Israel’s new law: suing Martin Luther King — updated

Meet Israel’s newest law, enabling civil suits against citizens calling for domestic boycotts against Israel or the territories. The law flies in the face of democratic protections of freedom of speech. Ben Caspit, columnist from Maariv, asks what’s next? “At this rate, we will very soon have to go around with a booklet detailing what we can say and what we can’t. ”

The law enables any individual or company claiming damages resulting from calls to boycotts to sue any other. As Matt Duss pointed out, “Under this new Israeli law, the Montgomery bus company could sue Martin Luther King for damages.”

Coverage is spreading across the Anglo media, doing harm to Israel’s standing as a democracy as it goes, in the NY Times, AFP, BBC, Reuters, Gaurdian and others. The most comprehensive information about the bill is posted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, including a democratic/anti-democratic comparison to similar American laws. Meanwhile, the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement is circulating a pledge for civil disobedience and, barely 24 hours into law, already MKs from Yisrael Beiteinu are using it to sue Arab legislators.

I’ve collected below the past 24 hours of opining against the wisdom of this bill, from both sources expected and unexpected. I have yet to find support for this bill. [Update: two sponsors of the bill opine in English, I encourage you to make your views known to Ambassador Michael Oren.

Anti-Defamation League, “Knesset Anti-Boycott Law May Infringe On Basic Democratic Rights

We are, however, concerned that this law may unduly impinge on the basic democratic rights of Israelis to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Among Israel’s many assets is its vibrant democracy – a fact clearly supported by the six-plus hour debate of this bill in the Knesset.  To legally stifle calls to action – however abhorrent and detrimental they might be – is a disservice to Israeli society.  We hope Israel’s Supreme Court will quickly take up a review of this law and resolve the concerns it raises.

New Israel Fund, Action Alert: Don’t Boycott Democracy! (click to email Ambassador Oren!)

The “boycott bill” criminalizing free speech is only one of many anti-democratic measures that have been introduced in the Knesset. Other measures would cripple human rights organizations, further marginalize Israel’s Arab minority, constrict the right of peaceful protest or hamper an independent judiciary.

Commentary Magazine, “Israeli Boycott Bill Furor Missed the Point

Though the legislation does not, strictly speaking, “ban” advocacy for boycotts, it does have the potential to infringe upon freedom of speech. As such, it is a mistake, and yet another in a long history of unforced errors made by the Jewish state in the battle for international public opinion.

…But the idea that the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live on the “wrong” side of the 1967 lines deserve to be singled out for boycotts or that violence against them can be rationalized is hardly an expression of civil debate.

The Jerusalem Post. “The Bad Boycott Bill

Civil society has an unalienable right to organize peacefully and to use its buying power or freedom of association to further political objectives, whether it be grassroots protest against the high price of cottage cheese, haredi activism against Shabbat desecration, rabbis’ calls to “boycott” potential Arab house-buyers in Jewish neighborhoods or left-wing opposition to the government’s settlement policy in Judea and Samaria.

Ben Caspit of Maariv, “Where is the Boundary?

A few left wingers with whom I argued back then claimed that this was the first step toward a  slippery slope that would be hard to get out of. I disagreed with them. But on one thing those left wingers who argued with me were right. In the last two years insanity has spread here. The right wing rules, and lawfully so because it was elected, but it is not just ruling, it is running amuck.

Along with this law, MK Yaakov Katz of the National Union is passing a law to pan any disparagement of entire groups. Saying “settlers are haters of Israel,” or “traitorous left wingers” will not be an offense. These is crazy. At this rate, we will very soon have to go around with a booklet detailing what we can say and what we can’t. Step by step, the booklet will by upgrade and will contain a detailed list of what is permissable to think and what is forbidden. We are not that far away from this.

Steve Clemons of The Atlantic,”Israel Kicks Down its Own Democratic Hill?

Israel has just hoisted on itself the equivalence of a McCarthy-like witch hunt for those it feels might be traitors to the Greater Israel cause.  These kinds of loyalty oath stunts and such government brittleness undermine democracy and narrow national debate during times when its smarter to keep the gates of ideas as widely open as possible.

The United States State Department, via Haaretz

“Freedom of expression, including freedom to peacefully organize and protest, is a basic right under democracy,” a State Department official said. “It is a right that the American people hold dear and it is among the democratic values that the Israeli and American people have long shared.”

The Knesset’s legal advisor, via Haaretz

Before the vote, the Knesset’s legal adviser, attorney Eyal Yanon, published a legal assessment saying parts of the law edge towards “illegality and perhaps beyond.” He went on to warn that the law “damages the core of freedom of expression in Israel.” Yanon’s assessment contradicts that of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who said the bill is legal.

Bradley Burston of Haaretz, “The quiet sound of going fascist

Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak and 10 other cabinet ministers already know this. That’s why they failed to show up for the vote.

They stayed away because they know that this is the stain that may prove indelible. The Boycott Law is the litmus test for Israeli democracy, the threshold test for Israeli fascism. It’s a test of moderates everywhere who care about the future of this place.

This is the one. This is where the slope turns nowhere but down.

Updated 5:00 pm: The Zionist Organization of America, via Ron Kampeas

ZOA pres Mort Klein tells me org. opposes anti-boycott laws in principle. Mort Klein: “nobody was more appalled by the boycott of Ariel theater than me, but to make it illegal? I don’t think so.”

Updated 6:13 pm: Peace Now, “APN Deeply Concerned by New Israeli “Boycott Law

Commenting on the new law, APN’s President and CEO, Debra DeLee said: “Yesterday was a black day for Israeli democracy. It is alarming that the Knesset, the very institution charged with safeguarding democracy, is systematically shrinking the space for free speech in Israel.”

Updated 7:15 pm: BBC Monitoring translates ten articles from Hebrew-language Israeli press, including Yediot Ahronot, Haaretz, Maariv, and others. Only Yisrael Hayom comes out in favor. (Hat tip Yakov Wolf.)

Updated 7/14 11:30 am:

The Forward, “We Can’t Say This

The fear and frustration that prompted this new law are to be acknowledged, but they cannot justify such a dangerous move. Some boycotts are ruthless and discriminatory, true, but in other circumstances, a boycott can be a legitimate use of non-violent protest to achieve a worthy goal. A boycott of West Bank products could fall into the first category. It could also be seen as a noble attempt to effect change.

But we can’t say that.

Jeffrey Goldberg, “Maybe It’s Time for American Jews to Boycott Netanyahu

But let the opponents of boycotts make their best arguments against such boycotts — it has always been the Israeli way to fight bad ideas with better ideas. This new law is an entirely new thing — a bullying example of the tyranny of the majority in action. I’m confident the Israeli Supreme Court will overturn this dreadful law, but until it does, might I suggest a counter-boycott, by American Jews, of Israeli politicians, up to and including the prime minister, who support the curtailing of free speech in Israel?

The UK Jewish Chronicle, “Anti-Democratic

It is a moral disgrace, and its supporters deserve every ounce of the opprobrium they receive from all decent people. But the response of the Knesset this week, in effectively silencing the proponents of BDS, is not merely misguided and an own goal; it is a betrayal of the very essence of Israel.

British Ambassador to Israel, “Backlash as Israel gags boycotters

Britain’s ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, criticised the law. He said: “We are concerned with the ratification of a law that harms the legitimacy of freedom of speech and is against the strong Israeli tradition of vibrant and energetic political debate.”

Academic Friends of Israel, ibid.

Ronnie Fraser of Academic Friends of Israel said it “will make it more difficult to argue that Israel is an open democratic society with few restrictions on debate. Once again the Israeli government has failed to understand the problems for pro-Israeli activists in the diaspora.”

European Union, reported in Haaretz

“However, as part of such fundamental values as free expression and speech that the EU cherishes and shares with Israel, we are concerned about the effect that this legislation may have on the freedom of Israeli citizens and organizations to express non-violent political opinions.”

