Monday, 25 July 2011

Zionist Sour Grapes Over Losing Debate Over Boycott

In Israel Support for a Boycott is Illegal -
In Britain the Zionists Try to Prevent Boycott Being Debated

Two weeks ago I blogged on a debate in London’s Southbank Centre on the Thames between Omar Barghouti and Seni Seneviratne for Boycott and Jonathan Freedland and Carol Gould.

The Report was scrupulously fair and I stated that ‘although his points were disjointed and random, Jonathan Freedland made a number of points worth considering:’ I then went on to list the 6 major points he made. As a matter of courtesy I e-mailed a link to the Report to Jonathan Freedland the following day.

In reply I received the following request:

Thanks for this. Am curious about that closing line: "And last, a big thank you to Naomi Foyle for all the work she put in to organise the event!"

I didn't meet her yesterday: was she the event organiser?



Although it was a somewhat curious question, as one assumes that a speaker at an event such as this will know who the organiser is, I thought nothing of it and responded to the question thus:

yes, I think so. She was the person who invited me and who had a guest list on which I appeared and she was pushing it very hard so, without being particularly clued up about such matters I think she was.

You made some good points, and I've argued internally that supporters of Boycott need to be more clear about their political objectives, but on your key objection, that it drives Israeli Jews into the laager, then Omar was right - the privileged never give up privileges willingly. And all the evidence is that the internal dynamic within Israel is driving its move to the right and its obsession with a demographic majority.

The rest of the e-mail was concerned with the content of Freedland’s contribution to the debate.

As should be quite clear, I didn’t have much of an idea who in fact had organised it as my only contact had been Naomi Foyle, who seemed to have done her best to ensure that it was well attended.

It is no secret that Naomi Foyle is a member of British Writers in Support of Palestine and has herself blogged on their website about the debate. I assumed that the Zionists had also done their best to ensure that their supporters attended the debate.

I thought no more of the matter until I saw the inevitable Jewish Chronicle Report by Marcus Dysch, July 14, 2011 ‘Freedland gloom as Israel boycott is applauded’ . It wasn’t my recollection that Freedland had been ‘gloomy’ quite the contrary, but maybe Dysch had inside information. The article itself, despite the usual emotive phrases such as ‘A clearly shaken Mr Freedland’ and the obvious pro-Zionist stance, was a fairly straightforward factual account, at least according to Jewish Chronicle standards.

But if Jonathan Freedland had not been shaken, then clearly the Zionist lobby had. Debate is something Zionism hates. Villification is what they usually practice. Subjecting arguments to scrutiny, outside the usual ‘if you support the Palestinians you must support Hamas and therefore the elimination of world Jewry’ is something foreign to them. So it was, in retrospect, unsurprising that they should focus on what was a fairly innocuous debate that merely reflected the argumentation that is taking place is unions and outside supermarkets most days of the week.

I was therefore surprised that in this weeks edition of the Jewish Chronicle there is an article ‘Southbank Israel debate turns into ‘hate-fest’ . Admittedly it has only taken the JC two editions to come up with a line, but what has occurred between an article detailing the depression and gloom of Jonathan Freedland, that history needed to be rewritten to describe the debate as a ‘hate fest’.

On my own blog Carole Gould makes 2 contributions, primarily as a result of my assertion that she said nothing particularly memorable, other than to cite anti-Zionist South African Jews who would have and did support a Boycott of Israel to ‘prove’ that South African Jewry opposed Apartheid – which it very clearly did not. Jonathan Freedland in the debate had cited Benjamin Pogrund, a white liberal opponent of apartheid and deputy editor of the liberal Rand Daily Mail in support of such a proposition.

Pogrund who has since moved to Israel, is an opponent of a Boycott and has also condemned the Goldstone Report into the massacres and war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza in 2008/9. He is not close to the ANC, was always an opponent of Apartheid from a bourgeois stance, and has now reneged on everything he once stood for. That is however a personal tragedy, since he does nothing today to oppose the increasingly horrific racism directed at Israeli Arabs e.g. the 'Death to Arabs' marches other than to suggest via his Yakar Centre that all that is needed is personal reconciliation, rather than institutional change.

The article, also by Marcus Dysch, July 21, 2011 alleges that Carole Gould was abused and that ‘one [unnamed] Jewish panellist said had turned into a "hate-fest".’ It can’t have been Carole Gould, as she was quite happy to go to a reception/meal afterwards with her opponents. It can only be the 'gloomy' Jonathan Freedland.

Dysch complains that ‘Throughout the event’ Gould and Freedland ‘were bombarded with questions by the audience, which was made up largely of anti-Israel activists.’ Terrible! Their arguments were subject to scrutiny and found wanting.

And then we find the usual Zionist attempt to stifle free speech going into action. Apparently ‘Concerns have since been raised with organisers at the Southbank Centre after it was revealed that the event had been planned with the help of poet Naomi Foyle, a founder of the British Writers In Support of Palestine (BWISP).’ Well this was never any secret.

Heinous indeed was her offence, since ‘Ms Foyle's involvement led Tony Greenstein, who attended the debate and is a founding member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, to write in a blog: "A big thank you to Naomi Foyle for all the work she put in to organise the event.’

