Photo: Glyn Baker/Wikimedia Commons

2019-2020 University College London CAMERA Fellow Aaron Seitler

Considering our campus sits less than 10 miles from Wimbledon, it is perhaps unsurprising that the summer tennis season has traditionally been popular with UCL students. Media coverage could at times be controversial. Perception of historic front-runner Andy Murray in the press often amounted to “When Andy wins he’s British, when he loses he’s Scottish”. However, hindsight, of course, is a great thing. This year, there will be no Wimbledon whatsoever, let alone a British champ.

Campus politics here in London have also sadly stooped to the same double standards over the past year. Not about Andy obviously – he’s old news – but in the context of the Middle East. I usually enjoy fleshing out views and opinions towards Israel with fellow students. Some are positive, others less so. Either way, it’s a fulfilling experience. Usually. It becomes frustrating, however, when those pursuing pariahdom for the Jewish state also discreetly enjoy Israeli goods and software. When it’s convenient to benefit from the Intel technology running a smartphone, laptop or tablet; there are no ‘ethical qualms’ with Israeli research and innovation.

Naturally, Israel Apartheid Week sees these same consumers marshal across London campuses to jump on a fashionable anti-Israel bandwagon. At a previous event, after raising the issue of selective moral indignation levelled at Israel with a participant, I was labelled a “white supremacist” out of hand. It increasingly made me wonder about the sincerity of these “activists”.

Unfortunately for the boycotters, the coronavirus sunk their planned events, rallies and demonstrations for this year’s Apartheid Week. Omar Barghouti, founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement (Israel is its sole target) has assured supporters nonetheless, that if Israel were to develop the longed-for vaccine to tackle the health crisis, it would similarly not “be a problem” to make use of it. When circumstances are expedient, it’s well to delegitimise Israel. When they’re not, folks should feel welcome to make use of whatever the Israelis have to offer.

Inconsistencies line up with inaccuracies in the BDS movement. At a King’s College London event earlier this year, Barghouti made a spree of allegations against Israel. He accused Israeli politician Anat Berco of slurring an entire country and insulting Holocaust history. He quoted her as outrageously remarking “They [the Poles] may be antisemitic but they are on our side now”. Whether accidentally or deliberately, the quote had been falsified. In fact, Berco had pointed out that despite lingering antisemitic sentiment in Poland, the government had nominally made steps to increase diplomatic ties with ‘Israel’s side’, an altogether different point.

In the same vein, it suited Barghouti’s ends to claim that his BDS had become “the most effective form of international solidarity with the struggle of the indigenous people of Palestine”.  This is perhaps to overlook the misfortune his efforts have caused Palestinians in the past. After one high-profile campaign in 2015, BDS succeeded in outing the manufacturing brand SodaStream from the West Bank – only for hundreds of Palestinian workers to lose their jobs.

“Inconsistencies line up with inaccuracies in the BDS movement.”

Since Israel’s establishment, much of the Arab world has sought – at great cost and little gain –  to isolate Israel uncompromisingly, stubbornly upholding the belligerent ‘three Nos’ of Khartoum. Barghouti has attempted to project intolerance to our campuses as well. Unfortunately, his lopsided approach damages Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Will the coronavirus mark a realisation for Barghouti and BDS followers that peace will not come through flailing boycotts and narrow half-truths? Or will they continue in attempts to isolate Israel, whilst surreptitiously enjoying its products? It is almost comical that whilst Arab media outlets blatantly demonize Israel by blaming it – and Jews – for coronavirus, the Israeli show Fauda is making waves on Arabic television.

It is time to end the double standards. To ignore the “unprecedented” cooperation engendered by COVID-19 between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, whilst parroting the same isolationist line until needs must, is not just hypocrisy of the first order, it’s shamefully pig-headed.

Originally published in Pi Media.

Contributed by 2019-2020 University College London CAMERA Fellow Aaron Seitler.

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