A Jewish peace group grapples with BDS

How can BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) contribute to bringing a just peace and prosperity to the people of Israel-Palestine?  That is the question LA Jews for Peace has been grappling with as the BDS idea evolves into an international movement.  LA Jews want to be part of the movement, but many of us are concerned that BDS will never accomplish its goals, and some aspects of BDS will likely be counterproductive.

LA Jews for Peace is a small group of Jewish Americans and like-minded people who are committed to peace in the Middle East through a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and opposition to American militarism, imperialism, and exceptionalism.  The following outlines my considerations in formulating a BDS project that conforms to our understanding of the dynamics of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

LA Jews for Peace is convinced that the unconditional diplomatic, financial, and military support the United States gives Israel has prevented the conflict from being resolved.  LA Jews for Peace works to make United States support of Israel conditional on real progress towards peace.  With that in mind, we want our BDS project to contribute to changing American policy.  This point of view has been enunciated by Rabbi Arthur Waskow in his recent Democracy Now debate with Omar Barghouti.  We believe that our BDS action should facilitate talking to Americans about the U.S. role in perpetuating the occupation and settlement expansion, and be a tool to organize Americans for a change in American Middle East policy.

A second guideline is that we want our BDS project to target Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and its illegal settlements.  So focused, our project would conform to the rule of law.  This point of view was expressed by Norman Finkelstein during his Los Angeles appearance last March, and in several published pieces.  Finkelstein points out that BDS actions against Israel’s occupation and settlements are consistent with international law and can gain wide support because Americans, particularly Jewish Americans, believe in the rule of law.  He continues that BDS actions against Israel in general will be less attractive to Americans.

The corollary to targeting settlements is that our project should not target Israel in general.  Many of our members would not feel comfortable targeting Israel, an internationally accepted state with a 62-year record of accomplishment, regardless of its despicable policy of Palestinian dispossession.

I know of no ongoing BDS action that satisfies our first guideline to target American policy, but several BDS efforts meet our second guideline to target the illegal occupation and settlements; three examples:

  • The recent Associated Students of the University of California at Berkeley (ASUC) resolution to divest from “General Electric and United Technologies because of their military support of the occupation of the Palestinian territories."  This resolution directly targets two specific American military companies that directly support the occupation.  The ASUC resolution goes on, “this ASUC Resolution [should] not be interpreted as the taking of sides in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, but instead as a principled expression of support for universal human rights and equality, and that it is an expression of opposition to Israeli state policies of occupation, racial discrimination, and war crimes, and not an attack on the Israeli people.” 
  • The Code Pink effort to boycott Ahava cosmetics.  Ahava is manufactured in a settlement, partially from Dead Sea mud that is mined in the West Bank. 
  • The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation “Hang Up on Motorola” campaign.  Motorola is deeply imbedded with the Israeli army’s policing the occupation and the wall, and directly supports settlements with security and communications (see here for details). 

Other BDS efforts would be more difficult for us to endorse, two examples:

  • The Israel Divestment Campaign (IDC), an effort to put a ballot initiative on next June’s ballot calling for California retirement funds to divest from companies that support settlements and/or the Israeli military.  The IDC calls for divestment from “companies that provide products or services that contribute to the construction or maintenance of Israeli settlements and/or the Separation Wall in the Palestinian Territories or provide military supplies, equipment and services to the State of Israel.”  Going after companies that support the settlements or the wall – both illegal – conforms with the second guideline, but going after companies that contract with the Israeli military seems aimed at Israel in general and does not.
  • Olympia Food Co-op, which operates two grocery stores in Olympia, Washington, voted on July 15 to “boycott Israeli-made products."  In doing so, it asked that Israel “end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the [security] Wall; [that] Israel recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;” and that “Israel respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”  LA Jews agrees in general with these demands, but this action targets Israel as well as the illegal settlements, thus it does not conform to our second guideline.

BDS proponents argue that BDS is a non-violent, moral force that will cause Israel to end its occupation.  They say that BDS is analogous to the South Africa boycotts that ended apartheid, and some aspects of the American civil rights movement.  Many of us think that is an overly optimistic analysis. 

Even if the BDS movement gains broad acceptance, we don’t see believe that it will push Israel into negotiating a just agreement with the Palestinians.  Rather we are already seeing that BDS is causing Israel to adopt an even more “the world is against us” attitude that prompts the Israeli people to unite behind their government. The Israel government, and supporters like Eran Shayshon (Ha’aretz, March 26, 2010, ) and Nathan Guttman (Ha’aretz, April 13, 2010, argue that BDS is part of an organized campaign to delegitimize Israel, and that argument is accepted buy the many Jewish Americans and a majority of Jewish Israelis.  A paranoid Israel in “circle-the wagons” mode will not negotiate seriously with the Palestinians to end the occupation. 

BDS supporters like Mustafa Barghouthi say that “Israel will [not] change its policy unless it hurts,” but military force will not work and is wrong, so boycott is the only way to hurt Israel (quoted by Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss, The Nation, 9 June 2010).  We don’t see that working either.  BDS efforts indeed hurt their targets, but generally do not trigger policy change.  The 1965-70 grape boycott is a notable exception, but it is well to remember that the grape boycott was targeted at a small group of corporate farmers with few options to diversify their business.  The 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott lasted over a year and “succeeded” when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling that declared segregation on buses unconstitutional.  The 1960-61 lunch-counter sit-ins targeted small merchants who, like the grape farmers, had few options; they jumped at the chance to follow the lead of the mayor of Greensboro, North Carolina who said discrimination against a person solely on the basis of their race or color was wrong.  These special circumstances do not apply in Israel – the Israeli courts and essentially all elected officials support the occupation.

Finally, as noted above, LA Jews for Peace believes that the United States plays a key role in resolving, or perpetuating, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  By shielding Israel from accountability when it violates international law, and by rewarding it with continued financial support, the U.S. guarantees that Israel will continue to dispose Palestinians.  To get Israel to end the occupation, BDS must be aimed at changing United States policy – most BDS actions are aimed at the wrong target.

BDS will not directly affect Israel policy, but BDS can be used to help change American policy that will indirectly cause Israel to change its policy.  We need to focus on the political situation in the United States to end the unconditional diplomatic, financial, and military support that the United States gives to Israel.  Once American support for Israel is conditional on real progress towards peace, LA Jews for Peace believes Israel will quickly change its policies to conform to international law and conclude a just agreement with the Palestinians.

Code Pink’s boycott of Ahava is retail in that it engages the American people on a one-to-one basis.  Every time Code Pink tells an American not to purchase Ahava cosmetics, Code Pink is explaining to that American why Israel’s occupation is wrong, and that American Foreign Policy that supports the occupation must change.

The Ahava boycott is quantitatively different from most BDS efforts in the United States that are aimed at institutional divestment of large corporations.  Those efforts do not engage a broad segment of the American people, and will be little help in changing American policy towards Israel.

LA Jews for Peace has talked about doing a retail “Hang Up on Motorola” project.  The suggestion is to protest in front of Verizon, ATT, Radio Shack, Best Buy or other retail store that sell Motorola phones.  Our message will be not to buy a Motorola phone because Motorola, along with United States, supports Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and violation of international law.  We will ask customers to sign a petition to the Obama Administration and Congress to make American support of Israel conditional on progress towards a just peace. 

