In Sussex Friends of Israel’s (SFI’s) case, and especially any pro-Israel cause, it is evident that the public are sometimes hostile to our message.
Brighton UK has had approximately 10 years of the BDS influence from boycotters on the street. One of Brighton’s national bookstore retailers has a BDS “handbook” written by Brighton’s own BDS members, displayed with many, many other anti-Israel books. Despite searching the shelves, I couldn’t find a single pro-Israel publication. If there was one, it was certainly well-hidden!
BDS logos/images can be found painted around the town (along with many other Left-wing logos.)
Perhaps it is not so surprising that some members of the public repeat (or shout back) what they have been drip-fed by the BDS, uncannily as if all have learned from the same song sheet.
I remember one Saturday outside Ecostream, at a demonstration, an Iranian man approached me. He thanked me for “sticking up for Israel.” An hour later, 2 more Iranian men approached me, one of whom did not immediately wish to be identified as “Iranian” but, “A Persian who supports Israel.” He, with his friend beside him, began to engage in conversation with me, as well as a BDS member also approached us.
The Persian Who Supported Israel proceeded to say to me: “The Palestinian poverty is very sad. But that land was promised to the Jews, and the Jews are the best people to look after it, because they make the land good, and they give jobs to Palestinians who are there.” At this point, the BDS member was so angry, they stormed at him: “I’m not talking to you anymore!!” and angrily stamped off, leaving us together, respectively bemused and amused. He and I parted on amiable terms and he went on his way.
I also remember an elderly man who approached me to ask if I was supporting Israel. When I said Yes, he burst out, “Thank you so much!” and then at once told me he was Jewish. He then blessed me and my offspring, gave me a hug, and went on his way.
Sometimes the bus drivers/car drivers give SFI a thumbs-up, and let’s not forget the members of the public who also whisper their thanks and encouragement to us as they go through the BDS crowd’s gamut. Last of all, there are the members of the public who get annoyed with the BDS and tell them to stop their harassment. They are usually met with BDS sneers and supercilious looks – if they are even acknowledged at all- and some of the public deliberately go into Ecostream simply because the BDS are there demonstrating!
I have seen devoutly and traditionally dressed Moslem couples go straight past the shrieking BDS demo, into Ecostream, as if they don’t even see them. They have a look around, with their children excitedly spotting things they want. The couples often buy goods, and contentedly leave the shop as if it was any other store, often with the BDS still demonstrating outside!
Yes, SFI, and the wider pro-Israel community, do have it a lot harder.
But we remember: the truth will always out.