A New Zealand Labour MP is actively promoting the discriminatory BDS campaign against Israel. Dr Duncan Webb has recently tweeted that “[BDS]… is a concrete way to express a political view…”.
Boycott Divestment & Sanctions is a form of non-violent protest. It is a concrete way to express a political view condemning the policies adopted by the Israeli govt towards Palestine. We need to ensure that free speech rights like this are not shut down. https://t.co/A25Jo37RDv
— Duncan_Webb_ (@Duncan_Webb_) May 1, 2019
In trying to frame the argument as a free speech issue, Dr Webb makes three serious errors of judgment. First, he ignores the fact that the BDS campaign spreads discriminatory lies in order to demonise the Jewish state and seek its destruction. The BDS campaign is more than a simple expression of opinion – it is a call for concrete action that is comparable to the German boycott of Jewish businesses or the Arab boycott of Jews in British Mandate Palestine. For this reason, BDS has been outlawed in some democratic countries because it is discriminatory and anti-semitic.
Secondly, his tweet was in support of preventing a musician from playing at an event. His tweet was, therefore seeking to stifle freedom of expression – an expression that could help bring people together, in fact. The hypocrisy should be clear to anyone who takes a moment to consider it.
Finally, supporting freedom of speech does not mean one should support discriminatory messages. People should be free to speak their minds and Nazi marches are also an expression of a political view. However, supporting the right of Nazis to protest is different to support for their message. And Dr Webb certainly supports the anti-Israel agenda of BDS.
In August last year, Dr Webb, hosted a lunch so a recently returned activist could talk about his experience on the anti-Israel “international freedom flotilla”. The aim of the “flotilla” was to breach a legal blockade designed to prevent terror attacks. Thus, the “peace flotilla” is an act of support for violence.
At the time, the Israel Institute of New Zealand called on his party and the government to distance themselves from this action and condemn Hamas terror that the “flotilla” supports. There has been no response. And in June, Dr Webb said he was “happy” to present a petition that called for the New Zealand Government Superannuation Fund to divest from Israeli banks.
The goal of the BDS campaign that Dr Webb is actively supporting is the destruction of Israel. Norman Finklestein, a prominent Jewish critic of Israel, is quoted as saying that he “loathes the disingenuousness [of BDS] – they don’t want Israel (to exist)… they are a cult”. This is partly based on what BDS leaders have publicly stated themselves. For example, The founder of BDS, Omar Bargouti, opposes the two state solution and has said “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine” and BDS activists oppose dialogue and ‘normalisation’ projects which bring Jews and Palestinians together for better understanding and the dialogue that is required for a negotiated solution.
The New Zealand government and Labour party have previously stated that they support a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, despite MFAT promoting a BDS event that featured a terror supporter in July 2018. Support for BDS is, therefore, contrary to the official position as it does not accept a two-state solution.
Dr Webb’s continued active support for BDS and his entertaining of “flotilla” activists suggests either New Zealand Labour is changing their stance over the two-state solution or that he is acting contrary to an official position. Neither the Labour party or Dr Webb have responded to request for comment on this matter.