Thursday, July 28, 2016

When Zionists Boycotted Jews in Palestine

You know how it goes whenever the subject of the Boycott Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel comes up - dark references by the usual suspects to 1930s Germany and Nazi attacks on Jewish shops and businesses. As, for example, in this nonsense from the dopey leader of the NSW Labor Party, Luke Foley:

"The call to boycott Jewish commerce is Europe's oldest political appeal. That call today goes under the name of the BDS campaign. I condemn it." (See my 7/4/12 post Where Luke Foley's Coming From)

The next time you hear this kind of crap you might like to recall the following episode from 1940s Palestine when the Zionists there instituted a boycott of a Jewish newspaper:

"That autumn in Jerusalem, I had an insight into another side of life in Palestine - what is loosely called the freedom of the press. There was of course a strict censorship, both government and military, with a close liaison between the two. Opinion, so far as it did not actually inflame the population, was not censorable. But freedom of the press in Palestine during the war was restricted not so much by censorship as by lack of newsprint. Arab and Hebrew newspapers were given only limited supplies. The Palestine Post*, Jewish-owned and controlled - the only English daily in the country - was no exception. It had to reduce itself to a single sheet.

"At such a time, a plan to start a daily in opposition to the Post seemed unfeasible. After many months of negotiations, however, a second English daily was put on the market. It was owned by a Russian Jew, Khasin, who was already printing a weekly English paper on the Sabbath when no Palestine Post appeared. Khasin, with a totally inadequate supply of newsprint, with only two Intertype machines and one Monotype, a couple of stonehands and two reporters, launched his new daily, the Palestine Illustrated News, amid a storm of opposition from official Jewish bodies who began a campaign against the paper, telling influential Jews in the cities of Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv to boycott it and sending roundabout instructions to the Jewish newsboys to refuse to sell it on the streets. Into Khasin's possession there came a copy of a circular letter giving reasons why the paper should be boycotted. It stated that Khasin was not working in liaison with Jewish institutions, that his policy was his own, and that as the paper did not officially represent the Jewish outlook in the country, it was not suitable for a Jew to buy.

"The first copies sold in Zion Square created a minor riot. Khasin had engaged special newsboys and the Palestine Post sellers began a free fight in an effort to drive the Illustrated News off the streets. But despite the underground and open war, the circulation increased. Under immense difficulties, the layout of the News - hampered by the inadequacies of staff and machines, both primitive - was gradually improved. Whereas the Palestine Post played up Zionist achievement, and printed all Jewish news available, Khasin tried to devote equal space to both Jewish and Arab news.

"Difficulties, however, were to increase. Khasin, who flouted Jewish religious practice by printing on the Sabbath, wished to produce his paper on such fasts and holy days as the Palestine Post closed down. He received anonymous threatening letters, stating that time bombs would be laid in his offices and in the machine-room; that the compositors and stonehands working for him would be liable to personal attack if they consented to produce a paper on such days. But Khasin was not to be beaten. Already the Sabbath edition was being set and printed in an Arab workshop. There each Friday noon the Palestine News offices transported themselves - and under the direction of the two reporters, the Arab printers, who could read no English, set the paper by hand. They had learnt the letters of the English alphabet and could recognise them - but in reverse. Despite this, their galley-pulls were often cleaner than those of the European compositors working at their Intertypes. throughout Friday night, when devout Jews had ceased to work, the Arab flatbed presses would be groaning at top speed spewing out copies of Khasin's Illustrated News. Within a few weeks of the launching of the paper the Arab press was also publishing the News on special Holy Days in addition to each Sabbath (though the latter was called simply 'weekend' and undated).

"English people who grew to know the opposition with which the paper had to contend bought it in preference to the Post, although its world news coverage was inadequate and much of its grammar quaint. Military camps placed large orders.

"But the boycott, although it had not stopped the sale of the paper, had achieved something far more important. Only a few Jewish firms dared to advertise in it. The Arabs, of course, unless cinema proprietors or restaurateurs, did not normally advertise in a Jewish-owned paper. Khasin struggled on for many months, trying to defeat the unofficial boycott, but except for government advertisements, police notices and the like, the credit side of his accounts was bare. In the end, it was not lack of capital which closed down the News - but lack of newsprint itself." (Reporting from Palestine 1943-1944, Barbara Board**, 2008, pp 119-122)

[*The Palestine Post (1932-1950) was the predecessor of today's Likudnik Jerusalem Post;**Barbara Board (1916-1986)]

No comments: