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Boycott supporters: which side are you on?

By Dan Fleshler | March 9, 2010

The BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement is growing, causing alarm in Israel and the American Jewish establishment. But the arguments being employed by the mainstream Jewish community are not likely to make headway with those who support BDS or the larger, more important group that is trying to decide whether to endorse it.

When contending with BDS, Israel’s adherents usually tick off dry, abstract political arguments to show why Israel is not comparable to South Africa under apartheid. But these arguments don’t matter to people toying with the BDS movement, because most of them are motivated by a sincere, urgent desire to end Palestinian suffering. They see that the experience of Palestinians under occupation is as bad as the experience of South African blacks. They also know that the Palestinian citizens of Israel are treated as –and feel like they are– second-class citizens. No long list of the rights enjoyed by Israeli Arabs can make a dent in that perception. Nor do they care if BDS is a veiled effort to “delegitimize” Israel. What matters to them is changing the Palestinians’ plight as quickly as possible.

There are arguments, however, that take potential BDS sympathizers on their own terms:

1) It will take much too long for the world to get behind an effective boycott of Israel. So even if BDS were the right thing to do (and I don’t think it is), it is thoroughly impractical.

There is a human rights emergency in the occupied territories and Palestinians need relief now. To be sure, diplomacy might not create a two-state solution or any other arrangement that might work, but at least it has a very slim chance to succeed in the next few years. There is no feasible way to garner enough support for BDS in the near future to have a tangible impact on Israel.

2) Boycotts almost never work. One could engage in a spirited, complicated debate about whether the South Africa boycott had a major impact on the Afrikaner establishment (some say it did, some say it didn’t), but even if it did, that would be the exception that would prove the rule. Boycotts didn’t change any policies in Cuba, Iraq or, for that matter, the Gaza Strip.

3) If you decide to back BDS, you will be taking sides in a bitter internal struggle within the Palestinian community. Are you really so certain of the merits of this cause that you are willing to insert yourself into this argument ?

On one side are those led by the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas and Salem Fayyad, who are trying to build the institutions of a state in preparation for an end to the occupation. This has involved hundreds of community development projects, the first steps towards creating a central bank and the work of internal Palestinian security services. Much of this progress requires working cooperatively with the Israelis. The Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization have not called for a boycott of Israel, although the PA actively supports a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements.

On the other side are those who think that cooperation is collaboration, that the Palestinian Authority is selling its people down the river by settling for small bandages on the wounds of occupation. Much of the BDS movement is made up of this faction.

While the African National Congress clearly spoke in the name of the majority of black South Africans when it called for a boycott, the BDS movement does not have the same authority to speak for Palestinians. Even Hamas has not called for a boycott.

Referring to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), one of the most important BDS groups, David Hirsh of ENGAGE UK notes:

“PACBI was formed in order to manufacture a `call from the oppressed’ along the model of the ANC’s call. Far from wanting to boycott Israel, the PLO has, since the 1980s, wanted to normalize relations with Israel, and has encouraged links between Palestinians and Israelis, within civil society, academia, in trade and on a governmental level….

… Pacbi pretends that `the oppressed’ call for BDS with one voice. This is not true. In Palestine, as anywhere else, there are different opinions and different arguments – there is politics, there is disagreement and there are different ideas about the way forward.

4) The BDS movement has no use for promising, stirring joint cultural and economic projects in which ordinary Arabs and Jews are trying to figure out how to live together. For example, there is the cooperative work being done by people in the West Bank Palestinian town of Jenin and the Israeli region of Gilboa, which includes an industrial zone that will produce olive oil and other agricultural goods. The BDSers, presumably, would boycott those products.

PACBI hasn’t just called for a boycott of Israeli academics and cultural figures. As noted in a previous post, it also wants to quash efforts of Israeli Jews and Arabs to sit down, talk and find ways to bridge –or work together in spite of– the yawning gaps in their narratives.

