Omar Barghouti – eng

pieter van bogaert

Why a boycott? 

Herman Asselberghs and Pieter Van Bogaert in conversation with Omar Barghouti on BDS.

in De Wereld Morgen, etcetera, Kunstenpunt, rektoverso, 2019


Shakira, Lorde and Brian Eno are in favour. Nick Cave, Radiohead, Madonna and Bob Dylan are against. Naomi Klein endorses it, Noam Chomsky doesn’t. The telecoms giant Orange, security multinational G4S and the HEMA chain store have acted upon it. The cosmetics manufacturer Ahava, machine-builder Caterpillar and fruit and vegetable exporter Carmel Agrexco have not. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is a movement that divides. It will soon be 15 years since the historical academic, economic and cultural boycott of the South-African Apartheid regime inspired the BDS campaign against Israel’s continuing policy of occupation and its numerous offences against international law. While this peaceful citizens’ movement is able to count on increasing support both locally and globally, voices against it are sounding ever louder and more forceful.

Last year, The Guardian commented mockingly that the enemies of the boycott by then far outnumbered the total of Palestinians and Israelis. The controversy has been growing for a long time in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, the Arab world, the United States and the Jewish diaspora. By now it is more than a shouting match. More than half the American states already have an anti-BDS regulation that demands an anti-boycott approach from all companies with government contracts. The Supreme Court in France confirms that boycotting a country is punishable because it might incite hatred and discrimination. Since then, it has been possible for BDS activists to be sentenced on the basis of French anti-racism legislation. The British government let it be known to local authorities and subsidised organisations that they risk serious fines if they support BDS. According to the same government declaration, boycotting Israeli products might stir up polarisation in British society and hinder integration.

The creation of legal frameworks to counteract and punish focused, non-violent action against Israel’s policy of occupation proves in the first place the increasing credibility and genuine vigour of BDS. Increasing numbers of academics, cultural workers, businesspeople, cultural organisations, companies, investment funds and trade unions no longer want to be associated with Israeli institutions. More and more consumers opt not to buy Israeli products (with the barcode prefix 729). The Israeli government rightly considers the boycott movement to be a serious strategic threat, to the same degree as Iran’s nuclear programme and the rockets fired from Gaza and Lebanon. It realises that this recent phase in Palestine’s resistance has far more potential to mobilise people than the armed resistance of Hamas, Hezbollah and other radical groups. BDS has opened up a symbolic battlefield where a war over moral legitimacy is being fought, with international law and worldwide public opinion as its most powerful weapons.

It comes as no surprise that Israel has officially labelled BDS as an unlawful project and deploys a Ministry of Strategic Affairs to combat the citizens’ movement with might and main at home and abroad. The enactment of harsh anti-boycott laws, the drawing up of blacklists of organisations that engage in or sympathise with BDS, the refusal to admit non-Israeli boycott activists to the country (and thus also the West Bank, because it is only accessible via Israel), the ban on local BDS activists leaving the Palestinian Territories: these are just a few actual examples of the legal mechanisms that are intended to counter the advance of the boycott campaign. No one really loses any sleep over the economic impact of BDS. The real fear concerns the winning of hearts and minds beyond existing circles of opponents of the Israeli culture, politics and economy of occupation.

