Guardian’s BDS promotion fails to tell readers what it really is

The Guardian’s coverage of Stephen Hawking’s decision to withdraw from a conference in Israel has so far included no fewer than eight items in three days.

The initial report by Harriet Sherwood and Matthew Kalman – published on May 8th – was followed by a sensationalist Guardian poll on the subject and another article by Sherwood on the same day. The next day – May 9th – Sherwood and Kalman were joined by Sam Jones to produce an additional report which includes quotes from Omar Barghouti and Samia al Botmeh, without making it clear that the latter is a member of PACBI – the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – and a policy advisor for Al Shabaka

Also on May 9th, the Guardian published an article by Jennifer Lipman criticising Hawking’s decision and a piece by Ali Abunimah – also of Al Shabaka – in its support. On May 10th yet another article by Harriet Sherwood, together with Robert Booth, appeared on the Guardian’s pages and that was accompanied by the publication of four letters on the subject – three of which supported Hawking’s decision. 

Throughout all that plethora of coverage, the Guardian has made no effort whatsoever to explain to its readers the aims of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and the ideology which steers quotees such as Barghouti and al Botmeh or contributor Abunimah.

Ironically, the nearest thing to such an explanation comes in Abunimah’s article where he states: 

“The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) aims to change this dynamic. It puts the initiative back in the hands of Palestinians. The goal is to build pressure on Israel to respect the rights of all Palestinians by ending its occupation and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees who are currently excluded from returning to their homes just because they are not Jews; and abolishing all forms of discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

Couched in the fashionable, yet much abused, language of “universal human rights”, Abunimah’s flowery yet anodyne description will do little to help readers understand that the ultimate product of the BDS delegitimisation campaign – if allowed to succeed – will be the denial of the basic human right of self-determination to Jews.

“PACBI leads the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, but of course its real aim is not merely to persuade musicians to refuse to appear in Tel Aviv or to encourage people not to buy Israeli goods.  The bottom line of all the PACBI rhetoric is that with its uncompromising demand for the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees to places west of the ‘green line’, it aspires to eliminate Israel as the Jewish state in precisely the same manner as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad do.  Members of PACBI, including the suited academics at Birzeit, may not be building bombs, firing rockets or strapping on suicide belts, but their ultimate aims are identical to those who do.”

The leaders of the BDS movement are ‘one-staters’: their ultimate hope is not to see the Israeli state and a Palestinian state existing peacefully side by side. Their aim – which is entirely transparent to those not dazzled by the faux human rights rhetoric – is one Palestinian state ‘from the river to the sea’, with – at best – a minority Jewish group making up part of its population. It is therefore not surprising that in 2010 an Al Shabaka policy brief opened with the following question:

“Many commentators expect the direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians to fail. But there is a much worse scenario: What if they “succeed?” “

It is, of course, the Guardian’s prerogative to promote the BDS campaign’s latest high-profile ‘poster boy’ as much as it likes, but in the name of common or garden honesty it should at least have the courage of its ‘feel good’ convictions to explain to its readers the precise nature of the discriminatory, antisemitic, anti-peace ideology (which stands in direct opposition to international efforts to bring the Arab-Israeli conflict to a peaceful conclusion) which the Guardian appears to have etched upon its banner. 

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