Uri Avnery is against BDS

In his latest column, Uri Avnery argues—badly—against the boycott movement. Basically, the fact that a boycott will offend Israelis (heaven forbid!) is a non-starter for him, even when BDS is just a temporary means to an end: the end of the Occupation.

This paragraph left me feeling particularly anguished:

Peoples are not the same everywhere. It seems that the Blacks in South Africa are very different from the Israelis, and from the Palestinians, too. The collapse of the oppressive racist regime did not lead to a bloodbath, as could have been predicted, but on the contrary: to the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Instead of revenge, forgiveness. Those who appeared before the commission and admitted their misdeeds were pardoned. That was in tune with Christian belief, and that was also in tune with the Jewish Biblical promise: “Whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

Yes, peoples are not the same, but what is the implication here? That, were the same process to begin in I/P, the Palestinians (who are mostly Muslim, alas) would choose revenge and not forgiveness? This, expecting Palestinians not to act conciliatorily at the prospect of Truth & Reconciliation, is unacceptable and dehumanising.

Regardless of his disappointing lack of vision here, I still respect Avnery for what he has stood for elsewhere. He has done a lot for the cause and has spoken out for Palestinians more than any Israeli public figure I know of. His could have been a very powerful endorsement in the stuggle for peace and justice, of which BDS is just a part.

We need to look to other voices to build up support for the boycott. We must not simply wait for Obama to magically solve the situation, as Avnery hopes.

Posted in BDS, Israel/Palestine

{ 109 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Avnery makes sense. I feel vindicated, in that his comments include many that I’ve been making here.

    I saw the Harvey Stein interview with Avnery, and liked him greatly from that interview, even as I’ve differed from his impression of tone over the years.

    I think it is absurd to prohibit Archbishop Tutu from speaking at Israeli universities, or to boycott Neve Gordon’s recorded lectures, or Nadine Gordimer when she spoke in Israel and in Palestine a few months ago.

    I think Anees is doing what Jews are often criticized of, seeking something to be offended by (even when rationally there is little or nothing to be).

    I suspect that Anees is more upset at his conclusion than his assumptions.

    • Citizen says:

      So, Avnery concludes Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs cannot forgive? They differ from South African blacks in this regard. What is his basis for making the
      distinction, first, as to Jewish Israelis, and second, as to Palestinian Arabs?

  2. Rehmat says:

    It seem, finally Avnery has shown his belief in the “chosenness” of Hebrew tribes – though the great majority of Zionist leaders are committed atheists. Now, why the the Zionist criminals be forgiven while Christian Nazis are not even after 64 years? Why should not the 150,000 German Jews and Irgun terrorists be recognized ‘evildoers’ as the Christian Nazis?

    Forgiveness is not part of Christianity or Talmudism. Both believe in vengeance instead of mercy. Is it not a historical fact that European Christian countries expelled their Jewish communities in the past – longest expulsion being from England – 350 years? And where most of the members of Jewish communities took refuge? In Muslim Spain, Muslim Palestine and the Ottoman empire? So which religion has been more tolerant toward the Jews? Even one of Israeli president was honest enough to accept the fact that Muslim rulers have been more tolerant toward their Jewish subjects than the Christian rulers. It was the Christian-Jew Nazis who killed millions of Gypsies, Christians and Jews. It were the communists (with mostly Jewish elites) who killed tens of millions of Russian and Ukrainian Christians during Lenin and Stalin era.

    Bishop Tutu during his last visit to Canada – gave an interview to Haroon Siddique, editor Toronto Star in which he claimed that Muslim societies have been more tolerant toward both Jews and Christians than the Jewish and Christian societies in their treatment of Muslims…

    link to rehmat1.wordpress.com

  3. ehrens says:

    I think Nelson Mandela referred to boycotts as a tactic and not some immutable prescription for dealing with tyranny. Avnery is entitled to his views on tactics, especially since I presume he knows Israel a bit better than we do, and maybe we should at least listen. Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions all represent tools in a toolkit and need not be used all at once or in the same way by everyone.

  4. tree says:

    Off-topic, but Olmert has just been indicted on corruption charges.

  5. tree says:

    I thought that Ran Greenstein’s comments were more useful than Avnery’s, see here:
    link to gush-shalom.org.toibillboard.info

  6. jimby says:

    So far, revenge and retaliation haven’t worked for Israel. I don’t recall where in my Old Testament it say “ten eyes for an eye”, but who’s counting any more. The endless cycles of vengeance and hate will only make the outcome more painful.
    In a strange sense I think BDS might not be as effective but hardly do I imagine it is a wrong move. The problem is here in the US. When I heard Shlomo Ben Ami debate N Finkelstein I was struck by something he said. I am paraphrasing: If it weren’t for the American Jews Israel could have made peace. I am still cogitating that.

    • Citizen says:

      I keep thinking of the golden humanity view posed by “an eye for an eyelash.”
      That’s certainly not the view we get here in the USA of jewish people. Not in any
      avenue of news or entertainment. So, are the USA masses being duped yet again?

  7. lyn117 says:

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Anees that Avnery’s article is badly argued.

    For example he states regarding a boycott, ‘They [majority of Israelis] will not feel the “the whole world is with us”, but rather that “the whole world is against us”’. The state of Israel actively promotes the idea that the whole world is “against us,” it’s the whole raison d’etre for the state. Given the level of indoctrination by zionist Israel, a boycott will add little. Perhaps it might make the majority of Israelis think about why the world rejects its ethnic cleansing policies and practices.

    “The impact of a boycott on Israel … would push the large majority into the arms of the extreme right …” I have news for Avnery. Israel is already in the arms of the extreme right, but moreover, where were the so-called leftists when the settlements were being built? Mostly they were supporting them.

    Again, he hope Obama will push peace, and that the entire world will get behind the endeaver. Does he happen to notice that most of the world favors peace? Including the Arab states, who have all signed on to the Saudi peace proposal? Of course most of the world also rejects acquisition of territory by war and expulsion by force of arms of indigenous people, and at least one of the main demands by Israel is that it allowed to keep some of the territory it took in war as well as control over the rest, seem to be the main stumbling blocks to peace. The BDS mainly are demanding an end to occupation. What does he expect Obama to do, most of the US congress is in the hands of AIPAC – perhaps that’s exactly what he’s counting on, any “peace” pushed by the US is likely to highly favor Israeli demands as have all previous proposals pushed by the US.

  8. VR says:

    I also appreciate most of the things Uri Avnery has said in his columns and elsewhere. It is always sad when you have to pick up and move on leaving what is perceived as towers in critical work against the occupation. What I must be honest and say is that this reaction from him has not surprised me. I have suspected this is the case ever since I read his article referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s “threat” to Israel, during the Durban Conference II.

    This always happens when the rubber meets the road, some turn back.

  9. Shmuel says:

    There can be no doubt that Avnery has done a lot of good over the years, but he has always stopped short of grappling with the core issue of Zionism. He is a (radical?) left-wing Zionist, and as such blames Israel’s settlement policies and especially Israel’s post-67 settlers for everything – making a clear distinction between “good” Zionists (’48 settlers) and “bad” Zionists (’67 settlers). It is therefore only natural that he would oppose measures that would hurt “good” Zionists and place Zionism as a whole on a par with Apartheid-era South Africa.