The international discrediting of BDS is high on the agenda of many present-day Israeli politicians, policy-makers and security people. The information (or disinformation) struggle is being carried on with increasing intensity in several countries, with the US to the fore, with the aid of think tanks, lobby groups and front organisations. The accusation of anti-Semitism is a common, tried and tested method in the wide range of approaches to blackening reputations, vilification and personal attacks. Critics of the ethno-nationalist regime in the increasingly (extreme) right-wing Israel are soon labelled as anti-Jewish. A recent advisory, judicial but non-binding redefinition of anti-Semitism (launched by the intergovernmental organisation International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), promoted by Israeli politicians and too hastily endorsed by the US and several European states) facilitates this rhetorical strategy more than ever. The new definition of ‘hatred of Jews’ comprises a list of contemporary examples that strikingly point to the state of Israel, including ‘the use of double standards concerning behavioural expectations and demands on Israel and other democratic states’ and ‘the denial of the right to self-determination for the Jewish people’. Advocates of this modified definition see BDS as incontrovertibly a part of the ‘new anti-Semitism’: long-established anti-Semitism repackaged as a political-ideological critique of the state of Israel. Opponents discern above all the umpteenth instrument by which to silence all opposition to the persistent Israeli government policy of illegal settlements, violation of universal human rights and offences against the international laws of war.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complicated tangle. A solution seems to be further off than ever before. The numbing hopelessness of the situation and the pressing concerns about right-wing populism, neo-liberalism and climate change (a Gordian knot in its own right) mean that the issue ends up in the margins of public attention in our part of the world. A long, straight line does nevertheless exist between here and there. European history played a part in the establishment of the state of Israel and is thus enduringly a party to the origins and course of the conflict. But rather than continuing to focus on this (crucial) historical connection, we could appeal to the nagging present-day dimension of this sad situation. The shift to the right of the political system, the fostering of a climate of fear, the playing on latent and existing xenophobia, the cultivation of the image of an enemy, the pursuit of a security discourse, the expansion of a culture of surveillance and control, the self-evidence of military deployment, the manipulation of media channels and streams of information, the natural primacy of the economic argument, the negligence towards the land and (other’s) ecological systems, the indifference to injustice and inequality, the triumphant arrogance of the incumbent leader: considering all this, it requires little imagination to see in contemporary Israel a blueprint or an example for the model state of which many European/Eurosceptic heads of government or heads of state appear to dream out loud. The most rabid and ethnocratic politicians in the political establishment have long made no bones about it: in their eyes and words, Israel is quite simply an outpost of European civilisation, the first bastion against the barbarism of the Arab world. By this reasoning, adherents of BDS are called ‘terrorists in suits’. The question that urges itself upon us is: in the name of which Europeans are they speaking?

When feelings are running so high, it may seem as if a call to impose a boycott will only pour more oil on the fire. A brisk question soon requires a brisk response. Whether it be resolutely dismissive, cautiously hesitant or recklessly approving, there are few comfortable positions to be taken up in this affair. No one takes pleasure in endorsing a measure which in the end must interfere in other people’s lives. It may help to remember the words of the late John Berger. Not long after BDS was set up, he wrote a short piece in The Guardian under the title Why a Boycott? (15 December 2006). He referred to the words of Nelson Mandela, who decisively rejected the boycott in principle, but considered it absolutely necessary as a tactic in certain specific circumstances. Berger added: ‘When a boycott becomes a question of principle, there is the danger of exclusion and racism. No boycott should ever be imposed on an individual, a people or a nation. A boycott is imposed against a policy and the institutions which support that policy actively or tacitly. The aim is not to dismiss, but to bring about change.’

Why a boycott? Herman Asselberghs and Pieter Van Bogaert put this question to Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian human rights activist and co-founder of BDS, in Ramallah.

Let’s begin with the fundamentals: how did BDS originate and what are its basic principles?

The boycott started with PACBI, the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which was launched in 2004. A year later BDS – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement – was initiated. But even PACBI comes out of a long heritage of non-violent Palestinian resistance to settler colonialism, to apartheid, to occupation, to ethnic cleansing. Since the 1920’s, Palestinians have used boycotts to counter British colonialism and then Zionist settler colonialism. Although BDS is very much inspired by the South-African anti-apartheid movement, by the US civil rights movement, by the anti-colonial movement in India, we did not learn non-violence from Ghandi or Martin Luther King. We learned it from our own people’s experience of non-violent resistance to occupation and apartheid.

What is new about BDS is that it started to connect internal resistance with external solidarity. That it is not enough to resist alone, no matter how strategic and effective you can be, our enemy is enormous. It is not Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid only that we’re facing, it’s this regime completely supported by the United States and the European Union, especially Germany and Britain. It is a global enemy that is suppressing us and that is denying our rights.

Until BDS, solidarity with Palestinian rights in general consisted out of demonstrations, writing letters to editors of newspapers: mild forms that are largely ineffective. With BDS, we changed this formula: the first thing is to stop being complicit with the master. If you’re supporting the master, you can’t be in solidarity with the slave.

The second point for BDS was the need for non-violence. It is a principle and strategic. We want full Palestinian rights under international law and we want to use non-violence to reach those rights, internationally and locally.

A third point is that the main principles of the movement are strongly progressive and anti-racist, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. From the very beginning we were very clear that this movement cannot be racist, cannot tolerate any form of discrimination, misogyny, sexism, anti-black racism, anti-Jewish racism or Islamophobia.

