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I’m for democracy. So I stand with Israel

I don’t mean to be dismissive; I suspect this was less an email about democracy than a thinly veiled attack on Israel.

There was “horror” that the Secretary of State might take steps to ensure local government pension funds cannot be hijacked by groups – such as the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – whose principle ideology in the vilification of Israel.

Well, to be fair they didn’t put it like that. They referred to matters of democracy, but the BDS movement has demonstrated on many occasions a preference for the opposite – the stifling of both academic and cultural free speech, surely two cornerstones of any democratic system.

Sadly, their point was made less convincing by a grotesque comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa, a suggestion that is as hateful as it is damaging to any prospect of lasting peace.

Demonising Israel in this way is reckless. It’s not just me saying that. It was Nelson Mandela (1993), and more recently Judge Richard J. Goldstone (former Justice of the South African Constitutional Court, and head of the UN fact finding mission to Gaza in 2008-09). Not to mention the thousands of Arab Citizen of Israel, who live and work in Israel.

The kind of negotiated settlement the region needs will only come about when both side recognize each other, and seek a peaceful co-existence. Apartheid smears do nothing at all to bring that any closer, and neither I’m afraid, does the BDS movement.

I hope I’m wrong, and that many within the BDS movement wish for a peaceful solution for both sides. But those that don’t, those that seek to extend the divisions that threaten community cohesion, will find me, and others, in their way.

I’m for democracy; I’m for engaging in debate and getting stuck into weighty discussions, because that tends to be where the answers start to emerge. Boycotts, vile slurs and the stifling of free speech do the exact opposite.

That’s why I stand with Israel.

Time to start that fifth draft.

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