A Motorola boycott, like the Ahava boycott, can be used to talk to the American people about changing U.S. policy in the Middle East.  For this reason I think LA Jews for Peace should launch a “Hang Up on Motorola” campaign. 

Jeff Warner is co-chair of LA Jews for Peace (www.LAJewsforPeace.org) and is active in Jews for Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians and Americans for Peace Now. Warner has worked with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions rebuilding a Palestinian homes in the West Bank and was a member of Viva Palestina, a humanitarian mission to Gaza that consisted of 175 Americans.

About Jeff Warner

Jeff Warner is a Jewish peace activist in Los Angeles. He is active in LA Jews for Peace, Jews for Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians, Americans for Peace Now, and Cousins Club of Orange County. He organized street demonstrations against the Israeli siege of Gaza since late 2007, and against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza during the December-January massacre. Warner is a retired geologist.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

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

  1. Avi says:

    LA Jews want to be part of the movement, but many of us are concerned that BDS will never accomplish its goals, and some aspects of BDS will likely be counterproductive.

    With all due respect to the author, if any of these members went to the occupied territories or to Gaza they would snap out of their dawdling and realize how urgent and dire is the situation.

    Bluntly put, I get the sense that group members need someone to hold them by the hand and slowly guide them while being supportive and attentive to their needs.

    I’m sorry, but there are children dying everyday, women getting shot, husbands and brothers being tortured in prisons, all the while, LA is just not sure if it’s doing the right thing.

    This strikes me as the height of hypocrisy. One must follow the proverbial path with determination, otherwise, what’s the point of half-hearted partial support.

    If your neighbor’s house were on fire and he or she asked you to help put it out, would you stand there explaining why you can’t quite do so as you’ve just had your coat dry-cleaned or you had a nasty paper cut that was painful and made you uncomfortable? I think it’s safe to assume that any caring and rational person would drop whatever he or she was doing and run to help that neighbor.

    The situation is dire and requires immediate and urgent intervention on behalf of good citizens around the world. The brave folks on the flotilla have already blazed the path, the same goes for the good people of the International Solidarity Movement, Irish artists, Turkish humanists, Israeli Jews against the apartheid wall and many others.

    Why not join them?

    • “Why not join them?”

      Because they fail.

      • eljay says:

        >> Because they fail.

        They fail because of the people who reject their efforts as “not perfect”. If all sides – and not just the Palestinians – were tasked with making “better wheels”, there would be a flowering of success, of achievement.

      • Shingo says:

        “Because they fail.”

        Don’t you mean, becasue you pray that they fail?

      • Sumud says:

        “Because they fail.”

        What’s your metric Richard?

        • “What’s your metric Richard?”

          A very good question. Thanks for venturing into the pragmatic.

          Whether Palestinians achieve:

          1. Improvement in their standard of living
          2. Improvement in the degree of self-governance towards a peer scale with other self-governing nations
          3. Improvement in the degree of equal due process before the law within Israel

          Whether all achieve:
          1. Reduction in the level of violence, towards elimination
          2. Clarification of individual property rights in Israel and Palestine (not national)
          3. Safe freedom of movement domestically and internationally
          4. Elimination of the settlement effort as a state-sponsored enterprise, accompanied by political acceptance of individual settlers in the state that they reside.

          Whether Israelis achieve:
          1. Acceptance as a self-governing entity
          2. Elimination of violence directed against civilians

        • Chaos4700 says:

          It seems like the reason for failure on all accounts, Witty, is the Israeli government. Between the blockade, the apartheid wall, the demolitions, the air strikes, the Jewish “fast lane” versus the Arab “hot seat” when it comes to crossing Israeli-imposed security measures, forged legal documentation that hands land over to colonialist interests while actual legitimate Palestinian legal documentation is discarded, etc.

          It seems, given your metrics, you should be agreeing with us that the biggest source of the problem, is the Israeli government.

        • Citizen says:

          A metric system measures. You listed a bunch of laudable goals, like lines on a ruler. This ruler must be taken from Israel’s pocket so that it can be used to measure any progress package. Israel will not expose the ruler unless the US pressures it to do so. The real question is what is the US government metric, and do Americans agree with it; that is, will they agree with it once they know it? “It” is the results of the de facto US policy for the last 40 plus years. The US should start the negotiations by restating flatly that the illegal settlements are just that, and so future US aid to Israel is conditional on Israel giving up the settlements. The quid pro quo for this key to start the peace process in earnest is that the Palestinians have already given up so much due to force.

        • Shingo says:

          “Thanks for venturing into the pragmatic”

          Another misplaced used of a term. Pragmatic suggets pratical means to achieve an end result. What you have listed are the results, not the means to achieve any of them.

          And as we all know Witty, your roadmap to getting there is anything but pragmatic.

          For example, what does “Elimination of the settlement effort as a state-sponsored enterprise” mean? Nearly all of the settlements are both state and privately finded, but either way, they are illegal and destructive.

          And why does “Acceptance as a self-governing entity” only apply to Israel? Should the Palestinians not achieve that status?

          Should “Elimination of violence directed against civilians” only apply to Israeli civilians?

          Somehow I doubt these omissions were honest mistakes.

        • The question is how I measure success in this issue?

          Has dissent advanced any of these concerns?

          Or has it gone one step forward, 1 +/- steps back?

          What are the prospects of achieving anything useful of articulated strategies?

          And, why don’t you articulate your metrics, goals, etc? Or, is the concept of goal (and then accountability) a useless focus for you?

        • Are there other criteria that you consider relevant, as metrics of the effectiveness of the strategy that you are pursuing?

        • Donald says:

          In RW’s metric, compare

          “Whether all achieve:
          1. Reduction in the level of violence, towards elimination”

          to

          “Whether Israelis achieve:
          1. Acceptance as a self-governing entity
          2. Elimination of violence directed against civilians”

          Note that in his worldview only Israelis suffer violence directed against civilians. He consistently ignores the fact that the majority of civilians killed in this conflict were Palestinians killed by Israelis.

          “Acceptance as a self-governing entity” is also problematic. What is missing is the heart of the problem–Israel is a self-governing entity as a Jewish state because the Palestinians were largely expelled. Now maybe Palestinians will settle for a two state solution, but they are pretty insistent on their right of return, whether it is actually exercised on a large scale or not. It’s important to them that it be recognized and that Israelis express remorse. So add that to the metric–Palestinians must recognize that their own needs and rights are taken seriously and that the goals not be allowed to be set solely by liberal Zionists with their own agenda.

        • Shingo says:

          The lack of progress does not always reflect whether a strategy or approach is the correct one. The Palestinians have tried every appraoch and all have produced the same results.

          What approach would you have recommended the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto take Witty that would have produced a better outcome?

        • If education of the US and Jewish community is a component of measure of success, you would at least be able to demonstrate some LARGE relative success, even if it doesn’t yet result in institutional change.

          I don’t see it.

          Again, I do see the geometric growth of those committed to BDS of .001% of the population to .002%.

          Do you think it will double again to .004%?

      • Citizen says:

        So, those who joined the White Rose sought failure? Who’d join them since they were bound to fail? Very few. Yep, they failed. Didn’t the Warsaw Ghetto resisters fail too? True, the JP and kapos lived longer and in relative comfort–guess they thought the ends justified the means.

