Boycott Peres, boycott peace

Shimon Peres, a stately and upright 85 year old, was elected President of Israel by the Knesset in 2007. I have an earlier biography of his ‘Fighting for Peace’ – he’s seen it all. He got out of Poland in ’34, fought hard to establish Israel, and has been fighting to keep it there ever since. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in ’94 for his work on the Oslo accords, the closest to peace that Israelis and Palestinians have come. Peres was Oslo. These days he is seen as a realist dove. He is not in favour of attacking Iran – he calls for an international alliance to turn Iran from an atomic bomb. The Peres Centre for Peace is responsible for, among other initiatives, making the case for reducing the number of checkpoints in the West Bank and working out the equitable distribution of water.

Yesterday Peres addressed staff and students at the Sheldonian, Balliol College, Oxford University on the topic of ‘Globalising Peace’. He was the subject of a banning/boycott campaign which included PACBI, and some other groups. Here he is captured on a phone by the look of things (update: better vid from the JC – dead link last time I looked – shows the interruptions)

As well as the chanting  you can hear in the video from the tens of students protesting outside, he was heckled every five minutes by 8 kitsch pro-Palestinian activists touting the usual slanders – ethnic cleansing, apartheid, mingled with protest about the settlements. I guess maybe they thought that Peres might have forgotten about the Palestinians for a minute. I always wonder why the facts don’t speak for themselves – why do they need exaggeration, discrimination into ethnic cleansing, occupation into apartheid. I’m cheered that Balliol let students into the event on a first-come-first-served basis, even though the event was evocative of Maoist youth shouting down the dalai lama.

Here we have a pro-Palestine movement of mostly led by, from what I can gather, white Stalinists, that shouts about debate and free speech as a way to make hair-raisingly discriminatory points and policies against Israel, but when there are moves to give an Israeli a chance to make his case you realise that free speech and debate are simply convenient pretexts. Double standards and contorted values characterise this movement.

Peres talked about the origins of Zionism in antisemitism and it occurred to me that the dominant kind of anti-Zionism fits the bill of globalised antisemitism pretty well these days. The weirdly intense and aggressive kind which of confuses Zionist with Jew, perpetuates war, subordinates all principle to the single cause, and has given more principled anti-Zionists, particularly Jewish ones, reason to recoil.

The boycott campaign against Peres – supported by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel is the most recent bit of evidence that the boycott is a continuation of the campaign against a peace settlement with nationally-minded Jews in the region, which came into focus with the Arab Revolt of 1936-9. It isn’t possible to boycott the leading Israeli peacemaker and at the same time make a credible claim to want peace in the region. The boycott campaign is a rallying cry for Palestinian militancy. The peace in question is a simple victory – a forcible end to the Jewish state.

So, Ali Bahrer Chair of the Hebrew University’s Arab Students Committee, has the right to refuse to shake Peres’s hand. Certainly the opportunity to vent your disapproval at a leader on a walkabout doesn’t come up every day. That he did this while screeching “child murderer” was hateful as well as politically facile, and to treat Peres as if he had set out to kill 108 Lebanese civilians who sought refuge from the war between Hesbollah and Israel in a UN shelter at Qana was nasty. But for his idiotic outspokeness Bahrer didn’t deserve (and Peres had no part in it) harassment, the removal of his student card or the termination of his accommodation. This is no way to treat a member of the most excluded social group in Israel who has merely spoken his bile, however idiotic. The Hebrew University has since reinstated them.

More Peres – a tantalising Times interview which reads as if it was done in a hurry, Cherwell’s write-up, and this from the pro-boycott Tehran Times:

“Muslims, Christians, and Jews peacefully coexisted in various places for centuries, but the establishment of a political movement called International Zionism, which has no connection to Judaism, created a regional crisis and a chasm between Muslims and most practicing Jews.

The organizers of the meeting could have invited real Jews, like the members of Neturei Karta and representatives of the Islamic and Christian religions to participate, but the presence of Arab leaders and Zionist regime officials politicized the gathering.”

10 thoughts on “Boycott Peres, boycott peace

  1. What was very interesting, I thought, is how the ‘protestors’ all said ‘I represent x 100 000 Palestinian refugees’, or words to that effect. Some, no doubt, were Palestinian Christians or Muslims. But some, clearly, were white Anglo-cultural Christians. The vociferous gentleman who tried to approach Peres looked and sounded like a Indian or Pakistani sub-continental. To hazard a guess, a Muslim.

    It is this feeling of entitlement to ‘represent’, I find curious. As if Shimon Peres, an eastern European born Jew could not, in some sense, represent, not only the 100s of 1000s of Jews dispossessed by the original creation of Palestine, but the 1 000 000s of Jews dispossessed from just about everywhere else since, including, of course, the 800 000 Arab Jews dispossessed, mostly to Israel.

    This Anglo-Asian cultural Christian-Islamic anti-Zionism does have a quasi religious form and expression. And it embodies the latest recapitulation of traditional Christian and Islamic imperial triumphalism over Jews. ‘Our representation is more legitimate than yours, therefore we are entitled to shout you down’.

  2. “Our representation is more legitimate than yours, therefore we are entitled to shout you down”

    I don’t know the extent to which the chanters outside were connected with the interrupters inside.