    • Citizen says:

      Yeah, I think you are right here. The 67 settlers are clearly wrong. And I am still struggling with the “rights” of 48 settlers. It’s really hard to believe that my own
      country is faking a struggle with not even the 67 settlers, but the 2009 settlers.

  10. anomalous says:

    I’m always perplexed by this attitude people have about Avnery. He’s a venerable force, truly an inspiration. But he’s still a zionist, and zionism is racism. So OF COURSE he doesn’t support sanctions. Of course he doesn’t support the idea that Israel should abide by international law. Of course he believes that jews are special, that Israel is special, that Israel should be permitted to act outside the law in whatever way it likes, provided that it declares to be in the racial interests of Jews. Of course he rejects the right of return. His entire life of incredibly courageous political advocacy was dedicated not to human rights, but to Jewish rights, and to zionism. He’s a racist in the way that every advocate of zionism is a de facto racist, and he speaks to and for racists, which is why people like Richard Witty declare “Avnery makes sense.” I’m not saying that in a shallow, flaming way. We have to be able to make these distinctions which allow us to see the whole spectrum of Jewish racism, which includes the Israeli “left” and much of what passes for the “extreme left”, and not just the hideous mess on the far right, which is so patently, horrifically racist that it boggles the mind. Jewish exceptionalism is the problem. I am a great fan of Avnery and think of him as something of a hero, but the fact remains that Avnery, and Avnery’s zionism, are part of the problem. Zionism is not going to produce the solutions and answers to Zionism – they are just going to perpetuate zionism by iterating a superifically prettier version of this ugly ideology: Something like “ethnic cleansing Lite.”

  11. Zionism is nationalism. The choice of jurisdiction is a choice.

    Zionism is affirmation, as Palestinian nationalism is affirmation.

    Neither are racism.

    • Citizen says:

      Zionism is ethnic nationalism. The choice of jurisdiction ignores the natives.
      Zionism is affirmation that some people are more important than others. Palestinian nationalism is a reaction to this belief.

      • If Palestinian nationalism is only a reaction, then it is not something of itself.

        From the Palestinians that I’ve met, they disagree. They regard themselves as a people, a nation, not a silhouette.

      • Citizen says:

        A key justification of Israel is eternal anti-semitism; this is always given to the Gentile public. Thus, Israel may reasonably be viewed as a reaction, and a proactive land base insurance policy for “never again.” Similarly, Palestinian nationhood was honed by
        reaction to Jewish colonialism (backed originally by England). Now, just as the Jewish people do not regard themselves as a silhouette, neither do the Palestinians. Nationalism is never only a reaction.

    • Donald says:

      Palestinian nationalism would be racism if Palestinians don’t want to live side by side with Jews in complete equality. The same for Zionism. The excessive emphasis on ethnicity or religion inevitably leads to thoughts of domination and one side being superior to the other. Nationalism has always been problematic for that reason.

      Some of the early Zionists, , the cultural Zionists, were not racist. They wanted Palestine to be a haven for Jews and Jewish culture, but there was no thought of a “Jewish state” which would be a “Jewish democracy” because Jews would be the majority in an area where there was already a large number of Arabs. That goal couldn’t be achieved without racist policies and the cultural Zionists were opposed to such policies. Unfortunately they were not the ones to dominate the Zionist movement.

    • Ali Ahmad says:

      After what the crusaders did in Palestine (genocide, destruction, expulsion, etc) to both Muslims and Jews, what did Salah al-Din did to them while having the power to do otherwise?

      In the millennia of history in Palestine, who was the most tolerant group to Jews while in power: the Romans, the Crusaders or the Muslims?

      Didn’t Muslim give Jews refuge from European expulsion in Spain and, yes, in Palestine?

      NPR had a story running yesterday about the Muslims who saved the Jews from the holocaust in Europe. Check it out: link to npr.org

      –”Host Liane Hansen speaks with photographer Norman Gershman about his book Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II, which is also the subject of a documentary called God’s House. Greshman spent five years collecting stories of Albanian Muslims who harbored Jewish refugees during World War II.”

      • Zionism is most definitely not nationalism. If it were the Zionists would be in their own nation and not spread all over the globe. Zionism is just one tentacle of International Jewry.

      • Shmuel says:

        Give us a break AF. Your comment reminds me of the Daniel Pipes – Oriana Fallaci crowd, and their talk of “Eurabia”, “dhimmis”, “global Islam”, “dar al-harb”, etc.

      • Daniel Pipes is part of the problem. He sits around in the US posing as some type of objective expert on the Mideast and on Islam when in reality he has only tribal loyalties to his fellow Jews. Zionism = internationalism, not nationalism.

      • Citizen says:

        What other state is set up as Israel is? What other state claims to speak for all Jews, and all diaspora Jews claim to speak for Israel? What other nation gives its ethnic-religious group first class citizenship at the drop of a hat, while simultaneously discriminating against 20% of its own cititzens corralled with second class citizenship from birth?

  12. anomalous says:

    Witty, that is nonsense and as an intelligent person you certainly know that to be the case. I will do you and me both the courtesy of not wasting my breathe on composing the obvious, sane responses to such crap, which you have obviously heard a thousand times and chosen to ignore a thousand times because it offended your belief in the exceptional nature, needs, and rights of Jews.

    • It is truth. The Jewish people are a diverse people, more diverse than the Germans (though they are as well), more diverse than the Palestinian (though they are as well).

      Palestinian nationalism is very similar to Zionism, but in a more recent time frame.

      But, the REALITY of a people that remained a people, even through centuries of diaspora, is truth.

      You should find room in your mind to accommodate that form of nationalism.

      • Citizen says:

        As we demonized German Americans in WW1? As we belittled the German American
        Bund in the years leading up to WW2? As we tossed German Americans in concentration camps during WW2? That’s how we found room in our minds to
        accommodate that form of nationalism.

      • Citizen says:

        The German language was once very prevalent in the USA; its usage and print
        rivaled English in many regions. This prevalence was eradicated.

      • Isn’t the “Jewish people” (as distinct from the Jewish religion) an admission of dual loyalty? I thought every American citizen was supposed to be a member of the American poeple.

      • Citizen says:

        BTW, German Americans were also tossed into concentration camps during WW1.
        And a Prussian saved Washington’s troops at Valley Forge. No one ever hears about
        the German American contributions to our country, though they have been immense–why is that? Just asking.

  13. syvanen says:

    Avnery has spent most of his life trying to convince Israeli Jews that peace with the Palestinians is not only possible but necessary for future of Israel. The operative term here is that his audience is Israeli. If he accepted the BDS movement he would have to accept that his life’s work has failed and that the Israeli people politically support the anti-Arab policies of the ultra right. I can’t blame him for not giving up on tyring to convince his fellow citizens. There is no question but the BDS movement will make the Israeli people even more defensive and xenophobic. Nevertheless, those of us who support BDS have either consciously or unconsciously accepted that the Israeli politics is dominated by the ultra-right and that a solution to that problem lies with overwhelming outside pressure that will force them to give up their ambitions to annex the West Bank. It was the threat of economic collapse that forced the South African white minority to give up apartheid. Perhaps similar threats will force Israel to concede. But what should be obvious is that persuasion, rational discussion and appeals to their humanity is not going to move the Israeli people. But I can’t blame Avnery for not agreeing.

