Friday, 16 January 2009

Fair game?

We kiwi opponents of Israel's current aggression find ourselves in a tricky position. What, ethically and constructively, can we actually do from the other side of the world?

An Invercargill cafe owner caused a stir this week by evicting two Israeli women, and the two children with them, from his premises. I can't agree with what he did, but it's difficult not to sympathise with the guy's frustration. For decades, Palestinians have been appealing to Israel and the world for justice. Palestinian acts of violence are condemned; but often, nothing short of violence seems to draw the world's attention to Palestine's suffering.

And that's the sad irony. The same cafe owner might have distributed political pamphlets about Palestine, joined Amnesty International or written thoughtful letters to the editor. No one would have given a shit. You evict women and children from your cafe, people notice. The cafe owner is unrepentant, pointing out that Israel isn't showing much concern for women and children on the Gaza strip*.

Protesters around New Zealand are trying to do what the government will not: apply sanctions against Israel. As a feminist and person on the left, I can't agree with the Invercargill cafe owner's actions - but not because he targeted individuals. So long as sanctions or protest actions are ethical, I don't much care who is the target, man, woman or child.

Sanctions and protests must ultimately target Israel, not Israelis. Of course, it's individual Israelis who will cop the controversy - such as the Israeli chess master currently competing in Queenstown, and called on by John Minto to withdraw from his tournament - but protesters must be careful that their anger is directed, and seen to be directed, at the Israeli state and/or the military and economic structures which support it. Rakon?** Fair game. Israeli sportspeople? Fine. Israeli women and kids in a cafe? Not so good.

I'm not particularly bothered by the effects of sanctions on Israeli individuals. Sanctions do damage the careers of individual sportspeople and business people. That's tough - but being asked to leave a sporting tournament doesn't really rate against being maimed or killed by bombs and gunfire, in a place where most no longer have access to food, water, electricity or basic medical care.

Israel has dismissed the world's concerns about its treatment of Palestine by claiming anti-Semitism. It is crucial that we protesters neither allow anti-Semitism amongst our ranks, or be seen to tolerate it in any way. Individual Israelis - sporting, political or other high-profile figures - may be the vehicles through which we protest, but they can't be our ultimate targets. Aside from donating to humanitarian relief efforts in Palestine, kiwis can't do much for Palestinians that isn't symbolic. So our symbolism has to be unambiguous. We must be careful to be concerned with peace and justice, and to make this crystal clear. We can't afford to lapse into racism, or act in such a way that we can be accused of it; particularly when accusations of racism serve the purposes of Israeli aggression.

To use a sporting metaphor, we need to play the ball, not the man.

* Maia has written a fantastic piece on women, children and innocence in Gaza.

** Rakon Industries manufactures a component used in targeted bombs deployed by the Israeli military. Global Peace and Justice Auckland are holding a protest against Rakon on January 17, 3:00pm - 4:30pm, assembling outside Sylvia Park shopping centre on the Mt Wellington Highway.

46 comments:

stargazer said...

i so agree with you anna. what the invercagill shopkeeper did smacks of collective punishment, which i totally abhor. it totally ignores the many, many israelis who disapprove of the actions of their own government.

and it is frustrating and depressing that all the legal and ethical methods of protest have, up to now, had so little result. that just gives more power to those who promote violence and hate.

sigh.

Hugh said...

Why is an Israeli sportsperson a legitimate target of sanctions, but an Israeli cafe-goer not? Both are individuals engaging in their private business whose only connection to the Israeli government is their passports. Is it because the sportsperson is high profile, and the cafe-goer isn't? Would it be legitimate to eject the sportsperson from a cafe because of his profile? Is the implication that it's okay to target Israelis in their work (the sportsperson) but not their recreation? I'm hugely confused.

Oh and for bonus points - would it be appropriate to call on Americans or British people to withdraw from sporting competitions due to their government's involvement in Iraq?

Tui said...

@ hugh, sportspeople are representatives of their nation in ways that Suzie Q Average in a cafe isn't. You can tell this by the way Suzie Q Average doesn't generally wear uniforms in the designs of her nation's flag. Excluding sportspeople of a particular country from a particular tournament isn't about the individual, but about the country they represent; excluding individuals from a cafe is about the individual.