Gershom Gorenberg, “Warning: This Article Is Illegal” (emphasis not mine)

In seeking to outlaw such dissent, the Knesset majority has carried out a classic abuse of power. This is part of a pattern. The current ruling coalition has mounted a legislative offensive against democratic norms. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu absented himself from the Knesset vote on the Boycott Act, but his government endorsed it and his party was the moving force behind it.

Update 7/15 11:41 am: UK Yachad, “Yachad defends right of Israeli to express their opinions

Yachad will not join those who call for a boycott of Israeli produce because we believe in debate and we are opposed to a policy of isolation. However, we fiercely and unapologetically defend the right of Israelis and Jews to express their opinion as enshrined our tradition and as stated in Israel’s own Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty.

We can be justly proud of our distinguished tradition of dissent. But dissent is easy in the absence of political power. The real test is whether we can uphold our ideals in practice.

Adapted from a post to Judaism Without Borders.

72 Responses to “Israel’s new law: suing Martin Luther King — updated”

  1. If ZOA and ADL come out against it… Israel, you’ve got a problem….


    Kol Ra'ash Gadol · July 12th, 2011 at 5:07 pm
  2. I really think many of Israel’s actions would make much more sense if you (pl) stopped thinking of Israel as a democracy.


    miri · July 12th, 2011 at 5:36 pm
  3. Obviously just a shot across the bow while knowing this will never hold up in the courts.


    tzachi0 · July 12th, 2011 at 6:59 pm
  4. BBC has translated more from the Israeli press overwhelmingly panning this.

    Tzachi0, this is a scorched earth approach to scoring points with Yisrael Beiteinu’s voter base. And if this one passed, what about the other 20 un-democratic bills on the docket? This wasn’t supposed to survive this far.


    Kung Fu Jew · July 12th, 2011 at 7:15 pm
  5. I agree that this is obvious pandering, but I don’t think the Knesset would legislate without knowing full well how this would fare with the judiciary.

    Got a link to that docket?


    tzachi0 · July 12th, 2011 at 7:19 pm
  6. Never mind. It seems as though you have a Jewish-themed blog which includes this sort of information.


    tzachi0 · July 12th, 2011 at 7:20 pm
  7. Here is the detailed list (DOC), including what the status of the bills/laws. I’ve pasted the table of contents below.

    Bills that Were Passed in the Current Knesset
    The Nakba Law
    Acceptance to Communities Law
    Revoking Citizenship for Persons Convicted of Terrorism or Espionage
    Funding from Foreign State Entities
    Bill Pardoning Protesters of the Gaza Disengagement
    Abu Basma Bill on Regional Council Elections

    Bills Being Promoted with Government Support
    Prohibition on Instituting a Boycott Bill
    Infiltration Bill
    Binding Migrant Caretakers
    Tribunal for Foreigners
    Anti-Incitement Bill
    Pledge of Allegiance Bill
    Bill to Protect Israel’s Values
    Preference in Services for Those who served in the Military
    Preference in Public Service for Those who served in the Military

    Bills Not Promoted due to Current Lack of Government Support
    Bill on MKs’ Pledge of Allegiance
    Government-Initiated Bills Intended to Restrict the Knesset’s Opposition
    Cinema Bill
    Bill on Ousting MKs
    Bill to Bar Political Murderers and Terrorists from Voting
    Bill Banning Veils in Public
    Bill on Funding for Cultural Institutions

    Bills the Government Has yet to Endorse or Reject
    Associations Law – Amendment
    Pledge of Allegiance for Civil Servants and Council Members
    Denying Entry into Israel
    Bill to Prevent Slandering of the State and its Institutions
    Bill on Taxation of Organizations Funded by Foreign Entities
    Bill on Dissolving Companies that Refuse to Operate in Any Part of the State

    Bills Aimed at Weakening the Supreme Court
    Basic Law: Constitution Court
    Bill to Disallow High Court from Ruling on Citizenship Law
    Bill Banning High Court from Ruling on Security-Related Matters
    Bill to Defer High Court Rulings on Legality of Bills

    Other Initiatives
    Parliamentary Committees of Inquiry


    Kung Fu Jew · July 12th, 2011 at 7:38 pm
  8. Surely, everyone here can remember how, over the past few years, various Jewish and non-Jewish individuals advocated, including on this blog, in support of BDS as an effective tactic to pressure Israel’s government and society to change policy on Palestinians and settlements. Some of these individuals were truly well-meaning. They saw in BDS – not the vile BDS of Ali Abunimah but the “soft” BDS of KFJ – a low-friction option to influencing Israeli policy while remaining a pro-Israel Zionist in good standing.

    Wasn’t it perfectly foreseeable that instead of bending to such pressure, Israel’s electorate would first see it as an infringement on the country’s rights and sovereignty and instead respond with a government coalition to confront it?

    We are entering a new reality, where a plurality of Israel’s citizens – living between the hammer of Palestinian violence, the sickle of “human rights” groups and the anvil of international delegitimization efforts – have reached the conclusion that a form of war is being waged against them, a war to which they must begin to respond.

    This law will probably be amended by court challenge, and will likely be better for it, but its essence, as an expression of popular will, should not be lost on the “professional” Jews among us. Israel’s society no longer considers BDS an acceptable venue for organizational protest of government policy (the individual’s right, of course, is reserved). Furthermore, the blurry distinction between vile and “soft” BDS – in truth, the two enable each other – is sufficiently inconsequential as to be irrelevant. You don’t want to buy a bottle of wine because it was made by Jewish hands in the Shomron? It’s every bigot’s right. But launch a public campaign against the company and you’ve crossed the line from protest to predation. Those who consider themselves pro-Israel and pro-BDS are hereby put on notice – from now on, you’ve lost the right to be both.

    The people who once advocated BDS as an attempt to make Israel a more open, pluralistic and liberal country, by their estimation, have now managed to fail, miserably and in the most counter-productive fashion imaginable. There is a mystical Jewish saying that “what comes from the heart, enters the heart”. Whatever it was that you pro-Israel BDS-supporters thought came from your hearts was received as an act of aggression, of rhetorical violence competing with actual violence for the same outcome.

    The international campaign of BDS, in all its forms, is no longer an outlet for legitimate dissent, but a weapon in the hands of those at war for Israel’s destruction. For those who truly care about Israel, this outcome should serve as your perverse yet predictable wake up call: pro-Israel means anti-BDS.


    Victor · July 12th, 2011 at 7:47 pm
  9. I never really understood why BDS was some uncrossable line. So this legislation really saddens me.


    Shoshie · July 13th, 2011 at 12:22 am
  10. What confuses you, Shoshie? Is it the historic implications of economically boycotting Jews? Is it the attempt to culturally and academically exclude Israelis – not North Koreans, or Chinese, or Sudanese, or any other people – from international exchange? Perhaps it is the anti-semitic, eliminationist underpinnings of the BDS project and its most honest backers?

    Jew Guevara has written on this subject, from an insider’s perspective.


    Victor · July 13th, 2011 at 1:36 am
  11. Agree with Victor. This law as it is, is imperfect and does make me uncomfortable (unlike most of the laws that KFJ listed). If the law is amended by the courts to exclude the lawsuit clause than I can support it as an important way of blunting the weapon of BDS which is used as a means to destroy Israel as a Jewish state.


    Avraham · July 13th, 2011 at 9:37 am
  12. To the contrary: I think that this is likely to make people more intent on boycotting – it isn’t going to hurt non-Israelis who boycott from outside the country – it only hurts other Israelis, and it certainly hurts Israel the nation. Refusing to hear criticism doens’t make one right, only deaf.
    Israel needs to start paying attention to those who care about it, and who have been stymied in their attempts to make change happen in other ways who have turned to BDS.


    KRG · July 13th, 2011 at 10:32 am
  13. @Victor

    “Wasn’t it perfectly foreseeable that instead of bending to such pressure, Israel’s electorate would first see it as an infringement on the country’s rights and sovereignty and instead respond with a government coalition to confront it?”

