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I’m a former president of the Jewish Society. BDS is not anti-Semitic.

As a Modern Orthodox Jew, a recent graduate from the University of Edinburgh and a former President of the University’s Jewish Society, (2012/13), I congratulate the student body’s decision to pass a motion of BDS. This is a victory for minority rights and democracy at the University. BDS is a non-violent campaign called for by over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations which use the methods of boycott, divestment and sanctions from institutions and companies who benefit from and contribute to Palestinian oppression in order to pressure the Israeli state to operate within the boundaries set by international law. EUSA has stood in solidarity with Palestinians through their ‘Right to Education Week’ and their twin union the Palestinian Birzeit Students Union in the West Bank since 2005. This vote shows that EUSA and Edinburgh University students are still committed to liberation politics.

In the light of growing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism across Europe, this show of solidarity comes as a welcome and much needed stand. Increasing numbers of anti-Semitic incidents on UK campuses up and down the country are reported and dealt with accordingly. This demonstrates the hard work that liberation groups and student unions across the country have put into creating safe spaces where students feel comfortable speaking up about ways in which they have been discriminated. As a young Jewish woman I did not feel brave enough to speak up against the snide anti-Semitic comments I received at school, yet when I stepped into Bristo Square as a fresher in 2011 I slowly found myself in a place where people took my concerns seriously and safely. I found a fountain of information from which I could question the ideas and identity I had grown up with.

It saddens me that this successful move by BDS campaigners is overshadowed by accusations of anti-Semitism, which detract from the terrifying rise of fascism on UK and European streets. The Zeig Heils and blood-painted swastikas daubed onto vans in Dover earlier this year and the fascist demonstration held in Golders Green this Saturday have been eclipsed by fearmongering of pro-Palestinian successes. We must not let them rise again. I understand why Zionist Jewish students will feel intimidated by this decision but I must ask that you speak to fellow Palestinian students. How has this reaction affected them? How safe do they feel on campus?

I presided over a diverse JSoc headed by a committee of friends with different backgrounds, approaches to, and definitions of Judaism. 2011-13 was a tense period for liberation politics at the University of Edinburgh and we did all we could to support students who suffered from anti-Semitism on our campus and across Scotland. We decided to make the constitution apolitical and to create an Israel society where Edinburgh University students could discuss matters relating to Israel regardless of cultural or religious background, whilst creating a religious and politically pluralist JSoc.

I must make clear that I am neither unique nor alone. Building on the work of organisations such as JFJP and the Jewish Socialist’s Group, the growing frustration felt by many millennial Jews about the default positioning that support for Israel receives amongst Jewish civil society organisations has manifested in Jewish blocs at anti-fascist demonstrations led by groups such as Jewdas, and the creation of Babel’s Blessing Radical Language School. Do not tell us how and what to experience as anti-Semitism. Do not assume a political opinion based on my religion or creed, for we are not all the same and we will not be silenced. Not in my name.

 

Image: Adam Helweh

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17 Responses

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  1. Sebastian
    Apr 08, 2016 - 08:02 AM

    Your a non-violent racist, just like the KKK.

    You use your Jewish identity as a stick to attack other Jews, but the reality is that you know no more than other Jews and your attempt to say “I’m a Jew so I know better than everybody else” is actually in itself a racist claim. You are no better than anybody else. You are as succeptible to the very same human flaws as everybody else, including believing lies, smears and blood libels against those you groups you say you originate from.

    As Jews get picked on around the country and around universities from the spread of the BDS cancer, you yourself have not been smashed in the face so you think its all fun and games.

    Maybe you hope that if you support the racists, they might not pick on you.

    This is a common tactic employed by many many jews throughout history, but it has never ever worked so far.

    You only get one chance to live in the present. If you play a leading role in let anti-semitic forces, including an organisation that is openly racist in that it calls to publicly discriminate and against Israeli citizens for no other reason than their passport based on a series of lies, then you will suffer the consequences tomorrow.

