Head of UK Israel lobby initiative: BDS designed to “distress” Jews

The head of a ‘public advocacy network’ run by UK Israel lobby group BICOM has described the Palestinian BDS campaign as “designed” to “distress…the Jewish community.”

Luke Akehurst, a Labour activist taken on by BICOM in August 2011, wrote an article earlier this week attacking the decision by supermarket chain the Co-Operative to cut ties with four Israeli companies who source produce from illegal West Bank settlements.

In a particularly desperate move, Akehurst sought to associate the Co-Op’s ethical sourcing policy with “the Nazi boycott of Jewish shops and businesses”, a tactic already deployed by the hasbara group he directs, BICOM’s ‘We Believe in Israel’ initiative.

After my response piece appeared on the Liberal Conspiracy blog, Akehurst made a bad situation worse with two bizarre tweets.

Akehurst thinks that boycott, a time-honoured strategy of nonviolent civil society protest, is off limits for the Palestinians, because of the “precedent” of Nazi Germany (an ‘argument’ already being ridiculed by others).

Most tellingly, however, and in a move characteristic of much opposition to BDS by Israel’s apologists, Akehurst actually makes no mention of the Palestinians’ call for the international community to adopt boycott as a strategic element in their struggle for basic rights.

With this calibre of “public advocacy,” perhaps Palestinians and their supporters in the UK should be hoping Akehurst stays with BICOM for some time to come.


Ben White

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Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian‘s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ (2009, Pluto Press) and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination & Democracy’ (2012, Pluto Press). Ben is a researcher/writer for the Journal of Palestine Studies.