So the BDS movement puts those Palestinians who want to cooperate with Israelis in a bad spot. That, in turn, takes away an important tool to persuade the Israeli electorate that its neighbors want peace, according to Ken Bob, president of Ameinu. He told me “You know how small Israel is. All of a sudden, people in your neighborhood know a kid who is part of the joint call center company in Jerusalem-Ramallah. People in the Gilboa Region tell their relatives about their joint project with Jenin…If there is a more successful BDS movement, Palestinians will perhaps feel like `OK, that tactic might work,’ let’s abandon the joint projects.’ I don’t think that will help the progress towards peace.”

Some diehard BDS supporters are quite willing to play favorites in this internal Palestinian debate. I suspect that many checking out this movement don’t even realize that they are being asked to take sides. That realization should give them pause.

Topics: BDS, boycott, Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinians | 42 Comments »

42 Responses to “Boycott supporters: which side are you on?”

  1. Koshiro Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    “There is a human rights emergency in the occupied territories and Palestinians need relief now. To be sure, diplomacy might not create a two-state solution or any other arrangement that might work, but at least it has a very slim chance to succeed in the next few years.”
    There is absolutely no conclusive evidence for this, nor for the idea that a popular boycott would prevent this.

    “Boycotts didn’t change any policies in Cuba, Iraq or, for that matter, the Gaza Strip.”
    Boycott does not mean blockade or sanctions. Boycotts work just fine, not always, but sometimes. They are just not usually applied to countries.
    That said, sanctions also work. Blockades work as well, but they are an act of war and nobody’s asking for that.
    (Of course, none of these work *all the time*.)

    “The Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation organization have not called for a boycott of Israel, although the PA actively supports a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements.”
    Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to just boycott these, as Israel makes a point of confusing people about their origin. How about campaigning to change that?
    And by the way: Boycotts are never absolute. People don’t need to switch of their brains and boycott absolutely everything in a given category. If something is produced by a wonderful cooperative venture, it doesn’t need to go on the boycott list.

    But all of these quibbles are of minor importance. There is only one question you need to answer:
    What do you think is a more effective way of pressuring Israel and how would you bring it about?
    And please don’t come up with the ridiculous idea that Israel doesn’t *need* to be pressured.

    I mean, I’d be all for the US taking away Israel’s military aid, for imposing an arms embargo on Israel, for the EU to put Israel’s tariff exemption entirely on ice. But I get the feeling you’d balk at all of these ideas as well (not that any government in the world had the balls to put them into practice.)

  2. Bill Pearlman Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Sorry you missed the first holocaust, aren’t you.

  3. Bill Pearlman Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Are there any other countries you might want to put an arms embargo on, anybody.

  4. Koshiro Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Hm, one crude “NAZI!” type accusation and one attempted distraction. What are we to make of this?

  5. Bill Pearlman Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Nice sidestep. Give me one other country that’s under constant threat that you would want disarmed and then exterminated. Come on man, you can do it.

  6. Koshiro Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Riiiiight. Because “arms embargo” means “disarmed and then exterminated.”
    It was only a phase I guess. Strawman arguments are your true forte.

  7. Bill Pearlman Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    What strawman argument. Give me a country, you can do it. Because if you can’t that pretty much makes you a scumbag.

  8. Tom Mitchell Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 9:01 pm


    I’m glad to see that you admit that a blockade is an act of war–like the blockade that Nasser declared against Israel closing off the Gulf of Akaba to Israeli traffic in May 1967.

  9. Dan Fleshler Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    I spent a lot of time on that post and because I want to have a life, I have generally tried not to spend much time on participating in the comments section. But in answer to your question:

    As you predicted, I would balk at a cut-off of military aid because I think Israel still needs to keep a qualitative military edge in a region where there are tangible threats to its security. If Barak’s military researchers can find a way to stop short-range missiles from Israel’s immediate neighbors and long-range missiles from more distant neighbors, I think that would be splendid. So that will make you unhappy.