  2. RickB says:

    I think the thoughts on the US role are good, has it been considered though that BDS, by making Israeli abuses the focus, then makes US support untenable. With South Africa it became a lot easier to condemn and sever trading links and political support for apartheid when it could be shown millions of people around the word abjured the regime. So BDS does fulfil the first guideline by process, although I think it is also fine to focus some attention, while committing to BDS, on US (or UK etc) support for the regime as well.

  3. annie says:

    jeff, i applaud and appreciate la jews for peace getting involved w/ending the horrendous occupation of palestinian territory and denial of human rights. everyone should involve themselves and participate in whatever ways they think will be most effective to change israel’s policies.

    Once American support for Israel is conditional on real progress towards peace, LA Jews for Peace believes Israel will quickly change its policies to conform to international law and conclude a just agreement with the Palestinians.

    i agree with you here, even to the degree i think our financial support for israel should be contingent on israel conforming to international law and the conclusion of a just agreement with palestinians. in fact i agree it would happen so quickly our support for israel would quickly be reinstated. however i’m finding your statement on conditional support in juxtaposition this: going after companies that contract with the Israeli military seems aimed at Israel in general and does not.

    i’m not understanding how your support is ‘conditional’ if you support funding the military that operates the occupation. all israel would have to do is continue to define it’s occupation as ‘security’ for you to be unable to support withholding funds.

    if you think lobbying the american government is the best way forward i am in complete support of you doing that. take the energy your group is directing at omar barghouti and publicly debate the segments of the american jewish community or the america government whose supporting and fueling this occupation. otherwise some people might get the impression your target is the bds movement.

    while you’re debating omar, your stated goal wrt changing US policy is being impacted daily by rightwing israeli groups. and since you say you don’t think the bds movement as a whole will change anything, why bother with trying to change it?

    good luck, i support you in whatever way you try to change israel’s policies as long as that doesn’t include changing others trying to change israel’s policies. hopefully we agree rabbi waskow has bigger fish to fry than taking on the bds movement which he described as ‘unethical ‘ and demonizing, terms not spoken by him regarding either israel, the occupation, or america’s support for that occupation. iow, there is a flavor in your groups commentary that leave the impression the bds movement is your target, not the occupation.

    in rabbi waskow’s words

    BDS demonizes a whole society.

    ok, i’m getting the victimhood of israeli’s loud and clear however that is not my focus. so please, direct your energies where you see they will make the most difference, because how you are perceived will be directly associated with your target.

    if you do not agree the bds movement will push Israel into negotiating a just agreement with the palestinians or inspire them to change their policies, don’t focus on them. directing your energies where you think they will be most effective makes sense. my advice would be it is more helpful to direct it towards the american government than explaining why you think the bds movement won’t work or is wrong.

    your last 2 paragraphs are great, keep up the good work in this direction.

    • Citizen says:

      Annie, your analysis is very good. I wonder if all the efforts by Jewish groups for peace would better be directed at the US government–seems it would get increasingly harder for US congress and the MSM press to keep up their present posture. BDS would simply be a partner using other tactics–but all toward the same goal.

  4. demize says:

    I concur with Avi. I dont understand the trepidation on this issue. Why would it be difficult to decide to adopt the position of thw indiginous movement you nominally support? I can only surmise what the vacillation could be about as the claims states arent valid in my opinion.
    It is quite literally the least one can do. It’s not The Montgomery bus boycott, there are no products or services that are essential to daily living that Israel provides.

  5. demize says:

    Claims stated.

  6. I say “Amen!,” to Avi’s remarks and would add that support of Israel is the responsibility of all Americans and all Americans, whatever their backgrounds have an obligation to do something about it as well as speak their minds on the subject, including endorsing the demand by Palestinian civil society for a boycott, divestment, campaign that targets Israel itself.

    Quite aside from the arguments expressed against BDS against Israel by Chomsky and Finkelstein, I find it somewhat presumptuous of Jews, whoever they are and however well-meaning their motives, to be the ones setting the parameters for conducting a BDS campaign in the US designed to change both US and Israeli policy.

    It is only in the US, by the BTW, where this difference of opinion over who and how to target seems to be taking place. In other Western countries, the Palestinian solidarity activists are taking the lead from the Palestinians and targeting Israel directly with BDS. We, in the US, should certainly be doing and advocating no less.

    • Avi says:

      Jeffrey Blankfort,

      I heard your interview on CNI:Jerusalem Calling a few weeks ago. It was great.

      As a person, I find Prof. Chomsky to be kind and warm. I have never met him in person, but as an intellectual he is a genius in my view and I have learned so much from him over the years, that I’m thankful to have had the opportunity. At the same time, I continue to be frustrated with his rejection of BDS as an effective tool — a non-violent tool, one might add — to end the occupation. The reasons Prof. Chomsky had given during the interview just didn’t convince me. Whenever I hear him speak about any other issue, his explanations and the depth of his analysis strike a resounding chord, but when it comes to BDS, I’m left perplexed. Something, some essential element, seems to be missing from Prof. Chomsky’s argument on BDS, and I’m not quite sure what it is.

      • Citizen says:

        Perhaps Sherbrsi (below) has inadvertently found Professor Chomsky’s motive for his perplexing argument on BDS: while he “is uncomfortable with supporting Israeli atrocities, and perhaps wants to correct those crimes, but not at the expense of damaging Israel’s image as a civilized and accomplished state.” Just a suggestion that he may have fallen into the same trap.

        • Avi says:

          Yes. I find sherbrsi’s explanation to be quite appropriate. It would be nice if one could spend a few hours discussing BDS with professor Chomsky to see where the debate goes.

  7. Thanks for this thoughtful piece about your group’s efforts to find a way to engage with the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Movement that fits with your values. Thanks also for promoting our Stolen Beauty Ahava boycott campaign (www.stolenbeauty.org). The goal of the Ahava boycott is to educate the public while attempting to take the profit out of the occupation–or at the very least making sure that people know that buying Ahava Cosmetics supports Israel’s illegal settlement project in the Occupied West Bank. We are grateful to the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace and their excellent web site http://www.whoprofits.org for providing information about the companies that are directly profiting from the Occupation.

  8. sherbrsi says:

    By shielding Israel from accountability when it violates international law, and by rewarding it with continued financial support, the U.S. guarantees that Israel will continue to dispose Palestinians. To get Israel to end the occupation, BDS must be aimed at changing United States policy – most BDS actions are aimed at the wrong target.

    How effectively will LA Jews for Peace rally that America not provide the de facto immunity for Israel before the UN, when it categorically dismisses a grocery chain boycott of Israel for its apartheid-treatment of Israeli Arabs?

    As much as there is a need that American Jews dissociate themselves from the crimes and racism of Israel, I am afraid that this initiative amounts to little more than typical liberal hand-wringing. If Israeli apartheid does not know any boundaries, what purpose does it serve for this group to draw them up?

    This group, like others, falls into the familiar trap. It is uncomfortable with supporting Israeli atrocities, and perhaps wants to correct those crimes, but not at the expense of damaging Israel’s image as a civilized and accomplished state. So, given this dilemma, it works up numerous objections to tried and tested forces of non-violent social change, just so it can credibility dismiss any actual action while retaining their service to Israel.

    What’s unfortunate is that the group here recognizes the problems, more so than most other mainstream organizations of its variety paying lip service to some sort of a peace process. Yet its inhibitions to use international law and non-violent tools to bring about an end to Israeli injustice gives in to little more than the prioritization of Jewish privilege over Arab human rights. Which, in the end, doesn’t amount to anything more than LA Jews saying “We are Zionists” and going on their way.