    • Citizen says:

      Are you saying Avnery choice of not supporting BDS is based on the informed belief
      that BDS will not eventually worked its objective due to AIPAC supported Israeli stiff necked?

      • syvanen says:

        I have no idea what Avnery believes. What I am guessing is that he values the small influence that he does have inside Israel and if he were to support BDS that would be lost. Perhaps he does believe that rational discussion and persuasion can still, really, really work. I don’t but nether do I know that BDS will work. It is possible that AIPAC will recover and help lead the US in fulfilling the zionist dream of a West Bank cleansed of Palestinians.

  14. kylebisme says:

    The SA Truth and Reconciliation Committee came after a strong BDS movement, and after the apartheid system was dismantled. I hope Avnery might bother to reconsider his argument on those grounds, as he would be a powerful ally in the BDS movement.

    By the way, is has anyone else noticed the way many Zionists break regress into ridiculous pseudo-haiku when confronted with the roots of the conflict, like Witty did above? It seems to be a side effect of the ziocaine.

    • Citizen says:

      No question Witty is on ziocaine. He’s on it as much as any baptist evangelical is
      on endtimes drugs. The difference is, Judiasm does not demand belief in an afterlife, while Christianity does. MAJOR difference in terms of pratical activity.

  15. DG says:

    The fundamentalpurpose of a cultural boycott (restrictions on sports, cultural, and academic exchanges) is to awaken a sense of shame. The idea is to force a society to start looking at itself as others see it, and then, hopefully, start questioning the rationalizations they have long depended on. This is what Tutu meant when he wrote,

    “The importance of the boycott was not only economic,” the archbishop explained, “but also moral. South Africans are, for example, crazy about sports. The boycott, which prevented their teams from competing abroad, hit them very hard.”

    But a sense of shame cannot be counted on in a society which defines itself as “a people apart.” So Avnery is correct (although for the wrong reasons). But he still owes us an explanation of why the economic side of the boycott would not be effective, particularly on an economy which is not self-sufficient and relies so heavily on foreign aid.

    • There is no economic impact. The boycott was constructed as solely an academic and cultural boycott.

      That is the disaster of the proposal, that it is so vaguely stated.

      • tree says:

        You are either willfully ignorant about a subject that you have gone on about ad nauseum, or you have just knowingly stated a baldfaced lie. I’m not sure which is worse. Sadly neither is surprising.

        link to bdsmovement.net

      • kylebisme says:

        Witty, how do you square your religious convictions with constantly bearing false witness like this?

      • So which boycott are you proposing? All Israeli products, or just the academic and cultural one?

        And, are you really going to follow through on this? Open up the computer your using.

      • kylebisme says:

        Opening up my computer won’t do anything to pressure Israel, but I will be sure to shop AMD next time I need a faster CPU.

      • The question was whether you are really going to follow through, or just indulge in some selective and collective punishment.

      • kylebisme says:

        If Israel complies to international law before my next upgrade, I won’t be boycotting. The boycott is only intended to pressure Israel into doing right, not punish them for having done wrong.

      • Citizen says:

        Witty: “There is no economic impact.”
        This is a typical declarative sentence by this commenter. It is a blatent lie, easily
        revealed by a simple Google search. Why does he continue to write like this? Who
        does he think finds their way to this blog? How disdainful and arrogant can this
        Witty be?

      • Kyle,
        And what is that specifically?

      • You demonstrate the vagueness that I was referring to, in description of the BDS movement.

        Take the lesson from those that have been effective. They limit their objectives, specify them and the reasoning very clearly and undeniably.

        They don’t leave any room for accusations of prejudice, by their careless formation and advocacy.

      • Margaret says:

        “You demonstrate the vagueness that I was referring to, in description of the BDS movement.”

        A plenishment of websites discuss BDS; the detail provided is insufficient to satisy? Willful ignorance always has purpose.

        Perhaps analysis of the results will help resolve the annoying feeling that prompts your continued questioning? The following link is offered to further the success of your “sincerely dedicated consciousness raising effort, of mutually humanizing the other.”

        “Haaretz reports that Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel Investments faces
        insurmountable debt obligations and will be forced to negotiate a restructuring
        with his creditor banks. (TikunOlam, richardsilverstein dot com)

      • Citizen says:

        Witty, are you telling us there were no accusations of prejudice in the BDS movement against apartheid S Africa? Jeez, get a grip.

  16. Sin Nombre says:

    I’m not that familiar with Avnery’s writings. The one linked to however seemed to clearly be one in which his stance is that he isn’t so much against, say, the occupation because it’s unfair or bad for the Palestinians, but instead because it’s bad for the Israelis in the long run.

    Is this different from his usual perspective? People seem surprised with him here.

    • syvanen says:

      Uri Avnery is one of the first Israelis to recognize the Palestinians as part of Israel. He wrote:

      Avnery, Uri (1968): Israel Without Zionists: A Plea for Peace in the Middle East.

      Relevant to this discussion he describes in an essay how this book was boycotted by progressive NY bookstores in the early 70s (sorry don’t have the link). It was not a formal boycott, just that when he visited the city he couldn’t find it on the shelves but when he requested a copy the clerks were aware of the book.

  17. Elliot says:

    Uri Avnery made this distinction between Israel/Palestine and South Africa:
    In this country, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have nothing in common – not a
    common national feeling, not a common religion, not a common culture and not a
    common language.
    Similar arguments could have been offered to oppose ending apartheid.
    The separation wall (which Avnery opposed) and the security campaign to keep West Bank Palestinians out of sight has created a self-fulfilling proposition. Israeli Jews who stay within the Green Line and West Bank Palestinians do indeed share nothing right now.
    Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have related languages (many Arabs speak Hebrew), they share a love of the same food, the same land. They share many religious ideas and mythical figures. There is a long history of coexistence.
    Why is coexistence in I/P any more impossible than ending apartheid in South Africa?

    • tree says:

      Good points, Elliot. I think that the positive co-existence experiences of the Israelis and Palestinians who are working together to end the occupation are the surest hope for a peaceful and just future. But they need support and encouragement, and unfortunately, at this point, their ranks are small.

      I doubt that at the height of SA apartheid that most SA whites believed that they had much in common with the SA blacks they considered their inferiors. This is the problem with the majority of Israeli attitudes towards Palestinians.

  18. Sin Nombre says:

    It seems to me the weakest point with Avnery’s article is essentially the same weakness that everyone sees with the current situation, with that involving the issue of time.

    That is, sure, okay, maybe with some issues instead of playing into someone’s fears of everyone being against them it makes sense to do otherwise on occasion. I don’t buy that I don’t think but I don’t deny there might be arguments in favor of same sometimes.

