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Saturday, 2 October 2010

Autumn - Season of Mists and Futile Anti-Israel Boycotts

So, back in my mind's eye just for a moment to Ye Olde England: Aye me!

Autumn - season of mists and fruitless, futile, ridiculous retail anti-Israel boycotts which these days are demolished hardly before they've begun with "BUYcott Israel" campaigns.

I made my own small contribution last year during one of those daft and dreary Palestinian Solidarity Whinge Pot sessions at the Morrison's branch near to where we used to live in Bury, North Manchester . I made a real fuss, asked to speak to the duty manager, shook his hand and thanked the supermarket chain for providing a great service to the local  Jewish community - which they do - boycott, BUYcott or nocott.

It made me feel good - and gave the staff something new to titter over during their coffee break - especially as that particular branch employs both  Jewish and strict Moslem members of staff.

As a regular customer, I was always served very cheerily by both, whatever the weather, whatever I bought. It was all very nice indeed and helped to make last year's retail anti-Israel boycott campaign a silly non-starter even before it began.

But here's the real rub: It seems that the very idea of anti-Jewish retail boycotts began its odious life in England just like the blood libel and the use of the distinguishing Jewish badge.

Historian Paul Johnson noted in his A History of the Jews (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987):

"... In England the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, one of the architects of the Magna Carta, which itself had an anti-Jewish clause, tried to organise a boycott of Jewish business ..."

Incidentally, having read the relevant passages in both versions of the Magna Carta I don't believe it was anti-Jewish but did define most precisely Jews' role and status in Medieval  English society, just like that of the orphan and the widow. It seems obvious that the expulsion of 1290 was caused less by crude antisemitism - which was integral to that period's Christianity - than by sheer, even coarser expediency. King Edward 1 had milked the Jewish community of all its wealth and decided to throw its members out as he had no more use for them.

More happily, please watch this delightful clip made for popular (non-Jewish) Israel supporter, Chas Newkey-Burden, based on one of his posts about the 'Buycott' technique.



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