BDS is explicitly secular. It is very inclusive, but it is a secular movement. It does not have religious views because we believe that as a human rights movement we should not have a religion. Our religion is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Period. International law, that’s our religion. Everything else is personal opinion.

We are curious to hear when PACBI expanded from an academic and cultural boycott to an economic one and what the basics of the BDS programme actually are?

In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague passed its ruling against Israel’s wall, considering it illegal, because it closes off Palestinian territory. The ICJ calls on states not just to stop helping Israel building the wall, but to compel Israel to stop building the wall. A year later, nothing had happened. The world failed or refused to implement the ICJ ruling of 9th July 2004. So we launched BDS on 9th July 2005, on the exact anniversary of the ICJ ruling, to tell the world that where governments fail, we the people and civil society must act. This was the case in South Africa as well. When governments failed and continued to support apartheid, it was the people – the trade unions, the artists and academics, the churches, the students – that rose up to support the anti-apartheid struggle. And eventually that did change the policy.

BDS calls for three basic rights without which Palestinians cannot exercise self-determination. One: end the occupation of 1967, which means Gaza, the West-Bank including Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, all Arab territories occupied since 1967. Two: end the system of racial discrimination, not just racism, but legalised, institutionalised ongoing racism that meets the UN definition of apartheid. Three: the right of return for Palestinian refugees, as stipulated in international law. All refugees have the right to return, to repatriation and reparation, just as was the case with the refugee communities of Kosovo, Bosnia, South-Sudan, and the Jewish refugees of WWII.

In that light, BDS does not adopt a political programme. One state, two states: we don’t take a position as a movement. Each one of us has his or her opinion. But as a movement we don’t. We say: whatever the solution is, it has to respect human rights for all and it has to respect international law.

How are we to understand the BDS movement and its workings?

BDS today is a global movement that is decentralised. What do we mean by movement? We mean many unions and associations and individuals who endorse BDS and assist its programme to achieve Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. This movement, although loose, although decentralised, is led by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC).  The BNC is absolutely the broadest civil society coalition in Palestinian society, including all trade unions, women’s unions, teachers, academics, farmers, charitable organizations, grassroots activist groups, artists’ unions and political parties. The coalition has offices in various parts of Palestine, a small staff spread across five countries and a network of international partners. As we want to be completely free and autonomous and not dependent on big fat funding, we promote volunteerism. This way we will never become an NGO that can be controlled.

The BNC does not function like a political party. We set the rules and the overall strategy, but we respect each international partner’s context and sensitivity. Take Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in the US for example, one of our most important and most strategic partners in the US and the fastest growing Jewish activist organisation in the world. Their BDS work is varied. They run numerous campaigns in arts, academia, including targeting the Jewish establishment in the US, which is very much Zionist, pro-Israel and right wing. Only JVP knows how to do this. They run their own campaigns locally in coordination with BNC, as all of our partners do. As long as there is no disagreement with the red lines and principles, especially ethical principles, we respect and support their space.

Sometimes we intervene. Suppose a group in Belgium is launching a campaign against a shop that is owned by a Jewish Belgian citizen, who happens to support Israel, we would immediately oppose that. That is not context sensitivity. This is crossing our red lines. A person’s opinions are not enough to hold them accountable. We do not judge people on their opinion. Even if we hate their opinions. And certainly, we do not target people based on their ethnic, religious, sexual or gender identity. We target complicity, not identity.

Since BDS has operated for almost 15 years now; we can imagine it has changed during that time and has surely become more visible.

BDS is a grassroots movement, very sensitive for political and economic change. It is a very flexible movement with very flexible rules on how to campaign. We also take into consideration how the other side is fighting us. Since 2013-14, Israel has officially started to deal with BDS as a strategic threat. Since 2015, with the rise of the most far-right government in Israeli history, they started considering BDS as a strategic threat of the first order. For years now, Israel has adopted a strategy that includes intensive and really expensive propaganda, legal warfare, anti-BDS laws and intelligence gathering or spying on BDS. The national intelligence agency of Israel (Mossad) and the Israel security agency (Shabak) cooperate with the Ministry of Strategic Affairs to fight BDS. So we have to take those threats into consideration as we evolve. For example: with Israel pushing an anti-BDS law in the US, we push the free speech counterargument. In the US the act of supporting the boycott is considered an act of freedom of speech, protected by the US constitution. This line of reasoning against the Israeli argument brings us a lot of approval within the US liberal mainstream.