    Stupid kid. You think you know it all. So did I at your age. But the truth is, you know absolutely nothing about the forces of racist evil you are trying to help unleash.

    Reply
    • Mia08
      Apr 08, 2016 - 12:14 PM

      Sebastian, your extremely aggressive and violent tone in that comment took away any credibility of the comment itself. Everyone has a right to freedom of speech but using that as an excuse to write hateful and vile comments which also act as a personal attack on the person, in this case is the writer of the article, is totally unacceptable, disgraceful and that should be banned from even being published. One thing I know for sure is BDS works as it brought down the South African Apartheid previously and nothing is unethical about boycotting greedy companies that a) operate in illegally occupied land and b) put benefits above human rights and failed to follow international laws regarding this. Thank you Keziah for sharing your thoughts here, you are not alone and you show us, the international community, that there are several noble and brave Jews who stand up for peace in its real meaning, not the meaning that the Israeli government has been using.

      Reply
    • EllyS
      Apr 08, 2016 - 04:45 PM

      Sebastian, your comment is a perfect example of the bullying & aggressive tactics faced by critics of Israel. You will stop at nothing to repress and block dissent. Your comment is in essence a threat, and could even be considered anti-Semitic. You write: ‘Maybe you hope that if you support the racists, they might not pick on you. This is a common tactic employed by many many jews throughout history…’ What is it you’re saying about ‘Jews throughout history’? The only group that sought alliances with fascists were the Zionists – both rejected any form of assimilation & coexistence and agreed Jews should leave Eurooe.

      Reply
    • cattyclysm
      Apr 08, 2016 - 07:37 PM

      What a sad, inaccurate and vituperative response. There is no claim to superior knowledge on the grounds of faith or ethnicity in this article or any such claim to inherent superiority. Indeed, one of the central notes is the stress on diversity within Judaism, a note you blithely ignore to make gross generalisations about ‘Jews throughout history.’ You claim to be speaking with the wise voice of experience, with your patronising tone of ‘stupid kid’ and ‘at your age.’ Surely, from such a position of wisdom you will be more than familiar with the crass attempts to stifle any criticism of the actions of the Israeli state, the actions of IDF or the actions of the settlers in the occupied territories as inherently anti-Semitic? In common with such inaccurate assumptions, you dismiss BDS as based upon ‘a series of lies’ without bothering to identify what is being lied about, effectively stifling any civil exchange of differences, preferring a torrent of abuse. Perhaps I was being optimistic in looking for any substance to your comment by continuing to read your comment after your abhorrent comparison of the writer to the KKK.

      Reply
    • EllyS
      Apr 08, 2016 - 08:23 PM

      More about that intimidation, including death threats:

      ‘…incredibly dangerous Israeli legislative initiatives that target Israeli human rights groups and harass Palestinian activists, limiting their ability to travel,” Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, told The Electronic Intifada.

      “The Israeli government’s campaign against human rights activists is the latest in its salvo to bury both its record and those who criticize it,” Whitson added.

      Amid a campaign of intimidation against both Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders by right-wing groups, the Israeli government is advancing the so-called transparency bill.

      The measure is seen as an attack on groups critical of Israel’s human rights record, particularly those organizations funded by the EU or its member states.

      Israeli police have also stepped up arrests and intimidation of Palestinian human rights defenders and Israelis who act in solidarity with them.

      Staff at Al-Haq, the oldest Palestinian human rights group, have been receiving death threats.’
      https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/eu-envoy-refuses-condemn-israeli-threats-against-bds-activists

      Reply
    • Tigger
      Apr 11, 2016 - 08:29 PM

      YOU feel ‘picked on’ by a boycott on ISRAEL? Why? Aren’t you British? I think you should be clear where your loyalties lie.

      As to ‘common tactics’ It seems to me – from personal experience – that a ‘common tactic’ of Zionists is to shout and scream and wave their arms at any peaceful protester, perhaps in an attempt to get them to react so they can then scream ‘anti-Semitism’.

