Nelson Mandela is probably the world’s best known resistance fighter. The late South African president knew the value of the global boycott movement which helped in his people’s struggle to dismantle the country’s brutal and racist apartheid regime. His legacy is so powerful today that few world leaders heap anything but praise on Mandela’s memory and his lifelong struggle for freedom. As far as almost everyone is concerned, he was one of the good guys who struggled for peace and justice.
While Mandela never changed his views or opinions, it was clear that by the time he was released after 27 years in prison the world had changed its views on the evils of apartheid. This was thanks largely to people power and the huge political impact of the boycott movement.
It is little wonder, therefore, that Israel has launched a two-pronged attack against anyone who uses the word “apartheid” to describe the Zionist State as well as those who promote the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. Teams of aggressive internet trolls are unleashed to target and distract anyone on the social networks who dare use the A-word to describe Israel; supporters using the #BDS hash tag get similar treatment. Try it yourself if you don’t believe me.
Israel also has high profile politicians from overseas who are more than happy to be their masters’ voice and defend the Zionist State, even while it treats international laws with contempt. Some do this to fund their political campaigns back home or get free junkets. Others share Israel’s founding ideology and so use their influence willingly to promote and support it within and beyond their various governments, from Australia to America and across Europe.
Whatever their motivation, there are few politicians more servile and loyal to Israel than Britain’s Justice Secretary Michael Gove. So servile is he, in fact, that only a few days ago he was honoured for his unstinting support of Israel.
As Gove took to the podium at the Algemeiner Journal’s Jewish 100 Gala dinner in New York — also attended by media mogul Rupert Murdoch — he claimed that the campaign to boycott Israel was like committing a “crime worse than apartheid”. Gove’s speech played well with the Zionists present, although I was told that a few admitted to being uncomfortable as he declared: “Across the world, the new anti-Semites rally behind the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. And the people behind it have the temerity to compare Israel with apartheid South Africa, even though Israel is a country which gives all its citizens — whatever their background, whatever their ethnicity — a vote and a say.”
Michael Gove has obviously never sat at an Israeli military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank, as I have, listening to the screams of a Palestinian woman in labour as she sat in an ambulance for a few hours while sneering soldiers shrugged their shoulders and refused to let the emergency vehicle pass and take her to hospital. When you consider the daily violence meted out by the Israeli military on Palestinians; the destruction of their homes; the proliferation of checkpoints, prisons, illegal settlements, security zones, the apartheid wall, digital permits, ID cards, visas and deeds; educational segregation; and the treatment of African refugees holed up in the Negev, then the apartheid nature of the Israeli system is glaringly obvious. Indeed, a quick examination of the modus operandi of the Israeli military, legal system, settlers, police force, quasi-governmental agencies such as the Jewish National Fund and the multi-national corporations open for business reveal an apartheid state very much at ease and at play.
However, Gove ignored these clear indicators of Israeli apartheid. “But worse than that,” he added, “worse than libelling the state of Israel, the BDS campaign, by calling for the deliberate boycott of goods manufactured by Jewish people, by calling for the shunning of the Jewish state, and the rejection of Jewish commerce and Jewish thought, actually commits a crime worse than apartheid. It re-introduces into our world and into our society a prejudice against the Jews collectively that should have vanished from the earth generations ago.”
What he managed to overlook was not only the fact that the state of Israel itself makes the claim to be acting on behalf of every Jew in the world (which is patently false, given the growing number of Jewish anti-Zionist activists), but also the clear guidelines issued by the British government advising citizens not to deal with firms which refuse to support a two-state solution; like the many operating on illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, for example.
The justice secretary’s New York speech was condemned roundly by veterans who fought against South Africa’s brutal apartheid system. Some went as far as to accuse Gove of insulting the memory of Nelson Mandela and his struggle against apartheid.
Furthermore, Mandela gave lifelong and steadfast support to the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom. Just as politicians like Michael Gove in Britain’s Conservative Party were complicit in supporting South Africa’s apartheid regime and its awful crimes, many holding the same revisionist views are today complicit in supporting Israel’s apartheid regime which stands accused of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Perhaps former Education Secretary Gove needs a little education himself: in 1948, the same year that Zionist militias ethnically cleansed more than 750,000 Palestinians during the Nakba (Catastrophe) — and went on to destroy more than 500 Palestinian towns and villages — his ideological friends in South Africa formally adopted apartheid as state policy.
“Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” said Mandela. Zionists prefer to airbrush such support for the Palestinians from the record.
Pro-Palestinian campaigner Sofiah MacLeod responded to Michael Gove’s speech by telling MEMO that his comments only reveal his “ignorance” of the crime of apartheid, as defined by international law in the Apartheid Convention, and his “obvious contempt” for Palestinians living under the violence and brutality of Israel’s settler colonialism. “It’s no surprise, of course, that Gove and the Tory government are following in Margaret Thatcher’s footsteps in their attempts to suppress a popular movement determined to end corporate and institutional complicity in crimes against humanity,” she added.
The chair of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign went on to reject Gove’s conflation of Zionism and Judaism. “His claim that all Jews are implicated in the criticism of the actions of the state of Israel is racist and outrageous,” she insisted. “People of conscience around the world understand that the Palestinian call for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] against the state of Israel is grounded on principles of equality, justice and freedom, concepts that appear to be beyond Gove’s grasp.”
One of the outstanding errors made by Gove is that attempts to ban local councils in Britain from boycotting goods produced on illegal Israeli settlements — of which his speech was an obvious example — are at odds with existing Foreign Office guidelines. Any attempts by the British government to penalise local authorities that choose to continue their support for the BDS movement could backfire in a court of law. As justice secretary, he should know that, or should at least have been briefed more accurately by his minions.
Labour MP Richard Burden, who chairs the Britain-Palestine All-Party Parliamentary Group, has already told ministers that clarity on the penalties for local authorities taking decisions in line with the BDS campaign against Israel is needed. He believes that the new ban contradicts existing government policy on trade with particular firms. During a debate recently at Westminster he pointed out that the Foreign Office already warns against trade with firms that “make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible.”
This clearly puts Gove’s pro-Israel, anti-BDS stand on a collision course with British foreign policy, which is that Britain and British companies, local authorities and others shouldn’t trade with companies guilty of breaking international law by operating on stolen land and by doing so refuse to acknowledge a two-state solution. It is outrageous that a senior minister of the Crown should be seen to favour so brazenly Israeli racism over British values as expressed by government policy.
Gove needs to make his position clear to the British people as well as his masters in Tel Aviv and within the pro-Israel lobby. If he doesn’t, then his colleagues in the Cabinet, especially the foreign secretary, should call him out for it.