    But the U.S. has a variety of other diplomatic options in its toolkit that would send a strong signal to the Israeli people that their leaders are screwing around with Israel’s most important relationship. We don’t have to veto every anti-Israel resolution at the UN; we don’t have to be especially happy about Israel’s outreach to the EU; there are loan guarantees that needn’t be guaranteed; there are arms deals with other countries (China, India) that are not intrinsically important to Israel’s security, and we don’t need to approve of them. These measures won’t satisfy you but under the right circumstances and at the right moment, they might influence Israeli public opinion in the right direction. So that response will make Bill Pearlman and YBD unhappy.

  10. Bill Pearlman Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    So, Dan, lining up with Arabs now. You feel any better?

  11. Bill Pearlman Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    So what if some IDF soldiers get knocked off. Or some rockets hit a school maybe. Just has long as they love it on the Upper West Side, and Columbia.

  12. Aaron Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Excellent post! The best I have read at this site and one of the best I have read at any Israeli-Palestinian oriented blog. One of the few arguments I’ve seen that engages the opposing side on its own terms.

    Just some minor comments: the examples given of boycotts not working were of mostly autocratic states – Cuba, Iraq.

    As I’ve said before, an important similarity between Israel and South Africa is that Israel is perceived as “white oppressing colored”. That may make the South African “exception” more relevant to Israel. Speaking of which, can anyone recommend a history book about what caused the end of apartheid?

    I think most BDS supporters would be quite willing to take sides in an internal Palestinian dispute over tactics. Similarly with the one-state-versus-two-state argument.

    Other than these minor points I’ve nothing to add except, once again, kol hakavod on this excellent post.

  13. David44 Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Dan: “The Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation organization have not called for a boycott of Israel, although the PA actively supports a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements.”

    Koshiro: “Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to just boycott these, as Israel makes a point of confusing people about their origin. How about campaigning to change that?”

    It’s difficult with some things (notably agricultural products), but certainly not with others. For a list of products produced in the settlements, see http://gush-shalom.org.toibillboard.info/boycott_eng.htm.

    Since these settlements are illegal under international law, and since boycotting them is pretty well universally supported among Palestinians, boycotting goods on this list is an ethical imperative even if we may (with Dan) realistically accept that the practical effect of such a boycott will be limited. Just as one should refuse to purchase stolen goods in everyday life, regardless of whether or not doing so will pressurize the thief into giving up his thievery, so too we should refuse on ethical grounds to engage in any way with the products of these illegal settlements.

  14. David44 Says:
    March 9th, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    For some reason the URL in my last message was garbled: the correct link is http://gush-shalom.org.toibillboard.info/boycott_eng.htm

  15. Y. Ben-David Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 12:51 am

    As I see the Left, or the so-called “peace camp” thrashing around, trying to figure out what to do (e.g. these arguments about whether to support BDS or not), I note that no one, and I mean, NO ONE in that camp, really sit down and lay out what it is the Arabs really want. One would think that is vital in determining what actions to take in order to get to the desired goal of “peace”.
    What I do see is what peaceniks decide what it is they think the Arabs should want (just as “progressives” like Koshiro know that is that everyone else in the world thinks, and if they don’t know, they will decide for them because they are so smart). The peace camp has decided the Arabs want “two states living side by side in peace and prosperty”. This makes the famous assumption that “everyone knows the outlines of the final peace agreement…the Arabs have accepted it and it is just a matter of forcing Israel to go along”. There is no doubt this is what Obama and his Jewish advisors thought when they came into office.
    Of course, this is nonsense and I believe Obama and his cohorts are beginning to understand this.

    Many Israel bashers and Israel haters even go along with this mistaken scenario. Phil Weiss is an anti-Zionists but he has decided he will go along with the “2-state solution” since he believe that is what the Palestinians want. Richard Silverstein excoriates Israel every day but he says he is a Zionist and will accept it as well, on condition that Israel accept the so-called “Palestinian Right of Return” and that Israel will accept a “reasonable” number of refugees back. What is a “reasonable number”. I guess Silverstein will decide for the Palestinians. And what about the majority who don’t get to return. I presume Silverstein will go into the refugee camps and tell them face-to-face that he (a good “progressive”) knows whats best for them everyone else and they just will have to forget their rights.
    These examples show the folly of the peace camp in failing to really understand what the confict is about and what the Arabs really want.

    In fact, the Arab states view the Arab-Israeli conflict differently than many Palestinians do. Whereas many Palestinians may want to really improve their lives and may be willing to go along with the 2-state solution, the Arab states couldn’t care less about the Palestinians. They view them as cannon fodder whose job is to get rid of the shame of a dhimmi Jewish state existing within the Dar al-Islam (the Realm of Islam). The existence of Israel is the best thing that ever happened to the Arab states….it allows them to justify their corrupt dictatorial regimes in the name of “fighting Zionism”. Ending the conflict would be a disaster for them and they have no interest in this happening. This was seen at Camp David when Clinton vainly tried to get Egypt and Saudi Arabia to press Arafat to make an agreement.

    The Palestinian themselves are divided. As I said, no doubt some want peace, but this is not the position of both FATAH leadership of the Palestinian Authority nor of HAMAS. This is because the creation of an unviable small state that would continue to be dominated by Israel is no solution at all for them. And what about the refugees. THEY WILL NEVER AGREE TO ABSORB THEM WITHIN THE PROPOSED PALESTINIAN STATE. They view the refugees as aliens and there is no room for them. They must go back to Israel.

    In fact the Palestinian leadership is, instead of negotiating for peace, is involved in a multi-front war against Israel, using BDS, delegitimization of Israel internationally, war crimes accusations against Israel. The goal is to get ultimately to have the UN and the interational community decide that the “suffering of the Palestinians is the number one human rights problem in the world”, leading to passage of a resolution forcing Israel out of Judea/Samaria unilaterally, without a peace agreement. This would leave all Palestinian grievances in place, particularly the “refugee problem” to which the struggle would be turned next, leading to a situation where Israel would be forced, again by the international community, to accept them back unilaterally.
    This is their strategy. It will take many years, but they have time. They all know it took two centuries to get rid of the Crusaders, and they are willing to wait. It is certainly better to wait than to do down in history as a traitor who sold out Arab/Muslim interests and values which is what agreeing to the “2-state solution” entails.
    Thus, BDS must be looked at as part of this long-term strategy, NOT as a weapon to force Israel to accepting the non-existent peace plans the peace camp pretends to exist.

  16. Koshiro Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 3:49 am

    “I’m glad to see that you admit that a blockade is an act of war–like the blockade that Nasser declared against Israel closing off the Gulf of Akaba to Israeli traffic in May 1967.”
    No, what a country does in its own territorial waters – which the Straits of Tiran arguably were – is actually their business. It would’ve been different if Egypt had imposed an actual blockade (which by nature is never locally limited) on Israel.

  17. Koshiro Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 4:12 am

    “As you predicted, I would balk at a cut-off of military aid because I think Israel still needs to keep a qualitative military edge in a region where there are tangible threats to its security.”
    And the US needs to pay for this because…?
    How often do you hear Israelis boast of their booming economy? Quite often, I’d assume. So, Israel could obviously pay for its weapons itself. Sure, that would place a strain on the budget. Taxes might have to be raised. People might be unhappy about this. Which is exactly the point.

    I’m not going to take serious your version of Bill’s ridiculous ‘So you want Israel defenseless’ strawman. Israel is the most heavily militarized country… I’m not going to check this, but probably in the world. Certainly in the region. It’s got its own arms industry and decades in technological advance ahead of all regional countries which aren’t US allies. As I already mentioned, it’s financially well off enough to pay for its own defense.

    Israel has not got total security from any attack. And never will, nor will anybody else. History tells us that much.