Brett Dale said...

It's difficult not to sympathise with the guy's frustration???????????

Have you lost your mind??

How is this not Apartheid??? How can this be legal in 2009 in New Zealand?

The silence from the likes of Keith Locke and John Minto is deafening. Can you imagine what would happen if an Israeli cafe owner refused service to two Muslim woman from Gaza, various so called peace groups would be protesting 24/7, chanting SHAME SHAME SHAME.

I'm sure this blog would have something to say about it, and you wouldn't be making excuses or trying to justify it like you are now.

You guys at The Hand Mirror say you are for woman's right's, and get upset if there is a photo of ten white businessmen and only two woman, blogs such as the Standard are normally jumping on stories when there is injustice for woman or minority groups, on this occasion they say nothing, that is so hypocritical, how can they say they are for equal rights and peace, and how can the hand mirror say they are for woman's rights, here is a man kicking out two woman because they are Israelis , its disgusting and hopefully this cafe will be closed down shortly.

The cafe owner might as well had a sign that said "No Jews"

I guess in the world of a feminist you can be a bigoted racist pig as long as your a Muslim, welcome to the world of peace protesters/human rights activists and left wing feminist bloggers.

Hugh said...

Tui, my understanding is that the Israeli chess player is there off his own bat, participating as a private individual. He is not part of an Israeli team. He's certainly not wearing a uniform with any flags on it, at least going by the pictures in today's Dom Post. The same is true, again AFAIK, of the tennis player in Auckland. I agree that asking the Israeli national team to withdraw is one thing, but not all sportspeople compete as representatives of their nation.

Hugh said...

Brett

Don't you conservatives usually stand up for the right of property owners to do what they like and exclude who they waqnt from their property without government interference?

Nikki said...

Brett - don't isolate quotes and reply to them without context.

The frustration referred to was not being able to take any action to show the Israeli government that their actions are abhorrent - not frustration at having Israelis in his cafe, as your comment seemed to imply.

Nikki said...

Oops. Too slow.

Or what Hugh said. heh.

Anna said...

Whether a sportsperson represents his/her nation, he symbolises it - in a way a person in a cafe doesn't. NZ's America's Cup boat doesn't officially represent the country, but everyone identifies it as if it did.

Brett Dale said...

I still say, if an Israeli man kicked out a muslim woman from gaza, in a cafe in New Zealand, you guys would be up in arms.

Hugh said...

So Anna, you'd be cool with asking a little Israeli girl not to participate in her school's soccer team?

Hugh said...

Brett, if 'Muslim' people were invading Israel, 'we' (eg the monolithic feminist left who march in lockstep) might well have a different view.

Anna said...

What soccer team? If an Israeli girl was playing for an NZ team, she wouldn't be representing Israel, so banning her would have no meaning. However, if an Israeli girls' soccer team planned to come to NZ, I'd certainly support a sanction.

Brett Dale said...

Anna:

Would you support sanctions against soccer teams from Iran, Saudi Arabia because of their government actions?

Brett Dale said...

Anna: or about North Korea, in the under 17 girls world cup, did you want sanctions against them???

Im guessing, No.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how this seems to be about "Muslims and Israelis", not "Palestinians and Israelis" or "Muslims and Jews".

Psycho Milt said...

Rakon Industries manufactures a component used in targeted bombs deployed by the Israeli military.

So, the Left view is that the IDF should be restricted to using only untargeted ordinance? Seems decidedly counter-productive...

Hugh said...

Anna

I was just thinking of a local soccer team, perhaps attached to a club or a school, the sort that kids play in.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain why being anti-israel or anti-israeli is anti-semitic? No-one has claimed that my support for sanctions against Fijians is necessarily racist or my dislike for the monarchy makes me a homophobe (I don't like queens), but somehow with Israel disliking the actions of a particular political group means that I hate the whole ethic group they come from. I'm glad to be anti-zionist, just as I'm happily anti-apartheid and would cheer to see Bush an inmate of Guantanamo (it's safe and healthy to be there, he keeps telling us so).