      Unhappily for you, it doesn’t work like that. I’ve had policemen looking out for MY safety from people like you. So i welcome your shouting and screaming. It says, far more effectively than me, what a JERK you are.

      Reply
      • Tigger
        Apr 11, 2016 - 08:31 PM

        … er – the above was a reply to Sebastian.

        Reply
  2. Simon Alexander
    Apr 11, 2016 - 05:52 AM

    and I say to you not in my name.

    If you support BDS please stop using all your mobile phone, your computer, stop sending e-mails and using skype. Put simply stop using all and any technology that has been developed in Israel.

    Please also ensure that your Doctor is aware of your stance so that all medical procedures that have been develpoed in Israel are not used on you should you fall ill.

    Please also be very careful that any water you drink or use has not been filtered by methods developed in Israel.

    Are you actually aware how many Palestinians are employed by companies you wish to boycott and how your boycott deprives them of an income?

    How did you actually manage to get to university or have they dropped the entrance requirements that low. Or are you quite happy to boycott Israel as long as it doesn’t affect your life.

    Please stop using anything that has been worked on in Israel and go back to the stone ages.

    You can support BDS but please NOT IN MY NAME.

    Reply
    • cattyclysm
      Apr 11, 2016 - 08:46 PM

      What a charmingly chimeric suggestion, moving on to a patronising tone. The first suggestion that the BDS action consists of boycotting all aspects of life that have had any advances from within Israel is inaccurate in itself. The second suggestion that to boycott would be a reversion to ‘the Stone Age’ implies a monopoly of medical and technological advances within one nation state. Your gesture towards an argument might be more persuasive if it was complemented by an awareness of what is actually being boycotted and, as an act of kindness to help you improve your perspective, I have added a link providing the means by which you can become better informed. https://bdsmovement.net/make-an-impact

      Reply
    • Tigger
      Apr 13, 2016 - 01:06 PM

      I, for one, wouldn’t dream of using your name to support BDS. (I don’t even know who you are, and quite frankly I don’t give a damn.)
      I’m quite capable of doing it in my own name, which has NO connection to murder, bullying, double-dealing, duplicity, etc. etc. etc.

      With regard to all the technology you claim has been developed in Israel – I note you give no proof of these assertions. Nor do you mention where any development funding might have come from.

      The boycott has not deprived ANY Palestinians of an income; on the contrary, it’s Israel which has done that. A once-prosperous country has been systematically destroyed by a bully-boy, apartheid nation which, moreover, keeps on trying to kill the spirit of a people who once gave THEM shelter. And which calls children – like the one you hold in your arms – “little snakes” which must be eliminated.

      If you really value the views of people with a university education, why don’t you listen to Noam Chimsky. He’s a professor and one of the finest minds of our times.

      Reply
  3. Moshe Mitchell
    Apr 12, 2016 - 08:24 PM

    I am currently studying in a University in Israel with a large Arab student body (Uni of Haifa), and I have to comment about how surprised I was at the ignorance of what Apartheid actually was. To describe Israel as an Apartheid state (which you allude to by saying that BDS brought down the Apartheid regime in South Africa) undermines the suffering that the non-whites suffered in SA and maximises the suffering of the Palestinians. There is no law in Israel forbidding an Arab to ride the same bus as a Jew (and such a law would be actively denounced by just about every Israeli, Jew and not), but this was the foundation of the Apartheid State. This goes on, the gist of what I am saying is that Israel does not have the multitude of discriminatory laws that South Africa had, and given the fact that 50% of Israeli Jews were exiled from Arab countries following the creation of the State of Israel, it is nearly impossible to accurately differentiate between Jew and Arab.

    On another note, I am interested in the pressure being brought to bear on the State of Israel, what about on the Palestinian Authority and Hamas? Neither of which have held elections in about 10 years? Or to end their incitement to murder Jews, which has seen a 70 year old woman killed, among others. Please tell me if you can how murdering a 70 year old woman advances the creation of the Palestinian state? Hamas rules over Gaza, and instead of building a state, they have committed to shot rockets into Israel? Do you not think that it would be better for the people of Gaza if they built their state instead of trying to kill Jews that have anyway left their land? The follow on from this is that if they did build their state instead of trying to kill us, I think that they would get the freedom that they claim to want. What about the Egyptians who have also restricted the Rafah crossing into Gaza? Why does BDS singularly go after the Jewish State?