    But what does Avnery’s prescription mean for the here and now? Essentially the same as every other lame one out there: Just give things more time and patience. Forty years isn’t enough, even though Israel has in that time already gobbled up a huge amount of the territories and is still even now so clearly bent on continuing to do so that it is stiff-arming the U.S. over the idea of that it should halt same.

    I don’t know about the rest of Avnery’s writings but it’s very difficult to regard this as the work of a person who is serious about fairly resolving the conflict. Unless he feels “fairness” means dispossessing 99% of the Palestinians of the occupied territories eventually.

    The piece says far more about Avnery than it does about its subject matter: While saying that his countrymen are deluded about everyone being against them he himself still possesses the delusion that for this or whatever other reason some different standard be applied to Israel than to everyone else.

    It just astounds me that anyone thinks that everyone else is ever really going to accept that kind of argument. It’s like someone not only believing they are superior to everyone else, but insisting that everyone else acknowledge it too. Insulting initially, laughable in the end. Where are the Abba Eban-types now when Israel really needs those who at least always recognize what it means to be serious?

  19. Pingback: Arab News Blog » BDS: Avnery’s dangerous argumentation

  20. Citizen says:

    “People are not the same everywhere,” explains Avnery; this his basis for being against
    the tactic of BDS. I guess not, the apartheird government also voluntarily gave up its nukes, which it had developed in partnership with Israel. When the BDS movement
    against apartheid S Africa turned that regime into a world pariah, Israel found itself
    alone supporting the S African regime. What did Israel do? Sided with the UN against
    S Africa. In short, Israel stabbed S Africa in the back. In light of the close partnership
    Israel had with apartheid S Africa and the details regarding how this unraveled due to
    the pressure of the then BDS movement, I really think Avnery’s ethnic/racist
    reasoning as to why BDS would backfire as a tactic is very flimsy.

    Here’s some context regarding the Calvinist regime that eventually capitulated to
    BDS tactics; Israel knows all this, so it seems Israel should know the writing on the
    wall and yet it does not:
    link to jpost.com

  21. He opposes punitive approaches in favor of assertive ones.

    • Citizen says:

      NO. He opposes economic and cultural sanctions on Israel despite the fact they worked on
      apartheid S Africa. What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.

      And funny how he says the Israelis won’t forgive as the S African blacks did.
      Give me my pound of flesh? We can at least agree that Jews are not Christians, eh?

  22. harveystein says:

    No one here has referenced Avnery’s mentioning of the effects of the Holocaust on Israelis. And almost no one here, as far as I can tell, has spent much time in Israel (or the West Bank or Gaza, as far as I can tell). Come on over…..

    A Palestinian activist I have been working with, Khaled Mahameed, counsels his fellow Palestinians that force of any kind used against Israelis (and I count BDS as that) will never work. Because unfortunately, people traumatized by violence respond by “defending themselves” 100 times more forcefully. In my day to day life here in Jerusalem, I see it over and over – you raise your voice at someone in frustration, they raise their voice 10 times more. That’s the language here.

    I know you’ll hate me, but “tough love” is the only answer, because if you grew up in Israel (where just like in Palestine, chances are you’d have an innocent relative or friend who was killed by “the enemy”), there’s a good chance you’d be living the life of denial and post-trauma that Israelis do. You would need a good therapist, who would BOTH challenge you to fully experience and move beyond your trauma and denial, AND make you feel safe and secure.

    Americans are the last people in the world to understand this, because America is almost completely innocent of direct violence against it (up until 9-11). (And I know it’s tempting to want to punish the Israelis by BDS, because they’re so damn arrogant – they are! but again, psychologically speaking, it’s just armor over their wounds.)

    My suggestion: Obama speak directly to Israelis (as he did to the Arab world) – both giving security guarantees, and gentle but firm threats. Israelis would change their tune in 5 minutes, 2-states appear within 10.

    • A Palestinian activist I have been working with, Khaled Mahameed, counsels his fellow Palestinians that force of any kind used against Israelis (and I count BDS as that) will never work.

      That just means he accepts Jewish special pleading which is an example of the exceptionalism that Phil detests.

    • Donald says:

      I don’t know if you’re right, but that’s a reasonable argument. I don’t see it as “Israeli exceptionalism”–it’s just a claim that maybe the culture will react badly to certain types of pressure, which might be true. I think your conclusion might be a little optimistic, however.

    • Shmuel says:

      Harvey, I grew up in Israel (Jerusalem), and spent most of my life there. Allow me to disagree both with your analysis, and with your suggestion that those are not convinced by Avnery’s arguments against BDS do so out of a lack of familiarity with Israel and Israelis. Israelis are in deep denial – and no one more so than left-wing Israelis. Mollycoddling them has not worked so far, and can never work, because it will not change their basic perceptions or drive home concepts of true equality and accountability. Holocaust sensibilities are at the heart of this denial and sense of entitlement and exceptionalism. Decent Israelis must start asking themselves why committed human rights activists and deeply moral people around the world are beginning to shun them and hold them accountable for their society’s constant violations of human rights and international law. I know the Israeli left quite well. “The whole world is against us” and “they’re all anti-Semites” will only go so far, before they start asking themselves some serious questions. They need to be shaken up, not pandered to. By the way, I find it ironic that Avnery uses some of the same arguments against BDS that were used – even in the mainstream press – against Gush Shalom’s boycott of the settlements (particuarly the false and irrelevant association with the Nazi boycott of Jewish shops).

      • Citizen says:

        Shmuel, can you please elaborate more on what you are saying–I think all of the regulars on this blog would benefit. Thanks so much, and I appreicate your honesty.

      • Shmuel says:

        I’m not sure exactly what you had in mind, Citizen, but I’ll give it a try. I do not accept the premise that BDS will only make Israelis more intransigent. That will certainly be the case with some, but there is a significant part of the population that cares deeply about western public opinion – people they consider their peers. If BDS is successful, I believe it will trouble decent, thinking Israelis, who are currently lost in a sea of self-delusion and distorted self-image. They are convinced that Israel is the good guy, and to the extent that it does bad things, these can be blamed on the right, the religious, the settlers, “the Russians”. To be told by people they respect (eg. academic colleagues – assuming they can’t just be dismissed as a lefty fringe) that they too are responsible, that their self-justifying arguments (Hamas, Holocaust, etc.) are not convincing – will bug them. Most Israelis, even (especially?) left-wing Israelis, believe in Israel’s moral superiority, and it is that sense of superiority that prevents them from treating Palestinians as equals (at the core of current oppression and a sine qua non for any agreement). No amount of “tough love” will change that. Demonstrating the discrepancy between their self-image and the way they are perceived by their peers just may.

      • Shmuel says:

        I would add that the propaganda machine in Israel is extremely effective. Most Israelis are never really exposed to the truth about their actions. Gaza is a case in point. In conversations with left-wing Israelis, especially young Israelis, I am often told “but we’ve never heard that before” and even “why has no one ever told us that before?”. BDS may be able to bring some of that information to them.