This is much closer to refusing to serve Black Power or Storm Front members than a "no blacks" sign. Choosing to support Israel by having citizenship makes you a legitimate target for boycotts. Why should someone be forced to support people whose politics that they detest? Why can he refuse to serve people who are wearing jandals, but not those from Israel? Viz, what makes the choice to support Israel special?

Now, if that guy ran the only food outlet for 50km that was open, I think there's be an argument that he should be obliged to serve anyone who can pay. But he's not.

Moz

stargazer said...

moz, as to your second question, it's actually against the human rights act to refuse to serve someone on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, religion or race (as well as all the other grounds listed in the act). as per a press release by the race relations commissioner. you can't have exceptions to that, or it will lead in some rather nasty directions.

i don't agree with the targetting of the average israeli citizen. i don't think taking citizenship means you agree with the policies of the government. plenty of israeli citizens don't and it's vitally important that they stay in the country and belong to the country, so that they can be a voice for change.

someone who is formally a representative of that country or that government is a different matter.

Anna said...

Brett, I support protests against any objectionable regime.

Psycho, I don't think a protest against Rakon = an endorsement of untargeted ordinance. Most people would understand it as a protest against militarism more generally, which I'm sure is the intention of the protest's organisers. And I don't presume to give the position of the Left on anything.

Hugh said...

Moz, I presume the fact that you have (presumably) retained your New Zealand citizenship means you support the Oct 15th 'terror' raids, the deployment of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Foreshore & Seabed act, and other such actions?

Julie said...

Brett I think you need to take a deep breath and maybe read this blog when you are in your happy place? You seem to extrapolate quite a lot from posts and comments that aren't necessarily there and it can't be good for your blood pressure. Mind you it is good for our comment stats, so maybe I should just shut up ;-)

In reading this comment thread, and Anna's great post, I'm thinking about how a lot of the Americans who have shifted to NZ in the last decade or so have done so in part because of their opposition to the Bush regime and its actions domestically and internationally. To then treat those people as somehow synonomous with Bush and Cheney and Rove is a bit silly. Thus maybe we shouldn't assume that Israelis are all of one mind, just as not all feminists (or indeed all writers on this blog) are of one mind.

Anonymous said...

I'm ambivalent about the incident but I don't think it's as one-sided as it's being portrayed here. How far can people go before it's legitimate to shun them because of their politics? Does the shop owner have to serve black/white power? What about people wearing "finish the nakba" or "Greater Israel for the Jews" statements?

Collective punishment is an appropriate response to collective action or collective guilt. Especially where the dominant discourse from the group is that they're acting for and with the support of everyone who is Jewish. That's not true, but it is disturbingly close to the truth. Talking to random jews about Israel is not a pleasant experience for the most part. IME most are adamant that Israel has the right to exterminate however many Palestinians it takes to stop all resistance, because no resistance can be justified. What counts is remembering the holocaust. Against that background, assuming that random Israelis actively support the Nakba seems reasonable.

There is definitely a degree to which I feel uncomfortable about the actions of my chosen country when I'm overseas, and justifiably so. I feel equally uncomfortable at home, but less likely to be challenged on it. To some extent we all represent whatever obvious allegiances we have when we're outside the group. I don't think that's a bad thing, it is part and parcel of what makes the whole boycott/political pressure process work. The more zionists feel uncomfortable travelling outside their country, the more likely they are to change the things that make much of the rest of the world dislike their country.


OK, alternate question: what, if anything, could the shop owner have legitimately done?

Moz

Brett Dale said...

Perhaps the shop owner could of shown the world that peace, love and understanding is the way to go by serving people of all races, culture religions and countries.

Brett Dale said...

Not that it matters, but the Israeli woman was born in New Zealand.

Anyway, what say I owned a story and refused to serve, a Chinese, a Iranian and a Pakistani lady because of the actions of their government.

Groups that are supporting the cafe owner, would be up in arms and rightly so.

This is repugnant and shouldn't happen in New Zealand.