    Yes, it was completely foreseeable that this would happen. But you make this sound like an Israel vs. the world issue. It’s not. It’s an Israeli majority vs. Israeli minority issue. It’s entirely an internal affair. Sovereignty has absolutely nothing to do with it. This doesn’t effect most pro-BDS folks outside of Israel one whit.

    This does make me very happy that the US doesn’t have a parliamentary democracy. Coalitions like Israel’s ruling coalition yield to their drama queens to keep them happy. Bibi delights in exhibiting soft-spined reasonableness in relation to his zealous colleagues. In that vein, the Soviet imagery in your post sings the notes of that screechy diva, Yisrael Beiteinu.


    Dan O. · July 13th, 2011 at 10:39 am
  14. KRG and Dan. O,

    You don’t take into account the vast legitimacy and support that Israeli organizations and individuals have lent to the BDS project, even indirectly. Is it Peace Now or ACRI that furnishes lists of products produced in the territories and then launches campaigns in European supermarkets to boycott settlement goods? Or do they simply make the lists and then pass them on to their European partners?

    They will still be able to do so, but will now have their tax exempt status revoked and be subject to civil lawsuits for damages. And I think Peace Now are more of the “soft” BDS variety.

    Individuals like Barghouti, who is publishing a book on the vile form of BDS (i.e. how to destroy Israel through BDS in 60 days), meanwhile studying in an Israeli university, will now be held liable for his language, which is not dissimilar from a form of incitement.

    This law has nothing to do with suppressing dissent or not listening to various opinions. It’s about creating new tools to enable the country to deal with new challenges.

    I really don’t see the great difference between this Boycott Bill, and the US law which forbids companies, organizations or individuals from complying with the 40 year old Arab Boycott of Israel, with penalties ranging from civil to criminal.


    Victor · July 13th, 2011 at 11:05 am
  15. “Is it Peace Now or ACRI that furnishes lists of products produced in the territories and then launches campaigns in European supermarkets to boycott settlement goods? Or do they simply make the lists and then pass them on to their European partners?”

    Hmm. So is it boycott that’s the problem? Or political speech? Sovereignty? Or instead, treason?

    It’s so all over the place, it’s impossible to respond. That’s the problem with this bill – it’s hysterical.

    As for for the US act, it’s completely different. That stops US companies from boycotting Israel as a condition of doing business in Arab countries. For example, if I had a contract in Dubai, and the contract required me to swear-off trade with Israel, acceptance of that condition runs me afoul of the law.

    It does not stop me from making my own decision not to import Israeli goods. Moreover, if I don’t do any business with Arab countries there is no reason I would ever raise the slightest suspicion that I was acting in accordance against US National Security Interests.


    Dan O. · July 13th, 2011 at 11:31 am
  16. Victor- I do see how calls for boycott can be used to mask antisemitism, and I very much disagree with academic boycotts. However, I see a pretty clear difference between academic boycotts and, for instance, a call to boycott products that benefit from the settlements and exploitation of Palestinians. And most of the people I know who boycott such products tend to put a lot of thought, generally, into where they buy goods, not just on this one issue. So, again, I still don’t see why boycotting is this hard line.


    Shoshie · July 13th, 2011 at 11:42 am
  17. Lastly, which is totally lost on anyone ignorantly caught up in hyperbole peddled by BDS advocates themselves, BDS is no threat to Israel or its existence. It is, by the admission of its very advocates, a PR tool to raise the prominence of their cause. The dependence of Israel’s economy on tourism and hi-tech so greatly outnumbers any wine, produce, hummus or Dead Sea mud produced by the country’s manufacturing industries. Parallels to South African boycotts are laughable, since the boycotts against South African manufacturing brought the country’s business sector to its knees. Israel, with all its integration into the global information economy, is in no such danger.

    So in order to fight a fringe, non-existential, non-violent public relations action against Israel, the 70% of Israeli citizens who oppose the settlements should lose freedom? Really? You might as well legislate that one MUST buy products from the settlements.

    This is wrong on philosophical and pragmatic levels. From the ACRI breakdown of how this law is not an equivalent to American boycott limitations, emphases mine:

    1. US legislation bans only participation in boycott, the Israeli legislation bans also calls for boycott.
    2. US legislation only restricts participation in a boycott initiated by a foreign government; Israeli legislation restricts all boycotts of Israel and the settlements.
    3. In the US, the federal government is the sole body charged with enforcing the law, and there is no opening for the intervening action of private bodies.
    4. US law grants special protection to the boycott as an expression of conscience; the Israeli law not only does not protect it as an expression, but now formally says that boycott is a non-legitimate expression (only when it is a call for boycott of Israel or a territory under the control of Israel).

    In America, this law would permit Shell Oil or KRB to sue me for suggesting — in print, at protests, on TV, on my blog — that we should cut down our oil dependence. It would permit the Montgomery bus company to sue Martin Luther King. It is, in essence, equivalent to Cuba and the Former Soviet Union’s “crimes against the economy” which served no purpose but to lock up dissidents. Some company.

    As a side note to Victor specifically, Israel has a trade agreement with the EU that products from the settlements should be labeled. Peace Now doesn’t have to create a list — it is the Israeli government which must do so, at least as long as it wants Europe’s business.


    Kung Fu Jew · July 13th, 2011 at 12:04 pm
  18. Shoshie,

    For you, a “soft”-BDS’er, boycotting isn’t “this hard line”. Maybe you won’t buy Ahava products, but you also won’t stand there, day after day, heckling every person who walks into or out of the store, disturbing the local retail environment sufficiently to force the landowner to kick Ahava out in order to keep his other tenants, as what happened in London(?).

    I recently saw a documentary about modern day slavery, which is as rampant as ever. Millions of people are enslaved in Africa and Asia, forced to mine exotic metals which find their way into every cell phone sold on the planet. We all, you included, are contributing to the treatment of human beings as property. Have you ever heard a peep raised about this?

    But “exploitation of Palestinians” has somehow found its way into your vocabulary. What exploitation? Tell me. List the oppressive and indefensible exploitation of Palestinians by the settlements. Is it the 40,000 Palestinians working in settlement construction who would otherwise be unemployed? Is it the several thousand employed by the Barkan industrial park? Is it the miles of irrigation and sewage and roads that settlements have laid, which are in many areas benefiting both Jewish and Arab villages?

    As I said, if you don’t want to drink wine from Jewish vineyards in the Shomron, then don’t. But to target a group of people who are in 100% compliance with Israeli and international law for economic boycott, simply because of where they live… it’s pure discrimination, and it is now against the law in Israel.


    Victor · July 13th, 2011 at 12:08 pm
  19. Israel has a trade agreement with the EU that products from the settlements should be labeled.

    If we research the subject, I wonder if it weren’t European funded Israeli “human rights” groups who insisted that Europe include this language in the trade agreements.

    Peace Now doesn’t have to create a list

    It doesn’t have to, but it does do so, right?


    Victor · July 13th, 2011 at 12:12 pm
  20. [...] By Chicky | Published: 07/13/2011 Tweet I’m sure you’ve all heard about this Israel banning of people boycotting Israel, a fairly stupid way to try to force people to like you. The international community looked up from [...]


    Israel wants to be hated really badly | Hipster Jew · July 13th, 2011 at 12:35 pm
  21. BDS is no threat to Israel or its existence. It is, by the admission of its very advocates, a PR tool to raise the prominence of their cause

    This is the Naomi Klein line of “soft” BDS argument, used to make BDS palatable to the masses who are uncomfortable with Israeli settlements, but aren’t anti-Zionist.

    Ali Abunimah’s more vile BDS (i.e. boycott Israel as an expression of contempt for Jews and their right to sovereignty) is a bit more… how shall we call it… honest, to the point, emblematic of BDS’s roots and driving force? Perhaps all of the above.

    Again, many of the “soft” BDS’ers aren’t bad people. They mean well. And now, should they reside in Israel, they’ll have to find alternate venues for expressing their distaste for specific Israeli policies. It shouldn’t be so difficult for wonderful, creative people like KFJ.

