Tag Archives: Boycott



Israel’s pretence of keeping culture separate from politics has disintegrated in the days leading up the appearance of the flagship theatre company Habima at Shakespeare’s Globe in London on May

No doubt under extreme pressure from the Zionist lobby, the Globe  is imposing unprecedented security measures on audiences on Monday and Tuesday, in a misguided attempt to prevent protesters expressing their outrage at the presence of Habima, which entertains colonists illegally settled on Palestinian land.

Link to video here.

In moves that will make the theatre resemble an Israeli checkpoint, bags “and audience members” will be subjected to “extensive searches”; the audience will be required to check in an hour and a half before the start of the performance and no bags larger than a medium-sized purse will be allowed into the auditorium.

Now evidence has emerged that the Israeli Embassy is instructing Israel’s supporters in the UK on how to use Twitter in Habima’s defence.

In emails circulated to some sections of the Jewish community, the embassy is launching a Twitter campaign using “the hashtag #LoveCulture as it is short enough to fit on a substantial tweet and won’t be taken at first glance as a political statement” (our emphasis).

Suggested hasbara tweets from Tuesday morning onwards include:

Great to see @HabimaTheatre celebrating the Cultural Olympiad @the_globe…all the world’s a stage #LoveCulture

 Fantastic seeing the foremost Hebrew speaking theatre company perform the Merchant of Venice @the_globe #LoveCulture

and, with an ungrateful dig at Conservative MP Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, who has made a point of promising to attend the Israeli cultural ambassadors’ performance on Monday:

 Was great to hear @edvaizey enjoyed watching @HabimaTheatre…did he understand any of it though? #LoveCulture

Those interested in helping the Brand Israel Hasbara effort are invited to email the embassy at this address: pr-asst3@london.mfa.gov.il

For those who, on the other hand, respect the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions and recognise cultural boycott as a legitimate weapon in the non-violent struggle for freedom, justice and equality, we recommend joining a mass protest outside the Globe at 6pm on Monday May 28 and again on Tuesday 29th.

The protest is a joint effort by the full range of Palestinian solidarity organisations including Jews for Justice for Palestinians, J-BIG, the Boycott Israel Network, PSC and many more.

Film maker Ken Loach said in statement before the protests that Habima, in common with other Israeli cultural institutions travelling abroad, was part of Israel’s propaganda campaign.

“These performances attempt to normalize the unacceptable, the occupation of land that belongs to the Palestinians,” said Loach. “This complicity makes a mockery of Habima’s claim to freedom in its work.”

Despite appeals over recent months from Israeli campaigners and many respected UK theatre actors, directors and playwrights, the Globe has declined to respect the Palestinian boycott call aimed at institutions, like Habima, that use culture to legitimise the Israeli state’s infringements of human rights and breaches of international law.

See actors David Calder, Miriam Margolyes and John Davies explaining their support for the  cultural boycott of Israeli National Theatre, Habima.

Join the campaign facebook page.



Israeli President Shimon Peres appeared in contemplative mood on Israel’s 64th Independence Day, April 25, bemoaning the power of the boycott movement in an interview in Maariv.

After listing Israel’s huge achievements, Peres mused on why such a successful nation should seek peace. Not, evidently, because peace is good for humanity, that would be just silly. No. Israel should seek peace:

“Because if Israel’s image gets worse, it will begin to suffer boycotts. There is already an artistic boycott against us — they won’t let Habimah Theatre enter London — and signs of an undeclared financial boycott are beginning to emerge.”

The good president actually slightly overestimates the success of the BDS campaign against the presence of the Israeli National Theatre at the Globe-to-Globe festival, though it has made great strides.

But within hours of publication of his Maariv interview, Peres’s words seemed quite prophetic.

That very day, delegates to the Annual Conference of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the umbrella group for every trade union in Scotland, voted unanimously for a range of resolutions condemning Israeli apartheid, including supporting the StoptheJNF campaign to expose the role of the racist JNF (Jewish National Fund).

Then on Friday April 27, tireless work from BDS activists paid off massively with the decision of the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, The Co-operative Group, to “no longer engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”.

The Co-op’s decision, notified to campaigners in a statement, will immediately impact four suppliers, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, Israel’s largest agricultural export company.