  9. Shafiq says:

    For those who struggle with the idea of BDS – they could at the least support BDS-lite, which would boycott and divest from, any company involved with the occupation and the illegal settlements.

  10. harveystein says:

    I praise your thoughtful grappling with the complex tactic of BDS. Yes, I think BDS activities targetting raising American awareness probably have no down side.
    On the other hand, tactics aimed at Israelis in Israel are much more problematic.

    Having lived in Jerusalem the last few years, spending time with a lot of sabras (Israelis born in Israel), I see how many Israelis, not only right wingers, are caught and confused at the current time. Something about the “average” Israeli is different than the average American. Israelis seem hypersensitive to blame – when they feel blamed, they recoil, rarely taking time to ponder the situation. Also, they’re generally “reactive” (which explains why they can do horrible things like respond to Israeli suffering with a military onslaught that can cause 100s of times the casualties they experienced.)

    For these reasons, BDS tactics that are seen to target all Israelis are often just pushed away, with the thought (as you say) “see? the world is against us again”.

    BDS tactics that clearly target only settlement products are a different story, because even though they make some Israelis angry (settlers or settler sympathizers usually), they are understood as different by most mainstream Israelis.

    It’s tempting (and less work) to be a black-and-white leftist ideologue – thanks again for taking the time to be more reasoned.

    • Shingo says:

      “Israelis seem hypersensitive to blame – when they feel blamed, they recoil, rarely taking time to ponder the situation.”

      That’s hardly specific or unique to sabras. Just read the comments from Isreli apologists on this and any other forum and you’ll witness the very same responses.

      “For these reasons, BDS tactics that are seen to target all Israelis are often just pushed away, with the thought (as you say) “see? the world is against us again”.”

      Israelis and their supporters tend to exhibit that behavior under the most gentle of reprimands. When Obama gave his peech in Cairo, which included nothign more than a request that Israel stop building settlements (no mention made about dismantling existing ones), Obama’s popularity in Israel dropped to single digits. This is in spite of the fact that he made no threats to change US policy towrds Israel, or withold aid.

      Note, that Obama wasn’t talking about Israel, but Israeli settlements, which we are constantly reminded are not popular among Israelis. Still, Israelis across the spectrum reverted to their bunker mentality and closed ranks.

      Thus, to argue that Israelis understand the need to pressure Israel over teh settlements is a flawed argument. Sadly, as with South Africa, the entire country has to be made to realze the costs that inaction will bring.

      • Citizen says:

        Obama is also being currently criticized with vitriol by various Republican leaders for acting as an (unpatriotic, if not treasonous) “apologist” for America, rather than acting as the cowboy Bush Jr did (which created the impression among many former defenders of the USA in Europe that the USA had taken a fascist turn).
        This really comes lashing out when Iran or Islam/Muslims are concerned.
        To me this is analogous to the Sabras who instantly revert to their bunker mentality and close ranks whenever Israeli policy is criticised.

        Such either/or mentality is really scary considering both the US & Israel have nuclear power.

    • Donald says:

      “Something about the “average” Israeli is different than the average American. Israelis seem hypersensitive to blame – when they feel blamed, they recoil, rarely taking time to ponder the situation. Also, they’re generally “reactive” (which explains why they can do horrible things like respond to Israeli suffering with a military onslaught that can cause 100s of times the casualties they experienced.)”

      I agree with Shingo’s response. Obama took a very moderate position, merely wanting a cessation to settlement expansion, those settlements we are constantly told are an embarrassment to sensible Israelis, and his popularity in Israel dropped to near zero.

      Though I will say that Israelis aren’t, IMO, that different from many Americans. A great many Americans react with similar hysteria and hatred to any suggestion that our country might be in the wrong and were willing to kill any number of Arabs after 9/11 and certainly not open to hearing about anything we’d done to them. Sometimes there’s no reasoning with such people–if it had been left to white Southerners to handle the problem we might still have slavery, or at the very least Jim Crow. A certain degree of coercion or pressure is needed to break the logjam. In the case of America the only pressure that is exerted is the self-inflicted pressure of our own failure. In the case of Israel there are other options.

      As for that “reactive” bit, you’re repeating the standard mythical narrative always used in the US–Palestinians attack and Israelis react, sometimes excessively. In reality Palestinians feel Israeli violence daily, and Israel killed more Gazans than Gazans killed Israelis in the years before the Gaza slaughter of early 2009.

      • harveystein says:

        Obama took a moderate position but he didn’t bring it face to face to Israelis. You comfy in America bloggers may never fully understand until you come to Israel and maybe have a brush with a suicide bombing, or even sit in a spiffy cafe in my neighborhood where spiffy customers were blown apart 6 years ago. Oh so tempting (and satisfying for God’s sake!) to raise that stick of punishment – but if it’s not accompanied by the carrot (for example, we will cover your ass if the Iranians or Syrians try to smuggle medium range missiles into the West Bank like they have to Hizbollah), it won’t get anywhere in Israel.
        Read more on this here:
        link to realisticdove.org
        I’m as much for change to the horrible status quo as anyone on this blog, but without at least standing in Israelis shoes for a FEW seconds, your techniques probably won’t work in the way you want them to.

        • Citizen says:

          Hey, harveystein, do the 9/11 attacks count at all? Americans ceased being comfortable after that, including those like Obama who’ve taken a moderate position.

        • Avi says:

          harveystein,

          I don’t appreciate the lecturing routine that which some Israelis often venture on when they are faced with criticism.

          You comfy in America bloggers may never fully understand until you come to Israel and maybe have a brush with a suicide bombing, or even sit in a spiffy cafe in my neighborhood where spiffy customers were blown apart 6 years ago. Oh so tempting (and satisfying for God’s sake!) to raise that stick of punishment – but if it’s not accompanied by the carrot (for example, we will cover your ass if the Iranians or Syrians try to smuggle medium range missiles into the West Bank like they have to Hizbollah), it won’t get anywhere in Israel.

          First, you don’t personally know each and every “blogger” that you interact with, do you? So why make that assumption about “you “bloggers in America”?

          Second, as an Israeli myself, I find it rather instructive that I keep hearing the same refrain from others who continue to be defensive regarding Israel’s actions and policies. Essentially, you are once again positioning yourself as the victim in this entire conflict. How do you think American parents feel knowing their children died in Iraq thanks in part to the Israel lobby in the US? Would you like to lecture them, as well?

          As for what the United States has done and continues to do, you should know quite well that the US has gone far and beyond any other ally in the world. So, in that respect Israel should be accommodating to its friend and ally the US. But, no matter what the US does, it’s never good enough.

          And finally, many of Israel’s critics have served in the Israeli army and sacrificed for that state.

          What have you done for the state of Israel?

        • Donald says:

          “You comfy in America bloggers may never fully understand until you come to Israel and maybe have a brush with a suicide bombing,”

          Citizen replied rather more politely than I am tempted to, but I don’t know what the new commenting rules are. I lived near NYC on 9/11 and spent several hours wondering if a loved one was in danger. (Not at all, as it turned out). And every time I walked through Grand Central for months the notion of what someone with a backpack could do was in the back of my mind. I am happy to say that even with living with this level of paranoia not once was I even remotely tempted to think any of this justified American foreign policy. I condemn terrorist attacks launched by anyone against anyone’s civilians, but have zero sympathy for Israelis and Americans who use this as an excuse for their own barbarity. People need to grow up.