    As for ACRI’s breakdown of how Israel’s law differs from current US law, I’ll use a kal vachomer. If the US, which is not the target of the Arab boycott, can impose civil and even criminal penalties of those who direct or participate in a boycott of Israel, then surely Israel, which is the direct target of the boycott, should be able to impose even more severe penalties.

    Yet, Israel hasn’t imposed more severe penalties than has the US. All the Knesset has done is target the tax status of groups with certain agendas, condition government funding, and open up the matter of organized boycott for civil litigation from those directly impacted by it.

    Israel’s new approach to BDS has parallels in how the Europeans handle cases of libel or derogatory speech (the burden is on the person who spoke the alleged libel to prove that it wasn’t libelous). Sure, this has had a chilling effect on criticism of radical Islam in Europe, but no one has suggested that Europe is now fascist for restricting speech.

    Lastly, as I pointed out, and as most of us know, the law is likely to undergo review in the courts and (likely) revision, as its focus is narrowed, precisely for the reasons KFJ suggests – at present its scope is massive. This is inevitable. But the essence, the statement of societal will that this law represents should not be ignored: BDS is no longer a legitimate form of expression for those who wish to be considered within the pro-Israel tent.

    More generally, this law proves that externally pressuring Israel’s society to make changes in policies which it is not ready or interested in making will not lead to capitulation, but a stiff necked resistance. This is an important point for those who wish to see a change in Israeli policies, but care about the state and it’s people (that should include most JStreet’ers). Similarly, considerable American pressure on settlements has not resulted in Israeli capitulation, or helped further negotiations. It has resulted in a freezing of Israel’s positions, and the radicalization of Palestinian diplomacy. This point on pressuring Israel to make concessions “for its own good” should have been obvious from the very beginning, and it was, to some of us.

    KFJ can talk all he likes about 70% of Israelis being opposed to settlements – they very well may be, although the degree of opposition will vary in intensity. Certainly, large percentages of Israelis very much wanted a Palestinian state to exist in peace with Israel. However, with the state of negotiations as they are, and with the experience of the 2nd Intifada, the Gaza Disengagement, the Lebanon and Gaza wars, Israelis are unwilling to bear the cost of the peace treaty without any of its benefits. They’re certainly not going to be run out of the West Bank at the end of a gun or Arab inspired economic boycott which smacks of thinly veiled exterminationist anti-semitism. They see such moves as part and parcel of the Arab war for their destruction.


    Victor · July 13th, 2011 at 1:14 pm
  22. “I recently saw a documentary about modern day slavery, which is as rampant as ever. Millions of people are enslaved in Africa and Asia, forced to mine exotic metals which find their way into every cell phone sold on the planet. We all, you included, are contributing to the treatment of human beings as property. Have you ever heard a peep raised about this?”

    Yes, actually, I have.

    I really hate this argument that people who are against the occupation are unfairly targeting Israel. Most activists that I have interacted with are outspoken about a number of international causes. I do agree that some people in the liberal activist community use the anti-occupation cause as a mask for antisemitism, and that’s a problem I think a lot about. I’m actually planning a blog post about it, which I’ll hopefully get around to in the next couple weeks. But I do think that it’s important to allow as many options as possible for peaceful dissent and protest. It’s actually why I much prefer US freedom of speech laws over European ones.


    Shoshie · July 13th, 2011 at 3:26 pm
  23. But to target a group of people who are in 100% compliance with Israeli and international law for economic boycott, simply because of where they live… it’s pure discrimination, and it is now against the law in Israel.

    Victor, do you really think that most experts in international law would really agree that this group of people is in 100% compliance with international law?

    And, if most would not agree, and if violations of the 4th Geneva convention might be involved, wouldn’t that mean that such targeting may not simply be ‘pure discrimination’?

    This question does seem to be a crucial issue underlying this whole issue. One can argue for or against different things, but it seems important not to misrepresent the actual reasons why some people might consider supporting a boycott.


    ben azzai · July 13th, 2011 at 3:31 pm
  24. Shoshie, I totally agree with you. As if people should only spend their time, treasure and talent on causes with the highest need. People obviously don’t behave that way, although efficacy is a criterion I hope we all certainly consider. Under this rubric, we’d only fund transgendered, orphaned Uijgr prostitutes living in China (or some other tragically screwed demographic).

    More specifically, if we only supported those in “most need,” then Israel certainly isn’t anywhere up the list in terms of poorest, weakest or most needy in any way. And certainly the Palestinians are worse off than Israelis, both in terms of number killed and economic impoverishment, which would lead us back again to supporting them instead of Israel. That logic is a recipe for abandoning Israel, so why conservatives use it to bash Palestinians continues is beyond me…


    Kung Fu Jew · July 13th, 2011 at 5:48 pm
  25. Ali Abunimah’s more vile BDS (i.e. boycott Israel as an expression of contempt for Jews and their right to sovereignty) is a bit more… how shall we call it… honest, to the point, emblematic of BDS’s roots and driving force? Perhaps all of the above.

    You have no idea the “real” roots of the BDS movement if Ali Abunimeh is your example. You need to meet and befriend some BDS activists first, then you can tell me what it’s all about.


    Kung Fu Jew · July 13th, 2011 at 5:50 pm
  26. Victor is mistaking Peace Now for Gush Shalom repeatedly. They deserve to be carefully distinguished from each other.


    Jew Guevara · July 13th, 2011 at 7:25 pm
  27. KFJ, I’m in the MidWest. Abuminah and the likeminded eliminationists of greater Chicagoland = BDS to me. I don’t know how anyone can disregard Abunimah and EI’s influence on the BDS movement in the US and Europe. You need to leave the coasts and come out here, into the sh*t, as it were. When it comes to radical Arab nationalist-Marxist-Islamist coalition, we’re like Israel’s Galilee, while you’re out there in Haifa and Jaffa playing patty-cake.

    JG, I’m making the same distinction you made, between the “soft” BDS’ers and the radicals who are at war.


    Victor · July 13th, 2011 at 8:17 pm
  28. Victor, I’m pointing out that Peace Now never made those lists. It was Gush Shalom. They are ‘soft BDS’ while Peace Now was not. This week, Peace Now made a big step and joined Gush Shalom. They both target settlements stuff specifically.
    I get in trouble all the time for supporting them – over on the radical arab nationalist marxist islamist coalition websites where I also post. I get called a Zionist a lot….. sigh.


    Jew Guevara · July 13th, 2011 at 8:54 pm
  29. Victor, the term “soft BDS” is so inappropriate. “BDS” is shorthand for a specific campaign by a coalition of groups. It does not include Israelis and American Jews who have opposed the territories for as long as the territories have been occupied.

    I am no more a “soft BDS” advocate than you are a “soft fascist.”


    Kung Fu Jew · July 14th, 2011 at 11:29 am
  30. “It does not include Israelis and American Jews who have opposed the territories for as long as the territories have been occupied.”

    That may be true of Israeli and American Jews but certainly not of the BDS movement as a whole.


    Uri Allen · July 14th, 2011 at 11:42 am
  31. KFJ, now you’ve lost me. You can’t possibly be that disconnected from reality to know that there are two campaigns going on – one purely against the settlements, the other, much larger and more vitriolic, against Israel as a whole.

    When Israeli ships having nothing to do with the settlements can’t unload their cargo in South Africa because the union there is boycotting Israel, it’s not about the settlements. When food coops in Sacramento and Massachussets are forced to vote on whether they should stock Israeli goods, it’s got nothing to do with the settlements. When British university professors refuse to have anything to do with their Israeli colleagues, it’s not about the settlements.

    The battles that have raged these past years on Evergreen and Hampshire Colleges, in the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches, and in unions around the globe, but especially in the UK, have had absolutely nothing to do with the settlements, or even the occupation itself, and everything to do with Israel.

    The apparent gaps in your knowledge on this subject are startling. Please educate yourself.


    Victor · July 14th, 2011 at 12:07 pm
  32. The second link should have been here, to Divest This, the very best BDS-coverage site online.


