Monday, 20 July 2015

Stephen Regal and Sam Mezec: A First Comment

Because there is only a screen shot facsimile of the letter by Stephen Regal in reply to Deputy Sam Mezec, I am publishing below, in the interests of transparency, a copy here.

I would note that in Deputy Mezec’s reply, he stated that

“I’ll be clear – I utterly condemn every single rocket that is fired by a militant group in Palestine. They are wrong to do so and they should stop immediately. I could not be more unambiguous. What betrays any hope of intellectual calibre from his argument is the inference written across every word of his letter that because I did not fit anything about the crimes of Hamas in my one side of A4 that I am somehow an apologist for them.”

But why should that be important? It is important because Deputy Mezec is not just calling for a boycott of Israel, but for setting up a Jersey Branch of BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions).

That is where the blind spot is, and I notice that he has failed to address the key feature of Mr Regal’s argument – that BDS is partisan:

“[Deputy Mezec] also fails to mention that BDS targets only Israel in spite of the horrors perpetrated by the so called Isis against all and sundry, particularly Christians, he fails to mention the excesses of the Syrian regime in its ongoing civil war and its actions against civilians and the use of chemical weapons as well as other horrific weapons.

Wikipedia notes that “There is considerable debate about the scope, efficacy, and morality of the BDS movement.” It also appears the global BDS movement’s demand for the return of all Palestinian refugees to their former home in Israel effectively calls for the end of the Jewish State of Israel.

Whether or not this is true I cannot say for certain, but it does mean that any BDS Jersey branch should make a clear and transparent declaration that this is not the intent of the local movement and it distances itself from this stance.

One of the founders of BDS has certainly stated that he wants an end to the state of Israel and not a two-state solution as favoured by the international community.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated the problems of this partisan approach: “Criticism of Israeli government policy is not in and out itself necessarily anti-Semitic. But what else can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to exist, to defend itself while systematically ignoring or excusing the violence and oppression all around it?”

How well sanctions work is a moot point. Deputy Mezec thinks that they were instrumental but this is problematic. The fundamental problem in assessing the role of sanctions is that the end of apartheid is that they were they were among the many potential causes linked to the single effect.

An example of the problematic nature of this can be by looking at GDP. After the mid-1980s sanctions, GDP growth actually accelerated in South Africa: 0.5 percent in 1986, 2.6 percent in 1987, and 3.2 percent in 1988.

As Philip Levy notes: “The financial crisis was brought on by the decisions of private lenders who saw a deteriorating political and economic situation and doubted the country’s creditworthiness. For the purpose of public policy discussions, this privately induced financial crisis — the repercussions of which were substantially greater than any of the public sanctions that ensued — cannot be used as evidence of sanctions’ effectiveness.”

Letter from Stephen Regal to JEP

Dear Sir,

I am writing with reference to a report in last Friday's JEP regarding Deputy Mézec’ s expressed intention to set up a Jersey Branch of BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions), particularly aimed at eliminating any trade or relationship with Israel. I feel that I must, in the first instance, take issue with the statement reported from Deputy Mézec "last year as Israel was launching another of its regular bombardments of the Gaza Strip killing hundreds of innocent civilians.....

Sadly Deputy Mézec fails to mention the fact that prior to Israel’s engagement in Gaza last year more than 2,500 rockets had been fired at Israeli civilian targets in the period immediately prior to Israel's operation and more than 10,000 rockets in total. As an elected politician here in Jersey how would he wish our elected Government to respond if our nearest neighbour behaved in such a manner? Bearing in mind Israel does not occupy one centimetre of Gaza, having unilaterally withdrawn in 2005.

He also fails to mention that BDS targets only Israel in spite of the horrors perpetrated by the so called Isis against all and sundry, particularly Christians, he fails to mention the excesses of the Syrian regime in its ongoing civil war and its actions against civilians and the use of chemical weapons as well as other horrific weapons. Not one word does Deputy Mézec utter regarding the activities of Iran and its nuclear aspirations or Russia's takeover of large parts of the Ukraine.

Sadly one can only put one construction upon BDS singling out the only democratic country in the Middle East, that is resurgence of the centuries old basic anti-Semitism. I am not saying that Deputy Mézec is anti-Semitic perhaps just misinformed and misguided. I am certain that he has a strong social conscience but he really needs to re-examine the facts and not to be blinded by extremist rhetoric.

In requiring disinvestment from Israel, perhaps BDS need to disinvest from the following products which were either manufactured, designed or developed in Israel? To disinvest, BDS, and its Jersey supporters must give up Microsoft Word, Office and Excel, also the Pentium and Intel chips in their computers, all of their pen drives, their anti-virus software, all HP computer products, not to mention their mobile phones (developed by Motorola Israel), most generic drugs now manufactured in Israel, Israel's world renowned water filtration technology, the MRI scanner, micro cameras for use in non-invasive medicine.

If BDS wish to be truly honest they should not pick and choose which elements to eliminate from their Israeli consumption they should get rid of many of the modern conveniences that we take for granted today.

Finally I apologise for the length of my letter and I certainly acknowledge that misdemeanours exist on both sides of the dispute to which we should not be blind, and yes as I state, a social conscience is important even here in a place remote from the conflict as Jersey.

Above all perhaps Deputy Mézec's time would be better spent exercising his mind dealing with the issues we Islanders face here at home, rather than blindly and awkwardly entering into an arena of which he has little knowledge and even less experience. As a Politician, Deputy Mézec should be aware that disengagement is not the ultimate way to solve a problem; discussion is far most practical and often leads to a reasoned conclusion.

Yours faithfully
Stephen J Regal
President Jersey Jewish Congregation

1 comment:

Póló said...

To be fair to Sam. The letter was quite readable if you opened the image in a separate browser window.