This is a guest post by Oliver Worth
It’s official: The rights of private enterprises to decide what to sell is now the antithesis of democracy – that is, of course, if one reads Seth Freedman’s latest CiF piece ‘Suppressing Book Bolsters Settlers’.
Freedman begins by making a peculiar comparison between those trying to boycott Israel from abroad and the choice of the Tzomet Sefarim bookstore to stop selling a left wing political pamphlet. What he doesn’t mention, or fails to see, is that these two occurrences couldn’t be further apart. Whilst the decision of the Tzomet Sefarim to stop stocking this particular piece was as a result of unpopularity and customer complaints (a regular occurrence in a democratic society), the tactics used by anti-Israeli boycotters in the UK such as BDS are about preventing people from teaching and speaking – surely the exact opposite of liberal democracy.
What Freedman admits is that there had been a storm of criticism of the pamphlet, though he uses this as his ‘proof’ that the decision was forced because of threats of violence, rather than as obvious reasons why the pamphlet was so unpopular. He refers to quotes in the book such as settlers being referred to as “messianic madmen” and their children as “brainwashed zombies”, yet sees this as a vindication of his belief that the book must have been withdrawn because of threats, rather than because the pamphlet is crass, poorly written and ultimately detrimental to the firm’s bottom line.
Having run out of ideas to justify how a bookstore deciding to stop stocking a book must be the first sign of a totalitarian regime, Freedman goes on to rant about his own experiences in the Israeli territories, writing in a way that would lead one to believe he’d been participating in a situation at home in an Indiana Jones film, before quietly admitting there was actually “no real impediment to our work or safety”.
Seth concludes that this whole event proves that “Israel’s claim to be a fully functional bastion of democracy” is a “facade”, despite the fact that the state did not ban the book, nor even bat an eyelid at the publication of anti-government propaganda in a nation where such rights are cherished. That Freedman sees the rights of businesses to stock what they wish to sell as a contradiction of democracy once again reminds us what can happen when rash politics clash with reason.
The good news is Mr Freedman has inspired me to concoct my own system of democracy detection. Simply go to a bookstore near you, and if the shelves are not laden with extreme political propaganda, you can be sure you’re living under a military junta.