    “we don’t have to be especially happy about Israel’s outreach to the EU”
    Oh yes. The grave threat of ‘not being happy’ or the even sharper weapon of finding something ‘unconstructive’.
    And of course, the US doesn’t veto ‘every’ anti-Israel resolution anyway. Only the ones which really have the potential of damaging Israel’s international standing. I’m trying to read your mind here, but I’m fairly certain you would want the US to continue vetoing these.

    Maybe, as things are now, the US would actually be better advised not to object to Israeli policies. Israel – as evidenced on the occasion of Mr.Biden’s visit – just laughs at these objections and makes the US a laughingstock for folding every time.

    “there are loan guarantees that needn’t be guaranteed;
    That’s the only credible idea you’ve come up with yet. So, have you until now, ever written anything concrete about this? Are you going to write something concrete about it now? Like ‘I think Israel’s loan guarantess should be canceled if it does not immediately start honoring its roadmap obligations’? Or is that another variant of sanctions which are fine unless they *hurt*?

    “there are arms deals with other countries (China, India) that are not intrinsically important to Israel’s security, and we don’t need to approve of them.”
    Just to be clear here. Do you want to pressure Israel by cancelling US arms deals with China or India (none of which I know of)? Or do you think the US should object to Israeli arms deals with these countries? In the latter case – which is the only one making any kind of sense – I can already tell you the gist of Israel’s response. It’s two words. The first one is very rude and starts with an ‘f’. The second one is ‘you’. And since the US should, of course, do nothing to follow up its objections, it’ll remain at that.

  18. Koshiro Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 4:32 am

    “It’s difficult with some things (notably agricultural products), but certainly not with others. For a list of products produced in the settlements, see http://gush-shalom.org.toibillboard.info/boycott_eng.htm.”
    Thanks for that list. The problem is that while this is sufficient for a company checking the status of a supplier, as a consumer you’re often left in the dark due to branding.
    It would be really helpful to have ‘Made in Israeli settlements’ designation. In Britain, there have been some steps in this direction.

  19. Richard Witty Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 4:52 am

    I think the stated demands of the BDS movement are laudable (with the exception of a great deal of ambiguity).

    1. End the occupation (if they mean the West Bank, turning that over to Palestinian sovereignty in the context of a comprehensive peace), Wonderful. Do it already.

    2. Grant Palestinians within Israel, full equal rights as is a component of Israel’s dual nature, “Jewish AND democratic” (as we are breathing and eating beings, not one or the other), Wonderful. Do it already.

    3. Grant Palestinians displaced in the 48 war the right to citizenship on the basis of their location of birth, and their day in court to perfect currently imperfected title claims. Wonderful. Do it already.

    Of course by “occupation”, some mean any Israeli presence. That is only warring, not democracy.

    And, by “equal rights” some mean nationalist rights not individual, or the rights of the Umma to control.

    And, by “right of return”, some (MANY) mean the unlimited right of anyone of any Palestinian ethnic descent to reside in geographic Israel. So, even if one were born in Beirut or Chicago and never set foot in Israel, they would have the right to be Israeli citizens.

    Hard to know what car is being sold. A dependable one or a lemon. And, the salesreps don’t want to clarify, to yeild to the authority of the manufacturers.

  20. Bill Pearlman Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Come on Koshiro, give me ONE other country that in your mind is worthy of an embargo and extinction. Just one. You can do it. Because if you can’t. If Israel is the only country that offends your tender sensibilities. Well that makes you a jew baiting anti-semite. Kind of undeniable.

  21. Koshiro Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 6:22 am

    “Of course by “occupation”, some mean any Israeli presence.”
    Well, what kind of Israeli presence do *you* mean? Presence that impedes the prospective Palestinian state’s sovereignty, like Israeli control of borders, airspace, electromagnetic sphere and water resources – all of which Israel aimed to control in the past and still does?
    Or presence that impedes Palestinians’ property rights, like settlers being allowed to remain on stolen land?