    Victor · July 14th, 2011 at 12:08 pm
  33. Victor, without occupation and settlements the BDS movement, as an expression of civil society around the world, would not exist. Unlike the Arab Boycott (which collapsed for good because of Oslo) the BDS movement is owned by groups that probably wouldn’t have existed were it not for the 67 occupation.


    Jew Guevara · July 14th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
  34. The battles that have raged these past years on Evergreen and Hampshire Colleges

    as an alum of Hampshire College I can tell you that that is 100000000% nonsense. most of the students involved in Pro-Palestinian politics at Hampshire College have been and are Jewish. The first groups were founded by Jews even. What’s more, Hampshire College never divested from Israel, it was never a question. Besides, the conscious investment portfolio at Hampshire College has kept them divested of the occupation since 1982, at the latest, when the students created strict by-laws for how the school’s money could be invested when the did actually divest from South Africa.

    As usual, Victor, you’re overstating things you don’t actually know very much about.


    Justin · July 14th, 2011 at 5:05 pm
  35. BDS movement is owned by groups that probably wouldn’t have existed were it not for the 67 occupation

    occupation, which wouldn’t have begun had there not been a war in ’67


    Jonathan1 · July 14th, 2011 at 5:44 pm
  36. And what of the BDS movement as an expression of uncivil society? Some of you appear to be living in a bubble. I won’t say you are wrong, because you’re speaking from your experience. However, the only people who take BDS seriously, in my experience, where I live and interact on this subject, are those opposed to the occupation of ’48, and not ’67.

    BDS, in my view, hasn’t taken hold of “civil society”, as you put it, because of new home construction in Shilo. Rather, if you follow the subject, upticks in BDS activism (as with all anti-Israel activities) are in response to violence by the State of Israel in the defense of its “legitimate” borders – as in Lebanon and Gaza. BDS is functionally aimed at Israel’s legitimacy as a state, not the settlements. The attempt to refocus BDS on settlements is an attempt to make the project palatable to less extreme, pro-Palestinian factions.

    This Jewish contingent of “soft” BDS’ers, like KFJ and JG, who have emerged to target the settlements, and not Israel as a whole, is a niche trend, but only that, a niche within a much larger body of hostility that is less “Peace Now” than “Electronic Intifada”, and driven more by the ideas of the later, rather than the former.

    KFJ may sleep well thinking that his “soft” BDS is aimed at Kiryat Arba and not Tel Aviv. However, to the BDS core, that is less relevant than that they got an otherwise relatively pro-Israel Jew to participate in any BDS action at all, and encourage others to do so, which complements their totalist vision, if not as completely as they would like.

    “Civil society” isn’t driving BDS forward. People like Abunimah are the bleeding edge of this movement. Their radical energy charts its course and agenda, which then trickles down, in language that is less resistance and more “social justice”, until someone like KFJ incorporates it into his world view. That you’ve ensconced yourself in a bubble of delusion on the subject does not change that basic fact. People like KFJ mean well, but they’re mere fellow travelers on a ship they don’t control.


    Victor · July 14th, 2011 at 5:56 pm
  37. As usual, Victor, you’re overstating things you don’t actually know very much about.

    Really, am I? Your circles of activists are so utterly focused on settlements that you seem to have no understanding of the BDS movement as a whole. KFJ, who I assumed would know better, appeared to be shocked, shocked!, that I would conflate Abuminah with BDS. FTW! Now Hampshire was never about boycotting Israel?!

    What’s more, Hampshire College never divested from Israel, it was never a question.

    Are you asserting that SPJ did not pressure the university to divest from companies in or doing business with Israel? Are you claiming that SPJ did not falsely take credit (by sending out press releases!) when the university did divest of certain companies associated with Israel, for unrelated reasons? You make it seem like it was nothing, when in fact the ADL got involved. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal to you, Justin, but among the activists I was involved with, it was huge, all the more so that Jewish students were involved.

    That the university administration never intended to divest from Israel, and belatedly made that clear, is in retrospect obvious. This, however, didn’t prevent Hampshire from becoming a trophy among the BDS activists I was interacting with at the time, for whom the reality was less important than the perception of reality their Hampshire colleagues in SPJ were able to generate. (And that reality wasn’t about boycotting settlements, but Israel, all of Israel!) The battle at Hampshire was never about that tiny college’s modest holdings of Israel-related assets, but generating the perception of momentum for BDS in the US by leveraging Hampshire’s prestige in liberal circles.


    Victor · July 14th, 2011 at 6:22 pm
  38. “the only people who take BDS seriously, in my experience, where I live and interact on this subject, are those opposed to the occupation of ‘48, and not ‘67.”

    I know what you mean Victor. But this is only part of the story. What’s happening is that the continuing occupation is demoralizing liberal supporters of Israel and strengthening the most hard core opponents of Israel.

    But the Gush Shalom initiated boycott of settlement products began in the 90s. It wasn’t even a Palestinian effort. Many ‘left but not crazy’ people supported it. And still do.

    The hard core ’48 people are loud, but they don’t really have the numbers. Their role is inflated both by themselves, and by supporters of Israel seeking to delegitimize the pro-Palestinian movement. The vast majority of activists on the left side of this issue are still rooting for a two state solution, while starting to address the possibility that Israel has succeeded in preventing it.


    Jew Guevara · July 14th, 2011 at 6:57 pm
  39. JG, I’ve frankly never heard of Gush Shalom’s settlement boycott. It’s not an organization I know very much about. In general, as my formative experiences on this issue began in 2004, my understanding of Israel’s ’90s era peace movement is very limited. Which is why I’m always fascinated when you elaborate on that more hopeful time.

    When I speak of BDS, I’m referring to the PACBI boycott officially launched in 2005.

    We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.

    These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people‘s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

    1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

    2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

    3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

    The implications of these goals should be clear. Should the PACBI boycott achieve its goals, Israel would cease to exist. This, not whatever Gush Shalom did in the 90s, is the foundational document of today’s BDS movement, at least as I’ve experienced it.


    Victor · July 14th, 2011 at 7:52 pm
  40. I would go further and say that, since 2005, the BDS core has only been encouraged by “soft” BDS efforts, to the point where it now feels comfortable asserting its eliminationist aspirations. These take form in the anti-”normalization” (aka “no dissent”) campaign, of which it seems that Jew Guevara has borne the brunt of. The campaign allows zero interaction with Zionists or soft Zionist groups or individuals, except in the context of resistance.

    Again, I’m not talking about some fringe. This is the Palestinian activist mainstream here in the Midwest and in the West Bank. Look at the list of sponsors for both the PACBI and anti-”Normalization” campaigns. I don’t know who you guys are dealing with out on the coasts, but this is my reality here.

    If all this is news to you, then please check out the links I’m posting. This is the REAL driving core of BDS, not the nuanced anti-settlement campaign some here are so enamored with.


    Victor · July 14th, 2011 at 8:12 pm
  41. Victor,
    You have to understand something about Hampshire and the relationship between the administration and the students. First off, students make the by-laws at Hampshire college so the only reason the president of the college has the ability to decide what the investment portfolios look like is because students give the president that power. Second, the history of divestment at Hampshire started long before BDS. When I was there people tried to divest from Israel and what was discovered is that there was nothing to divest from because of the conscious investment portfolio begun in the early 1980s. That students at Hampshire issued a false press was nothing more than a PR game. That the media fell for it was exactly what the students wanted. Again, there was nothing to divest from because Hampshire was already divested from any company directly linked to the occupation. The students knew this. It was a power play against the administration, that is all. You have to understand much more about the culture and history of Hampshire before you can make the claims you make.
    You’re talking to someone who has the experience of being a pro-Israel advocate/activist, a Jewish organizer and an observant Jew in an anti-religious culture all during the intifada, so please understand that i have a small idea of what i’m talking about. Hampshire is a mainstay of divestment because Hampshire College was the first to divest from South Africa and inspired a domino effect of colleges and universities following suit in 1982. You’re talking about a campus where sit-ins, walk-outs, teach-ins, pickets, demonstrations and direct actions are a regular part of campus life and culture. Do not assume that any of this translates into a culture that is blindly anti-Israel and opposes its existence. There might be a handful of students, but by and large people ha(d)ve a problem with the occupation. It also needs to be mentioned that while I was on campus there was a drive to divest from Burma, Saudi Arabia, China, Syria, Zimbabwe, Congo, Sudan, East Timor and any number of other egregious human rights violators.
    I believe you that you have insight from BDS activists, but trust me when I tell you that you are making assumptions based on an incomplete picture of the reality of what the culture of Hampshire College is.


