Why would anyone pretend to oppose BDS?

I fairly frequently get accused of supporting (even ‘loving’) BDS. I am, apparently, an ardent devotee of the boycott, divestment and sanction movement which is so severely detrimental to the peace process.

When these accusations arise, I typically point to the number of explicitly anti-BDS articles I’ve published under my own name. I point out how I was active in defeating BDS on a notorious anti-Israel university campus. I recall how I spent a year as director of a Jewish youth movement, organising an Israel Tour to support young diasporans in furthering their Zionist journeys. I mention that I’m an elected member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and sit on its Executive Committee. I once even posed for a photo with some Bisli, which would be highly eccentric behaviour from someone who boycotted Israeli produce.

But: ‘Ahhh,’ my accusers say, ‘that’s just bluff. You’re clearly trying to worm your way in and build up trust. You’re a closet BDS supporter.’

Mmm. Yes. That’s a possibility. But if I’m a closet BDS supporter I must be very closet indeed. Practically Portaloo. Because honestly: why on earth would anyone pretend to oppose BDS? The entirety of its facile existence is completely dependent on promotion and wide support. The whole thing is literally a publicity campaign. What conceivable object, then, could a BDS supporter aim to achieve by keeping their support a secret?

My accusers – who, on the extreme right of the Zionist spectrum, seem unable to distinguish between (a) the promotion of free speech, (b) criticism of the incumbent Israel government and (c) support for BDS – labour under the delusion that I am working slowly to establish credibility as part of a long game. Their theory is, apparently, that I was born onto this planet, decided to pose as a pro-Israel advocate and build up trust for 24 years, only to turn round at the moment that Mossad least expects it, dramatically reveal myself as a fervent champion of BDS and slink off ‘back’ to Gaza to await the – to me – obscure, but – to them – presumably inevitable and deadly consequences. It’s only thanks to their cunning detective work that my ruse was found out in time to prevent a repetition of the 1930s and 40s.

That is, seemingly, the theory. It’s quite silly, isn’t it.

I don’t claim that my opposition to BDS has dealt the movement a death blow, or even done it significant harm in the grand scheme of things. But equally I find it impossible to believe that it’s done them any good.

Sure, there are occasional instances of what my colleagues and I call ‘AZAp’: anti-Zionist appropriation, when unsavoury characters such as Ben White seize on criticisms of Israel made with love by her supporters, and use them as a weapon of delegitimisation. That’s unfortunate, but it’s inevitable in a democracy that people’s words sometimes get misused.

We don’t have control over how other people twist our published sentiments, any more than the far right is able to prevent racist groups such as the English Defence League piggybacking hate propaganda on their campaigns.

I don’t suggest that they secretly support the EDL’s unique brand of fascism. It is equally stupid for them to suggest that I’m a secret boycotter. Maybe it would be easier if we stopped tossing playground insults at each other and just got on with tackling BDS, each in our own way. These and these are the words of the living God.

(PS: to the person who accused me of “posing as a Jew” – the same point arises. Nobody has anything to gain by posing as a Jew. Believe me, if I wasn’t Jewish I would have better things to do with my time than hanging around the Board of Deputies!)

This article is written in a personal capacity.

About the Author
Gabriel Webber is a rabbinic student at Leo Baeck College, London
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