      • Citizen says:

        Schmuel. Thank you so much for sharing. What you say smacks of truth and I think many regulars on this blog have come to the conclusions you have, though they
        have not had the advantage of your life in Israel. Question: How would you characterize Richard Witty’s stance daily on this blog’s comment section? I mean,
        what do you get out of his daily dose of righteous declarative sentences, and his
        POV always couched in the shirt of the hypothetical Reasonable Man? Do you agree/disagree with him generally? Many here would find what you have to say
        very interesting. Who knows, you might change minds on this blog!

      • harveystein says:

        I never said “mollycoddle”! Yes, Israeli Jews need shaking up (Avnery, who many people in this list love to jab, describes their problem as a “national autism”) but how best to do that? I respect that you spent many years in Israel, but still, my model of human growth – ANY human growth, anywhere – adds the love to the tough (I have a 3 yr old son, have worked for years with troubled teens, and many other arenas). Yes, I am as frustrated as it seems you are with Israeli behavior in general, but using ONLY negative reinforcement seems to be a limited approach to changing behavior (except maybe in mice….)

        There’s a huge gap between the typical Western “leftist” activist and the typical Israeli – a gap of history, personal experience, and personal and national habit. Yes, all humans share many characteristics, but each human is unique too. How to bridge this gap? I live 2 minutes from a cafe in Jerusalem where a young woman (along with three others) was killed by a bomb in 2003, the night before her wedding. A bus bomb a block away killed 8. Israeli fears are not illusions, they must be addressed.

        And by the way, more and more, especially young Israelis, are making the trip to the West Bank, to protest in Bi’lin, Nilin, Ma’asara, the villages around Hebron, and elsewhere. These Israelis are meeting and spending time with Palestinians – please don’t generalize about Israelis not treating Palestinians as equals. The way you learn to treat someone as an equal is to meet them face to face, try to feel and share their pain, and start to see who they really are.

        I don’t think what you and I are saying is THAT different, only that I think some reassurance along with the threats is much more effective. Obama is ideally situated to do that. If I were still living in the States, I’d spend my time lobbying him on that, not flaming Israelis I had never met.

      • Shmuel says:

        Harvey, “mollycoddle” was of course my characterisation of an approach that does not include immediate sanctions of some kind. Threats are not enough at this point. On the other hand, I do not believe that sanctions alone will do the trick, and I see BDS as part of a “cocktail”, which also includes sympathy, understanding, negotiation and attempts to address Israeli, as well as Palestinian concerns . You don’t have to tell me about bombs. I lived in Jerusalem for 21 years. I know all about them. I also served in the Israeli army, and have neices and nephews in the army now. If there is anything I am familiar with it is Israeli concerns. I am also familiar with developments for good and bad on the Israeli left, and am extremely gratified by the growing support among Israelis for movements such as Ta’ayush, Anarchists Against the Wall, ICAHD and others. Sadly, the number of Israelis involved with these movements is insignificant. Of course I generalised about Israelis and Israeli left-wingers, but in my experience, my description is accurate for the vast majority. To use a Hebrew expression, “rubam kekhulam” – a majority that is like entirety. In terms of Obama, I think he must be pressured (not exclusively) to hold Israel accountable for war crimes, violations of human rights and international law. Anything else – as well-intentioned as it may be – will not stop the preponderance of violence and dispossession, perpetrated by Israel. He must tell them, I understand your concerns and will address them, but you cannot starve and kill innocent civilians, you cannot steal land from Palestinians to give it to Jews – and until you stop, there will be consequences. Since I don’t see that happening any time soon, it’s up to civil society to get the ball rolling. There is of course another aspect to BDS, eloquently expressed by Desmond Tutu with regard to the SA boycott – we must let Palestinians know that they are not alone, that the world is not silent. Talk about a Holocaust lesson.

      • Shmuel says:

        As I have written before, I believe that Mr. Witty contributes nothing of value to discussion here, and should be ignored. I have stopped reading him.

      • Citizen says:

        Schmuel, thank you again for your comments. I contact my congress people but
        they either ignore me or give me hasbara propaganda that rarely even addresses
        the issues I raised. I also belong to various groups in favor of BDS and do my best
        to get their messages out. I don’t know what else I can do. I think the status quo will lead to WW3.

      • tree says:


        Thanks for you contributions here and welcome. If I may, I’d like to ask you about this statement of yours:

        I am also familiar with developments for good and bad on the Israeli left, and am extremely gratified by the growing support among Israelis for movements such as Ta’ayush, Anarchists Against the Wall, ICAHD and others. Sadly, the number of Israelis involved with these movements is insignificant.

        From my perspective, which is as an American with a relative in Israel, I see such groups as the only hope that Israel will overcome its core racism and enable a truly just peace. I’m well aware that their numbers are very small. I was cheered by your comment that support for them is growing in Israel. I wish that more people in the US would help support them as well. Do you see any chance that such groups will ever become a significant enough force to create the change that is needed in Israel, or are their numbers just too small to buck the tide of state propaganda and entrenched racism?

        My personal thoughts are that the racism and sense of superiority inherent in the
        Israeli system must be confronted and quelled before any just peace can arrive. The Israelis, like any other group entrenched with racism, will never act justly towards a group it considers inferior to it without outside coercion.

      • Shmuel says:

        First of all, thanks for the welcome. I agree that the only real hope for peace lies in movements like the ones I mentioned, which comprise Israeli Jews and Palestinians (Israeli citizens and residents of the OT) working together for equality and justice in I/P. The anti-war demonstrations in Tel-Aviv in Dec-Jan were quite impressive, considering what the demonstrators were up against, and I was extremely pleased when our local anti-war demo (here in “Old Europe”) singled them out for support and solidarity, getting a big cheer from the crowd. If they exist at all, it is due to the work done by Uri Avnery and others of his generation, who radicalised Israelis, but are often unable to go beyond a certain point. Academics like Neve Gordon are also extremely encouraging, and he is by no means the only one. They are saying things that would have been completely unthinkable only a few years ago. Gordon is being vilified, for sure, but he is not being given the Shlaim or Pappe treatment. These guys need our help and support, and I see BDS as part of that effort. Radicalise more Israelis, convince moderate Peace Now supporters that Ta’ayush and ICAHD are not beyond the pale.

    • Citizen says:

      OK. Should the Palestinians also erect a vision of an eye for an eye lash? What’s in the best interest of the USA sans AIPAC?

      • harveystein says:

        Shmuel and Citizen,
        Re: Witty: Walker Percy, a great American writer from the 1930s said, “Everything possible to believe is an image of the truth”. You guys sound just a bit fascist saying that someone’s thoughts here are not useful – I think it might reflect as much on your own possibly frozen ideologies as anything Witty says. The fundamentalist-inspired lack of real discourse is not unique to the Right, you know…..
        (and I have no idea if you’re Jewish, Citizen, but there’s a tradition in Talmudic discourse – lost in current Israeli custom and almost everywhere else too – where all interpretations are analyzed, especially the ones you disagree with. Probing, questioning the other, seeing what’s underneath – it not only shakes up the others’ assumptions, but yours as well.) So tell me, what exactly about Witty’s comments irritates you so much?? Give me a little rant on that, would be interesting……

      • Shmuel says:

        You are way off base. I am a big fan of real discourse and have participated in many forums – Zionist and non, Jewish and non. I am a talmudic scholar by training, and understand the value of opinions that differ from my own. I have no desire whatsoever to silence anyone. Unfortuntely Witty is not interested in such discussion. I have already detailed why I think so (as have others) on another thread, and have no interest in wasting any more time on this “meta-discussion” that has taken up nearly has much bandwidth as discussion of his comments themselves. Feel free to judge for yourself, and if you know any Zionists of any persuasion who would be interested in honest discussion with people who disagree with them, please invite them to participate in this forum.

