I was in Sheffield yesterday.
The city centre reminded me of Shawlands in 1984.
Run-down, with as many shops closed and shuttered as were open.
No one has said we are in a recession. The times don’t feel great. You can almost see them, like dominoes, one shop closing after another, taking more and more custom and profit and there you go, another gone.
We were in the city as my son wanted to do something with his child-trust fund, now that he has turned 18 he can get his hands on the money.
Afterwards he was scheduled for a haircut.
All of this might seem irrelevant, and, indeed, it is, I am however setting the scene.
It was around 1130 and I saw in the distance some Palestinian flags. This was accompanied by a group of people standing outside one of the out-of-business shops – I think it might have been a bank, requesting that passers-by take a leaflet and BDS.
BDS is an abbreviation for ban, divest and sanction everything to do with Israel.
A woman offered me a leaflet. I declined.
From reading previous blogs, you might have worked out, a) I have Israeli citizenship, b) I am Jewish and c) I quite like Israel.
You might also have established that a) I tend towards the Left, b) I am a humanist c) I care about people, particularly those who are disadvantaged (be they old, young, disabled or Palestinian).
This becomes a confusing Venn Diagram.
Most people, and in particular those handing out leaflets don’t get the subtleties. They watch the news, are called to arms and want Israel to stop its actions. They call the state Apartheid, which, from my reading, is a complete failure to understand Apartheid, and an insult to everyone, the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Black and Mixed-Race South Africans who were victims of that system.
I will not go into the details and I don’t, and indeed can’t provide you with a formal analysis of Israeli, Palestinian and Middle-Eastern politics. I am not an expert in this area.
Ask me about old people and I am happy to provide an opinion.
You see, what gets me, as a Jewish, Israeli, Scotsman living in South Yorkshire is the underlying and effectively impossible to separate line between the words and actions of these protesters and those who I perceive are openly Anti-Semitic (Yes, I know about Miriam Margolyes…)
You might wonder how I came to this conclusion.
Here is my stance; not necessarily in order, but the best I can do.
- Israel is a democracy. (A crazy proportional representation, but a democracy – one of the few in the Middle East)
- The citizens of Israel, and define them as you will, although I think most would agree, we are talking Jews, Israeli Arabs (Christians and Muslims), Druze and other groups have voted for the right wing government that has led policy for the past decade (I have no idea of the political position of the current government, I believe it is still over on the right), nevertheless, right or left, the government is the government and more than many countries in the Middle East, is elected through democratic means.
- The Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza do not get to vote in the Israeli elections
- The West Bank, aka the Palestinian Authority has its own elections and its own Prime Minister (Mohammad Shtayyeh).
- The Gaza Strip, run by Hamas, is not democratic, rules by tyranny and has as its main goal the destruction of Israel.
- There are lots of bad things happening on Planet Earth, 2021.
- Some countries have better human rights records than others.
- If you look at an organisation’s website like Amnesty International, you will see there are abuses happening across the planet – China, North Korea, Yemen, USA, Syria, Lebanon, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan.
- Have you visited a UK immigration detention centre recently?
- I support the right of the Palestinian people to have their own independent state, I support their right to free elections and all the other rights I have.
- I support the citizens of Israel (Jew, Muslim, Christian, Humanist, Agnostic, Druze, Greek Orthodox, Baha’i) to live without the existential threat of terrorism or other forms of attack.
- There is disproportionate reporting on the situation in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the news (I can only account for The Guardian, which is where I get my Crosswords).
- No one is calling for us to stop buying good from China, USA, Pakistan or Russia.
- If indeed people did BDS from Israel, they would cripple the international economy given that Israeli tech – software, hardware, medical and other technical innovation is found across the whole spectrum of gadgetry we and our systems utilise – phones, planes, computers, TVs, vaccines, etc.
I think this list is long enough.
Yesterday’s blog was all about apologies. Sorry.
Sorry if I have mis-represented, not aligned the argument well.
My point is this.
Before you throw stones – literal and metaphorical, look at yourself. Are you free from blame? Are the hands of your national aspirations so pure as to place yourself in a position to roll-out accusations of abuse directed at others?
Before you throw stones, do you have all the facts?
Before you throw stones are you merely taking sides to ease your own conscience?
This might sound like I am saying do nothing.
Accept the status quo and find something else to protest.
Meditate, tend your garden, stop eating animal products.
I am not telling anyone what to do.
I am just suggesting that change, as with all these things comes from within.
This blog will not alter anything and I do hope it will not provoke people to call me out for being a hater of Palestinians, for I am not.
Just think how your actions are construed.
There are 8.8 million people living in Israel.
That is 0.11% of the world population.
Around 20 per cent of children in the UK’s 68 million population are living in poverty.
Consider the involvement of Russia and China in perpetuating the Syrian crisis.
Are you banning Chinese goods?
The Jews, in case you hadn’t noticed, have had a hard time the past two thousand years.
We have had enough boycotts in the past. Enough sanction and banning.
Support the Palestinians, but carry in your sights the actual perpetrators of the inequality and poverty, those with a vested interest in the status quo – specifically, and, for the most, the American Right followed closely by rich people everywhere else.
If you want to listen to a Podcast about all things Israel and Palestine, Darryl Cooper has done a great job; you can listen here.