And Geoffrey Alderman, a fellow columnist of Freedland on the JC, who recently wrote that 'Few events - not even the execution of Osama bin Laden - have caused me greater pleasure in recent weeks than news of the death of the Italian so-called "peace activist" Vittorio Arrigoni.' the ISM member killed by a fascist madman in Gaza'. was also concerned.

What does concern me is the reported make-up of the audience. Marcus recalls "familiar faces from the anti-Israel circuit showed up. Piling in one after another were the likes of Tony Greenstein and Deborah Fink."

It is a terrible thing to be of the 'likes' of myself and the indefatiguable Ms Fink!

In fact I was being no more than polite in thanking Naomi Foyle for putting the work into the debate. The South Bank Centre had, Dysch's article admits, included ‘the Jewish Book Week’, but because they weren’t told who was on the final panel (which was the whole point of asking them for help!) they ‘had therefore chosen not to promote the debate.’

So on the one hand the Zionists complain they were not consulted and when they were consulted they refused all co-operation. Clearly the Southbank Centre should have got the message that Boycott is not a fit subject for discussion. And there is, of course, good precedent for this. The Israeli Knesset, as part of its McCarthyite march towards freedom has just made support for a Boycott a criminal and civil offence.

And after nearly two weeks Carole Gould believes she had ‘been "tricked" into taking part in a "hate-fest"’ whilst boasting on my own website of being invited to appear on Iran’s Press TV! But maybe it was her ego that was wounded since her main accusation is that "Omar Barghouti's picture was on the website from the beginning and it was changed very late on to include Jonathan's picture, but without his name.’

"They did not have my name anywhere” she protested. But Carole, you are not that well known. But oblivious to what she is saying, she then she goes on to admit that ‘there was only one line about Seni.' But Seni was a pro-Boycott speaker! That is hardly evidence of bias.

And to add insult to injury "No matter how hard I tried to keep my dignity, I was laughed at, shouted down and generally abused. I did not expect that level of venom." Clearly Ms Gould, however talented as a writer, lacks some imagination. Maybe she can imagine being called a 'Jewish self-hater' and ask if any comments were anywhere near as offensive as the standard Zionist trope? Or the more anti-Semitic Zionist comments like 'it's a pity you didn't die in Auschwitz' etc. My own impression of Ms Gould, and I know little about her, is one of vanity and stupidity, neither of which she makes any attempt to hide.

Yes it is true that people laughed at her ignorance and absurdities, of which I’ve mentioned one above (more dishonesty in associating the victims of Apartheid murder squads like Ruth First with support for Israel – a state that did more to help Apartheid South Africa than any other).

Apparently Howard Jacobson, Ian McEwan, Amitav Ghosh and Sir Tom Stoppard were invited but thought better of it. Those, like Jacobson, whose trite opinions appear regularly in the press, are often very loath to allow those opinions to be challenged in debate. But faced with this non-story I e-mailed Naomi Foyle who responded thus:
'Thanks for this - can you let Jonathan know that Rachel Holmes commissioned the debate, but she was on leave for six months, so Martin Colthorpe was the event organiser. Because the area was not Martin's speciality, I was an unpaid consultant for the debate - suggesting speakers for the motion, and liaising with them on logistical matters on behalf of the SB, who were overwhelmed by the needs of the Festival. I did help word the motion, and did so specifically to avoid isolating Israel. I also suggest a long list of potential anti-speakers, though I didn't feel it was my place to choose or invite them.

I was aware that anti-speakers were hard to find - many people declined - which disappointed and frustrated me, as I wanted a top-notch debate between speakers steeped in the issues involved. I was extremely pleased that Jonathan and Carol agreed to speak, as both are high profile writers with a global reach. I pushed the event hard in the last week at the request of the SB because on the Monday only 40 tickets had sold.

Please also pass my email address on to Jonathan, and let him know that, after being on holiday, I have blogged on the event at If he has the time, I would like to get in touch with him myself this week on various points he raised. I would have liked to shake his hand at the debate, but he wasn't at the after-party, as I had assumed he would be.

Thanks Tony, and don't worry, nothing biased occurred that could undermine the event - at all times the object was to secure the best possible speakers and to advertise widely. The Jewish Chronicle was well aware of the event, and if they didn't push it, or their readership didn't show up, that was their choice. Hopefully, they will now want a rematch!

Very best,

In other words, every attempt was made to secure speakers opposing a Boycott. However the Zionist movement in this country is frit, frightened and scared of exposing itself to debate. Instead it is more concerned to rely on the machas, the good and great, the people with power.

Such a strategy means that it loses everytime the question of Boycott is debated because its arguments are ones which accuse people of ‘anti-Semitism’. Or even more ludicrously they make a comparison, and both Freedland and Gould referred to it , with the Nazi ‘Boycott’ of Jewish shops on April 1st when they know full well (or in Freedland’s case should know) that the real Boycott in 1933 was that of the Jewish labour movement and trade unions against Nazi Germany, a boycott which the Zionists deliberately broke in order to use the wealth of German Jews to build up their economy in Palestine e.g. the printing industry was established as a result of the trade agreement (Ha’avara) between the Zionist Organisation and Nazi Germany.

The moral of the story? That when the Zionists lose a debate they will always cry foul!!

Tony Greenstein


  1. And she takes particular exception to being evicted by someone not even born in this country!!

    Racist? perish the thought


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