Omar Barghouti and George Fletcher debate BDS

At the beginning of November Omar Barghouti and George Fletcher debated BDS at Columbia University. The event was moderated by Laura Flanders from GRITtv, who posted this great video of the event. Check it out.

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in BDS, Israel/Palestine

{ 0 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Eva Smagacz says:

    I have a conspiracy theory thought:

    How long before BDS will become outlawed, as part of anti – hate legislation, and the credit card statements will be flagged for “unbalanced” patterns of purchases?

    Political will and technology are already in place.

    • Citizen says:

      They will use the hate crime legislation (tacked onto the latest bill to support our military) awaiting Obama’s willingly signature. I don’t understand why Obama has not already signed it–anyone have a clue?

      • “How long before BDS will become outlawed, as part of anti – hate legislation, and the credit card statements will be flagged for “unbalanced” patterns of purchases?”

        A more elegant solution to BDS would be to create an ‘anti-terror tax’ on all goods. Since Izzy is at the ‘front line’ of the war on terror, a portion of this money would, of course, go there. This way, no matter your politics or politically motivated purchases, you WILL support Israel. Actually, that’s kinda like what we have now.

    • Corporate boycotts of Israel are already illegal in the US. Apparently Jewish power is more powerful than corporate power.

      • Oscar says:

        America 1st, name your source for that contention.

        • RE: America 1st, name your source for that contention. (Corporate boycotts of Israel are already illegal in the US. )

          FROM the “Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce”:
          Antiboycott Compliance (excerpts)
          Antiboycott Laws:
          During the mid-1970′s the United States adopted two laws that seek to counteract the participation of U.S. citizens in other nation’s economic boycotts or embargoes. These “antiboycott” laws are the 1977 amendments to the Export Administration Act (EAA) and the Ribicoff Amendment to the 1976 Tax Reform Act (TRA). While these laws share a common purpose, there are distinctions in their administration.

          What do the Laws Prohibit?
          Conduct that may be penalized under the TRA and/or prohibited under the EAR includes:
          Agreements to refuse or actual refusal to do business with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.
          Agreements to discriminate or actual discrimination against other persons based on race, religion, sex, national origin or nationality.
          Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about business relationships with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.
          Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about the race, religion, sex, or national origin of another person.
          Implementing letters of credit containing prohibited boycott terms or conditions.

          The TRA does not “prohibit” conduct, but denies tax benefits (“penalizes”) for certain types of boycott-related agreements.

          SOURCE – link to bis.doc.gov

        • Oscar says:

          Wow. Mind-boggling.

        • David says:

          Applies to companies complying with the Arab League Boycott, but would apply to, for example, companies whose shareholders voted to end military sales to Israel, no does it apply to civil society efforts at boycott or divestment.

          For more info see NLG legal memo on the subject:

          link to endtheoccupation.org

        • David says:

          Oops, that was obviously meant to be “would not apply to, for example, companies…”

    • David says:

      There’s actually already a lot of accusations being thrown at the BDS campaign, arguing that it violates U.S. federal law by complying with the Arab League boycott. This is an inaccurate accusation. For more information on it, check out this legal memo from the National Lawyers’ Guild: link to endtheoccupation.org

  2. Kathleen says:

    Great debate.
    Did you hear Jeremy Ben Ami on Washington Journal on Sunday?

    Some real spin going on. Some flat out lies

    link to seminal.firedoglake.com

    • Citizen says:

      Yeah I watched Ben Ami on WJ. Somebody called in about the settlements; he deflected the question by saying that’s only one of many issues–I then twittered
      in questions, to the effect that the settlements are issue #1 since they’ve been going on non-stop since 1967 and keep reducing any land that might be the base of a
      Palestinian state–none of my twitters were addressed on WJ. And the CSPAN host
      did not ask or follow up with a single objective question–and CSPAN is all we got!

      • Kathleen says:

        His outright lies about what El Baradei has said about Iran were pure bull shit. I just do not get why anyone would be so inspired or excited about J Street with a liar as the Executive Director

  3. Great job. Barghouti speaks like the Ivy League law professor, Fletcher might as well be banging his shoe on the table.

  4. I’m sad that the clip was so edited.

    I think the arguments against BDS, and to confront Barghouti are stronger than Fletcher represented.

    He approached it informally, even though Barghouti reiterated talking points that are in fact flawed, particularly the right of return.