Carol said...

The woman born in NZ could have dual nationality (like me, who has Brit & NZ passports). I thought the other woman was her sister and lives in Israel, as does their mother. Stuff.co.nz says that the woman who lives in NZ is an Israel national.

http://peoplestimes.com/news/new-zealand/14694/anti-israel-cafe-standoff-upsets-ambassador

I don't agree with the action of excluding the women from the cafe based on their nationality. There doesn't seem to have been any attempt by the cafe owner to find out whether the Israeli women supports their government's actions against Gaza.

Mind you, I also haven't seen any statement from the two women as to where they stand on this, which suggests they do support the Israeli assault on Gaza.

I also think the action from the cafe owner has somewhat distracted media attention from the outrage in Gaza. One of the women have lodged a complaint with the HRC. I'm happy to wait for that take its course, but at the moment I think it's more urgent to protest about Gaza.

And at least in NZ we can protest against our government, and on either side of a cause, without large numbers of people being imprisoned. Apparently protests by Israelis against the Gaza attacks has resulted in a lot of the protestors being imprisoned - dissent in being squashed.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/16/gaza-middleeast1

And I have pondered recently about boycotting US and UK products, services etc. It's problematic though because NZ is swamped by stuff from those places. It might be easier to target some key US & UK operators and/or compamies that provide quite a bit of support to Gaza.

Anna said...

I noticed that some Invercargill residents held an anti-racism protest outside the cafe. I felt ambivalent about this - racism is not exactly foreign in Southland, and I don't recall any other recent protests down there, although that's where I grew up. (In fact, a police officer came to my rural Southland school, and instead of talking about cycle safety as he was supposed to, told the kids on the mat how much he supported the Springbok tour - dick).

This makes me wonder if the Invercargill protest against racism was more of an affirmation of Israel's current actions. If that's the case, it would have left the cafe owners and other Muslims in the community feeling pretty marginalised.

Quoth the Raven said...

Brett - If this was anything else, as a right winger, you'd be defending a private business owners right to serve whom ever he does or doesn't want. It's only because it has something to do with the right's revered apartheid state that you care who this man wishes to serve.

Brett Dale said...

The protestors were from all walks of life, and were disgusted at this cafe's owners actions, this is New Zealand, business owners should serve all people, regardless of their government.

Brett Dale said...

No I would never defend a private business owner to stop serving someone because of the country they come from, how could anyone defend that?????

Brett Dale said...

Would you still support the cafe owners actions if it had of been a kid that walked in and got kicked out?

Anna said...

Brett, you've misunderstood this post and the comments that follow about as extensively as it's possible to misunderstand something. You ask, 'Would you still support the cafe owner's actions...?'. No one has said they support the cafe owner's actions - quite the opposite. I truly don't know where you're getting this from.

Moz - interesting question. If someone said something objectionable (a racist comment, for example) on my property, I'd have no problem kicking them out. But I think it's unfair to infer someone's politics from their nationality. In terms of what the shopkeeper could legitimately have done ... tricky. He could have used his business to display material promoting his view on the conflict. That might deter people with politics he didn't like, although it might also earn him lots of flak.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to live in a country where people are discriminated against on the basis of their nationality.

Hugh said...

The consensus seems to be that is appropriate to target citizens of a country when they are somehow acting as representatives of their country, and not when they are simply acting as individuals.

The problem is that there is no clear consensus as to who does and doesn't represent the country. Obviously somebody currently employed by the Israeli national government does count as a representative. But there's a very large grey area. The example of the chess player is another one. The simple fact that he is participating in a competitive sports event doesn't seem to alter his status as an individual to me. (And for those who start talking about this being a high profile event - had anybody here heard about this chess tournament, much less this guy participating in it, before it came up in the context of the Gaza conflict?)

And as an aside, I think discussion of the views of the Israeli women on the Gaza conflict are irrelevant. I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that holding certain views takes away or gives rights.

Anonymous said...

"I think discussion of the views of the Israeli women on the Gaza conflict are irrelevant. I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that holding certain views takes away or gives rights."

