Where next for BDS?

This is a guest post by Ari.

Today’s Jewish Chronicle reports that books by Israeli authors may be removed from libraries run by West Dunbartonshire Council. If you live in that area, you may in due course be unable to access books written by the likes of Amos Oz, David Grossman or Benny Morris; presumably, you might also find yourself unable to access such excellent Israeli films as Ushpizin, Walk on Water or Broken Wings. According to the JC report, this all stems from a motion to boycott Israeli goods passed by the council in 2009 following the Gaza flotilla incident.

Although I am opposed to boycotts of Israeli goods, I can at least understand the reasoning behind some economic boycotts. If particular goods manufactured by a particular company were being used by the Israeli government to perpetrate a genuninely unjust action, I would understand why some people might choose to boycott that particular company (particularly if they also boycotted goods made by other companies complicit in abuses perpetrated by the governments of other states, though I suspect that those who boycott Israel are rarely that consistent).

However, a ban on Israeli books makes no sense at all. It is not as if the Israeli government is penalised; it is not as if the absence of a few books from a few libraries in Western Scotland will do anything to bolster the peace process; it is not as if the lives of Palestinians are improved. Apart from the authors and filmmakers themselves, who might lose a very small amount of royalties, the only people who are really penalised are the people of West Dunbartonshire. They lose access to some really great books and films, simply because they are produced by Israelis.

And of course, if books and films produced by Israelis can be banned, then presumably books and films which portray Israelis sympathetically can be banned. And presumably books and films produced by anyone with links to Israel can be banned. And so a policy emerges which will penalise Jews in particular: not all Jews, to be sure, since Diaspora Jews who don’t write about Israel, or who don’t write about Israel sympathetically, will be ok; but predominantly Jews, in particular Israeli Jews and Jews sympathetic to Israel – many, perhaps most Jews, in other words.

However bad antisemitism in the UK may presently be, it is clear that we are not living in anything remotely like Germany in the 1930s. Nevertheless, my first reaction when I read this was to think “Good grief that’s what the Nazis did” because, well, that is what the Nazis did – they first banned Jewish books and then burnt them. (Thankfully West Dunbartonshire Council are not yet advocating burning books.)

Hysteria on my part? Or a justified shudder at the way things seem to be developing?

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