    Justin · July 14th, 2011 at 8:35 pm
  42. “This is the Palestinian activist mainstream here in the Midwest and in the West Bank.”
    Nope. What are the largest Arab American or Palestinian solidarity groups in the United States? Not groups like al-Awda (do they still exist?). It’s groups like the Arab American Institute, the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee and various regional Arab American community developing groups like ACCESS in Cleveland. In the West Bank, the mainstream of society is well represented by the current government, which would be reelected if a fair vote was held. Part of the political game that is played involves opposition forces representing themselves as more authentic and popular than they are. But look at the votes for groups like the PFLP, look at the Palestinian Communist Ghassan Khatib sitting comfortably in the PA administration. Look at the dozens of Palestinian groups that routinely engage with Israelis and defy whatever normalization bans might exist.

    The radical activists dominate the discourse on places like some campuses, for obvious cultural reasons that have nothing to do with the relative numbers and political influence of those folks. The crazy AIPAC/Hillel activism reinforces them, makes them stronger. But most aware students are aware that they don’t like extremist views of any sort.

    Don’t be fooled by the sample that ‘shows up’. Just like the pro Israel crowd is better represented by J Street, according to polls, than by the ZOA or AIPAC, groups like the American Task Force on Palestine are far more representative of Palestinian American opinion than the folks waving posters of dead Gazan babies at ANSWER rallies.

    Understand that the dominance of the pro-Israel narrative drove moderate, dovish supporters of an end to the occupation to the communities that offered the most support. Those communities were led by radicals who support the eliminationist BDS calls. Witness, at this very moment, JVP slide further in the direction of full BDS from it’s partial BDS standpoint. The universe is saying ‘you don’t think J Street belongs in the tent? Fine – we might as well join JVP.’


    Jew Guevara · July 14th, 2011 at 9:01 pm
  43. I did know about Hampshire being the first to divest from South Africa, and the credibility it earned by doing so was an important symbol when SPJ first sent out their fraudulent press releases.

    Beyond knowing that Hampshire is a liberal arts college, I didn’t know much else about the school, so I appreciate your elaboration on the situation on campus. Obviously, I had no involvement in that particular boycott drama, but was dealing with its repercussions in the Midwest. Remember that, at the time, it wasn’t at all unclear, except perhaps on Hampshire, as you say, that the whole mess was an SPJ PR power play against the administration.

    At the time, what I was hearing was “Hampshire is the first, and now it’s a race to see who will be second”.


    Victor · July 14th, 2011 at 9:03 pm
  44. JG,

    Arabs in America are famously lacking in organizational heft. Hussein Ibish is prolific on the subject (I admire ATFP greatly, for their effectiveness in DC, if nothing else). There are routine calls for greater resources and organization, but there is no driver for national mobilization. Arab identity is far too fractured and much better suited to regional variation. You talk about ADC. It barely functions outside of Washington. The local chapter here in Milwaukee is half run by non-Arabs, most of the board members don’t make the meetings, and when they do, it’s to bicker about nothing. The head is a Syrian whose sexual exploits… well, enough said.

    In Chicago, it’s even worse. Venerable organizations like AAAN are shells of their former selves, run on shoestring budgets. Do they still provide shelter to battered Arab women? Or have they caved to the Islamists? My contact there broke his friendship with me after the Gaza war and I don’t know.

    The ONLY national Arab-related organization I know which is thriving is CAIR. I was around in 2004-6 when CAIR went around hiring the best Arab talent from all these half-decrepit Arab groups. I can tell stories about how secular Palestinian activists that I knew were swearing up and down that CAIR would never make inroads into the Arab community in Chicago, and then saw their best friends (mostly attorneys) sell out to the Islamists. That’s who runs the Midwest now, the Islamists and (the junior member) Arab Marxists, and the two have largely made their peace.

    What were we talking about again? Oh, right, BDS. Yes, I agree with you about the practical enticement of collaboration with Israel, but it’s a double edged sword. Hamas uses its purity on this subject to gain support, and BDS is unique positioned to help them bolster this by calling out Fatah from the secular/marxist corner. People like Hussein Ibish spend enormous amounts of time covering Fatah’s ass, trying to prove that Hamas is also de facto collaborating with Israel by stopping rocket fire. Palestinian power centers are convulsing in who can hate the Zionists more, radicalizing the society in the process, while all privately making arrangements with Israel.

    This doesn’t prove that eliminationist BDS elements aren’t driving the radical perspective into the mainstream, however, especially among the youth. As you yourself say, among radical Jewish activists, there is a shift towards Abunimah’s version of total BDS. I don’t think it’s stoppable, with or without an end to settlements or a Palestinian state.

    However, in present company, I will gladly concede that I’m out of my depth and defer the final judgement to you, JG.


    Victor · July 14th, 2011 at 9:37 pm
  45. Victor, I did not fail to conflate Ali Abunimeh and BDS. You’re just not listening.


    Kung Fu Jew 18 · July 15th, 2011 at 12:08 am
  46. You have no idea the “real” roots of the BDS movement if Ali Abunimeh is your example. You need to meet and befriend some BDS activists first, then you can tell me what it’s all about.

    Victor, I did not fail to conflate Ali Abunimeh and BDS. You’re just not listening.

    Ok, KFJ. PACBI and Abuminah are not the “real” roots of BDS. I must admit, in all my years of BDS listserves, I’ve never heard of Gush Shalom, but maybe I’m just not plugged into the “real” BDS campaign. I would go and befriend some BDS activists, the “real” ones, except that I used to be friends with some of them before they all went militant during the Gaza war and they now refuse to have any dealings with Zionists… you know, the BDS ethos and all. But what do I know, I’m not a professional or anything.

    I think I’ve kicked the BDS horse enough for one week. Cheerio.


    Victor · July 15th, 2011 at 3:20 am
  47. “Understand that the dominance of the pro-Israel narrative drove moderate, dovish supporters of an end to the occupation to the communities that offered the most support. Those communities were led by radicals who support the eliminationist BDS calls. Witness, at this very moment, JVP slide further in the direction of full BDS from it’s partial BDS standpoint. The universe is saying ‘you don’t think J Street belongs in the tent? Fine – we might as well join JVP.’”

    No doubt this is true. Doesn’t this bother anyone, and isn’t this the exact fear that many in America and Israel have about young Jewish support for Israel? Moreover, what is someone who wishes to remain an anti-occupation-pro-Israel supporter to do? Join JStreet? They have a lot of work to do to prove their street cred – to me anyways. I don’t like the choice being presented to me – there has to be more than BDS or AIPAC. At the moment I don’t want to be associated with either one, but push comes to shove I would not choose BDS.


    Uri Allen · July 15th, 2011 at 7:38 am
  48. “Moreover, what is someone who wishes to remain an anti-occupation-pro-Israel supporter to do? Join JStreet? They have a lot of work to do to prove their street cred – to me anyways.”

    That’s evidence the Israeli right-wing campaign to smear J-Street is working. To me, the right-wing smear campaign against J-Street is evidence that they’re on the right track.


    Dan O. · July 15th, 2011 at 8:04 am
  49. Not everyone who is not convinced by JStreet is brainwashed by a right-wing smear campaign. Some of us are capable of coming to opinions on our own. But thanks for the vote of confidence Dan.


    Uri Allen · July 15th, 2011 at 12:40 pm
  50. Uri,

    To my knowledge, JStreet was officially never pro-BDS to begin with, even in the soft variety against just the settlements. Some of its members may be pro-BDS, but the organization has not pushed that agenda so far as I know. I’d be more worried about JStreet’s utter failure these past two and a half years. They had a monopoly on the President and were totally locked into his vision, guided that vision, and achieved nothing, not even a single round of negotiations. At what point do you say “this policy agenda isn’t working”?