No wonder BDS has become much more mainstream in the last two or three years. Especially in cultural spheres in the US or in the UK. BDS appears as part of the global anti-racist, anti-fascist resistance. BDS is visible in The Guardian, in The New York Times, in The Washington Post. All the top music media – Hollywood Reporter, NME, Pitchfork – cover PACBI especially and it becomes a more acceptable controversy in the music debates.

The importance of gaining momentum and being carried along by it has of course been demonstrated historically by the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM), the British organisation that was at the centre of the international movement opposing the South-African apartheid system and, as you well know, was originally known as the Boycott Movement. Would you say that BDS is on its way to reaching the tipping point?

Well, people have a very rosy, selective amnesia about South Africa. They think everybody supported the anti-apartheid movement. But they didn’t. In the late eighties they did. But in the fifties, the sixties, the seventies? Hardly anyone supported the anti-apartheid struggle. Only the most progressive social organisations supported the ANC. The mainstream did not. It took about thirty years to get there.

We are going much faster. It’s just that our enemy is much more central in world politics. South African politics was not at the centre of world politics. Israel is. If Netanyahu sneezes, it’s on CNN and in The Guardian. Everything goes so quickly with Twitter and Facebook. The impact of the Israel lobby in the mainstream media can now be overcome, because we have social media. We have a lot more power. Our tweets are very popular.

How successful is BDS in terms of concrete results?

Define results. In terms of milestones, of successes achieved? That would take me all day. Our website at lists the most important. Let me mention just the most recent. In the last couple of months, we had Lana Del Rey, Lorde and Shakira cancelling performances in Israel. Natalie Portman: even more important. She is an Israeli American, a superstar in Hollywood and a Zionist. She cancelled a visit to Israel to receive a two-million-dollar honour prize, because of what Israel was doing in Gaza. Those are benchmarks. This tells you how things are moving forward. Of course, they still get Justin Bieber and so on, but that’s only about money. Israel entices some artists by paying more than anyone else. These concerts are all subsidized by the government – but they’re still not succeeding.

Next to the cultural sphere, there have been major pension funds that are starting to withdraw from Israeli and international companies that are involved in violations of international law. For example, the Norwegian pension fund, the largest in the world, divested from some companies involved in settlements, and the same goes for the United Methodist Church, the richest protestant church in the US. Orange telecommunications pulled out after losing contracts and the threat of losing a large contract in Egypt.

It would be interesting to hear how BDS takes these strategies to the level of a consumer boycott, which was also a crucial and symbolic part of the international anti-apartheid struggle that most people remember.

Being under occupation for five decades has made the Palestinian economy totally dependent on Israel. It is still occupying, still colonizing. This dependency means that you can never succeed in a full boycott of Israeli goods in the occupied territories. That is impossible. So, we never put it as a goal. When you have no choice, there is no moral obligation. But that is very different in Belgium or in India or Venezuela. In most countries you have the choice. You don’t have to buy Israeli goods and products such as Carmel avocados, Jaffa oranges, Ahava skincare products or Sodastream home soda-makers. You can decide to boycott. You don’t have to buy Hewlett-Packard computers and printers or Caterpillar backpacks.

We don’t believe in long lists. We don’t believe in lists of all the companies involved in the Israeli violation of human rights because those lists are endless. They are not strategic. BDS is not just a matter of principle, but also of smartness. It is not just a question of being right. It is about achieving the goal. That’s where the context sensitivity principle comes in. Partners in Belgium – so far, we have some, they’re smaller, they are not as mainstream as in the UK or in the US – decide for themselves what is best to boycott and what is not.

Let us take an example. Israel is sending a group of physically-challenged dancers for a performance in Belgium. The event is supported by the government. Pure promotion, pure propaganda. Clearly it violates BDS guidelines. Do we target this performance or not? There is no black and white answer. Our partners in Belgium will have to tell us. Probably, it won’t make sense to target it. We would lose much more if we do. Although, it is perfectly legitimate to boycott the event, strategically it doesn’t make sense. So, wait for a better objective. We make this kind of decision all the time, in direct communication with our partners.