Coverage of this major development spread rapidly in the British and Israeli media. The Guardian’s coverage, which for a time was the second most viewed item on its website, relied heavily on the statement put out by the Boycott Israel Network.

The Jerusalem Post was among many Israeli outlets to take up the story, and pro-Israel bloggers quickly leapt into action to demand a boycott of the Co-op.


‘Nazi’ slurs published by the Jewish Chronicle are comprehensively rebutted in a letter from prominent theatrical figures.

A challenge to Shakespeare’s Globe for inviting Israel’s national theatre, Habima, to take part in London’s Cultural Olympiad in May has been met with a flurry of allegations of ‘Nazi era book-burning’ (Arnold Wesker in the Jewish Chronicle) and McCarthyism (Howard Jacobson in the Observer) .

This in turn prompted several  of the original 37 signatories to a letter in the Guardian to retaliate, refuting the allegations with a reply published in the Jewish Chronicle on April 12. It is not available on the JC’s website so we reproduce it here:

How sad that Arnold Wesker, Steven Berkoff and Maureen Lipman should suggest that challenging the Israeli national theatre’s fitness to take part in the Olympic Shakespeare Festival at the Globe next month is “tantamount to Nazi-era book-burning” (Theatre ban ‘like Nazi book burning’ sayWest Endstars, April 4).

Can they really have intended to cast this Nazi slur at Mark Rylance, Emma Thompson and the many other theatrical professionals like ourselves who believe that theatre should uphold resistance to injustice, rather than pretend opposition to Israel’s policies while continuing business as usual with an unjust state and its institutions? Doesn’t that cheap insult demean them rather than us?
Our call on colleagues at the Globe to withdraw their invitation to Habima, the Israeli National Theatre, explicitly targets an institution that does the state’s bidding by performing for Israelis illegally settled on occupied Palestinian territory. Habima is directly complicit in human rights abuses, and we think our profession has a responsibility, if not a duty, to speak up on the matter.

We are not targeting individual actors, directors or authors, nor the content of their work, and have no intention of doing so. We are not picking on Israel because it is Jewish, as Berkoff and Lipman allege.

 We are responding to a Palestinian call to insist that Israel lives up to the civilised standards it claims to uphold. In the process, we are celebrating and endorsing those brave Israelis, theatre people among them, who have refused to work in the illegal settlements.

Niall Buggy, actor
David Calder, actor
Caryl Churchill, playwright
Michael Darlow, writer, director
John Graham Davies, actor, writer
Trevor Griffiths, playwright
James Ivens, artistic director, Flood Theatre
Roger Lloyd Pack, actor
Miriam Margolyes OBE, actor
Alexei Sayle, comedian, writer
Hilary Westlake, director
Susan Wooldridge, actor, writer
Geoffrey Alderman argued that Israel has every right to settle Jews in the West Bank, so Habima was doing nothing wrong. He was quickly slapped down by Adam Keller, of Gush Shalom.
In Wednesday’s Guardian (April 11), Arnold Wesker and a few friends finally put to rest the habitual insistence of Israel’s apologists that “we must not mix culture and politics” by accusing those who queried the invitation to Habima of  “seeking to delegitimise the state of Israel and its success”.
Wesker’s involvement in this row, invoking the sanctity of art, is ironic given his past involvement in the campaign to ban Jim Allen’s play Perdition, which exposed the collaboration of some Zionist leaders with the  Nazis in Hungary. In 1987 the Royal Court Theatre was forced to pull a planned production of the play and it has never been staged in its entirety.
There have been countless items of media coverage since the original Guardian letter appeared on March 30. This commentary from Ben White puts the controversy in context.
Here is a short selection of other coverage, for, against and neutral.


Saturday January 21 marked a watershed moment for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the UK, with a standing ovation for Omar Barghouti, founder of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), at the Annual General Meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

(Photo: Tony Greenstein)

“Today, solidarity with Palestine cannot but include support for BDS as the most popular and one of the most effective forms of peaceful, civil struggle for Palestinian rights,” Barghouti told almost 300 campaigners from all over the UK,  meeting in the Conway Hall in London to mark the 30th year since PSC’s foundation.

“At its most basic level, BDS calls for ending partnership in crime, ending complicity in the perpetration, justification and whitewash of Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian rights.