    Victor · July 15th, 2011 at 12:57 pm
  51. Just to be clear, I’m supportive of both J Street and JVP. They serve different purposes. That said, I feel that there is a gap in the middle there.
    I don’t like the flirting with ‘Israel eliminationism’ which is a great little phrase that means ‘whiny + unproductive anti-Zionism’ but I also feel like I’m up for the kind of rumbling that J Street cannot and will not do. I’d like to hang illegal banners off cranes across from the Israeli consulate – but the banners would say, ‘two states for two peoples’ or ‘end the occupation – support a democratic Israel’.


    Jew Guevara · July 15th, 2011 at 6:10 pm
  52. Not everyone who is not convinced by JStreet is brainwashed by a right-wing smear campaign.

    Some of us are capable of coming to opinions on our own.

    Welcome to the Progressive Jewish world, Uri Allen.

    (And don’t try to pretend like you haven’t spent time in the AIPAC-designed right-wing echo chamber.)


    Jonathan1 · July 16th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
  53. I’d like to hang illegal banners off cranes across from the Israeli consulate – but the banners would say, ‘two states for two peoples’ or ‘end the occupation – support a democratic Israel’.

    It’s just not going to work. Practically speaking, it’s not feasible. (A Zionist Israel can’t, by definition, be a democracy anyway, not in the sense that people think of democracies in this forum–ie, 2011 USA.)

    We’re just going to have to figure out a way to create a bi-national existence on all of the land–it will probably take at least a generation to work out, after all that’s happened–but maybe it’s still possible.


    Jonathan1 · July 16th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
  54. J1, after all these years how did you come to embrace binationalism? Was it your walks through Jerusalem? I really want to know. Also, read Elliot Abrams in Foreign Affairs.


    Victor · July 17th, 2011 at 1:34 am
  55. As you know, I’ve always stood on shaking ground on my support for the 2-state-idea, for many of the arguments you make.

    More and more, I’ve come to admit that there just isn’t a pratical way to “disengage” oursevles from the Palestinians. There just isn’t enough room between the River and Sea for two independent states, and we’re too intertangled with one another at this point anyway.

    I wish I had the answer for a better way forward, but obsviosly I don’t.


    Jonathan1 · July 17th, 2011 at 3:39 am
  56. @Victor.

    Abrams writes:
    No easy task. Sharon, after all, failed to achieve this in Gaza. He never told the settlers there that the state loved them for their sacrifices in building an Israeli presence under fire but now required even more heroism from them: abandoning the very homes that marked that presence. Instead, the message from Jerusalem, and from most of their fellow citizens, was that they were fanatics who were a burden on the IDF and would be thrown out. If that is the message now heard by religious settlers in the West Bank, their resistance to any future Israeli withdrawal will be that much greater. It may seem ironic, but if Israel’s leaders hope to persuade the settlers to evacuate with minimal discord and resistance, they must praise the settlement enterprise as a heroic effort that permanently changed Israel’s borders rather than attacking it as a burden and a mistake.

    That is definetly factually incorrect, especially regarding Sharon.

    Abrams needs to check his facts on this point.


    Jonathan1 · July 17th, 2011 at 3:46 am
  57. www.nytimes.com/2004/04/29/international/middleeast/29CND-SHAR.html?pagewanted=all

    Read Sharon’s quotes from the NYT in April 2004 on the matter. I can find a hundred other such quotes if need be.


    Jonathan1 · July 17th, 2011 at 3:58 am
  58. @J1
    I have been part of the progressive world for some time now but thanks for the welcome. I’m not pretending anything. I pretty much grew up with that as my Israel education. I value that I was brought up in that kind of Zionist framework – I would not be the lover of Israel I am today were it not for that backdrop.
    I was merely expressing a frustration that I have had for many years now, and that continues to be exacerbated by the polarizing nature of this issue, that it is hard (for me at least) to occupy (no pun intended) a space that is both anti-occupation and pro-Israel in a real emotional-Zionist-Jewish kind of way. I will not associate myself with the radical elements of either position because I feel like I will never measure up to their standards and more importantly they don’t really represent my complicated and nuanced position.

    “I’d be more worried about JStreet’s utter failure these past two and a half years. They had a monopoly on the President and were totally locked into his vision, guided that vision, and achieved nothing, not even a single round of negotiations. At what point do you say “this policy agenda isn’t working”?”

    I am worried about that if only because it shows how powerless JStreet really is on the big DC political scene. I am also concerned that JStreet set their agenda too narrowly. They seem to be interested in leveraging American Jewish power to get the US government to push for a different kind of agenda when it comes to Israel/Palestine. Whereas AIPAC’s agenda, to use their language, is to maintain the important relationship between Israel and America, which has some to do with the current conflict but also has to do with foreign aid, and sharing of technology and scientific research and all kinds of other things. I have not jumped on the JStreet bandwagon simply because I think their mission is too narrow and not because I disagree with the mission.


    Uri Allen · July 17th, 2011 at 5:58 am
  59. Uri,

    That’s actually a very interesting point I’ve heard nowhere else. You’re absolutely right – JStreet is an organization committed to political action, and seemingly nothing else. Whatever outreach it’s doing, and whatever connections it’s making between Israeli, Palestinian and American civil society, these are focused on a particular political outcome. Perhaps the only exception is JStreet’s support for American aid.

    Besides direct lobbying, AIPAC does serious political, economic, scientific, military and cultural exchange type of projects. These are not really political in nature, in that they don’t endorse a particular outcome, aside from growing the US-Israeli partnership and strengthening Israel in every respect. It’s also a much bigger organization than JStreet, but it’s still a fair point.

    Would JStreet organize any, say, military, cultural or business exchange or collaboration that did not have the occupation in some way at focus? It’s hard to see something like this happening, which goes to the heart of JStreet’s essence. Would JStreet members endorse a strengthening of Israel’s military or economy without a concurrent change in policy in the territories, or would this be seen as problematic, in that it would encourage Israel that there are no consequences for its actions? Is it an organization that lobbies for Israel, or one that lobbies for a narrowly defined vision of Israel?


    Victor · July 17th, 2011 at 11:36 am
  60. J1,

    What a transformation. The left which first pushed for 2 states – indeed, first pulled the state, then the international community and finally the right into its two state vision – will now swing around and push for binationalism. What a role reversal we can experience, with a right adamantly pushing for two states and a left joining the settlers and decrying that it is too late.

    There are innumerable problems, but also great potential. A mass infusion of low-skilled labor that can regenerate the industrial sector and compete, at least for a decade or two, with China. That entire cadre of PLO/Fatah thugs, thieves and murders, who should never have been brought back from Tunis, can be sent off to die in France. The thousands protesting high housing prices in Tel Aviv? Guess what, enjoy the fifty new settlements within thirty miles of the coast. Jew hatred in Palestinian textbooks/television/newspapers? Watch the magic wand… poof! Etc. etc. etc.

    All of this is minor, of course, because the real reason to settle the territories is to end the hundred year war of nationalisms. Done right, annexation will end that war. Done wrong, it will inflame it.

    But even if done right, what doesn’t give me hope, frankly, is how Israel has handled its domestic Islamic movement. The day after Palestinian nationalism is dead, Islamic identity will assert itself. The Palestinians have been trending more and more Islamic for decades. Annexation may just tip their entire society over into the Islamist camp, as the remaining outlet for resistance.


    Victor · July 17th, 2011 at 12:01 pm
  61. The left which first pushed for 2 states – indeed, first pulled the state, then the international community and finally the right into its two state vision – will now swing around and push for binationalism.

    Obviously I only speak for myself, Victor, not for the “Left.”


    Jonathan1 · July 17th, 2011 at 12:09 pm
  62. Sorry, I should have clarified. I see this potential convergence of what’s left of Israel’s Left with Arab parties into a binational coalition.