      • Citizen says:

        harveystein, I have never even suggested that Witty should be banned, or ignored. If you take the trouble to comb through this blog, I have always responded to Richard Witty’s comments, and quite often with follow-up comments. The record here will show it. I merely asked Shmuel, who I think is a fairly recent commenter here what he
        thought of Witty’s contributions. I asked Shumuel this because I find myself always
        in agreement with his observations and comments and he lived in Israel, while I have never been there. Simultaneously, it’s very rare that I agree with Richard Witty’s comments; and nearly always you have to nail him down as he is extremely evasive
        once he has made his usual fiat declarations under the guise of Mister Reason.

        I am a licensed attorney in NY and Illinois, was a trial lawyer, and have also authored legal text book supplements, articles, etc. If you know anything about
        legal training, you know it develops the ability to take either side of an argument;
        that is to say, you must know both sides, and thoroughly. I am the most remote
        person from any sort of fundamentalism you can find; I am an agnostic by default not principle when it comes to religion. I know more than most people about the Talmud and its structure.

      • The sort of discourse Harvey wants requires a certain good faith on all parts. If Witty believes that applying BDS to Israel is anti-Semitic and evil, but has no problem with sanctions on Iran or now the Israeli boycott of Sweden, I don’t see that as discourse. I see that as a naked expression of his own tribalism, the only effective response to which is for others to develop their own opposing tribablism.

  23. ehrens says:

    harveystein brings up some valid points that Avraham Burg has written about and Avnery alludes to. Avnery was criticized by Helena Cobban for pointing out the differences between Israelis, Palestinians, and South Africans — as if such distinctions were racial and not historical. But tactics have to adapt to particular circumstances. I’m not sure we have to throw out the entire BDS toolbox, but certainly certain tactics may have unintended consequences if Avnery is right.

  24. Elliot says:

    I am undecided on BDS but you go too far in labelling it as ‘violence.’ The distinction you draw between BDS and Obama’s attempt to curtail Israeli settlement policy is non-existent to the kind of Israeli you are describing. Obama’s minimal position on settlements was smeared by Israel and her allies in the US as anti-semitic. (‘the man whose middle name is Hussein’ etc)
    If there is such a thing as ‘tough love’ then it’s gonna have to be tough too.

    Whether or not people on this list are Israeli, who better to understand the psychology of people in abusive/traumatic circumstances and intervene than someone who is outside that situation?

    • harveystein says:

      You’re right, Elliot. It’s gonna have to be tough too – Obama hasn’t had the balls (or the focus time….) yet to really lay out consequences if the Israelis don’t change. But again, if it’s without the love, then it will probably backfire. The Israelis will kick and scream, but knowing they will be protected if the shit hits the fan (another act of violence by the Other), they’ll kick the habit…

      As far as an “objective” therapist, she’s gotta be objective and compassionate at the same time, not an easy mix and certainly not present in most ideologues (right OR left).

      • So, how do you propose that catharsis occur?

        Just for reference, the film “Waltz with Bashir” was directly about the sense of a need for catharsis, for the protaganists personal healing, moreso than to purge holocaust memories, or inferences of memories.

        My wife is a child of a holocaust survivor and has 50 nightmares a year that are either an imagination of her father’s memories or her own memories related to his traumatic death in 1976.

        In 1992 I think, she read of an individual that had survived a firing squad by dropping to the ground into a pile of bodies before being hit. Her father had relayed a similar story. It evoked a week of nightmares daily, exacerbated by our hearing that a friend of ours (who had gone way fanatic, in fundraising by escalating crime) had attempted an arms drop from Rumania to Maoist rebels in India.

        When she saw the Waltz with Bashir film last year, her nightmares flared up. Human sympathy.

        Ironically, in spite of the cathartic effect of the Bashir film on many Israeli veterans and others, Phil dismissed even shafted the film for not portraying the Israeli soldiers as participating demons.

        As if healing wasn’t enough. How dare the Israelis get to heal?

        Harvey’s and Burg’s and Avnery’s thesis is that peace flows as a result of the healing of trauma, not as a result of harrassing it.

        Neither of them, or I, advocate for expansion of settlements or dehumanization of the other.

      • Elliot says:

        I actually know Israelis very well and understand the mentality. Israelis, by and large, live in a bubble of their own making. Any outside pressure will be spun by the government through the mainstream media as anti-semitic. BSD won’t heal the PTSD of the Holocaust, wars and terrorism. What it can achieve is to hold Israelis accountable for their government’s policies.
        Radical Israelis are beginning to play the Israeli-American game. Coming to a Jewish community near you: a speaking tour for Dr. Niv Gordon and a chapter of “American Friends of Ta’ayush”

      • Citizen says:

        From what you say about your wife and her dreams, why are you so teflon to
        any Palestinian wife or mother? They have reality-based nightmares too.

      • They live in a bubble of their own and of the intifadas’ making.

        I visited cousins in Arad in 1986, and together we socialized with Palestinians and Bedouins in Beersheva.

        After the 1987 intifada, they told me that it had become impossible for natural friendships to exist, that the political agitation on both sides was too strong, distrusting, divisive.

        They and others that I’ve met discussed the ironies of responding to the first intifada by acknowledging that Palestinians wanted to pursue the development of their own nation, then in 2000 discovering that Palestinians didn’t want to be isolated in their own nation. (Granted that it has not yet gotten that far.)

      • Citizen says:

        So, Witty asks us to sympathize with his comfortable wife’s vicarious nightmares, but not
        Palestinain wives’ and mothers’ nightmares–the former are to be seen as credible, the latter
        are merely self-created–you know, like in late December, earlier January of 2009 in Gaza?

        Waltz with Bashir: I will cry while I shoot you. I’ll be traumatized, and you’ll be dead. The waltz should have swung in a bigger circle. The tune is too tiny.

  25. jimby says:

    To me the problem lies in the US within the Jewish population. If somehow only the US could rid itself of this so called client state and let them stew if their own juice I think the problem would dissipate. I know that american jews would continue to support with their money but then it wouldn’t be my money. A huge part of the problem is how the zionist voices in the media are taken for the voice of wisdom. If we want to BDS then getting the govt to divest is the answer, not boycotting Trader Joe’s.

  26. Harvey,
    I know you’ve been in Israel for just a few years. How do you see what is going on there? Did you expect what you’ve experienced?

    Are you accepted as a peer, an insider? Or, are you considered suspect as an American idealist?

    I assume you were impressed by Avnery when you met him and conversed with him.

  27. Sergeiy says:

    Just to link to a reply to Avnery (and others) I posted over at a new blog called IsraelPalestineBlog.com:

    link to israelpalestineblog.com

    Main point – it’s the economic gains of the Occupation that are the issue.