When it comes to the arts, to the academic and cultural domains, does the decision-making become even more complicated?

Not really. PACBI and BDS target institutions, not individuals. The first rule is: we call for a boycott of all Israeli institutions, cultural and academic, because they’re involved. That makes them complicit. Not because they are Israeli. No Israeli dance company, music company, orchestra is not complicit. All of them are complicit. To different degrees. Universities are much more complicit than some dance company. But the dance company is also part of Israeli propaganda. We do not hold Israelis accountable just for receiving government money. Again, an example. An Israeli filmmaker wants to create a film. He or she, as a tax payer, is entitled to government funding. So, he or she applies and gets money to produce a film on any topic. As long as there are no political strings, no conditions attached to this funding and artistic freedom is guaranteed, there is no problem. So, mere funding is not a sufficient condition for a boycott.

We never target an individual, unless he or she no longer acts as an individual but becomes a cultural ambassador of Israel. What do we mean by that? That this person is recruited, mobilized and funded to tour and show his or her work, with the support of the government. We differentiate between money for production and money for promotion. Promotion can be boycotted because by definition it has propaganda value for Israel. When you have an art exhibition that is very critical of the Israeli government, shown at a top Brussels venue by an Israeli artist, it is no problem. But if it is sponsored by the Israeli embassy in Brussels, then it is propaganda, even if it is critical of Israeli policies. We do not care about the content of the art. The work could be very radical, feminist, LBGTQ, even pro-Palestinian. We target the work because of the propaganda value that Israel gains from it. So, these are very clear rules, right?

There is another exception, what we call a common sense boycott, beyond PACBI and BDS guidelines. An Israeli artist, a singer, goes to sing in Brussels, while she supports Israel’s war in Gaza and the killing of Palestinian children in Gaza. And she is open about it. But she has a chance to perform in Brussels. Do we call for a boycott or not? According to BDS guidelines we cannot. She is an individual. She is not sponsored or supported by Israel. But activists can boycott her as they would boycott an American singer or an African singer as racist. If you have an American singer performing in Brussels who states that “blacks have half the minds of whites”, you don’t need BDS to boycott that performance. It is common sense. Israelis should be treated like everyone else. Not more harshly, or less. They should not be considered exceptional in any way. If they are racist, you can boycott them, because they are racist and you are anti-racist. Not because of BDS guidelines.

The counter-argument to implementing the cultural boycott is that there are no opportunities left for exchange between Israeli and Palestinian artists or academics, even if they are overtly critical of the occupation and willing to share their stance in public through collaborative efforts in dialogue and creation. 

There is no cultural exchange between Israel and Palestine because there is no Palestine. You mean between Israel and its subjects? Under occupation? Under its apartheid regime? Why should there be exchange? Israel is oppressing and colonizing us. We say: get rid of the occupation. And then we’ll get exchange. BDS has a rule on normalization. Here, under occupation, normalization is not understood as in any Western language. There, it is a nice word. When countries end war, they normalize relations. There, it is a positive term. In Arab culture though, normalization is a very negative term. Normalizing means making something that is inherently abnormal, look superficially or artificially normal. A master-slave relationship is inherently abnormal. If you see a master and a slave kissing, that is not normal. That’s coercive. That is not love. There can be no love between a master and a slave, ever. After the slave regains freedom, maybe she will fall in love with the master. Or maybe not. But then it’s co-existence. But before ending oppression, there can be no co-existence except an unethical one. We make a distinction between unethical coexistence and what we call co-resistance. What we mean by co-resistance is that the only normal relationship between the master community and the slave community is when those in the master community are ready to work with the slave community to end the slavery. So, Israelis who work with Palestinians to end apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing are our partners. We work with them on co-resistance. We coexist in a dynamic of co-resistance. 

BDS sets two conditions that apply to making any relationship between Israelis and Palestinians normal, which is different from normalizing it. The first condition is for the Israeli side to respect Palestinian rights under international law, which is not much to ask. The second condition is that the relationship itself must be one of co-resistance. An example: if Ilan Pappé, the famous Israeli historian, fully anti-Zionist, fully supportive of BDS, proposed to a Palestinian historian that they write a joint book on the history of women in Somalia, not related to the topic of Palestine at all, we would oppose the project. Maybe we wouldn’t campaign against it. As a strategic action, we would look the other way. But it would violate our guidelines. Because it is not co-resistance. Because when those two academics talk about women in Somalia, it is as if Israelis and Palestinians were equal. But they are not. The Israeli community is part of those who are colonising and the Palestinian community is part of those who are colonised, oppressed. What’s wrong with this picture of dialogue and collaboration is that it maintains a very false image, an unethical image, as if we coexist and can coexist despite oppression. We cannot. We first need to end the oppression in order to be able to coexist. But if Ilan Pappé and that same historian did a book on the history of the wall, on how to fight it fundamentally, then it is perfectly fine.

