Israeli intellectuals and the BDS movement

Yesterday I talked about the remarkable death wish exhibited by some Jewish Israeli intellectuals. Today I want to amplify that with a discussion of their support for the enemy on one particular front of the continuing war against Israel.

The BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — movement has become a major part of the 100-year war against a Jewish state in the Mideast. It has two purposes, one direct and one indirect:

  1. To weaken Israel economically by getting consumers worldwide to avoid Israeli products, and
  2. To contribute to the delegitimization of Israel in order to reduce international support for Israel when conflicts — violent or diplomatic — occur.

BDS is part of an overall strategy to end the Jewish state that also includes propaganda, diplomacy, terrorism and war. These work together to multiply their effect. For example, the false atrocity propaganda surrounding the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead makes it harder for Israel to seek international support for future wars of self-defense.

The indirect effects of  BDS — delegitimization — may be more important than the cost of any economic boycott, which is why the BDS movement expends great effort on boycotting Israeli academics, athletes, films, etc.

The primary argument is based on the false analogy with apartheid South Africa, whose regime was changed in part by a worldwide application of BDS. It is held that Israeli treatment of Palestinians is intended to prevent them from exercising their human rights, to ‘colonize’ and exploit them, and is based on racism. Much support for this argument is drawn from “post-colonial theory” which has become a staple of conventional wisdom in academia. It is this dogma which obscures the fundamental differences between Israel and South Africa, and makes the analogy seem plausible (although I think stupidity, ignorance and antisemtism also play a role).

Without going into detail, I’ll just mention some of the obvious ways in which Israel is not South Africa before 1990:

  • There are no race-based laws. Israelis and Palestinians are both racially diverse populations who are actually genetically similar.
  • Arab citizens of Israel have, de jure, all the rights of Jewish citizens. To the extent to which this is de facto not true, it is due to the external conflict, cultural differences, and the conflation of civil rights with national aspirations.
  • Palestinians living in the territories are not citizens of Israel, and in Gaza they can be said to constitute a hostile population. Security measures to prevent terrorism by Palestinians (e.g., the separation barrier) are exactly that: security measures.
  • South Africa was not continuously at war with its neighbors from its founding as Israel has been.

Although there has been an official Arab economic boycott of Israel — even the pre-state Jewish yishuv — since 1945, the organized popular boycotts seem to have begun around 2000, corresponding to Yasser Arafat’s decision to reject a state in the territories and to launch the al-Aqsa Intifada instead. The proposal for an academic boycott was made at the September 2001 Durban Conference on Racism, where discussion about actual racism took a back seat to attacks on Israel.

The BDS movement has received a large amount of support from extreme left-wing Israeli academics. I’ll let one of them, Prof. Rachel Giora of the Linguistics Department at Tel Aviv University,  tell you in her own words why such support is important:

The major role of the Israeli BDS movement has been to support international BDS calls against Israel and legitimize them both as clearly not anti-Semitic, as not working against Israelis but against Israeli governmental policies

But is it in fact inconsistent that an Israeli Jew could support policies that are antisemitic or contrary to the well-being of Israeli Jews? Unfortunately not — all it takes is a leap to irrationality. For example, Prof. Giora and 34 other Israelis initiated a petition in 2001 which read, in part,

We call on the world community to organize and boycott Israeli industrial and agricultural exports and goods, as well as leisure tourism, in the hope that it will have the same positive result that the boycott of South Africa had on Apartheid. This boycott should remain in force as long as Israel controls any part of the territories it occupied in 1967. Those who squash the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians must be made to feel the consequences of their own bitter medicine.

In March 2002, at the height of  a wave of murderous bombings, the month of the Passover Seder Massacre in which a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 30 Israeli civilians and injured 140, an Israeli “feminist author” named Reza Mezali called for an end to US military aid to Israel, saying,

Arms are the motor of militarization. Please reciprocate the young people inside Israel saying “NO” to the deployment of their bodies and souls, in the service of the occupation. Please join them by saying “NO” to arming it with your dollars.

What could illustrate more clearly the writer’s desire to hurt the state and help its enemies than an effort to disarm it in the face of ever-increasing military threats? But even this isn’t the worst — that honor belongs to journalist Michael Warschawski, whose positions are not that different from those of the deceased Yasser Arafat. He too supports the BDS strategy:

For us Zionism is not a national liberation movement but a colonial movement, and the State of Israel is and has always been a settler’s colonial state. Peace, or, better, justice, cannot be achieved without a total decolonization (one can say de-Zionisation) of the Israeli State; it is a precondition for the fulfillment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians –- whether refugees, living under military occupation or [as] second-class citizens of Israel… any attempt for reconciliation before the fulfillment of rights strengthens the continuation of the colonial domination relationship. Without a price to be paid, why should the Israelis stop colonization, why should they risk a deep internal crisis?

This is where the BDS campaign is so relevant: it offers an international framework to act in order to help the Palestinian people achieving its legitimate rights, both on the institutional level (states and international institutions) and the civil society’s one… The BDS campaign was initiated by a broad coalition of Palestinian political and social movements. No Israeli who claims to support the national rights of the Palestinian people can, decently, turn his or her back to that campaign.

Of course the achievement of ‘justice’ for the Palestinians for those such as Warschawski would end the Jewish state. Probably  those Israeli Jews without relatives in Europe or the US would then experience life as a Jew in an Arab state. Precedents aren’t encouraging.

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