  28. Colin Murray says:

    I think one aspect of this discussion is wrangling over the confluence of two factors: the motives of those proposing a particular tactic, and its efficacy. I suspect some people are arguing for punitive measures irrespective of whether they would be effective, and some are arguing against measures that may work, under the guise that those proposing them are more interested in punishment than in solutions. Objectives will vary amongst commenters supporting the same tactic, and appreciation of both motive and stance would be useful.

    One way to increase the usefulness of dialogue would be for those advancing arguments to explicitly define their objectives, and exactly how they believe a particular tactic will help or hinder its achievement. If enough people do this, then those who refuse will stand out, and their omission will serve as a red flag for readers to view their comments with appropriate skepticism.

    It would also help us to understand each other better, facilitating delineation of both common ground and of areas in which there will never be agreement. It is better for opponents, even those who disagree about everything, to understand where each is coming from than to fill in the blanks with guesswork inevitably based on preconceptions, many or most of which are mistaken. Of course this does not apply to those (on both sides) solely interested in purveying propaganda. However, I think these people tend to stand out, and their disruptions have largely vanished with Phil and Adam’s change in registration and comment policies.

  29. Citizen says:

    In light of the growth history of the settlements since 1967, I think the BDS
    movement is needed. If you agree that the settlement expansion is the key
    to whether or not one is serious about some sort of end to the cycle of terror,
    you must advocate the Palestinins have given up enough at the 1967 borders for
    what the Europeans did to the Jews. The Palestinians will have still been screwed,
    but the Jews will have their safe haven from the Europeans, from all Gentiles.

    • “If you agree that the settlement expansion is the key
      to whether or not one is serious about some sort of end to the cycle of terror,
      you must advocate the Palestinins have given up enough”

      If you ended there, we would be in agreement. When you add the last two phrases, you throw shit on your own argument, asking that it be ignored or resented.

    • The “digs” convince (or at the minimum confuse) Jews that the intent of BDS is punitive, more than transformative.

      • potsherd says:

        Too bad they can’t take the next step to realizing that punitive actions are what Israel deserves.

      • I once took a plane flight when my oldest son was two. He had trouble with his ears popping, and was screaming the whole three hours of the flight. I’m sure it was uncomfortable for the other passengers, but it was torture for him.

        A man in the seat in front of me, turned to me and said “If I were you, I’d smack him”.

        I told him that “I’d rather smack you. But I won’t.” (A bit out of character for me.)

      • Citizen says:

        I’m sure the Palestinians make some uncomfortable, but it’s torture for the Palestinians. Should we keep smacking them? I’d rather smack the Israelis but
        I won’t.

    • Margaret says:

      “When you add the last two phrases, you throw shit on your own argument, asking that it be ignored or resented.”
      As we all do, often. You, too.

      “The “digs” convince (or at the minimum confuse) Jews that the intent of BDS is punitive, more than transformative.”

      When confused, one begins to question. From questions may come new answers, and the potential of confusion is such that those answers may lead one out of the box that present understanding creates.

      Unchallenged perceptions create boxes so concrete as to not let in air or light. The death of individuals is easily accepted by some. But the potential lethality contained within such limited perception, as with bigotry, can be so great as to encompass the world. Why is the popular interest in Israel international, not limited to an audience that fits within the confines of the theater? The threat is that large.

      The violence that slaughtered youths graduating from a police academy wasn’t about the Jews and the Arabs. The limits of violence now are of will, whereas before concrete limits were imposed by the range of one’s weapon. To beat someone with a fist, conquer with a horde, eradicate by a fleet of aircraft, all are acts different from triggering fission capable of annihilating a world.

      A “dig” implies contact, and that brings it back down to you and me – self and other.

      • The Zionist vision will not change. The most that will change is the form of it, from expansion to enough.

        To consider differently is to live in fantasy.

        Boycott won’t change Israeli’s minds, and they will not yeild to force of any kind. The best that you or anyone could accomplish is to convince them that enough is truly enough, that live and let live is the best approach.

        Too many on the Israeli right state, “the Palestinians DESERVE punishment”. Its just more of the same when the left state it in any form.

      • Citizen says:

        Since you speak for all Israelis, Richard Witty, and you say they will not yield to force of any kind, you won’t mind if Obama cuts off all USA aid to Israel and cancels the
        memorandum agreements the USA has with Israel, and no longer vetoes all resolutions in the UN against Israeli activities?

  30. Margaret says:

    Don’t take cognizance of cultural Zionism, RW? The only Zionism is RW’s Zionism?

    The Magnes Zionist
    Self-Criticism from an Israeli, American, and Orthodox Jewish Perspective
    Los Angeles Jews Respond Positively to Neve Gordon’s Call to Boycott Israeli Academic Institutions
    Saturday, August 22, 2009 7:43 PM
    This has got to be one of the funniest stories of the dog days of August. Never Gordon, a leftwing professor at Ben-Gurion University, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, supporting the BDS movement (that’s boycott, divestment, and sanctions) against Israel. In other words, Gordon called for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel here.
    Some Los Angeles Jews have responded by threatening to cut-off donations to Ben-Gurion University.
    …which is, of course, what Gordon was calling for!
    So maybe this should now be the tactic of supporters of BDS in Israel: Get leftwing academics from all the universities to call for boycotts, and then angry Jews will response by cutting off funds from their university.
    I know, I know. Gordon is not the first Israeli academic to join the BDS movement. Let’s not forget Ilan Pappe when he was still at Haifa, and the late Tanya Reinhart, who did the same while at Tel Aviv. And there are others.
    But Gordon is the first Israeli academic to get an op-ed in a major metropolitan newspaper with a major Jewish community, and the largest concentration of Israelis outside of Israel (I think). If the LA Jews don’t give their money to BGU, maybe they can be convinced not to give their money to any of the Israeli universities.
    Except to Bar-Ilan and the pseudo-university, the College of Judea and Samaria.

    • Magnes Zionist’s view is also is a fantasy.

      The question of whether Israel needs to be a state has been answered. While the social Zionist view would have been wonderful if the Arab world had accepted the waves of Jewish immigration, that did not occur in fact, at least to the level of confident safety.

      In order for political analysis to be effective, it has to be of the present.

      Speculations, explorations of single-state, bi-national state, are important work to do. But, sadly, that work is not being done by visionaries, but by angry dissidents.

      Maybe that motivates them as far as commitment and energy, but it doesn’t motivate them as far as incorporating the views and needs of their opponents into the design process.

      For example, supporters of a single state have met in a couple recent conferences, but functionally excluded any that regarded even the social Zionist emphasis (coherent self-governing communities if not self-governing states) as important.

      So, the solution was born of an anti-sentiment. It sounds fair to a leftist morality, but not to theparties themselves.

      The concept of consent of the governed is important. If not attention is brought to invite the participation or concerns of Zionists to a table, then the design will exclude the current majority.

      And, still somehow called democracy.

      • Citizen says:

        Does Israeli activity motivate the Palestinians as far as Israel incorporating the views and needs of their opponents into the design process? What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.

