Arguing about BDS with Jack Ross

on 22 Comments

Jack Ross had this further response to the BDS debate prompted by Jeff Blankfort on Rabbi Waskow. Weiss responds to Ross below.

I conclude that the militancy with which so many on the left have rushed to embrace BDS and convince themselves of its power is a gratuitous exercise in self-flattery.  It had at best the most marginal impact in South Africa, both cases have in common the presumptuousness of the left in speaking for "the world", and both were symptomatic of the desperate need for the left to have something to do and feel like it still matters at a moment of crisis – in the case of South Africa, the fall of communism, and in the case of Palestine, the election of Obama. 

(Let me be clear on this score that I am not necessarily arguing that Obama has been a perfect progressive – only that regardless, his election has portended a serious identity crisis for the left).

I do not accept all the arguments of the Jewish progressives who oppose BDS, but nor can I embrace it as a crude populist silver bullet – and even if I have my differences with them, the progressive rabbis have a much healthier worldview than the leftists.  In an odd way, Blankfort is echoing the positively Podhoretzian Stephen Wise in his polemics against the pacifist rabbis who opposed a boycott of Nazi Germany.

I suppose, Phil, that you have been right after all – you are a leftist and I am not.  Yet I have a mighty pathos having to submit this point to someone who was agog for John McCain in 2000, indeed, as someone who really is a "progressive" in the mold of his fellow admirers in that era Arianna Huffington and Bill Maher – except, of course, on Palestine!

Weiss responds:

Yes I’m a leftist, have always thought of myself as on the left; but I confess I’m thrown by the highmindedness of Ross’s comments. He’s much more erudite about ideology than I am. It reminds me of that criticism of the NY Review of Books: intellectual skywriting. I don’t know much about the fall of communism as it affected South Africa. But I have been to Gaza, where Israel dropped white phosphorous on children and 95 percent of Israelis applaud that. Obama’s the crisis? No: white phosphorous on children is the crisis. Ask the Sheikha of Qatar.

Ross once said to me that he couldn’t go to Gaza because it would radicalize him. I believe him. The urgency of the Palestinian situation is that they are utterly powerless and are afflicted. Anything that can be done to relieve that powerlessness is good. Ali Abunimah and Nadia Hijab lately told Adam Horowitz that BDS is giving Palestinians a weapon in world politics. For this reason I think it’s good and important.

I was agog for John McCain. True. I couldn’t bring myself to support Gore because of the Clinton scandals, and I hated Bush. He was running as an insurgent. I liked him, then. It turns out he has a lousy temperament. A lot of scar tissue.

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