Where Marlon describes BDS being “enacted against diaspora Jews”, pro-BDS folks might reply, “well, if you don’t want to be targeted, don’t have any links with Israel, no-one’s forcing you to.” If only things were that simple! [Thread]
If only things were so simple that Jews could just detach Israel, the historical experiences that impelled Zionism, and the idea of Jewish nationhood, from their consciousness and identity. If you want such a “detachment” to take place, that all has to be worked through.
Which is to say nothing of the fact that almost every mainstream institution in Jewish communal life has some link, however notional/diffuse, with something Israeli. A consistent application of a “boycott Israel” approach would mean Jews disengaging from mainstream Jewish life.
The left, with our historic project of splitting ethnic minority communities amongst class/ideological lines, might well want to disrupt mainstream communal life in all sorts of communities. But we do that by supporting dissident struggles within it, not by posing ultimatums.
For example, youth wings of two mainstream synagogue federations took strong stances against Israel’s war on Gaza in May. But both are “Zionist”, neither has disavowed links with Israel, neither has called for boycotts. Engaging there is surely a better start.
A comparison with China is apposite here (and not in the “but what about China?!” way in which it’s often invoked in this debate). Most people on the left, including those strongly opposed to the CCP, would accept that a “boycott China” campaign, which made the breaking >
< of any and all links with China a red line of political decency, would not only be ineffective, but would inevitably end up targeting a minoritised diaspora community with cultural ties to the state, who are already victims of racism and bigotry.
Jews outside Israel aren’t the same as diaspora Chinese immigrants or other victims of anti-ESEA racism (for e.g., many of us are substantially integrated into whiteness), but the comparison is meaningful IMO. If the left can grasp the problem there, why not for Israel/Jews too?
The argument that the majority of Palestinian civil society supports BDS, and therefore it’s a duty of solidarity to support it too, is emotionally compelling. But the majority position of the PLO being for two states didn’t stop much of the left dissenting from that, so…
…either the left can argue that we just have to mirror whatever the majority viewpoint in the Palestinian national movement is, or we can accept it’s admissible to dissent and debate.
Palestinian workers have also decided to do things like join Histadrut-affiliated unions and go on strike, and BDS supporters tell us that supporting them contravenes BDS, so at the very least there’s a degree of picking-and-choosing which Palestinian struggles to support.
There are also attempts across the world to criminalise BDS advocacy, which are affronts to free speech. Whatever one’s view on the efficacy, or even potential antisemitic impact, of BDS, that’s a basic free speech issue. People who want to ban BDS aren’t good-faith actors here.
But BDS isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a political equivalent of religious dogma, beyond debate or criticism, including on strategic grounds. Take this sentiment from Palestinian socialist Maisam Jaljuli. Surely worthy of consideration, at least? workersliberty.org/story/2020-04-…
Personally, I would like to see “D” and “S” separated from “B”. Divestment from companies directly profiting from occupation, and specific/targeted sanctions like arms embargoes, seem entirely legitimate strategies to me, that target the Israeli ruling class, capital, and state.
A root-and-branch “boycott Israel” is inoperable (esp. for Jews), ineffective, and inevitably ends up targeting a minoritised community which a) experiences racism and b) much of whose relationship/affinity with the targeted state is related to historic experiences of oppression.
Finally, a comparison with South Africa that I think, unlike most made in this debate, *is* relevant. What finally toppled apartheid was social upheaval by those with transformative power in that society: fundamentally, Black workers, who organised themselves in powerful unions.
Socialists internationally who wanted to make direct links with those unions sometimes found themselves blocked by conservative gatekeepers in the anti-apartheid movement, who argued that such links would contravene the boycott.
There’s a lesson there both about agency and the source of transformative power, and how a seemingly “radical” stance can be used to reinforce a passive conservatism. There are definite echoes of that here: [/Thread]