          I would be happy for the US to have some understanding with Israel, Jordan, Syria and Iran about the actions we would take if any one of the four attacked the other. Right now Israel can kill thousands of Arab civilians and how do American politicians react? By claiming it’s all Hamas’s fault or all Hezbollah’s fault. And has this made Israel receptive to modest peace proposals? No. It seems to have given them a great sense of entitlement.

          Your scenario doesn’t make much sense. If Israel were treating Palestinians on the West Bank like human beings and had reached an agreement mutually satisfactory to both only the fanatics would be trying to smuggle missiles in to launch at Israel–the rest of the Palestinians would be happy or at least satisfied with the hypothetical peace deal and would suppress such smuggling themselves. US guarantees would be superfluous. Isn’t it enough that we’ve already given them massive amounts of money and support for their own war crimes?

        • Shingo says:

          “Obama took a moderate position but he didn’t bring it face to face to Israelis.”

          Sorry, we’ve heard that same argument before. Obama’s suggestion would have been fine and dandy if only Obama had rushed to Israel’s side and smothered them with kisses and assured them everything was going to be OK. Apart from the fact that this is contradicted by reality (as was seen with the way Israel humiliated Biden before his visit), it also serves to highlight that Israel has become such high maintenance to the point of being a parody of itself.

          “You comfy in America bloggers may never fully understand until you come to Israel and maybe have a brush with a suicide bombing, or even sit in a spiffy cafe in my neighborhood where spiffy customers were blown apart 6 years ago.”

          This is a perfect example of the narcissism of Israel. All that matters to Israelis is a few hundred deaths from suicide attacks that ended in 2006, yes the 1,400 Palestinians massacred in 2008, or the 700 massacred in 2006 are of so little importance as not to rate a mention.

          “Oh so tempting (and satisfying for God’s sake!) to raise that stick of punishment – but if it’s not accompanied by the carrot (for example, we will cover your ass if the Iranians or Syrians try to smuggle medium range missiles into the West Bank like they have to Hizbollah), it won’t get anywhere in Israel.”

          Dare I say that Israel needs to get a grip. Neither Hamas nor Hizbollah would exist were Israel not addicted to occupation. Hizbollah doesn’t fire missiles at Israel so long as Israel stay out of Lebanon. Hamas stuck to a ceasefire for 4 months in 2008 until Israel broke it. Earlier this year, the IAF commander was complaining about Israel’s deal to sell anti aircraft missiles to Iran because it would limit Israel’s ability to “operate in that region”.

          What Israel want is a guarantee that they are free to abuse their neighbours when they want without any consequences.
          It’s not as if Israel hasn’t been on a copious diet of carrots for decades. As for the stick of punishment, there’s no point pretending that Israel have no control of the outcome. Israel could put an end to all discussion about BDS overnight by simply behaving itself. To describe this as a blunt stick of punishment is like suggesting that forcing a paedophile to abstain from molesting children is an act of cruelty.

          I heard a wonderful Podcast where a psychotherapist (Avigail Abarbanel) was asked to analyse the I/P conflict, and she described it as an abusive relationship. She said that in resolving such scenarios, the first thing one does is separate the abuser and the victim.

          “I’m as much for change to the horrible status quo as anyone on this blog, but without at least standing in Israelis shoes for a FEW seconds, your techniques probably won’t work in the way you want them to.”

          We’re more than familiar with the POV from Israelis shoes. Indeed, for decades, that was the narrative we force fed. Getting back to Avigail Abarbanel, she explained that Israel is that the population suffers from collective trauma (from the Holocaust), and that such a condition makes the victim irrational and incapable of changing their behaviour without being forced to. In her 30 years of practice, she said she had only ever heard of one case where an abusive man was able to correct his own ways. The statistics suggest that the likleyhood of Israel reforming itself, without tough love, is next to none.

          After all, who would suggest we should refrain from preventing a man beating his wife under we’ve stood in the man’s shoes?

          “Read more on this here:
          link to realisticdove.org

          Having spent time at that blog, it is clear that this is a blog that interprets Israel’s actions as negative not on the basis of recognizing the injustice, but whether such actions result in bad press for Israel.

        • lyn117 says:

          @harveystein, you are falling for the hasbara of your own government,the constant stream of fear-mongering put out to the Israeli people by the GOI. Iran won’t attack Israel unless Israel attacks it. Hizbollah won’t attack Israel, unless Israel attacks it, which it has many times in the past. Lebanon, Syria and Palestinian leadership have all offered Israel peace, which Israel has rejected. But please, the Israeli army shoots Palestinian farmers for going to close to the wall, uses torture only against Palestinians, imprisons or kills them for non-violent actions against the occupation. Go live in one of Israel’s neighbors during the next Israeli attack/invasion. Try getting to the hospital when the Israeli army has shot your family members, and the ambulance is refused permission to travel to you or to the hospital (on pain of death). Try escaping from your house as Israeli bulldozers cave in the walls. You’ve earned my pity, except that you can sit in any number of spiffy cafes.

        • Harvey is urging that Israel act first, to lead.

          Your potshots at him are potshots.

          He is explaining to you about the vanity (impossibility) of a militant/violent approach in changing Israeli popular opinion, and then Israeli policy.

          Thats one inconvenient feature about a democracy.

          He, like I, is trying outline a strategy that WILL result in change in Israeli popular view, and then policy.

          To remember that Israelis are human beings too, does NOT inhibit the communication of Palestinians’ experience, nor the assertion of their dissent. It should though change the tone of dissent from one of dismissal of the other, to one of humanization and consideration of the other.

          Both ACTUAL communities can be expected to care for their own communities before the other.

          The legitimate statements of outrage include “what are you willing to do for your defense?”

          But, that applies to both communities’ “defenders”.

          And, the question to solidarity remains. “What are you willing to do to others, in the name of civil resistance?”

          Are you willing to live and let live?

        • potsherd says:

          And until Israelis stand for a while in Palestinian shoes and realize that the spiffy cafe stands where a Palestinian family once lived before they were driven out at gunpoint or killed, they will continue to be the obstacle to peace and reconciliation by denying the reality that produced the suicide bombers.

          Face it, Israel is a cursed land, full of ghosts who cry out for revenge. You live on their land, you sleep in their houses and still think you have the right to sit in peace in your spiffy cafes. Instead of saying to the Palestinians, “we sinned against you, what can we do that you will forgive us,” you plot futher harm against them in the name of your “security” to enjoy the fruits of your crimes.

          And wonder why the world does not sympathize.

        • Potsherd,
          I think you are making Harvey’s point.

          That is exactly what his work entails, humanizing the other.

          And, that that work is made much more difficult by the approach of 90% anger and 10% education, rather than 90% education and 10% anger.

        • sherbrsi says:

          Obama took a moderate position but he didn’t bring it face to face to Israelis.

          So what was aid for the Iron Dome all about? What about Obama backing off the expansion of Jerusalem settlements and not uttering a word against them since (and only speaking to make up for “offending” the Zionists)? What about the increased aid, already in billions, reaffirmed and approved by Obama?