“Withdrawing support for an evil policy or system, as Martin Luther King describes the boycott, is not heroic; it is a profound moral obligation,” Barghouti said.


With recent successes such as huge contract losses for French multinationals Alstom and Veolia, both complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation, the University of Johannesburg’s severance of ties with an Israeli university implicated in human rights violations and the spread of the cultural boycott to prominent musicians and other artists, “BDS is on the verge of its South Africa moment,” said Barghouti.

Building a mass boycott movement comparable to the South African anti-apartheid campaign was placed at the heart of PSC’s work for the coming year.

PSC members in the Conway Hall  

The AGM resolved to team up with trade unions, students, faith groups, human rights organisations and others working locally, nationally and internationally to end the siege of Gaza, to halt ethnic cleansing of Palestinians within Israel, in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;  to expose major companies complicit in colonial occupation and settlement, to bring to light the repressive apparatus of the Israeli state in its treatment of Palestinian prisoners and of children living under occupation and to challenge the media bias that marginalises the Palestinian narrative.

Barghouti clarified the origins of BDS as the specific name of the call issued by the great majority of Palestinian civil society on 9 July 2005, constituting “a qualitatively new phase in the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and in international solidarity with Palestinian rights.”

The call embodies the fundamental principles of Freedom, Justice and Equality in three basic demands which are the minimum required to achieve self-determination – right of return for refugees; end of 1967 occupation and colonisation; equality for the indigenous Palestinians inside Israel.

“No part of the Palestinian people can be ignored,” Barghouti said. “Anyone claiming to be in solidarity with the Palestinian people cannot be satisfied with ending the 1967 occupation alone while ignoring the basic rights of the rest of the Palestinian people.”

He said Palestinians’ basic rights under international law are “inalienable and non-negotiable”, but “the methods through which the movement of international solidarity supports our struggle to realise them are tactical and dependent on context, political alliances, awareness, among other variables.”

Israel’s regime of multi-tiered oppression had to be understood as settler-colonialism, occupation and apartheid, Barghouti said.


He stressed that BDS is a universalist movement categorically opposed to all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and antisemitism. “This is not negotiable,” he said.

Equating Israel with “the Jews” is unacceptable and antisemitic. “Only Zionists and Nazis do that,” said Barghouti .

“Nazis say Jews are sub-human, Zionists say they are superhuman; both agree that they are not a normal part of the human species, and that is clearly racist.”

Suggesting that “the Jews” and Israel are one and the same “implies that Jews are one monolithic sum who think alike and are all collectively equivalent to Israel and responsible for Israel. If this is not antisemitic, I am not sure what is!” Barghouti said.

“Jews, like any other human group, have diversity and differences. Many of the leaders of the BDS movement in the West are Jewish intellectuals, academics, feminists, students, activists. Many of them support the struggle for Palestinian rights through BDS not just out of a deep-rooted sense of international solidarity and moral obligation but also based on their insistence thatIsrael, a colonial apartheid state, does not and should not speak in their names.”


The AGM endorsed these sentiments wholeheartedly, welcoming a statement posted on line by the Executive Committee last year affirming that “any expression of racism or intolerance, or attempts to deny or minimise the Holocaust, have no place in our movement.”

A motion from Tony Greenstein and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG), calling on the EC to integrate these principles into the work of the movement, was also passed overwhelmingly. They argued that Zionists’ baseless allegations of antisemitism, and cynical abuse of the memory of the Holocaust, would harm the Palestine solidarity movement if used to justify ignoring genuine Jew-hatred when it arose.

PSC Executive Committee member Ben Jamal regretted that Zionists attacking the movement had been able to cite a few “indefensible statements” by some individuals. Trade Union Advisory Committee member Steve Bell called on the AGM to make it absolutely clear that membership was not open to people holding antisemitic views.

The AGM had earlier upheld the removal from PSC membership of  Francis Clark-Lowes, whose appeal statement stunned listeners with its unapologetic racism. “Dislike of groups”, he said, should not be regarded as “a cardinal sin”. A Jew challenging “Jewish ideology” did not cease to be a Jew, any more than a dog that had lost a leg ceased to be a quadruped.

An edited version of Clark-Lowes  speech swiftly found its natural home on websites peddling racist conspiracy theories where his words were described as “beautiful”.