    Why, I do think these kinds of ‘presence’ should indeed be ended ASAP.

    “So, even if one were born in Beirut or Chicago and never set foot in Israel, they would have the right to be Israeli citizens.”
    Well, lots of people who were born in Chicago, and certainly some of those whoe were born in Beirut, already do…
    But I digress. There are very simple reasons why the descendants of 1948 refugees are taken into account:
    1. There are property rights involved in many, if not most cases. These are inheritable.
    2. Israel caused this problem by expelling the Palestinians. Many Palestinians still suffer due to this, and this includes the descendants of the original refugees. Yes, several Arab countries are complicit because they undertook no efforts to integrate the refugees. No, that does not abscond Israel of responsibility – quite the contrary, in fact.
    3. Limiting the matter to the actual refugees provides too cheap a way out for Israel – the ‘biological solution’, a term coined for the disgraceful feet-dragging employed by German authorities to avoid payment to WW2-era forced laborers.

    None of this means that all or most of those with refugee status need to return. It simply means that Israel, who has caused this problem, should take responsibility for it and be taken to task for a satisfying solution.

  22. Koshiro Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 6:28 am

    “What strawman argument.”

    You were, with slightly challenged syntax, what a straw man argument is, right? Because if you knew it’d make no sense for you to repeat the same ‘extinction’ insinuation again and again and again without apparently realizing why it’s so mindnumbingly idiotic.

  23. Koshiro Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 6:42 am

    LOL. I could’ve probably gotten away with claiming that was a pun on ‘challenged syntax’, but I’ll admit it: I accidentally cut out the word “asking” above.

  24. Bill Pearlman Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 7:48 am

    I’ll make it easy. Just an arms embargo on a Moslem country. Give me one. Because if you can’t, it really makes you stand out has who and what you are.

  25. Koshiro Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 7:57 am

    “I’ll make it easy.”
    To reveal your intellectual bankcruptcy, yes.

    As far as an arms embargo sans quietly dropped ‘extinction’ strawman goes, Iran (obviously), Syria, Sudan, Somalia, well you get the idea.

  26. Tom Mitchell Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 1:37 pm


    Two questions for you.
    1) Do Jews who had property in Arab countries get to claim the property that they lost?

    2) Do you advocate the return of Germans who were expelled from central Europe (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Vojvodina) be allowed to return? What about Japanese expelled from Korea?

  27. Bill Pearlman Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    “intellectual bankruptcy” Wounded by that one. Riddle me this one bat man. How would you enforce an arms embargo on say Iran. I know your looking for Nato to blockade Haifa but what about your boys in Iran, or even Hezbollah and Hamas. Your kind of guys I know. Who goes first?

  28. Koshiro Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    “1) Do Jews who had property in Arab countries get to claim the property that they lost?”
    Sure, if I had a say about it.
    However, conditioning one on the other is – you of course realize that – not acceptable.

    “2) Do you advocate the return of Germans who were expelled from central Europe (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Vojvodina) be allowed to return?”
    Well, since all of these places, except Serbia, are EU members and since all EU citizens are free to live in any EU country, this is really a moot question. If Palestinian refugees had the same basic rights vis-a-vis Israel that Germans have in the EU, everything would be just dandy.

    Seeing how the question is, as you can see, fairly pointless, we can leave out the many differences of the two situations as well as the fact that I did not ‘advocate’ the return of anybody.

  29. Koshiro Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Oh, and as far as the colonial Japanese in Korea are concerned: If you seriously imply that they should be compared to the *Palestinians* in this scenario, you’ve just dealt my ability to take you seriously another blow.

  30. Tom Mitchell Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 11:56 pm


    I take you as seriously as I take Bill Pearlman.

  31. Richard Witty Says:
    March 11th, 2010 at 6:30 am

    The right of return clarified as actual legal rights to their day in court to make property and direct legal claims, is reasonable.

    The right of return clarified as “any descendant of any Palestinian, regardless of what part of prospective Palestine they lived”, is a stacked deck.