          The Israelis are acting childish, but your suggestion that they be handled with kid’s gloves is historically the most failing policy adopted by the US. Time and again, and repeated with Obama, the Americans have given into outright appeasement of the Israelis, only for the Israelis to act in complete spite of the Americans, who come back insulted and never to challenge the Israelis again.

          You want us to stand in Israeli shoes? How about we give BDS a try? Then the Israelis can have a hint of what it is like to be a blockaded Gazan on a generous day under the siege.

      • potsherd says:

        Israelis seem hypersensitive to blame – when they feel blamed, they recoil

        This defensiveness is the universal reaction of the guilty. A wifebeater will always become defensively hostile if you ask about his wife’s latest black eye. Israelis know that their country is steeped deep in sin, but since they feel they benefit from it, they retreat to defensive self-righteousness.

  11. While I admit there numbers are few, the Israeli Jews who I know in Israel and who were born there many years ago are committed anti-Zionists who support the Palestinian right of return and, happily, do not carry around with them the psychological baggage that seems to afflict most Jews in the Western diaspora.

    I am not concerned with the feelings of the majority of Israelis and their use of the uniquely Jewish notion of victimhood to exculpate themselves from responsibility for their country’s crimes. Inculcated from childhood with the belief that the whole non-Jewish world is against them and subscribing to the oft-repeated mantra that because “the world did nothing to save the Jews of Europe” (as if Jews were its only victims) they owe nothing to the world–including obedience to the international laws that grew out of that Jewish suffering–when they live in and participate as soldiers in a country that has virtually a non-stop history of racist aggression against those who it ethnically cleansed and its neighbors to the north. They ALL need to feel the squeeze.

    • Zionism, in Israel and among its naive solidarity in the US, is an asset for us as well.

      We are part of something larger than us as individuals. Part of something that has more meaning than just as a commercial consumer. We are part of a community, a “light”.

      Similar to the feeling that Chris Hedges referred to in the “we” of the civil disobedience community, that “we” are working for something larger than ourselves, something that is not selfish, that involves some sacrifice, some willingness to experience discomfort.

      The question for BOTH “we”‘s is whether the manner that we work for a greater good, and the choice of what greater good, improves the world or has “on the one hand, but on the the other hand” or is predominantly bad.

      Criticisms of the methods by some proponents allow for good to be thought about, and then done.

      Demonization of the methods, and/or the people, give MUCH LESS latitude for rethinking.

      Unless you are advocating for a state constructed of political pressure by an elite vanguard party enforcing a politically correct line, then the outcome that dissent should seek, is to persuade, to get leadership and those with more power than the rest of us, to RETHINK their approaches.

      Communication and research is esssential to get others to rethink. Harrassment and ranting is detrimental to that.

      MAKE THE BETTER ARGUMENT.

      For the Palestinian cause, the primary argument relevant to Israeli and Americans is “Palestinians are human beings. They have much more in common with us than differences. They deserve a healthy life.”

      From that as 90% of the argument, the exceptions then are visible, naked, and will motivate the kind of dissent that leads to actual reform.

      The dissent that is presented here, is not that “Palestinian are human beings”, but nearly solely “Israelis are beasts”.

      It touches on Harvey’s point. I’m not in Israel, so I don’t know if they are hyper-sensitive, or appropriately sensitive.

      I do know that in the communication process of the bloggers, other dissent, commenters, they are FAILING at constructing the contrasts that result in change, in favor of their anger.

      They don’t seem to understand that the world has not seen the same things that they have, and weigh their experiences, desires, fears, differently.

      Most importantly, that the burden of proof, the burden of communication is on them to make.

      It ends up as careless, even if the numbers of active supporters of BDS in the country goes from 50,000 to 100,000, and two colleges shift their investments from one predatory corporation to another.

      • Another comment on the “campaign” to mutually humanize.

        It is repetitive. To have said a point once is not enough, all of the relevant points, the humanization of oneself and others, and criticism of injustices.

        It is only when the communication ends up as to the same people over and over that it gets to be a waste of time.

        To conduct a campaign is very difficult. Not only the logistics, but to repeat the same things over and over gets very boring, and feeling insincere.

        It takes constant remembering the multiple humane knowledge:

        1. Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, others are human beings!!!!
        2. I’ve seen what I’ve seen, spent the time to distinguish what is prejudice and interpretation from what is fact and morally compelling.

        And, constantly expressing both, number maybe 60% of the time.

      • Citizen says:

        “We are part of something larger than us as individuals. Part of something that has more meaning than just as a commercial consumer. We are part of a community, a “light”.”

        Would that be the light of Mondoweiss, casting its small beam into the enormous night & fog billowing out from the USA MSM?

    • harveystein says:

      Jeff – I am not “concerned” with the feelings of the majority of Israelis, etc etc either. But I am concerned with the most effective ways to help change the situation in Palestine/Israel.
      Of course no one can predict the effects of their actions on the world or on specific people. All we can do is observe, make an “intervention”, and observe again. In my experience, as I said, Israeli Jews tend to push away criticism easily (especially if it has that angry edge that some folks – like you and Avi – on this site display – who want ALL Israelis to “feel the squeeze”.
      I doubt (I know, I’m starting to sound a bit like RW) that actions based on anger – especially without thoughtfulness- are the most effective.
      Now I’m going to get really New Age – what made YOU change?? (think of a situation when you might have been a real bastard to wife, kid, friend, co-worker).
      I really doubt it was simply someone coming down with a hammer of criticism. But who knows…..

      • Keith says:

        HARVEYSTEIN- While I wouldn’t completely discount the opinion of Israeli Jews, I don’t think that it is of primary importance. The reality of the situation is that Israel’s warmongering and abuse of the Palestinians is supported and funded by the US. Without that support and funding, Israel’s actions and policies would, of necessity, have to change. The key to this US support is the confluence of interests of Jewish Zionist elites (particularly US Zionists) and US Imperialist elites (including Jews). The BDS movement and other movements will be successful to the degree that they are able to focus attention on the ugly reality of the situation and create pressure on the US elites to change their policies. Israel is symbolically important to US Zionists, however, the center of Zionist power is in the US, not Israel. The situation is made more difficult by the fact that Israel and the Middle East are central to US geo-strategy.

      • Shingo says:

        “Jeff – I am not “concerned” with the feelings of the majority of Israelis, etc etc either. “

        Forgive me Harvey, but I suspect you are being dishonest. In your previous post, you blamed Obama for the fact that his popularity in Israel sank to single digits after his Cairo speech because he didn’t immediately fly to Tel Aviv and you advocated that we all spend some time in Israel’s shoes and consider their perspective.

        I suspect that you are “concerned” with the feelings of the majority of Israelis and little else.

        “But I am concerned with the most effective ways to help change the situation in Palestine/Israel.”

        Witty makes the same claim, and then opposes any suggestion other than the status quo, so again, forgive me is I don’t believe you.
        “In my experience, as I said, Israeli Jews tend to push away criticism easily (especially if it has that angry edge that some folks – like you and Avi – on this site display – who want ALL Israelis to “feel the squeeze”.”
        And in my experience, this is not a unique characteristic of Israelis, but a common condition that goes hand in hand with nationalism.

        “I really doubt it was simply someone coming down with a hammer of criticism. But who knows…..”

        Yes you are sounding very much like RW, but at least you’re aware enough to realize that it’s a pitfall.

        • You know Shingo, I resent your characterization of my views, long committed in writing.

