France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

March 18, 2010

Say it ain’t so Daniel Cohn-Bendit or, calling for a boycott of Israel has nothing to do with racial hate

Well, I guess it was too good to be true; what political idol can withstand close scrutiny, after all? After François Bayrou, who let me down when he went dirty in a debate with Daniel Cohn-Bendit during last year’s European parliamentary elections, it was Cohn-Bendit’s turn to disappoint me, albeit probably more by ignorance of a critical issue than any deliberate cynicism.

Cohn-Bendit was Nicolas Demorand’s guest this morning on France Inter, the main Radio France network. During the call-in portion of the show, a listener began by praising the head of the Greens in France and the European Parliament for calling for a boycott of the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in China. Then she asked him — quite clearly — what his position was on BDS, a.k.a. the Palestinian-lead movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel as a peaceful, concrete means to end its continued occupation of Palestinian territories and protest its continued brutality, including last year’s actions in Gaza, against the Palestinians. The woman went on to explain that, incredibly, she was recently cited for inciting racial hatred simply for having a BDS bumper sticker on her car.

She was clearly asking Cohn-Bendit whether, having supported a boycott of the Olympics ceremonies because of China’s human rights abuses in Tibet, he would support a boycott of Israel considering its human rights abuses in the Occupied Territories.

Demorand, usually astute, had no idea what she was talking about: “What’s your question, Madame?” (To be fair, the caller just used the acronym for BDS.) But Cohn-Bendit was really disappointing, erroneously taking the question as referring to the EU’s recent vote to take away special trading status from products produced in Israeli colonies in the occupied territories and oppose its labelling these products as produced in Israel. Idealist that I am, I’ll give Danny the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was not just trying to duck the question, and simply doesn’t know what BDS is…. This still is lamentable from someone who is at the head of one of the most important movements on the Left in Europe.

More important, though, when are so many in official and media France going to stop confounding anti-Zionism — or even simple, and *peaceful*, opposition to Iraeli policies — with anti-Semitism? If anything — if anything, *supporting* *peaceful* means of opposing Israel’s continued illegal Occupation (and brutal actions in Gaza) should go hand-in-hand with (rightly) condemning terrorism. And, lest I should get cited for incitation to racial hatred: Not only does my background include Jewish parents, the same can be said for many leading figures in the BDS movement.

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