Is it even possible to take a simple position on this issue? I support the goal of Palestinian independence. I am very wary of Hamas. I have a lot of sympathy for those living in Israel who fear for their lives as a result of the actions of their state. Ditto Palestine. I despise those on both sides who use violence to further their aims.

I feel sorry for Israeli and Palestinian expats who must fear for the lives of their families but aren't with them, have to watch what is happening from a distance.

katy

Anna said...

Well said, Katy - taking a simple position is neither possible nor desirable, I think.

Rendering international crises as straightforward goodies vs baddies situations is a political tactic, and I think a dangerous one - it can warrant enormous successes like the invasion of Iraq, for example, and the resulting factionalisation of the country which everyone foresaw except George W.

In this context, it's completely legitimate to support the goal of Palestinian independence, with eyes open to other, perhaps less palatable aspects of Hamas's political programme. The alternative is to overlook the the injustice of Israel's aggression because we don't agree with everything Hamas stands for.

Brett Dale said...

Palestinian children under Hamas.

http://zioneocon.blogspot.com/pal%20children%20w%20AK46%20rifles.jpg

Julie said...

And that refutes katy and Anna's point how Brett?

Craig Ranapia said...

Why is an Israeli sportsperson a legitimate target of sanctions, but an Israeli cafe-goer not?

Hugh:

Because I will support the right of anyone to hold a peaceful and lawful protest against John Minto and all his works in public space. (Harassment and intimidation of Minto or his family, or the destruction of his property, not at all.)

But while I don't have a very high opinion of the man, I'd have a very big problem if he walked into a cafe and was told "fuck off, we don't serve your sort in here."

But I'll a little further than most people here. As far as I'm concerned, Mustafa Tekinkaya should be free to refuse anyone service in his business, even if I think he's utterly wrong. The corollary is that if I was a local in Invercargill I wouldn't be doing business with an establishment run by bigots.

Julie said...

I imagine at the height of the Tour John Minto did get a lot of "we don't serve your kind here". (Which doesn't make it ok of course.)

I'm a bit confused by your comment Craig. On the one hand you say you have a very big problem with someone being turned away in a cafe, but on the other you are ok with the cafe owner refusing to serve anyone he doesn't want to deal with. I'm genuinely interested in how you marry these two points of view together?

Craig Ranapia said...

I'm a bit confused by your comment Craig. On the one hand you say you have a very big problem with someone being turned away in a cafe, but on the other you are ok with the cafe owner refusing to serve anyone he doesn't want to deal with. I'm genuinely interested in how you marry these two points of view together?

Much the same way I couldn't really get too awfully excited if Carole Beu decided to make the Women's Bookshop in Ponsonby 'woman-only' space, and she put up a sign in the window saying 'National Party supporters not served here'.

I'd think that's wrong, and might even argue so. But in the end, I'd show my displeasure by taking my business elsewhere and encouraging others to do the same.

And I also happened to think the boycott threats against Three over the broadcast of a certain episode of 'South Park' were fundamentally wrong-headed, but one of the most precious things about living in a pluralistic, open society is the freedom (by my lights) to just be wrong, even horribly offensive, as long as I have the same right to dissent and live otherwise.

Julie said...

Thanks Craig, I think I understand - the whole Voltaire thing, but with private business owners standing in for speakers.

Brett Dale said...

Julie:

If bloggers here cared about children, they would be targetting their protests elsewhere.

Julie said...

So Israel's military attacks on Gaza recently haven't killed any children?

Brett, I'm giving you an(other) opportunity to come up with something that has more meat to it than a one line "think of the children" response.

Anna said...

Brett, if you can explain how Israel's bombing of Palestinian children over the last three weeks has enhanced these kids' welfare, I'll give you a prize.

Craig, while I think it's fine for consumers to 'vote with their feet', I can't support a parallel right for business owners to decline to serve someone (unless their wellbeing, or the wellbeing of others present, is affected). For right or for wrong, businesses effectively make up part of our public space. If you disqualify someone from your business, you not only deny them goods or services but deny them an aspect of public life - an important part of being a citizen in a democracy.