          1. Support for literally the green line as border (modifications only by mutual consent).
          2. Support for literally equal civil rights within Israel (only exception for expedited citizenship for Jews making aliyah)
          3. Support for repeal of the 1950′s laws instituting the prohibition of return and state expropriation of “abandoned” lands
          4. Support for limited right of return based on color-blind application of title law

          If you don’t understand that those positions are NOT the positions of the status quo, nor of any Israeli government in power for the last 60+ years, then you are just ignorant.

          And, yes, Harvey’s and my views are similar in the sense that we both observe that the ranting leftist view discourages dissent within Israel and the US, MORE than it encourages it.

          And, our views are similar in the sense that we both believe that by “humanizing the other”, peace based on a genuinely consented reconciliation is possible.

          And, I expect that our views are similar in the sense that if anything preserves the status quo it is the reciprocal dance between the Israeli right (likud, Israel Beitanhu, Shas) and the Palestinian right (Hamas, Islamic Jihad), that each derive their purpose for existence and power on continuing confrontation.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          1. Support for literally the green line as border (modifications only by mutual consent).

          Well, that’s a lie right there, or at least a changed premise. You’ve been saying repeatedly that Palestinians must accept some level of Israeli appropriation of land in the West Bank, and that they must accept Israel taking possession of the whole of Jerusalem.

          Witty, do you not understand that once you write something on the internet, there is no eraser? There is no going back and being revisionist?

          I think this is the biggest problem Zionism has in the modern era. It cannot function without the capacity to lie about its own record.

        • Shingo says:

          Witty,

          As I pointed out in my previous post, what you claim to support is vacuous and dare I say, largely dishonest. Your position is in lock step with the status quo because while you claim to support all of the above, you reject any and all measures that would achieve them. In that regard, you’re no different to war mongers like Cheney and Bush who claim to advocate peace while insisting on war.

          I resent your characterization of my views, long committed in writing. The Israeli governments since 1948 have claimed they wanted peace, while starting wars. They claimed they supported a 2 state solution while stealing land, ethnically cleansing the Palestinians from their land and building settlements. According to polls, many Israelis apparently support the same things you claim to support, but when confronted with the possibility of a potical settlement, they reject it or sabotage it.

          You’re not different than they are, hence my refernce to the staus quo.

          Yours and Harvey’s views are typical of the hypocrisy, double standards and Orwellian double speak that has plagued the discussion. The majority of your posts have criticised dissent unless it takes the very limited and ineffectual parameters that you’ve deemed to be acceptable.

          Like Harvey you claim to “humanizing the other” while only addressing the suffering and concerns of the Israeli side. You speak of the outrage of attacks on Israeli civlians while referring to the far more extreme attacks on Palestinians as “tragic” as though to imply they were acts of God.

          You claim to seek reconciliation, while gratuitously heaping blame on Hamas while demanding we bypass all manner of accountability on Israel’s part.

          For the life of me, I don’t know why you waste your time maintaining the charade, pretending as you do that you are sincere and objective. It’s not as though anyone is taking you seriously.

          Seriously Witty, you have absolutely no sense of self awareness and even less shame. Even Harvey has recognized that you have no credibility and have become an object of ridicule on this forum.

        • Chaos,
          You are either intentionally lying again, or lumping my comments in with some “them” that you’ve seen on TV maybe.

          My positions have been consistent for close to a decade, though I’ve moved slightly to the left on right of return.

          You alienate.

        • Both Harvey and I advocate for the humanization of the other. It is the theme of his film series “Heart of the Other”. There is NO dismissal of the experience, needs, aspirations of the Palestinian community.

          That you cannot include those that bear sympathy to Israel in your humanism, is itself a great hypocrisy.

          I definitely do not bear the official leftist formulas of “Zionism is racism”, and I expect that in that we fundamentally disagree, more than disagree, we “war”.

          I am committed to a combination of existence and reform.

          On harms to Palestinians and Lebanese, the questions that I ask are on the appropriate extent of defense. I regard the attacks by Hamas over decades, now thankfully diminished, as acts of war requiring defense by a state that is responsible to protect its civilians against attempted mass murder.

          The Hamas suicide bombers, nor Hamas rockets stayed on their side of the border. You cannot possibly say that they were defensive, maybe retaliatory in some confused sense of deterrence.

          Authentically, when presented with those that argue that all of the Israeli military actions in Gaza for example were justified and truly defensive, I would look like Goldstone in my criticism.

          When presented with the equally ignorant position that no defensive action was necessary or appropriate, I might look to you like Netanyahu, but that is your bias showing.

          In seeing that the conflict is a mutual construction, my advised remedy is intentional reconciliation, intentional humanization of the other. That conflicts with your and Phil’s and even the BDS approach, which states that greater (palatable) force is needed, that Israeli “needs” a kick in the ass.

          I think Israel needs a path and information, not a kick in the ass. Likudniks say exactly the same about Palestinians. “They just need a good kick in the ass”. I don’t see how your analysis is fundamentally different. They seem more similar to me than different.

      • I think it is very important to remember that the BDS campaign against Israel is only now starting to work and still at a very low level. Israelis have not yet felt the full effect of a strong BDS campaign at a broad international level. So at present the only effects are bruised egos and hurt feelings. Poor darlings.

        I spent many years working and living in South Africa when the apartheid government was in control before and after sanctions were applied. I would argue that the majority of Afrikaaners or Boers supported the apartheid system. They were extremely tough having spent 400 years in a hostile environment and some having being persecuted as French Huegenots before fleeing to South Africa. Their kind of toughness was not the Israeli toughness of “I have a big gun and I’m armed with the latest advanced American military hardware” etc. but genuine toughness.

        At the beginning they were also full of bravado and contempt for the sanctions campaign and spoke about defying it forever. That was until the sanctions REALLY BEGAN TO BITE. Then it was a question of survival and they were not stupid.

        The same can be argued for the Israelis. When it is a question of their economy sinking, their military weakening and their country’s very survival at stake due to a harsh BDS campaign, they will start suddenly appreciating that the world means business. They are also not that stupid.

        Don’t ever underestimate how very dependent Israel is on the US and to a lesser extent the rest of the world both politically, economically and militarily.

        The BDS campaign needs to BEGIN TO REALLY BITE and then Israelis will not be able to afford to behave like the spoiled brats they in general are.

      • potsherd says:

        harveystein – I don’t think Israelis are going to change. Or at least for the better. I don’t think there is a way to make their minds and attitudes change.

        The solution to the Palestinian problem can not depend on the nonexistent goodwill of Israelis. Simply put, it requires force. Unless Israel is forced to do the right thing, it will continue to do the wrong things.

        The pressure needs to be applies to the US government, not the Israelis.

        • “The solution to the Palestinian problem can not depend on the nonexistent goodwill of Israelis. Simply put, it requires force.”

          Please don’t ever claim to be anti-war here again.

        • Donald says:

          “The solution to the Palestinian problem can not depend on the nonexistent goodwill of Israelis. Simply put, it requires force.”–Potsherd

          Please don’t ever claim to be anti-war here again.”–RW

          You believe in the use of military force, whereas Potsherd is probably talking about BDS, which is a form of coercion that does not involve killing people.