    Fletcher was right to convey that the criteria of BDS are stated vaguely. Barghouti’s insistence that “the oppressed control the agenda” sounds good, but in practice is as much a vanity as a realization.

    The descriptions are too vague, opportunistically so, potentially cruelly so.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      You know, you take every opportunity to discredit BDS, Witty. Even going so far as cast aspersions on the debate by implying that the video was edited to skew it. I have to ask — what are your opinions of sanctions against other countries? Against Iran? Those that were in place against Iraq? Cuba? How about the South African movement?

      Or does your critique of BDS only extend to where it goes up against the supreme interests of Israel?

      • You felt that you saw the debate representatively? I was left wondering.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          You are deliberately avoiding my question, but I’ll take that as the answer I was looking for — your criticism is motivated by your agenda to defend Israel at all costs, not by any sort of legitimate interest in the ethics of BDS.

      • Oscar says:

        I was surprised that George Fletcher — a gifted law professor at Columbia — was caught so flat-footed by Omar Barghouti. Omar was elegant, precise, articulate — drew all the applause. Fletcher was visibly flustered, holding his face in his hands, unable to counteract the facts.

        It’s not really a fair fight. Hasbara can’t work in a setting like this, and that’s why you don’t see debates on the topic that often. We’re coming up on a year after Operation Cast Lead and it’s quite apparent Israel is committed to force Palestinians to live in the rubble of their own homes rather than allow any building materials into the region.

        The “blue baby syndrome” was a shocker. I hadn’t heard that before.

      • yonira says:

        Chaos, you honestly didn’t think that it was edited?

        • Chaos4700 says:

          For the reading comprehension impaired, I shall quote my own post, word for word, and add emphasis:

          Even going so far as cast aspersions on the debate by implying that the video was edited to skew it.

          This public service message was brought to you by the Help Zionists Read Fund, the Committee for Action to Stop the Abuse of Straw Men, and the letter ‘Q’.

        • breaking: The letter ‘Q’ has been put on the US State Department Terror watch list after having been intercepted attempting to form words in a Middle Eastern nation without accompaniment by the letter ‘U.’

          State Department spokesman Qami Fitzapirowitz told reporters that the State Department considered this behavior “one more indicator of the deep hatred of the US that exists in the Middle East.”

          Former ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltmanq has been delegated to examine all textbooks of Middle Eastern schoolchildren to determine the ratio of ‘Qs’ unaccompanied by ‘Us.’

    • David says:

      Actually do agree with Witty on this one–wish we had the whole debate, it was fascinating.

      Disagree that the criteria of BDS are stated vaguely. This was exactly Barghouti’s point–ending identity-based criticism is pretty darn concrete. Fletcher’s point about the Montgomery bus boycott indicates a complete confusion between tactics and strategies, outcomes and goals. The MIA was one specific campaign within a much larger movement. BDS is a strategy with long-term goals. Within this strategy, there are different campaigns with very specific outcomes. The Veolia campaign, for example, targets settlement-related construction in East Jerusalem. It is over when Veolia pulls out of the contract. Move on to the next target. The Montgomery boycott was over when buses were desegregated. That was hardly the end of the civil rights movement, which had specific goals in specific campaigns but was broadly, simply, a movement for equal rights.

      Fletcher’s point about sacrifice and putting one’s body on the line is complete and utter hogwash. Of course, as everyone reading this blog should know by now, there are people doing exactly that in the occupied Palestinian territories, every day. And it is exactly these people who are calling for BDS as a movement of INTERNATIONAL solidarity. I doubt Fletcher would actually put his body on the line to try to stop evictions in E. Jerusalem.

      His point about lawsuits=fascinating, since of course this tactic is being tried, and is actually very compatible with BDS. I actually think Barghouti missed the strongest argument on this one. Bil’in HAS taken the settlement companies building on its land to court. Tried it in Israel, didn’t work. Still trying in Canada. If the cases are refused, not much you can do, that’s where the boycotts and divestment come in. Legal action is being tried, at many levels, but if the courts won’t hear it–or if the military ignores the court–you have to go on to the next level.

      Witty, I’m surprised you were disappointed with Fletcher, it seems like he presented many of the same arguments that you raise.

      On an unrelated note, did it rankle anyone else’s nerves that Fletcher referred to Barghouti as “Bargouti” but Barghouti referred to Fletcher as “Mr. Fletcher”?