Some sceptics and opponents of BDS equate the movement with a plea for the one-state solution as a political answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The final objective is the end of occupation, the end of Apartheid and the right of refugees to return. Period. We do not take any position beyond that. For many different reasons. Firstly, for a pragmatic reason: as a huge coalition, the biggest coalition in Palestinian society, we don’t agree on anything beyond the three basic rights. That’s it. Every other issue is very contentious, very debatable. We understand that to maintain a huge coalition you have to stick to the lowest common denominator.

As a human rights movement, it is not up to us to decide the future of the Palestinian people. It is up to a democratically elected leadership, which we don’t have. The Palestinian people should be entitled to decide for the Palestinian people. BDS focuses on BDS. Effective strategic campaigning to contribute to the three basic Palestinian rights. That’s it. It corrects the imbalance of power, if you wish, the dissymmetry of power between a nuclear-armed state supported by the EU and the US, and an oppressed colonized people that is not very powerful at all – on the contrary, it is extremely weak.

Because BDS is more and more successful, a lot of Palestinians are ready to accept that this is a non-violent, secular, inclusive and democratic human rights movement. They see how Israel is freaking out and how a complete ministry is going absolutely crazy, spending tens of millions of dollars every year to fight this little human rights movement. BDS gives the Palestinians pride that something is finally working, as nothing ever has in the past.

To conclude, we cannot but address the harshest accusation of all towards BDS: the allegation…

… of anti-Semitism? Of course. No interview would be complete without that. So where do we start? Since BDS is anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as a matter of principle we take as our main reference a document on antiracism that explicitly states that we oppose all forms of racial discrimination, but also the discrimination against women, the LGBT community, blacks, Muslims, Jews, you name it. Because of that, and also due to the Jewish presence in the BDS movement, Israel has a lot of trouble sticking the label of anti-Semitism on the BDS movement. In the US, Jewish support for the movement is rising very fast. Especially amongst Jewish millennials. This is terrifying Israeli. And rightly so: they are the next generation of Jews in the US, the most important country on earth as far as this struggle is concerned.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) redefines anti-Semitism to include the denomination of Israel an apartheid state, calling for a boycott of Israel, saying that the creation of Israel was a racist endeavour. How is that anti-Semitic? Opposition to a state: how is that anti-Semitic? More than forty Jewish groups across the world issued a statement saying they oppose this redefinition completely. First, because it demonizes the Palestinian struggle for rights. Struggling against Israel’s oppression is not anti-Semitic. Second, it undermines the real struggle against the real anti-Semitism. According to the IHRA definition, you could be fighting anti-Semitism and still be called an anti-Semite. Because you are insulting Israel. And on the other hand, you could be in bed with the anti-Semites and not be called anti-Semitic. For instance, Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, a very clear-cut case of an anti-Semite, is Israel’s best friend in Europe. Trump, Israel’s best friend in the world, is a complete anti-Semite, surrounded by far-right anti-Semites, yet it’s perfectly fine. For the first time in history, you can be pro-Israel and anti-Semitic and not see any contradiction in it. In fact, most right-wing parties in Europe – in Belgium, in Holland, in Austria, AfD in Germany, FN in France – are united in their support for Israel and Israel loves them. They come on pilgrimages to Tel Aviv every year. Who, exactly, are anti-Semitic here? The ones supporting anti-Semitic groups in Europe? Or the human rights group fighting all forms of racism?

This anti-Semitism charge really makes no sense, but it still intimidates a lot of people across Europe because of the Holocaust, because of guilt about it and about what every single European country did to its Jewish communities. Why should one then support Israel in its extremely racist, sometimes fascist policies against Palestinians, just to alleviate guilt about the Holocaust? On that account one should fight racism, one should fight all forms of genocide: that’s how one repents for the Holocaust.