Some responses to the NUI Galway BDS controversy

In case you missed it on Left Foot Forward, here’s a response to the appalling BDS-related excesses from Joseph Loughnane at NUI Galway.

Gary Spedding is himself a pro-Palestinian activist but has no truck with Loughnane and recognizes that the BDS movement has a problem with antisemitism more generally:

I believe that some who claim to represent the BDS movement have fallen foul of conspiracy theories and anti-semitism, yes. For example there is a far-left group in Newcastle which targets Marks and Spencers because they say it’s run or owned by Jews and thus supports the occupation of Palestine – this is obviously anti-Semitic. If someone is joining BDS because they are obsessive about Jews, demonise all Zionists, and generally believe in strange conspiracy theories then I reject them and say that they are motivated by hatred and are grossly misinformed about the complex reality of Israel-Palestine situation as it exists on the ground.

He advises:

Also, read about Zionism from scholars such as Arthur Hertzberg – know what it is you are and are not opposing in Zionism so as to become a better critic of more extreme right-wing and racist manifestations.

There are things to take issue with in Spedding’s interview – including the point made by Jacobin below the line. Another commenter – one more sympathetic to Spedding’s views on I/P than most Harry’s Place readers I expect – adds an eloquent personal note:

I was called [a dirty Jew] myself, often, back in the mid-late 4os/early 50s just for walking in the street in Dublin, and I have a vivid memory of being spat at in the face for being a “dirty Jew who nailed up Christ” (I could see the bastard  collecting the spittle, a very copious amount, in his mouth for several seconds but was too paralysed with fear before him and his three thuggish mates to duck – I think I was somewhere between 8 and 10 at the time). At secondary school a bully twice my size regularly taunted me, “The grease is dripping off you, Jewboy”, as he would jeer at me calling me by a name that wasn’t actually ever mine (Rubenstein) and once pushed my textbooks out of my arms and down a flight of stairs; another delightful fellow once bashed me across the ear (for which he was himself roundly beaten up later by a black boy, senior to me, a pupil who couldn’t let the racism pass and did what we Jewish boys had not to that point learned to do for ourselves. I found out later that some friends of my parents rewarded him for his action).

And this kind of thing was done with implicit, and sometimes explicit, encouragement from the highest levels of Irish society. So I’m simply unable to view all this Irish BDS activity in quite the same way that a lot of people not brought up as Jews in Ireland may see it.

It’s worth reading both this comment and the interview with Spedding in full.