      • Chaos4700 says:

        I was more rankled by the fact that Fletcher talked down to him, constantly hurling characterizations as ignorant and such, and then had the gall to whine later that it was Barghouti (See? I’m equivocal) who was doing the mud slinging… ostensibly, merely by identifying war crimes.

        Reminds me rather bitterly of how whites used to talk down about black people openly… and some still do, privately among other whites.

        • David says:

          Yeah. I particularly liked the bit about identifying “ethnic cleansing” somehow being mudslinging. Lived in E. Jerusalem for 16 months. Not sure what the hell else to call it, to be honest. If anything, it’s a very clinical, cynical description of an incredibly dirty, brutal process.

      • Oscar says:

        This was not a good night for Professor Fletcher. He was flailing like a high school sophomore who failed to prepare for the debate. Yes, it was grating to hear the condescension in Fletcher’s tone, his intellectually dishonest shambling with phrases such as, “I don’t even know what Barghouti is talking about!”

        But the audience wasn’t buying it. When he started in with the hasbaric, “The IDF is the most moral army in the world — for the first time in history they warned citizens to get out of harm’s way [before decimating their homes with white phosphorus and US taxpayer funded smart bombs],” the audience started booing.

        When Omar made his points about the effectiveness of BDS as a gamechanger in the impunity of a colonial occupier, the audience started to applaud him, and he gestured for them to not do so. Class act.

        I would love to see a smackdown between Omar and The Dersh! Bring it on.

  5. Pingback: Do boycott, divestment and sanctions advocates want to destroy Israel?

  6. VR says:

    The answer to all the undoing of the anti-BDS and Zionist positions in a flat footed debate is that “it was the wrong person.” This is all I ever hear, this is all I am ever told even in the rarity of debates that I have had – “the person you were up against was not articulate or representative of the position.” The only thing that suffices for them is pontifications in a closed media setting, or a heavy/light mixture of the same positions, which is patently bogus. If there was ever a real equal platform with national and international coverage, these asses would be totally undone.

  7. MRW says:

    Wanna see one of the rockets that Fletcher complains about?
    link to jewishvirtuallibrary.org

    From Sept 29, 2000–present:
    KILLED
    Israelis: 1,072 Israelis
    Palestinians: 6,348
    INJURED
    Israelis: 8,864
    Palestinians: 39,019
    (From B’Tselem and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

    • David says:

      It is, to me, endlessly fascinating that defenders of Israel’s actions get away with saying “you can’t start with Gaza, you need the context”….and that context consists solely of context-less statements about rocket fire.

      It is only Israeli violence that has a context, in other words. Palestinian violence has no context. It comes from nowhere, from the “hate that is taught in schools,” or whatever.

      Another fascinating thing to me: to hear Fletcher say “I’ve never heard of anybody else doing this” in reference to telling Palestinians they were going to be bombed.

      I’ve heard of this before. In my high school, a bunch of kids thought it was funny to phone in bomb threats to the school. They were caught and tried for it. When Israel calls in bomb threats on civilian neighborhoods and then follows up with real bombs, it is somehow to be commended. What?

      • Chaos4700 says:

        Welcome to Israel, David.

        • David says:

          Ha. Lived in Jerusalem/Al-Quds for 16 months, so I know the drill…

          But nevertheless, I am fascinated by it. I was speaking at a school in VA a few months back, and later a student from a local university (not the school I was actually speaking at) came up and confronted me. He used the “calling Gazan cell phones talking points,” and I just asked him point blank whether he really believed that would make it better. He deflected.

          That’s part of my bizarre….man, I can’t think of another word besides fascination–comes from. Do folks really convince themselves that getting an anonymous phone call–in a language other than your own, one imagines–telling you that your house is going to be bombed is somehow a good thing? If Palestinians did this to Israelis, it would of course be lumped in as terrorism.

          Because it is. It is causing fear. And then bombing people who have nowhere, nowhere, nowhere to go.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          I wish I could answer that question. There are some equally bizarre systems of beliefs in white American culture, concerning other ethnicities — blacks and Hispanics, especially. I’ve never “gotten” those rationales, so I don’t understand how people fall for it.