Such attitudes, Tony Greenstein pointed out in debate later on, were not only morally repugnant but would make it impossible to promote Palestinian rights in the trade union movement or within churches.


Joining forced with such mainstream organisations was the task of BDS campaigners from now on, according to Barghouti – to think long term, to build broad alliances and to build awareness of the struggle for Palestinian rights as part of the global struggle of the 99 percent – “for social and economic justice, for freedoms, for equal rights, against racism, for immigrant rights, for the environment, for LGBT rights.”

Israel’s expansionist and belligerent agenda, by contrast, “fits right at the centre of the agenda of the 1%, the ‘Perpetual Wars Inc.’ . . . the military industries, the homeland security businesses, the oil companies, the banks and financiers.”

“The 1% of the world are already united,” Barghouti said. “It is high time for us, the 99%, to unite.”

Read a fuller version of Omar Barghouti’s speech

See also Tony Greenstein’ report of the PSC AGM and thorough pre-AGM review of the issues on the agenda.


Investigative journalist Asa Winstanley has discovered more evidence that the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli apartheid has Israel’s supporters  rattled.

Writing  in The Electronic Intifada, Winstanley said that, in its attempts to discredit Jews who backed Palestinian political activist Raed Salah’s fight against deportation from the UK,  the Community Security Trust (CST) denounced them to a government department as “extreme”.

Citing a report sent in August to the Home Office, Winstanley said the CST denounced several “anti-Zionist British Jewish individuals and groups” as “extreme groups,” claiming they were “unrepresentative of the vast majority of British Jews.

“The CST denounced as “extreme” well-known Palestine solidarity activist Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and the anti-Zionist Orthodox Jewish group Neturei Karta. The report highlights that Wimborne-Idrissi is secretary of Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods.”

Winstanley says that use of the term “extreme groups” is significant. “It’s a phrase the CST usually reserves for violent far-right groups such as the British National Party, the National Front and Combat 18; or for Islamic political groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir.”

He  said it appeared that  “the CST works behind the scenes with an assertively pro-Israel agenda not stated in its charitable remit. There are also serious questions over the CST’s links to the government of Israel and, allegedly, to its intelligence services.”

Read Winstanley’s report in full here, plus background on his sources.

Finkelstein says international law is powerful weapon for boycott

Professor Norman Finkelstein stormed UK campuses in the week to November 11, lecturing to packed auditoriums in London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham on How to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

His main message was that since Israeli settlement, occupation and denial of rights to Palestinian refugees are all acknowledged as illegal under international law,  the campaign on these points is as good as won.

Norman Finkelstein addresses boycott activists. Photo: Brian Robinson

He said that Tzipi Livni, when serving as Israel’s foreign minister,  had declared:

“I’m a lawyer – and I’m against the law, international law in particular.”

She had good reason for saying that because under international law “Israel loses, on Jerusalem, on the West Bank and Gaza, on settlements and right of return for refugees,” said Finkelstein.

The relevance of this to the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) was teased out in discussion between Finkelstein and Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) on Friday afternoon, Nov 11, at UCL.

BRICUP chair Jonathan Rosenhead at the BDS discussion. Photo: Brian Robinson

Rosenhead opened with a review of the history of boycott as a weapon available to the weak oppressed by the strong, as in Ireland in the 1880s and in South Africa in 1960s-90s.

He said boycotts targeting Israel, begun in  2004, combine “symbolic protest, material intervention and political action.”  The overall aim was ending the Israeli system of oppression,  as called for by Palestinian civil society.

Rosenhead said freedom of expression in academia was a vital principle, but it was not absolute and could conflict with a higher principle, such as freedom and self-determination for an oppressed people.

Finkelstein said he supported the BDS campaign as a legitimate and potentially effective tactic. But he locked horns with Rosenhead and many in the audience when he argued that to go beyond goals that were enshrined in international law was to lose the possibility of reaching a broad public.

If your target is all Israeli institutions and your goal is an amorphous “system of oppression”, he said, the campaign may be morally pure, but it will be politically useless – a sect.

“The public will want to know, you are asking us to boycott until when? Until the Occupation ends, as defined in international law, or until Israel ends?  If the latter, you will have no possibility of reaching beyond the people in this room,” Finkelstein said.

