Pro-boycotters insist – with indignation, or impatience, or both – that there’s nothing antisemitic about UCU Motion 30, which gave us the clause:
“Congress believes that in these circumstances [of an inhumane occupation] passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as antisemitic”
The evils of the occupation I acknowledge – that said though, of course criticism of Israel about the occupation can be construed as antisemitic – for example:
“Of course Israel is occupying the Palestinians. The Jews are an expansionist race – it’s just what they do. There’s no point reasoning with them – they’ll only respond if we make their lives as difficult as possible.”
“Jews occupy Arab lands because they think Arabs are inferior.”
“The occupation is all the evidence we need that the Jews should have their state dissolved.”
“Ending the occupation is the key to averting World War III. As a Jew, I feel personally responsible for making sure that Jews aren’t at the centre of the world’s problems once again.”
I’m being cooperative here in limiting my examples to the occupation – the clause is so badly phrased that it allows the interpretation that no criticism of Israel can be construed as antisemitic. So considering that criticism of Israel can be construed as antisemitic, are there formulations of the above clause which could have avoided the charge of antisemitism – maybe “is not necessarily” instead of “cannot be construed as”, for example?
It quickly becomes clear that the answer is no – what pro-boycotters want is total immunity from the charge of antisemitism which of course equates to a license to be antisemitic. The message of the Motion 30 clause is:
“People keep saying that the boycott is antisemitic. We’re denying any such charges on the grounds that they’re either just wrong or made in bad faith. But they keep coming – they’re a distraction and bad for our image. We need immunity from them or we’ll never get this boycott started.”
There’s no way to formulate that message in a way which allows discrimination between the spurious charges of antisemitism and the legitimate ones. Hence Motion 30 amounts to a license, when criticising Israel about the occupation (a cooperative interpretation of the motion), to make antisemitic statements without challenge. That this license has been overruled by anti-boycotters making necessary points about the nastier arguments for a boycott is neither here nor there.
On a different note, a friend told me tonight about an experience at her Arabic evening class. A group of students used to go out for a drink after class and one night it came up that she was Jewish. The conversation quickly turned to Israel and its irredeemable qualities, culminating in a collective demand from all of the group that she denounce Israel. When she refused, the atmosphere became too bad to continue the conversation. She says that none of the Palestinians she knows have ever talked about Israel in that way or made demands like that, but the thing about this group was that it was white, English and left-wing.