          At the risk of sounding elitist, I think the problem is some people are wired (culturally perhaps, not necessarily biologically) to follow canned propaganda because, no matter how false it is, it’s easy to understand, whereas processing facts generally takes effort. That’s how, one supposes thirty-odd years of struggle to proliferate hard data and scientific analysis on climate change gets almost flushed down the toilet in an instant by a couple of lines cherry-picked from a hundred or so megabytes of hacked emails.

        • Chu says:

          Good point regarding canned propaganda. It’s completely easy and avoids having any discussion based on how stupid the tone is when spurting, ‘Palestinian rocket attacks, etc…’. ~It’s almost knee-jerk. If someone says something completely ignorant, like we’re defending freedom, you know they’ll be a tough nut to crack.

    • yonira says:

      1 Gilad Shalit
      1000 Palestinian Prisoners

      • Oscar says:

        Hey, Yonira, isn’t that just about the same proportion as deaths of innocent Palestinian civilians to IDF soldiers? About 1000 to 1.

      • Chaos4700 says:

        Good point, although you’re lowballing the number of Palestinian Prisoners by several thousand. Plus, Gilad Shalit is technically a prisoner of war, whereas the vast majority of Palestinians in Israeli captivity are the victims of kangaroo courts, when they’re even given a trial at all.

      • Shingo says:

        Good for you yonira ,

        It sounds remarkable similiar to the caption on that T-shirt with the image of the pregnant Palestinians woman:

        1 shot
        2 kills

  8. Fletcher and I do agree that the Barghouti talking points deny that there is any other perspective than his, but that is a silly assumption.

    It makes sense if you limit your comments to his pallette. If your pallette extends beyond the talking points, the argument and the methodology don’t make sense.

    Again his key point was “we control the agenda”, and if you adopt the either/or approach implied in anti-Zionism (rather than dissenting to policies), then a moralistic dissenter must then adopt someone else’s intellectual and moral pallette, even if you agree with much of it.

    Fletcher was right “what do mean by occupation?”, and “what is your specific goal?”

    I would have agreed with “Yes, end the occupation”, and “Yes, lets establish full civil rights for all individuals in each state”, but I would have contested “Lets let anyone that calls themselves Palestinian move to Israel, receive compensation to purchase homes there, and elect an anti-Zionist government”.

    One is an advocacy of democracy in the present (justice). The other is advocacy for some imagined past democracy. (There are multiple names for that.)

    • Chaos4700 says:

      Barghouti was using talking points?! Witty, Fletcher’s garbage could have been xeroxed from any of your screeds, right down to throwing ambiguity on the definition of words like occupation and ethnic cleansing. The evidence of talking points we see are the ones employed by shilling pseudo-academics like you and Fletcher.

    • yonira says:

      Barghouti, did elude to a two state solution which was nice. Its a lot more than I’ve heard from any other BDSer.

  9. Shingo says:

    “It makes sense if you limit your comments to his pallette. If your pallette extends beyond the talking points, the argument and the methodology don’t make sense.”

    That sounds evry bit as vague and incoherent and your diatribe about Friedman. I have to hand it to you Witty. In spite fo recycling talking points of your own, you manage to make them sound equally incoherent and vague every time you use them.

  10. Shingo says:

    Very impressive performance from Barghouti a. He wiped the floor with Fletcher, who looked as though he’d turned up, forgetting he had to debate.

    Can you believe this guy? The occupation should continue until the Palestinians stop teaching hatred in their schools?

    My head hurts.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      Yeah, there were just so many BS comments by the guy it’s hard to confront them all, but that was one of the toppers. Because white Euro-Zionists dictating what gets taught in native schools or else the occupation doesn’t end doesn’t sound like colonialism at all.

    • yonira says:

      Do you think teaching hate is constructive and will lead to anything?

      I do agree with you though, that comment was pretty dimwitted.

  11. Chu says:

    George Fletcher is showing how demented Zionism is. They cannot see the reality. When the university students scoff and laugh at the lies of a the ‘leading scholar’ of the University, it speaks volumes. Why invalidate yourself like Fletcher does?

  12. Kathleen says:

    Fletcher “doing something with your body” He has a point.

    Here you go.

    Gaza Freedom March
    link to codepinkalert.org

  13. sammy says:

    BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!

    EU draft document on division of Jerusalem

    You can read it here

    link to haaretz.com

    Sorry I don’t know how to link images

  14. Pingback: War in Context - Omar Barghouti and George Fletcher debate BDS