  12. yourstruly says:

    Surely LA Jews for Peace can accept the cultural boycott of Isreal that’s underway. The hurt this brings to the settlers there (every Jewish Israeli, that is) is spiritual, not, physical. Yet the importance of this cultural boycott should not be underestimated, since the boycott of South Africa’s rugby team was instrumental in the dissolution of that nation’s apartheid system. It brought home to white South Africans just how isolated they were.

  13. syvanen says:

    Warner your concern that a vigorous BDS movement will serve to make Israelis even more defiant is almost certainly correct. The problem as I see it is that they are already defiant and there is nothing we in the West can do to change their attitude. So the immediate reaction to BDS inside Israel is as you have described it. BDS will likely not take affect for more than 10 years when with more and more isolation and the emigration of the more highly educated and trained citizens.

    I can see why your members who probably consist of many liberal Zionists would want to avoid joining such a movement. That is fine. But please do let your movement spend its energies attacking the more militant organizations that will likely succeed in the long term.

  14. Bravo. It’s good that you don’t blindly go into something without thinking about it. However I find some of the arguments a little weak.

    So focused, our project would conform to the rule of law. This point of view was expressed by Norman Finkelstein during his Los Angeles appearance last March, and in several published pieces. Finkelstein points out that BDS actions against Israel’s occupation and settlements are consistent with international law and can gain wide support because Americans, particularly Jewish Americans, believe in the rule of law.

    1 : At first glance this seems reasonable – but international law has not had much effect on Israeli policy (or US pertaining to it) towards the Palestinians. Why would it be relevant here? Restricting your boycott to only the occupied territories puts you on the side of IL and insures that you are beyond any kind of reproach at this level, true, but that will not stop the Israelis from finding fault with it anyway, so if you’re worried about them having a “circling the wagons” reaction, I don’t see why it would make much of a difference if your boycott was “legal”, there will always be an excuse. Goldstone was obviously very much on the side of international law – what was the response?
    2 : How do you untangle and sort out businesses and institutions in the occupied territories and “unoccupied” territories? The institutions and businesses inside the legal “borders” in their way support the occupation as well, so I don’t see an enormous difference between the two. You say yourself : “the Israeli courts and essentially all elected officials support the occupation.”
    3 : BDS is a “nonviolent” tactic – I don’t agree with this, but I may be alone. There is always some level of violence in coercion, and BDS, whether it be partial or full, is a form of coercion. Of course it’s not physical violence, but the institutional violence by Israel is not only physical, it is moral, economic, etc.
    Israel has positioned itself as being irrational and unwilling to understand pleas to its reason, so it has implicitly stated that the only way it will change its behavior is through some form of coercion – if this is the case, it needs to be a stronger message than partial BDS, otherwise it will have no effect.
    4 : By supporting partial BDS, you implicitly vote for the two state solution. It is by all accounts dead, though, unless you also advocate evacuating all of the settlers and Israeli control of the land. The advantage of full BDS is to recognize the reality of the situation, taking Israel-Palestine as a whole.

    Good luck to you in any case!

  15. Sumud says:

    Well Jeff, I can’t agree with your distinction between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. While not as extreme as the West Bank/East Jerusalem and Gaza, Palestinian Israelis are subject to [at last count about 30] different laws than Israeli jews (and it’s getting worse) and grossly shortchanged in terms of public spending (education, medical, infrastructure).

    ‘Current Knesset is the most racist in Israeli history’
    link to haaretz.com

    This site and others have covered the recent repeated attempts by Israel to ethnically cleanse a Bedouin village in the Negev. That is, the demolition of Israeli citizen’s homes by Israel, within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Some article on the event(s):

    ‘The ethnic cleansing of Palestine’
    link to mondoweiss.net

    ‘The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, part II’
    link to mondoweiss.net

    ‘a bad country’
    link to mondoweiss.net

    Max Blumenthal on the third demolition of the same village in a fortnight:

    ‘In The Wasteland of Democracy, Israel Destroys Al-Arakib…Again’
    link to maxblumenthal.com

    But as bad as all that is, I say good luck to your group. The BDS movement is and should be a big tent. I recall watching an Omar Barghouti talk and he said people should support BDS in a way that they feel comfortable with. With that in mind, other posters here who are criticising Jeff Warner’s position would do well to remember that we all start somewhere. There was a time when I knew hardly anything about Palestine or Israel. I imagine there will be people joining and supporting LA Jews For Peace who are longtime supporters of Israel, that have recently decided this is no longer possible or desirable. I see this as cause for celebration, not derision.

    Perhaps in time some who support a partial boycott now will change their position. Perhaps not – and so be it. Anyway, jews in LA who support a full boycott can start or join an existing group with that mandate. The BDS Movement will benefit greatly from diversity, discussion, and dissent. Full boycott or not, the goal is common, and it is good – and that is the most important thing to remember.

  16. Tom Pessah says:

    the full text of the UC Berkeley divestment bill, together with videos and vivid testimonies from this ongoing debate, can be found here
    link to caldivestfromapartheid.com

  17. JLWarner says:

    I thank everyone who commented to my posting. I learned a lot by reading every comment. I could respond to almost every post, but I felt that it was best to let the discussion flow. However, I do want to respond to being concerned with what the majority of Jewish Israeli’s think.

    I think the viewpoint of the majority of Jewish Israelis central to ending the conflict, because they will have to accept whatever is agreed upon.

    Think about how to end the occupation will end. There is not a military solution – as powerful as the Israeli army is, the 2006 Lebanon war and the 2008-09 Gaza bombardment show that not powerful enough to end the conflict, and outside forces are not about to invade Israel. There is not a unilateral solution – no matter what one side gives, it is never enough, and besides, Israel is not about to withdrawal to the Green Line. There is no legal solution – Israel ignores U.N. Security Council resolutions and International Court of Justice decisions with impunity. That leaves negotiations, the means by which apartheid actually ended. This is recognized by a significant number of Palestinian leaders in Fatah and Hamas.

    It is clear to me that Israel public opinion is critical in any Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

  18. Leigh says:

    Very conflicted about this myself. Polls at the end of the 1980s show that white South Africans wanted apartheid to continue, but by then apartheid legislations had been weakened throughout the 80s and sanctions strengthened throughout the 70s and 80s. So though they wanted it to continue, they were resigned to its end. In the South African case, it was thus much more productive to change actions after which initiatives were introduced to change attitudes.

    Most of these comments assume that it is necessary to change the attitudes of Israelis, and that a change in action will come only once attitudes have been changed. But people have been living with these attitudes for decades; we cannot spend decades more on changing them while Palestinians and Israeli and international activists are being killed and indured. So, at this stage I support BDS of Israel as a whole, not because I believe that they will like it, but because I don’t care much what their attitudes are. That can be worked on once their behaviour changes.

    As for American attitudes, BDS doesn’t need a majority, it only needs to create enough controversy for a moral vs immoral picket line to be drawn. Then even people who have no view on Israel-palestine at all will go along, especially given international law and majority european support. I usually feel better when I see that it is primarily white people over the age of 40 that blindly support all Israeli policies. it probably means the potential movement for change is larger than we think.

    And, frankly, while I understand why people target only companies involved in the settlements, settlement-building is an initiative of the Israeli government. So leaving the government out of the sanctions target list seems non-sensical. Target the organisations whose behaviour one wants changed. Targeting settlements won’t change ethnic clenzing in east-jerusalem, destruction of Bedouin villages, Arabs being extremely under-represented in the public work sector, etc. it’s discrimination and racism.