Luke Akehurst of We Believe in Israel speaks to a Bristol audience about the nature of boycotts against Israel
Luke Akehurst, the director of We Believe in Israel, a prominent and successful national pro-Israel organization, spoke to an audience of supporters in Bristol on Sunday. He discussed the ideologies at play behind the scenes of the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement, how they operate and garner support, and their ultimately destructive impact on the situation in Israel – and most especially in the Palestinian Territories.
He described how the lack of opposition at grassroots level has enabled the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) to garner support from such unlikely places as trade unions (Hamas kills trade unionists). All it takes is one guy bringing a motion to a poorly attended meeting which is accepted without debate, allowing him to take it to the next level and the next, resulting in Unite issuing a statement against Israel during the last war with Gaza. Unite eventually reversed the statement once they were made aware of what the PSC is about and who it supports.
Luke also discussed the bizarre coalition between far-left and Islamist organizations in opposition to Israel. They do share some other elements – they are anti-democracy and anti-America (for different reasons), but otherwise are diametrically opposed. One is communist and therefore anti-religion and against self-determination for anyone, while the other wants religion – Islam – to rule everywhere. This partnership is behind the Stop the War coalition and playing a role behind the scenes of the PSC. As far as the PSC is concerned, Luke believes it is the communist Socialist Action group which actually calls the shots. The usual arguments of how great Israel’s democracy is or how free the country is don’t work with these people, so the solution is to campaign at grassroots level like they do, to ensure their targets get to hear the pro-Israel argument as well. Supporters need to keep an eye on any organizations they are members of, and be ready to counter boycott or divestment proposals, because no organization is off limits to the BDS campaign.
BDS has shown they are not actually interested in helping Palestinians, only attacking Israel, as evidenced by the SodaStream debacle, whereby boycotters demanded it shut down operations in the West Bank, where it employed hundreds of Palestinians on equal pay with its Jewish workers. As a result of the campaign, SodaStream relocated to the Negev, costing hundreds of Palestinians their jobs.
He also mentioned the fact that polls routinely show only 10% of Brits support boycotts of Israel, and warmth toward Israel or toward Palestinians is equal at 20% each. That leaves 60% of people who don’t have an opinion either way; these are the people we need to reach. Our 20% simply needs to have a louder voice than the opposing 20% who currently dominate politics, the media, and student life.