    In summary, I have to say what you have done is not in my name. I would rather do the hard work on the ground, discussing our differences and working out how we can live together, instead of a one-sided narrative that absolves the other side of any responsibility for their actions. Both sides have a lot of work to do, and as long as you and the BDS movement focusses only on the Israeli transgressions and fails to understand the literal fear for our lives that is an every day reality for many of us, which would only be exacerbated by handing over power to a dysfunctional PA(1), with ISIS not too far away (neither Syria nor Sinai are far from the borders of what would be the Palestinian State), is to many of us anti-Semitic. If not in intention, then in what it could well result in with us forced into a suicidal situation. By all means encourage dialogue, encourage reflection, encourage meaningful steps to peace but do not expect us to take kindly to you trying to force us to commit suicide, however well intentioned you may think you are being.

    1) http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Dubai-security-chief-Independent-Palestinian-state-would-be-another-Arab-failed-state-448679

    Reply
    • Tigger
      Apr 13, 2016 - 02:24 PM

      4. I agree that both sides have a lot of work to do. However, what you may not know is that Palestine has bent over backwards to be fair, and even to make concessions, but Israel has time and time again refused to negotiate on fair terms. Perhaps YOU would like to be one of the minority of Israelis who campaign for a free Israel AND a free Palestine, based on the 1948 Agreement?

      Reply
      • Norman
        Apr 15, 2016 - 04:28 AM

        Name one concession by the Palestinians. Far from bending over to be fair they have not been willing to sit down and talk about a settlement and have refused offers to settle over the years since the Oslo accord which they abandoned and started an intifada. Olmert promised them 98% of the territories, Sharon withdrew from Gaza and left an agricultural infrastructure which the Arabs destroyed in 24 hours . Abbas has not allowed freedom since he took office and Hamas are building tunnels to invade Israel, is that bending over backwards? Israel has allowed the Palestinians to elect their own councils, armed their security, this is hardly an effort to prevent and stifle democracy.

        Reply
  4. Norman
    Apr 15, 2016 - 04:21 AM

    The ridiculous allegations of saying that that Israel is suppressing Palestinian Arabs and keeping them from democracy is plain stupidity. Abbas is in his 12th year of a 4 year elected term, he and his cronies are sucking up money left and right by controlling Palestinian industries such as cell phones. He is paying terrorists in jail money that has been supplied by the EU and the US instead of using it for helping the economy. Arabs working for Israelis are paid about 3 times more than they get from Arabs. BDS is a racist organization discriminating against Jews. They are not fighting for the freedom of Yazidi women, not against human rights abuses in China, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Cuba, Turkey or a host of other tyrannical regimes oppressing their citizens. There is no democracy among the Arab nations and the author is actually helping those who wish to bring in the Caliphate and conquer the British and the rest of the free world. This Dimmi is quite the dummy.

    Reply
    • Tigger
      Apr 15, 2016 - 09:24 AM

      “BDS is a racist organization discriminating against Jews. They are not fighting for the freedom of Yazidi women, not against human rights abuses in China, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Cuba, Turkey or a host of other tyrannical regimes oppressing their citizens.”

      Really? And here was me thinking that it was targeted against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. (NOT against Jews; a lot of Jewish people support us in a big way.)
      Other organisations fight for human rights in other areas – and most of us belong to Amnesty International and other human rights organisations aw well. I wonder if YOU do?

      I won’t waste my time answering your other allegations. I could write a book on it but you wouldn’t listen, and my time is more valuable than that.

      Reply
  5. Barba Rossa
    Apr 16, 2016 - 04:42 PM

    Israel a country born of Terrorism.. Israel the most Racist on earth.. Zionist Jews equate with Nazism

    Reply

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