    I take your point about Sharon and the settlers. I also think Abrams makes a good point when he says the settlers have put stress on the dual pillars of Zionism – settlement and sovereignty. I don’t think he really grapples what it means to lose the settlements though; to lose Jewish access to kever Yosef, kever Rachel or mearat hamachpelah. What does it mean that Jews would not assert sovereignty over our most holy places, targets for Arab feces and hammers mere miles from a Jewish state. What does this say about us as a people? About the sanctity with which we treat what is our inheritance, physical and spiritual?

    I don’t say this to stir emotions unnecessarily, but it should be considered on its own merits, about what limits we are ready to set, as a people, for our own debasement, and for the denigration of that which is placed in our care by G-d. When we were weak it was one thing, we didn’t have a choice, but we are no longer weak.

    When I was young, I once watched our next door neighbor pull a wooden plank from the fence separating his property from ours. It was early morning, I was drinking tea, getting ready for my day and I didn’t really think much of it. The wood might have been a bit rotten and wobbly already, and in any case, I was not really affected by it. The next day, I heard my father speaking to my mother that a plank was missing, and so I told them that I saw the next door neighbor pull it off. I expected them to maybe go talk to the neighbor about it. I’ll never forget what happened. My parents were outraged that I had allowed it to happen. What next? Would I watch as someone took our TV, or the couch? As they set our home on fire? As they murdered my family in their sleep? Would I also do nothing then? Was I just a bystander to my family’s fate? I tried to defend myself: it was just some rotten plank. But they recognized in my behavior a serious deficiency in character, so they drilled the lesson into me, and I’ve not forgotten it.

    I was raised to apologize, not to demand apologies, to give not to take, to compromise not confront. As a people, we are not easily succumbed to false zealotries, either historically or theologically. But if we are to draw a limit, having the means to do so, should we not feel some outrage at the desecration of our dead, at the defilement of those who were so beloved by the G-d we say we love and obey? And if we really don’t care, if we are content to watch and shrug as hammers fall on kever Yosef and feces is burned where Rachel weeps, what does that say about us, as a people, and our spiritual state?


    Victor · July 17th, 2011 at 1:23 pm
  63. “As a people, we are not easily succumbed to false zealotries, either historically or theologically.”
    That’s insane.
    What about Shabtai Zvi? What about Communism? What about the suppression of the Kara’ites? What about the occasionally violent extremism of the ultra orthodox? Daniella Weiss? Kahana? How can you say ‘we’ are historically immune to this stuff? Not to mention all the nonsense in Jerusalem some 2k years ago….


    Jew Guevara · July 17th, 2011 at 3:38 pm
  64. And if we really don’t care, if we are content to watch and shrug as hammers fall on kever Yosef and feces is burned where Rachel weeps, what does that say about us, as a people, and our spiritual state?

    Aren’t you ignoring the history of the past century, though? When have Jews in the Land of Israel not stood up for themselves? Do you mean the soldiers at Yamit, who were almost killed scaling ladders to drag people off the roofs? The soldiers in Gush Katif, who ignored all of the people calling them Nazis? I guess in those cases the Jews didn’t stand up for themselves.


    Jonathan1 · July 17th, 2011 at 4:11 pm
  65. JG: Communism affected a very small number of people; a few thousand among millions. The other zealotries you mention are not false, in that their purpose is to serve G-d, but they’re also not really zealotries.

    The only zealotry allowed by Judaism is on behalf of G-d. A false zealotry, by my standard, would be for self – honor/prestige-seeking, wealth-amassing, etc. Shabbat Zvi was a false messiah, but the messianic passions he falsely stirred in millions were pure and righteous, and in any case, hardly classified as zealotous. Karaites? Why not also bring up the “suppression” of the Sadduccees, or the Christians for that matter? Heresy is wrong, don’t do it.

    Daniella Weiss, Kahane… Kahane wanted to live in an exclusively Jewish country. You’re confusing passion with zealotry. Weiss believes that Jews should settle the entire land of Israel. These are zealots in your eyes? Not in mine. These people were and are doing what they think is right; they are not zealots.

    Pinchas was a zealot, and his act sets the bar. Zealotry is not premeditated. If you want to be a zealot, you’ve already failed. Zealotry is not selfish. Zealotry is a desperate act to uphold a Torah law when all other options are exhausted.

    When I spoke of false zealotry, I meant with regards to making a stand for our holy places out of vanity, pride and self-interest, of using their sanctity for our own selfish ends. I specifically wanted to contrast doing what is right and what must be done on behalf of and in the name of G-d (zealotry), from the disgusting bloodlust that other faiths derive in rallying to defend their holy places.

    J1: Whatever you wanted to tell me, I didn’t understand it.

    All: Is it easier to just ignore what I wrote? I didn’t write it to trip you up in minutia. Kever Yosef WAS beaten with hammers by the Arabs in the last intifada and Kever Rachel WAS engulfed in burning tires and feces, and more than once. These are real events that happened when we gave up control of our holy places to the Arabs. Are you going to be pleading for UN intervention the next time Arab gangs in a Palestinian state decide to defecate on our spiritual heirs, just five miles away? Will you even care? Did you care the last time?


    Victor · July 17th, 2011 at 5:39 pm
  66. @Victor.

    I’m not ignoring what you wrote. You’re displaying the Settler mantras here:

    (1)Sharon was elected to not give an inch, and then he suddenly ordered the army in one night to expel thousands of Jews from their homes, and those Jews are now living as refugees (not true, not true, and not entirely true)

    (2)The Israelis just stood by and watched as their holy places were destroyed (true to the extent that the government waited 2 years after the Intifada’s beginning to retake the West Bank–just like Eshkol waited for the right time to hit Egypt in 1967)

    (3)Non-Settlers, or at least non-Religious don’t care about the country anymore anyway (except for all of those secular Jews who went into Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008-09)

    (4) Do you not remember the summer of 2005? I’d say the Israeli Jews who were constantly called traitors and Nazis definitely didn’t stand up for themselves.


    Jonathan1 · July 18th, 2011 at 1:47 am
  67. No, no, no and no. You’re too busy tearing at your own scabs to listen to what I’m saying. This had nothing to do with settler mantras. Forget it.


    Victor · July 18th, 2011 at 2:02 am
  68. I understand exactly what you’re saying, buddy, and IMO it is the type of worldview which leads to all of these mantras–plenty of which you’ve written about here

    (evacation of settlements will lead to civil war?)

    Yes, we should stand up for oursevles; yes, we should cry for abandoning “Mamma Rochel;” yes, we should weep at the Wailing Wall.

    But, some of us will also cry because we are holding a million children of HaShem in an open-air detention center in Gaza. Maybe you just don’t feel that pain.


    Jonathan1 · July 18th, 2011 at 4:22 am
  69. By all means, Israel should assist as many Gazans to leave Gaza for whatever corner of the world they wish. And the West Bankers also. Take all the billions you want to use to force the settlers out, and pay Palestinians to emigrate to Peru, or India, or wherever their hearts desire. Tens of thousands leave every year anyway, so let’s help that process along.


    Victor · July 18th, 2011 at 12:03 pm
  70. [...] protest of the anti-free speech “boycott law” the Knesset passed last week, we will begin chronicling here any time boycotts are used for other purposes by Israelis. Our [...]


    Wait, aren’t boycotts bad? | Jewschool · July 18th, 2011 at 12:04 pm
  71. @Victor.

    Trust me, if that happened you wouldn’t see me complaining, but I don’t see how that’s going to happen.

    What can I tell you? I just don’t have the answer to all of these things.


    Jonathan1 · July 18th, 2011 at 12:06 pm
  72. Just think of it, J1. Allocating $3 Billion (matching American military aid) every year towards such a project, and offering $10,000 and immigration assistance to every person who left. A family of six would emigrate with a nice little nest egg that would go far in South America, heck even in North America! My family arrived in the US with $18, and we did just fine.

    $3 Billion/year @ $10,000/person = 300,000 people. Talk about resolving the conflict! You would empty the West Bank in a decade.


    Victor · July 18th, 2011 at 12:25 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik