The Forrest Gump of Israeli Advocacy
by Gidon Shaviv
Last week, one of Israel’s most under appreciated defenders was touring Canada. Ironically, the individual in question is French pro-Palestinian activist Frank Barat, who appeared in Toronto, Montreal, Waterloo, and Ottawa as part of “Apartheid Week.” Barat lectured about the role of the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine” (RToP) – a troupe of self appointed individuals who theatrically put Israel on trial to promote the boycotting of Israel and propagate the use of Israel-apartheid analogy.
Inexplicably, and almost certainly inadvertently, in the past 18 months Barat has been at the center of some of the biggest embarrassments for the BDS and “apartheid” movement. In a manner that would have been impossible for an Israel advocate, he has helped expose the hypocrisy of anti-Israel BDS campaigns and the falsehood of the Israel-apartheid analogy. Like the hapless Forrest Gump, Barat has found himself in the middle of a surprising number of key moments – although presumably he would not appreciate what they mean for supporters of Israel.
On September 2, 2010 Frank Barat interviewed left wing icon Noam Chomsky. Chomsky attacked BDS, stating that singling out Israel alone for boycotts is “Hypocrisy to high heaven.” Chomsky then added that “The very people calling for this [Academic Boycotts] are happy to study in Tel Aviv University.” He even equated the boycotts of Israeli universities with “pure antisemitism.”
Other interviews have been just as bad for Barat. On February 2, 2012, he met with anti-Israel ideologue Norman Finkelstein, who viciously tore into the core beliefs of BDS and apartheid activists, stating “We have to be honest: They don’t want Israel. They think they’re being clever. They call it their three tiers. ‘We want to end of the occupation,’ ‘we want the right of return,’ ‘and we want equal rights for Arab citizens.’ But they know the result of implementing all three is – what? You and I both know: There’s no Israel.”
For over half an hour, a visibly fazed Barat – the video went viral before Barat could remove it from YouTube – watched Finkelstein attack the BDS movement for its dishonesty and deflate the exaggerated claims of BDS victories. The “highlight” of the interview was when Finkelstein described BDS as a cult: “the guru says we have some victories and everyone nods their heads.” Scratching their heads, BDS activists wondered why Frank had ever posted the interview.
Similarly, in his role as the coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Barat created a platform, which Israel could never have provided, for South Africans to debunk the Israel-apartheid analogy. In November 2011 the RToP held a session at the Apartheid Museum in Cape Town South Africa, ostensibly to “debate” whether Israel fits the legal definition of an “apartheid state.” The event organizers hoped that by using the historical apartheid setting, they would be able to publicize the false Israel-Apartheid analogy. The RToP exploitation of the loaded apartheid term galvanized former South African justice Richard Goldstone. Goldstone who headed the infamous UN fact finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2008-9, publicly denounced the analogy, labeling it as slanderous.
In South Africa, the reaction was similar. Objective South African media such as “Business Day” editorialized “the comparison with apartheid is a superficial one…Israel does not practice apartheid in the sense of having codified discrimination against groups on the basis of their race or ethnicity. Israeli Arabs, a significant 20% of the population, are fully enfranchised, active participants in the institutions of the robust democracy…”
This total rejection of the analogy by one of Israel’s most prominent critica – and an expert on apartheid – as well as by the South African public, exposed those insisting on its applicability as either shamefully ignorant or maliciously focused on delegitimizing Israel.
If he desired to advocate for Israel, Frank Barat would be incredibly proud of his accomplishments. In interviews by the sympathetic Barat, anti-Israel icons felt comfortable to voice their honest and harsh opinions about the BDS movement that Barat so hopelessly promotes. Barat seems unaware of the service he is providing the Israeli position by publishing these interviews. Perhaps, he is so convinced by his own propaganda that he is incapable of judging how it will be perceived by those outside his “cult.”
Regardless of the reason, Israel supporters should be thankful to Frank Barat for exposing the inherent hypocrisy in the BDS movement and their use of the empty apartheid analogy. Keep up the good work, Frank!