    To the extent that is included in the demand of BDS, it is easily exposed and easily dismissed.

    Again and again, if the concerns are conditional, clear, with an actual path to actual acceptance and normalization, then they are doable.

    To the extent that demands remain ambiguous, opportunistic, then remain rhetoric only, cheap reasoning, pretending to be “international law”.

    We need more than high school analysis of this stuff.

  32. Koshiro Says:
    March 11th, 2010 at 6:38 am

    @ Tom Mitchell
    Whatever. Engaging in discussion with somebody who can, with a straight face, talk of a “process of Eurarabization […] continuing and on-going” was not a terribly promising idea to begin with.

  33. Donald Says:
    March 11th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    “The right of return clarified as “any descendant of any Palestinian, regardless of what part of prospective Palestine they lived”, is a stacked deck.”

    So we’re ending the right of return for people who might have lived in Palestine 2000 years ago?

  34. Tom Mitchell Says:
    March 12th, 2010 at 1:23 am


    Here is an excerpt from an article by David Ottoway in The Wilson Quarterly entitled the Arab Tomorrow.

    “Yet Arab leaders did respond to Bush’s call, and they proved master manipulators of democracy. They held elections, loosened press censorship, and allowed a bit more space for dissident voices on the Internet. And they quickly learned how to diffuse, divide, and checkmate even this feeble ­opposition.

    Mubarak simultaneously rigged election laws to make himself president for life and allowed the birth of a ­semi­free opposition press. Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika permitted many political parties and 76 independent national daily newspapers to flourish even as he altered the constitution to perpetuate his rule.”

    But what does he know? He’s only a leading journalist married to a leading academic who specializes in African and Arab affairs.

  35. Koshiro Says:
    March 12th, 2010 at 6:33 am

    a) You’re responding to the wrong thread.
    b) He didn’t alter the constitution. The Algerian parliament did. That’s a power parliaments have in many democracies.

  36. Tom Mitchell Says:
    March 14th, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Its also a “power” that parliaments have in many autocracies when a ruler proclaims a new constitution and then the parliament rubber stamps it. King Hussein regularly altered between periods of repression and periods of reform.

  37. Uri Says:
    March 17th, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Speaking as a BDS activist: I’m not persuaded by your post, Dan. It would be far more persuasive if you could (i) show that a significant, representative sector of Palestinian society opposes BDS, as opposed to just not vocally supporting BDS; (ii) show why the current BDS campaign against Israel would not work, as opposed to making a broad, unanalytic statement about boycotts in general; (iii) address the usefulness of BDS as an education, organizing and publicity tool, showing that it would not be effective as such; (iv) back up with some analysis the claim that BDS harms joint I/P initiatives and economic development, and that absent such harm, such development has the potential to liberate Palestine; and perhaps most importantly, (V) offer superior alternatives that individuals can participate in. All I’ve seen you offer is government action. I agree that these could be more effective than BDS, but it is a step removed from the question “what can *I* do?” I personally have done both lobbying and BDS work, and I can tell you BDS work is easier, more empowering, and you generally see tangible results from it. Hopefully we’ll reach a time soon when the two will be complementary, and it will be easier for activists to plug into lobbying work, but we’re not there yet.

  38. Dana Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 1:05 am

    excellent comment by Uri, which I agree with wholeheartedly. I support BDS as the one AND ONLY tool to break through to the Israelis the message that bad actions have consequences. In addition to all of Uri’s questions, which I endorse, I have one major caveat with Dan’s take. He is hopeful in the way Jewish Americans tend to be about Israel seeing what happened to it, but averting their eyes from the full extent of zionism’s fall from grace as an ideology. I am much less limited by hope, having come from there and having watched that country and its people descend down a slippery slope faster than I ever thought possible. Dan speaks of Israeli collective as if it were a rational entity, probably because he knows rational individuals from there. But as a collective, it is not rational any longer – as Gaza has proved, as the recent murder in Dubai did. The israeli collective (exceptions noted, of course) lives in a bubble that’s becoming more hermetically sealed by the day. From inside the bubble they may have seen Gaza or Dubai as “deterrents”, successful ones at that. Most of the rest of world saw both actions as failures on a monumental scale, and not just strategically or politically. Israel is well on its way to becoming a law-flaunting state. Other than those few NGOs, the entire concept of human rights escapes the conciousness of a majority of israel’s residentsmuch the same as any other group historically engaged in a classical colonialist enterprise. Being a colonialist means having a certain mind-set, being able to pretend that things don’t happen on the other side of the wall they are encased in.