From the audience, Naomi Foyle of British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWISP)  referred to the principles laid down by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), setting out the aims of BDS based on international law and human rights and including “dismantling the Israeli system of apartheid”.

She argued that Israel fits the United Nations definition of apartheid and that far from this position distancing us from the public, explaining the many ways in which Israel behaves like an apartheid state resonates within huge numbers of people.

Frank Barat, coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, read out the findings of the Tribunal session held last week in Johannesburg. The judgement said that Israel’s “rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.”

Abe Hayeem, of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, said the boycott campaign laid considerable stress on the legal arguments when taking its message to the public.  “But governments don’t uphold the law, so civil society has to pressure Israel to come to its senses,” Hayeem said.

Tony Greenstein, anti-Zionist blogger and founding member of J-BIG, wrote later that Finkelstein’s focus on international law and institutions was misplaced.

Analysing Finkelstein’s evening lecture, Greenstein said: “Not once in his speech . . .  did Norman Finkelstein mention the word ‘Zionism’. It is as if Israel magically appeared. As if its behaviour towards Palestinians is some form of aberration. As if the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is out of character. And as if Israel, once it hands back all the 1967 territories, will become a normal state.”

“The real task ,” Greenstein wrote, “is to de-Zionist Israel and the creation of one unitary, secular and democratic Israel/Palestine.”

The full BDS discussion can be heard in an audio recording by Brian Robinson here and on video from InMinds here.

 The BDS discussion took place as part of Finkelstein’s lecture tour organised by students at University College London, supported by the Palestinian Return Centre and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.
The tour was targeted by Zionists attempting to prevent Finkelstein’s trenchant pro-Palestinian message from reaching a wide audience.
University authorities in Manchester threatened to cancel his lecture there unless non-students were denied access, forcing the Action Palestine organisers to find an off campus venue at short notice.
University head of governance Martin Conway, responding to a letter of complaint from J-BIG,  insisted that they were simply following protocols to safeguard “the safety and security of our students and visitors.”
He denied there had been any pressure on the administration, but Action Palestine said the Jewish Society had alleged that Jewish students could be in danger if an open meeting was held.
Finkelstein said such suggestions were absurd. ” I have spoken at Manchester on at least two previous occasions without any incident,” he said.
On the day the tour ended, the pro-Zionist weekly Jewish Chronicle filled its front page with a hysterical outburst alleging that Finkelstein was one of “a wave of hate speakers” on UK campuses.
But as anyone who attended any of his lectures or has read any of his works will know, his learned, critical and challenging analysis of Middle East history and politics illuminates an area be-fogged with pro-Israel bias.
Click here for Brian Robinson’s audio recording of Finkelstein’s lecture at the Logan Hall, Institute of Education, on Friday evening, November 11.
See also comment from Tony Greenstein and Naomi Foyle.

Video of Ahava Demo – 22 January 2011

Despite the Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM being held, as well as other events going on today, over thirty human-rights demonstrators (plus a few new faces), campaigned, chanted, leafleted and spoke to local residents, shoppers and visitors informing them regarding Ahava’s corporate complicity in violations of international law over the sale of natural resources that are pillaged from illegally occupied territory. More than a few customers decided to impose their own boycott of Ahava after hearing about the human rights abuses committed by the Israeli Government against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

An observation in a previous post entitled The Return of Roberta Moore – that the Zionist Federation-organised counter-demonstration is ‘melting away’ – seems to be coming true. During the first half of today’s picket, no Zionist turned up which demonstrators, the police and even the Israeli security guard employed by Ahava welcomed. Protestors spread out unchallenged in front of the shop and started to leaflet from outside both pens.

Last month, Ahava shop manager Rita made it clear that she considered the Zionists’ presence unwelcome and their behaviour detrimental to Ahava’s trade.  So perhaps Zionist Federation Co Vice-Chair Jonathan Hoffman spent his Saturday in the pub, called it quits and admitted that his Ahava cause is a lost one.

In a new low, only TWO embarrassed-looking Zionist Federation counter-demonstrators eventually turned up which made their cause look even worse (if that’s possible) when compared to the over thirty human-rights demonstrators present who were campaigning for altruism, equality, compassion and freedom, as well as the closure of the illegal settlement company Ahava.