of Israeli settlements is not the most pressing issue for work-starved Palestinians. They are only too happy to be paid more than their compatriots to work alongside Jewish and Arab Israelis. This too sounds at odds with what other people are telling us Palestinians want.

3. Major Dutch pension fund rejects boycott of Israel.

Dutch pension fund ABP, one of the largest pension funds in the world, announced on Wednesday that after looking into the matter it sees no reason to end its relationship with three Israeli banks.

The fund’s announcement runs firmly against the grain of the increasing public perception that Israel is on the verge of wholesale boycotts by European financial institutions.

For more information on the Dutch boycott movement and what’s powering it, see What’s Behind the Recent Success of the Dutch BDS Movement?

Other BDS-Related Content:

* UK Supreme court rules against BDSers who chained themselves to an Ahava shop in Covent Garden. The ruling was the third and final appeal for the protestors, who had already been convicted of criminal trespass.

* Divest This offers a strong response to a recent New York Times op-ed by Omar Barghouti, where the BDS founder states that Israel is panicking to respond to his movement.

Thus 16% of the American Studies Association’s membership voting for an academic boycott is a “landslide vote” while the stunning backlash against the boycott from across the academy goes unmentioned.  Or perhaps that is just part of the panicked response of Israeli supporters?  (Keep in mind that in the heads-I-win-tails-you-lose world of BDS, both the BDSers own activity and the overwhelmingly negative response it generates counts as a victories for them.)

* Harry’s Place published an open letter to Roger Waters in response to his own letter to Scarlett Johansson and Neil Young, both of whom defied Waters by standing by Israel in the face of BDS pressure.

* Legal Insurrection analyzes the recent NY Times editorial criticizing legislation against academic boycotts.

See yesterday’s Fighting BDS Roundup.


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