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More from @therubykid

3 Oct
As it’s #CableStreet85 tomorrow, and as the CPB/Morning Star has been prominent in commemorations today, worth remembering that, whilst the CP rank and file in the East End played an admirable role, the leadership was only dragged into supporting the counter-mobilisation when…
…local activists told leaders the CP would be “finished” in the East End unless they abandoned plans for their own, party-controlled anti-fascist rally in Trafalgar Square on the same day and backed the local action. (The stamped text reads: “ALTERATION: RALLY TO ADLGATE, 2PM”)
Pretty much every political tendency, even on its own terms, has mistakes in its past. But there should be some reckoning with those mistakes; attempting to boost contemporary credibility on the basis of a misleading revision of the historical record is dishonest and sectarian.
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20 Sep
All true, but worth adding: sometimes use of language about fighting, even overthrowing, “the system” (or whatever) isn’t a cynical PR stunt intended to dupe people into supporting a cause that’s really about propping up the status quo… (1/4)
…there are currents which really do want to “fight the system”, but in the name of a worse alternative. So it’s not (just) the left “falling for” deceptive rhetoric, it’s forgetting that our positive alternative - not mere -ve opposition to status quo - has to come first. (2/4)
In the Communist Manifesto, there’s a critique of currents which oppose capitalism in the name of a reactionary alternative. Many of the left’s political failures in past decades are about forgetting that reactionary anti-imperialism and reactionary anti-capitalism… (3/4)
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2 Sep
What the debates about when and how Labour should announce policy, and even what the policy should be, invariably leave out is the equally (arguably, more) fundamental question of how the policy is formulated.
Corbyn’s leadership largely left intact the Blairite model of policy production: that it was something cooked up by specialists (SPADs, policy wonks, whoever) in LOTO or Shadow Ministers’ offices, and “announced” to the party and the public simultaneously.
There’d even be policy announcements out of the blue *at conference*, which the left had fought for years to empower. Failing to make a politically sovereign conference the place where policy was debated and agreed (and then acted on!) was a huge missed opportunity.
Read 5 tweets
27 Aug
Disciplining someone for writing this tweet would not only be an affront to free speech, but inimical to the fight against both antisemitism specifically and racism in general. (1/4)
White Jews have been substantially integrated into the constructed category of “whiteness”. That integration is both recent and extremely precarious, but ignoring or denying it helps no-one, and certainly doesn’t aid serious confrontation of antisemitism. (2/4)
I have made a similar point to the one in the tweet, in speech and print, multiple times, as have many other Jews I know - never to diminish antisemitism or downplay the need to confront it, but the opposite. I think people are more ready to complain about a black woman. (3/4)
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24 Aug
Pleased to announce that my book ‘Confronting Antisemitism on the Left: Arguments for Socialists’ will be published by @NoPasaranMedia on 23 September. Details here: nopasaran.media/confronting-an…
You can preorder the book from a variety of sites. If you don’t have ethical objections to buying books from Bezos Corp., it’s available on Amazon here: amazon.co.uk/Confronting-An….
The book includes forewords by @dr_camila_bassi and Tom Cohen, son of Steve Cohen, author of @dontlookanti. It attempts to locate the historical roots of antisemitism on the left in primitive conspiracy theories conflating Jews with finance, and Stalinist-derived “campism”.
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24 Aug
Owen will get a lot of flack for this from all sides (“he’s caving to the Zionist lobby” from some, and “he doesn’t mean it/he’s just two-faced” from others). Personally I think he’s sincere, and the ability to admit having made a mistake is important.
As a side note, and this isn’t a criticism of Owen per se, more of discourse in general, I don’t think it’s necessary to pose these things as apologies for having caused “upset” or “offence”.
I think it’s fine to say, “I’ve reflected and I’ve changed my mind”, whether or not anyone was “upset”… and also to maintain your existing position, even if lots of people *were* “upset”, if that’s what you actually think.
Read 7 tweets

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