    BDS is the only way I know to get through that wall and penetrate the colonialist or xenophobic siege mentality. Since the collective is not rational, behavior modification is the only tool available to possibly shock them into sanity. Yes, shock is not a nice thing to deliver. But it helped many a schizophrenic before better drugs came along, and it just might help Israel too. Carrots were already tried and failed quite miserably. Groups promoting “better understanding” were tried too. Few survived intact. Now it is necessary to show that bratiness and hubris will not go unchallenged by the world community.

    Israel is unfrotunately deeply mired in the equivalent of Jim Crow’s south vis a vis the arab citizens and practices full blown apartheid with regard to the palestinians under occupation. The citizens know what they are doing. They think they can get away with it just as the south did, just as south africa did. They don’t really give a hoot about anyone else because that’s the mind frame of the deeply neurotic. BDS may just shake enough of the collective up from the stupor they fell into – enough to start considering alternatives. As a stick, BDS is the only thing that will be effective in waking up at least part of the Israeli community. They need to know that they stand to lose something if the course of action doesn’t change..

    The nice thing about BDS is that everyone does what they can. Some boycott above ground, others just under the radar. However long it takes. It’s collecting steam as we speak – among the young in the US, around the world among perfectly ordinary people from all walks of life. In churches and even in synagogs. It’s making its way through labor unions and trade organizations and the first successes have been noted in universities and schools. Corporations will come along when they see it’s in their best interest as will cities and towns and eventually – who knows- entire countries. personally, I practice it as best I can through collaborations and alliances that don’t happen. Technologies not recommended and talk invitations not issued. It sounds negative, but it’s effective enough because I get to be as selective as I want to be. Just as we all are in life. Those who need to know do. Those who don’t – well – not everything needs to be advertised. Those who ask questions get answers, and inactions -like actions – spread among those who are so inclined. It’s actually quite easy to do something. Or to not do something. From each what they can.

    I know that a day will come and BDS as it is carried out now will be seen as the water that wore down the rock’s hardened surface. For that day, we can all hope.

  39. ImadK Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 9:45 am

    This was an interesting post. I also appreciated Dana’s and Uri’s posts as well, though it should be noted that i myself have some reservations about BDS.

    I emailed Professor Mark Levine, who has been to the region, wrote about the Is-Pal situation, the Muslim world and Muslim culture in the books
    Impossible Peace (about the failure of the Oslo peace process),
    Why They don’t hate us: lifting the veil in the Axis of Evil (About the misconceptions of Muslims post 9/11) and
    Heavy Metal Islam (about rock and hip hop among the youth in the Middle East and North Africa, how it bridges gaps and questions authority as well as break stereotypes in that region)

    I really respect him and i wrote this email to him asking about the effectiveness of BDS.

    He replied (copied and paste from my folders:

    “hard to know. i think it hurts around the edges but israelis are used to feeling besieged and it willtake a long time to have the effectiveness as the south africa campaign back in the day because israel has many more allies, especially in the US and europe, its core markets. so i think it will help a bit but not devisively in any way. that being said, i think bds can be an effective tool, especially forraising awareness. but it also needs to be better explaiend why israel and why not china, or russia, or india, or even the US, who are all engaged in brutal occupations that involved even more people being oppressed and killed before it can become more mainstream.”

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