Lorde’s decision to pull out of her planned concert in Israel next year is having a profound impact on public discussion here and overseas about Palestine/Israel.
Overall the public reaction reflects the huge shift in opinion from earlier times when New Zealanders stood behind Israel which they saw as a plucky little country surrounded by hostile Arab hordes. A mixture of anti-Arab racism and European guilt regarding the Holocaust sustained strong support for Israel. Backing this up was the Zionist tactic of crying “anti-Semitism” to any criticism of Israel.
Israel promoted itself as the “victim” (and was widely seen as such in the West) and had a free hand to brutalise the people of Palestine with at best muted criticism. Abuses of human rights, blatant violations of international law and thumbing its nose at UN resolutions (including Security Council resolutions) became the norm for Israel.
This “older view” of Israel was neatly summed in Brian Edwards’s facebook post – see Martyn Bradbury’s column. It’s hard to believe an otherwise intelligent person could make such dumb comments.
New Zealanders, and most people around the western world, have moved on. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, its attacks, invasions and medieval siege of Gaza along with its brutal military occupation of the West Bank have begun to change perceptions.
Israel can only sustain its enormous injustice through brute force and this is politically unsustainable.
There are three main arguments used to oppose BDS:
- Selective morality – why boycott Israel when so many other countries abuse human rights?
- Politics should be kept out of sport – ooops – entertainment.
- Israel is the only democracy in the middle east and therefore deserves our support.
All these arguments fall over. Not since the campaign to end apartheid in South Africa has an oppressed people so comprehensively called for an international boycott campaign in support of their rights. Palestinians reached this consensus in 2005 when BDS was launched by 170 civil society organisations and we should support it with the vigour we supported the international campaign to isolate apartheid South Africa.
Politics are embedded in sport and entertainment. Just a few years back the Israeli state used their international tennis player Shahar Peer as a poster girl for the Israeli Defence Force. Two years of protests here at the Women’s Open and Peer has not reappeared.
Israel is only a democracy if one regarded apartheid South Africa as a democracy. Setting aside the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza for a moment, in Israel there are two classes of citizen – Palestinian Israelis and Jewish Israelis. Palestinian Israelis are citizens and may vote alongside Jewish Israelis. However, they are denied nationality of Israel (because they are not Jewish) and this means structural discrimination against them across all aspects of Israeli society – structural racism which mirrors that of apartheid South Africa. They are second-class citizens.
This is not democracy.
What next for BDS activism?
Israeli singer Victoria Hanna is due to perform at the New Plymouth WOMAD festival (17-19 March 2018). She should never have been invited to come. Hanna is currently based at the University of California as part of the Visiting Israeli Artist Programme of The Israel Institute who describe their role in these terms –
“By presenting Israeli art, music, film, dance and literature to an international audience, the Israel Institute showcases an important aspect of modern Israel that few people get to see firsthand, and fosters the deeper understanding of Israel that the Institute is committed to inspiring”.
The “deeper understanding of Israel” is code for Zionist propaganda. Hanna is on a propaganda tour for the Israeli state.
Supporting the international boycott of Israel means opposing Hanna’s presence here.
Email WOMAD at firstname.lastname@example.org and request they cancel the invitation to Victoria Hanna.