    On their own terms – maybe the terms of the moderate activists:

    Brave counter-hegemonic activists working hard to ensure that Palestinians remain in our minds. Enough, they are saying. We could fix this tomorrow if Israel wanted to. And these activists do what they can, being junior and far from power, which is to raise the denied rights, the dispossession and the abuses of power, and use publicity opportunities. So they regard themselves as advocates for people who can’t speak because they are downtrodden – or locked up.

    Sure, Peres is one of Israel’s great peace-builders, but this is about publicity – it’s about making sure that people think of the Palestinians when they think of Israel. Whether that be during the speech of a statesman, Israel’s 60th birthday, or the performance of an Israeli symphony orchestra.

    Sure, the Holocaust. But we have to move on. Palestinians are oppressed today. Jews are pretty secure.

    Israel does kill some children. It does use a huge concrete wall to divide Palestinians from Israelis in what should be a single country – so it is apartheid.

    And so on.

    The only response is simply to describe again the actual situation in the region, and the history of its Jews – this should be enough to reveal the glaring double standard and selectivity of the brutish and sadistic Israel they present. The fact that they are deaf and blind to this is what makes these advocates so unconvincing, and shows them to be – wittingly or unwittingly – Israel negationists.

  3. “So they regard themselves as advocates for people who can’t speak because they are downtrodden – or locked up. ”

    But they can and do ‘advocate’ publicly, in public fora and spaces all the time. What they object to is the FACT of an Israeli politician advocating on behalf of Israel as though he had the same right as they on behalf of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

    As you say, it is a ‘negationist’ view of Israeli Jews, the Jewish state and Zionism, if not an eliminationist one. It is analogous to the traditional Christian and Islamic views of Jews and Judaism as either illegitimate (willfully immoral) or sufficiently superceded to merit humiliation and discrimination. Such an anti-Zionist discourse recapitulates that traditional Christian and Islamic paradeigm into an absolutist, confessional, quasi-religious political form.

    As you say, these individuals and groups view themselves as confessional martyrs against the evil, ‘apartheid’ Jews in question.

  4. Zkharya, I have heard this theory before, but it’s a big thing to understand.

    Many anti-Zionists consider themselves secularists and would be very skeptical that their intense and singular objections to Israel originated in the idea that Judaism was superceded, or that they are in the thrall of a type of religious antisemitism sublimated into political form.

    Can you recommend some reading about this religious aspect?

  5. There isn’t any, flesh, as far as I know. Most such alleged ‘secularists’ derive from an historically Christian or Islamic culture. These paradeigms exist culturally, independent now from church sermons or liturgy. The assumption that Israeli or other Jews simply have ‘no case’ is, I think, a culturally derived Christian or Islamic one, in no small part.

    It is not necessarily a conscious recapitulation of these traditional or historical paradeigms. It is, as I said, a largely culturally derived one. Such people profess or consider themselves areligious, but, it depends what one means by ‘religious’.

    Even nominally Protestant Christian Marx described communism as the fulfilment of ‘the human basis of Christianity’.

    I use the term ‘religious’ in a sense metaphorically. But only ‘in a sense’ metaphorically, for it depends what one means by ‘religion’. In my view, religion (etymologically derived by Augustine from ‘religare’, ‘to bind’) is simply that which binds one to a particular faith, ideology or weltanschaaung. It depends upon a set of largely unexamined a priori assumptions i.e., as I said, ‘faith’.

    In this case one such assumption is that the Jews in question simply have no case to make and, therefore, may not make it, or may be prevented, in all good conscience, from making it in the first place.

  6. Incidentally, the best reading I could recommend, flesh, is learning something about traditional Christian and Islamic readings and understanding of Jews and Jewish history, and their place in the self-understanding of both. That, I think, is essential to understanding how the culture of Christendom and Islam, what became Europe, the Arab world and elsewhere, arose.

    Otherwise I guess I shall have to write the book you seek.

  7. “Many anti-Zionists consider themselves secularists and would be very skeptical that their intense and singular objections to Israel originated in the idea that Judaism was superceded, or that they are in the thrall of a type of religious antisemitism sublimated into political form.”

    But of course they would: the last thing they are going to admit is that they are recapitulating (you say ‘are in thrall to’, not I) a paradeigm of the past. In many cases their ‘secularism’ is an identity or profession with which they seek to liberate themselves both from the past and any responsibilities it might impose on them. But choosing to ‘forget’ or be deliberately ignorant, for instance, how Christians and Muslims have regarded Jews for most of Christian and Islamic history is not ‘secularism’: it is, in many cases, repetition, or recapitulation, through ignorance. To use an analogy, denying the Holocaust does not negate the Holocaust, antisemitism or the consequence of both. It, to some degree, repeats or recapitulates it, either in fact or potential.

  8. I have to say, I do not know why I am continuing to write to someone who deletes my posts. Why should I correspond with someone who deletes my replies?

    You are a coward, sir.

  9. I went out, that’s all! I went out and watched a film and listened to people ask the film-maker questions.

    I moderate, you see. Haters and pron-merchants shall not pass, sir.

    (Thank you for your comments. I now must surrender this laptop to Matt, so won’t be responding immediately.)

  10. I’m sorry, flesh, and I’m sorry for assuming you are a ‘he’, if you aren’t.

    I thought some responses of mine had appeared, and then been deleted without explanation. I get that on CIF, and sometimes on Engage. But that’s no excuse. I flipped.

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