Naomi-Chazan1.gifNaomi Chazan spoke to a packed hall at the Marrickville Synagogue in Sydney on Monday 12 June (the Chilean ash cloud means that I was trapped in Sydney so Fortuna allowed me to tape the recording). Click the link below to listen to or download the first mp4 which is only 13mg. There is an introduction, then she starts talking at 7’15”. The first few minutes are about the New Israel Fund and local politics. Depending on your POV, you may find these remarks helpful or unhelpful. The second mp4 is a very short answer by her to a question which sums up many of her views.
Naomi Chazan audio1 [mp4 1hour (12mb] (click or download with right hand mouse button/save]
Naomi Chazan audio2 [mp4 6 minutes ] (click or download with right hand mouse button/save]
(use VLC player if you have any problems)
For ethno-cultural tourists, a visit to the Synagogue is interesting–it’s a survival of old working class and I think English Jewry from around the turn of the century. The building is simple inside, the outside quite a lovely facade.
As an outsider to Sydney I was struck by the audience–none of the usual very affluent looking types, but much more a sort of scruffy inner city Jewish audience, with a good split, thank goodness, between younger and older. I don’t know if any of the pro-BDS Marrickville people had been there. I would have liked to have seen some real debate in the questioning, though it is clear that most of the audience was pretty suspicious, and some very hostile to her opinions from a Zionist point of view.
Naomi made 6 key points, some of which you can strongly dispute, but she has power in her argument, and a long long history of activism for Palestinians since at least shortly after the 67 war. Golda Meir who was a friend of the family was very very angry with her..so she is also an insider.
1) BDS does not stop Israel from doing ‘certain things’ —by this she meant the occupation and so on. But it does adversely affect the working class, and this is the last group you want to hurt, rather than those who run the occupation
2) Global BDS or at least a certain element in it, wants to completely delegitimize Israel, rather than just Israeli policy–she won’t stand for this. She does believe in the Jewish homeland. “I have no suicidal tendencies”, but “I am happy to see our borders shrink”.
3) BDS strengthens those Israelis who believe the whole world is against them [and this by the way, is also what happens with Diaspora Jews, and I think this is what the BDS came completely misunderstands, or, regrettably, some people in the camp may enjoy baiting Jewish insecurity.]
4) If anyone suffers from the effects of BDS it is the progressive forces in Israel who are already under attack–BDS becomes an excuse to carry out witch-hunts in Israel–look at her own case, or that of the persecution of dissenters.[ At the 30 min. mark she says BDS obfuscates the 2-state solution which she says is the only practical solution. In response to a later question from the audience, she said that the enormous degree of hostility between populations would not be solved in one secular democratic state–we can argue about this until the end of time.]
5) Directed at academics, it is a mistake. This she finds most offensive, because academic progressives are under attack in Israel [I would loved to have asked her –isn’t the point that Palestinian academic freedom is restricted by the occupation–so this is meant to highlight the issue? I am not saying I agree, I want to hear how she handles the argument.]
6) BDS becomes a diversion of the real issue of the occupation and injustice. There is a partner for peace, the details of the plans have been by and large worked out [here she is talking of Saudi and other plans, the Fayyad government and so on. But the key argument against this is that this has very limited legitimacy on the ground with Palestinians.]
I could obviously write a whole commentary here, but that is unfair. You need to listen and see what you think of her arguments. What would have made this talk much more interesting in fact, would be to have an equally articulate Palestinian taking another viewpoint and then seeing what they agreed on in the interests of a pragmatic peace.