  31. robin says:

    I have a ton of respect for Uri Avnery, but I also found his argument unconvincing. Some of it just doesn’t really make sense. The correct parallel to draw from the galvanizing of South African blacks that occurred in response to international BDS would be a galvanizing of Palestinians, not Jewish Israelis. And his distinction between the two situations in terms of the role of partition and political unity is also bizarrely off the mark, as he apparently forgets the apartheid regime’s effort to create separate black “bantustan” states to create a white majority state (with obvious parallels to Israel’s “demographic problem” and the potential for a tiny discontiguous Palestinian state).

    But I think the more basic point on which I disagree with Avnery is the strategic role of international onlookers. Avnery is saying that we must persuade (in a purely verbal sense) the Israeli public to make peace. He is probably right that BDS would not help this strategy, and could even hurt it. But how exactly could anyone persuade the Israelis to make peace, with all of the sacrifices and changes in mindset that would entail (and with Jewish Israelis supporting the carnage in Gaza 20 to 1)? Is that really an attainable goal? And is it a strategy in which the international community has any role to play?

    I think this is where it is really important to acknowledge the similarities to the apartheid situation. This is not just a conflict, or even an imbalanced conflict. This is a situation in which one group uses its preponderance of power to gain privileges at the expense of the other. There is a rational cost-benefit analysis that goes into Israeli policy, which all the talking in the world cannot change.

    Israeli Jews benefit from current policies through favored treatment inside Israel, extremely favored treatment in the West Bank, and land gains in the West Bank. Needless to say, the land means a lot to a lot of Israeli Jews. They also benefit from the exclusion of refugees and the political separation of the territories in terms of a Jewish majority (created by force) on the (technical) land of Israel which enables them to monopolize power over the region’s strongest state.

    What are the costs of occupation for them? Occasional criticism from abroad. Administrative costs involved in controlling Palestinian territory (mostly cut out in the case of Gaza). The cost of maintaining and using a large military, although some such policies might exist independently of the occupation. I would say the main cost is probably in lives lost and other violence from Palestinian resistance. However, nowadays even that is probably not recognized as a cost within Israel (or its cessation a potential benefit of peacemaking), where many people seem to view Palestinians as inherently violent rather than responsive to injustice.

    The power of BDS is in its ability to change that cost-benefit analysis for Israelis. It has nothing to do with punishment, as it would never be retroactive. It adds a cost to occupation and other unjust policies, while providing a potential benefit for the cessation of those policies. And it does this all without violence. And it is probably the only way for people in the rest of the world to engage meaningfully and morally with solving this issue.

    After reading Avnery’s piece I want to ask him, if we in the rest of the world cannot use BDS as a tool, then what tools can we use? And how long will the Palestinians have to wait for you to convince your countrymen that ending the occupation is the right thing to do?

  32. Margaret says:

    Rw: “The concept of consent of the governed is important. If not attention is brought to invite the participation or concerns of Zionists to a table, then the design will exclude the current majority.”

    The governed include all sides. The views and needs of one side have dominated. The aspirations and successes, as well as the fears and defense, of one side have dominated.

    I view your example of a couple of recent conferences in the context of a history in which the dominate concern has been of those whom you consider “functionally excluded”.

    Including another’s perspective is not an act of exclusion.

    What one experiences does dominate one’s perceptions.

  33. Margaret says:

    The addition of other voices here is wonderful to see.

  34. anomalous says:

    I see a lot of this discussion being bogged down in the usual tangential, irrelevant bullshit that zionists like to slather on top of every discussion.

    Uri Avnery is against the boycott movement. As I mentioned above, he is also – and far more importantly, I would say – opposed to the Right of Return. This means that Avnery is, by definition and quite like the vast majority of Israelis, adamantly opposed to the idea that Israel must abide by international law. Why? Because Jews are special. Or in his quaint formulation above: “Peoples are not the same everywhere.” This sentiment, unfortunately, shares much in common with that of Rabbi Perrin, who famously announced that “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.”

    Avnery has maintained that the Right of Return is unacceptable simply because Jews in Israel will not accept it. One has to wonder what kind of person would actually try to argue that the ambient racism of his country somehow magically exempts them from international law and universal standards of human rights. As if there were a right to be racist, and as if that imaginary Jewish right to be racist led to a de facto right to engage in cleansing, or a right to pursue genocide. There is not a right to be racist, just as there is no right of states to create and maintain racial demographics, or to confer political rights on one ethnic group while imposing racial subjugation on all others.

    Apparently it must be reiterated that the problem is not international law or the universal tenets of human rights, but the racism of Jews who endorse zionism.

    The law exists as an alternative to naked violence. To the extent that Israel refuses, decade after decade after decade, to abide by international law, Israel loses the right to object to the application of naked violence against it. The sanctions movement exists as a last-ditch attempt to legitimize Israel – to bring it into some even marginal compliance with universal norms of tolerable conduct.

    I support the sanctions movement, but doubt that it will be sufficient to save Israel from it’s own fanatical race towards self-destruction. Why? Because, in the words of the omnipresent racist above, “The Zionist vision will not change.” The Zionism plan to seize and ethnically cleanse Palestine led, quite predictably, to the seizure of most of Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of 85% of the non-Jewish populaiton in 1948. This was a criminal, racist and entirely indefensible project then, and it remains so today, even as the criminal land seizure and ethnic cleansing have continued, day after day, over the 60 years since the establishemnt of Israel. This zionist vision will not change, and tribal fanatics around the world, as we can see from the squealing above, will continue to shriek and wail and go ballistic in order to defend that indefensible process until the last non-Jew within a thousand miles in any direction of Israel is dead. As long as Zionism continues to be tolerated as a moral, acceptable political ideology, this conflict will not end, and the animosities and grievances of every one of Israel’s neighbors will inevitably continue to grow.

    There will come a point at which we will have to ask ourselves whether continuing to coddle the racial hysteria of this fanatical ultra-minority within a minority – less than one tenth of 1% of the human population – requires the complete paralysis of the entire planet’s political, moral and legal apparatus. Do the militant racist fantasies and real estate ambitions of 5 million Jews in Israel really merit this kind of international deference, particularly when we consider the immediate and corrosive effects these fanatical colonists have on the hundreds of millions of non-Jews who have the misfortune of living anywhere in the vicinity of this little ethnic cleansing machine?

    People are free to think whatever disgusting genocidal racist bullshit they want. But people, like states, are not free to engage in ethnic cleansing, genocide, mass racial subjugation, or any of the other goals of the zionist project, withought facing political, legal and moral consequences.

    I understand that Avnery has fought his whole life, without success, for a less overtly genocidal iteration of zionism. He does this, in large part, judging from his own statements, that Jews should be nicer because its good for the jews. This is just racism.

    Avnery’s argument, which is basically the argument of that genre of zionism that likes to call itself “post-zionist, or left zionist, is that not only are Jews so special that they get to spray flesh-eating chemical weapons over some of the most densely populated cities on earth, where the average population is about 14; no, Jews are so VERY special that they should be able to do that, and worse, without anyone else on earth saying a peep about it. And if they do, well, they just don’t understand how special jews are.

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