The Deir Yassin Remembered Blog

Report on Beth Israel vigil 01-04-14

Posted on January 14th, 2014 at 4:57 pm by

Barghouti Clarifies: All of Palestine is NOT Occupied

Speaking to a crowd of about 100 people on the University of Michigan campus, BDS organizer Omar Barghouti gave a masterful presentation of the crimes of Israel and focused on the 1967 invasion of the West Bank and Gaza because “it’s more easily understood in America”. He detailed the destruction of tens of thousands of Palestinian books during the Nakba as a deliberate attempt to destroy Palestinian culture as well as ethnically cleansing the population from its lands. To his credit he used the J-word as well as the Z-word in describing the situation. He even went as far as to show the audience a picture of a “Ghetto Gate” in the illegal wall Israel is building on Palestinian land. So, good for him, he’s an incredibly gifted speaker, organizer and intellectual. And this writer, respecting Omar’s position, did not put the boilerplate question to him.

Remembering the Call

I did ask for clarification, however, on what appears to be a change in position of the BDS movement. Of the three demands contained in the boycott, he showed the audience No. 1:

End the 1967 occupation and colonization

And we note that the original call (2005) found on their website had as its first demand:

Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall

Omar was clear in his answer. There has been NO change in the stand of the demands of the BDS campaign: The first demand always focused on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (1967), the second referred to Palestinian citizens of Israel (1948) and the third referred to the Palestinian refugee population world-wide.

Puzzling Responses

Since Omar had just responded to a similar question about the “occupation”, I added: Would you agree that ALL of Palestine is occupied?

And here’s where the hand leaves the arm: Barghouti and the BDS movement have restricted themselves – as have other intellectuals like Chomsky and Finkelstein – to “supporting International Law”, and since International Law does not consider all of Palestine to be occupied, neither does the BDS movement, according to Barghouti.

This is the same “International Law” that didn’t even recognize the voice of Palestinians when it “created” a Jewish state on their own land. The same International Law that gave equal voting rights to countries half a world away (e.g. Australia), while neighboring countries – those who would bear the brunt of the invasion by European Jews – were not given a neighbor’s preference.

On the question of the power of Christian Zionists vs. Jewish Zionists, Omar referred to them as “peanuts” compared to the military-industrial lobby as the lead group supporting the Jewish state. He’d better not let AIPAC Chair Lee Rosenberg hear him say that! Or debate Jeff Blankfort on the power of the Jewish Lobby.

In the opinion of this writer, Omar’s “highly principled” stand was long on rhetoric but short on substance when the topic turned to anti-Semitism. One of the Israelis in the audience wanted to know where Omar stood on the subject in the Palestine solidarity movement, and Omar appeared to be waiting for the question: He proudly announced that the BDS movement “stands against anti-Semites who try to speak on our behalf.” And we infer from that response his satisfaction in attempting to stifle the voice of Gilad Atzmon when he put his signature to the document “Granting No Quarter: A Call for the Disavowal of the Racism and Anti-Semitism of Gilad Atzmon.”

Yes, BDS takes many a principled stand against a formidable opponent, but it harms his movement when he not only fails to tackle the question of Jewish identity politics and the role it plays in the violent behavior of the Jewish state, but goes out of his way to censor the voices of those who do. We wonder what his response would be to group that has held peaceful vigils in front of a powerful Zionist synagogue for over ten years. Would he proclaim it to be “patently anti-Semitic?”

Omar answered a question on why the BDS movement fails to consider the crimes of Syria, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. His answer was straightforward: Israel is the oppressor of the Palestinian people and that is why we focus on the crimes of Israel. But in his talk he asserted that Judaism and Jewishness had “nothing to do” with Israel’s crimes, and we felt he was whistling past the graveyard on this one. Mr. Barghouti: Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, uses Jewish soldiers and pilots with Jewish religious symbols on their weapons of destruction, and enjoys the support of Jewish organizations world-wide. How can you eliminate Judaism and Jewishness from the equation merely by denying its existence and influence?

And while we’re on the subject, why does he partner with the Left Zionists of Jewish Voice for Peace? Ever since JVP’s introduction into the Detroit area, we – Jewish WITNESSES for Peace and Friends – have been trying to put JVP’s position on the legitimacy of a Jewish state in Palestine on the table. Frustratingly, we have been denied this opportunity. We notice the depth of the influence of this left Zionist group — they have their own mission statement on the BDS website.

More to Omar’s credit, however, he gave excellent, thorough and totally debilitating responses to questions posed by Israeli students and their supporters. Comedian Amer Zahr told these infiltrators that he knew what it felt like to be a minority in a crowd, but did not envy their positions requiring them to fabricate facts to make it appear like they were actually asking questions.


There was no Vigil Report for 12-28-13 (8 vigilers)
6 vigilers for 01-04-14
Pushing the envelope
Henry Herskovitz
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends

2 Responses to “Report on Beth Israel vigil 01-04-14”

  1. Anonymous

    Israel was not created by international law; it was created through war. I recommend that you read “The Real Story of How Israel Was Created” by Alison Weir.
    It’s a cheap and shot to take Palestinians to task for relying on international law when decades of variously armed and nonviolent struggle have elicited very little interest or support from non-Palestinians in the Western countries. So, eight years ago a major Palestinian campaign was launched that relies on international law and you want to criticize them for it. That’s not exactly my idea of solidarity but perhaps you don’t consider yourself in solidarity with Palestinians.

  2. Henry Herskovitz

    I agree with you that “Israel” was created through war, and always carry Alison’s flyer “The Catastrophe (Al Nakba) How Palestine became Israel”. It serves a a great handout.
    My report expressed my shock at Omar’s statement that the BDS movement did not consider all of Palestine to be occupied, which in my view, it most certainly is.
    I have consistently been extremely critical of Jews in the peace movement, but for this report I do not think that Palestinians are above criticism. It was the BDS movement that made the decision to align itself with international law, not me.
    I support Omar’s BDS movement, both in principal and practice.
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