The struggle against the boycott law is fundamental: Should Israel be a Jewish or democratic state?

This text at Avigdor Liberman's bureau

This text being posted on the door to Avigdor Lieberman’s Office. 

What’s the “Boycott Law” about?  If you ask Israelis that question, particularly those opposed to the law, they’ll probably say that it prohibits calling for boycotts of products produced by Israeli settlements located in territories captured in 1967.  But that’s the wrong answer, which is surprising given how recently the law was passed by the Knesset.  More and more Facebook pages display photographs of Israeli leftists wearing buttons declaring they’re boycotting products from the settlements.

Well, that law prohibits citizens of the state from engaging in any activity that encourages avoiding “economic, cultural or academic connections with a person or other entity solely because of their connection with the state of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, the effect of which is to cause economic, cultural or academic damage.”  No mention of “territories,” of “settlements” – no nothing.  The law actually deals with boycotting Israel as a whole.

The opponents of the law have successfully spun it as a boycott of the settlements because that’s the only boycott they support.  Some are even working on its behalf, such as the performers boycotting the Ariel cultural center.

Israel’s right-wing government, on the other hand, has for some time been showing signs that it understands all too well what the Israel-Palestine conflict is about:  the conquests of 1948 and the Palestinians being prevented from returning after the violent Judaizing of the country.  So, although the left has been telling us for years that the issue is the “destructive” occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, and although it’s succeeding in portraying the colonial localities established there as “settlements” (“political,” Rabin added), it’s actually the Israeli right that reminds us, in its contorted manner, of course, that the source of the conflict is the Nakba and the establishment of the Jewish state.  

Our Prime Minister’s apologetics were simply embarrassing when he responded to Abu Mazan that the Palestinians are responsible for the Nakba because “their leaders told them to flee and urged people to leave so that the military forces could advance more freely in their war to destroy Israel.”  Oh, yes – they also rejected the Partition Plan, which couldn’t have been fairer, so they got what they deserved.

The Minister of Education keeps trying to use the educational system to strengthen the Jewish character of the state, as if the schools’ current nationalistic atmosphere wasn’t enough.  He also reminds us that schools are prohibited from using the term “Nakba” so as not to upset the pupils’ delicate souls.

The Boycott Law accords very well with this logic.  It requires punishing anyone daring to propose opposing the apartheid that’s spreading here.  Soon we won’t be able to see the differences between South Africa’s apartheid regime and ours, even if we use a magnifying glass.

This is an appropriate comparison, because the boycott of Israel that is developing is the result of calls by hundreds of Palestinian civil society organizations, and is beginning to resemble the boycott that successfully overcame the South African racist regime. Israel was the only state not to boycott the South African apartheid regime, which may be the reason our government is now rushing to pass an essentially anti-democratic law that threatens everyone opposing the apartheid being established here.

The organizations on the left that petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the law, based on liberal conceptions of free speech, did the right thing, and every democrat must hope that the justices will rescue us from the terrible law cooked up by a racist government.  But we must not allow the important struggle for free speech to blind us to the fact that the struggle is actually a more fundamental one:  between Jewish and democratic – the Jewish option, in its racist, colonial Zionist version, versus democracy and equality for all the country’s residents and refugees who choose to live here.

This post originally appeared on the Zochrot website.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

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

  1. hophmi says:

    On the contrary. The BDS movement shows that their movement is about turning Israel into a Jewish state that it isn’t. Israel’s the most multicultural society in the region. It has a large enfranchised Arab minority. BDS does everything to ignore this reality and cast Israel as some kind of Jewish-only state.

    Western-led boycott movements like BDS have never cared much about the effect of their movement on the people they’re trying to help.

    • Selma 1965 – Soweto 1976 – Gaza/Bil’in 2011

      a worldwide movement aiming to expand the realm of freedom, dignity & justice for us ALL

      link to bdsmovement.net

    • mig says:

      I see. So its BDS movement that demands Israel to recognized as jewish state and not like Bibi & Boys. ?

      “Western-led boycott movements like BDS have never cared much about the effect of their movement on the people they’re trying to help.”

      So they dont care Israeli people really because they demand through BDS that Israel should be “jewish state” at first ?

      What do you smoke ?

    • merlot says:

      Hophmi – it is quite clear that the Palestinian-Israeli co-initiators of the Palestinian led BDS movement would disagree with your version of “reality”.

    • David Samel says:

      hophmi, I don’t think anyone would take seriously your concern for Palestinians, as if you know what is best for them even if they are calling for a boycott you consider unwise.

      I have not seen anyone in the BDS movement try to disguise or ignore the fact that Israel allows its Palestinian citizens to vote. On the other hand, people like you try desperately to disguise the fact that the ability to vote and hold office does not signal equality by any stretch. Equality for non-Jews in a Jewish State is not only a unrealized dream, it is theoretically impossible.

    • Just remind us where Israel’s ‘enfranchisement’ starts and stops. Multicultural societies require free speech, universal human rights and equality under the law for citizens under its control. Israel doesn’t recognise such niceties. Your interpretation of ‘multicultural’ is not one other countries recognise.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      What percentage of Israel’s population is Christian? As opposed to, say, Jordan?

  2. seafoid says:

    From Ha’aretz

    The endgame begins to take shape

    link to haaretz.com

    Israel looking into revoking Oslo Accords in response to Palestinian UN bid
    Prime Minister’s Bureau confirmed that the National Security Council is discussing alternatives ahead of September, and would present them to the political echelon for a decision when it is done.

    Israel is also under assault from its own petite bourgeouisie
    link to haaretz.com

    while the haaretz site is full of property porn..

    link to dclk.themarker.com

  3. eljay says:

    >> BDS does everything to … cast Israel as some kind of Jewish-only state.

    That’s odd, because Israel isn’t “Jewish-only”, it’s “Jewish state”-supremacist.

  4. David Samel says:

    This is a very timely article to remind us of the root of the problem. Of course this outrageous law should be opposed by all people of common sense and conscience, but it is the liberal Zionist mindset that reversal of this and other manifestations of Israel’s rightward lurch would restore the country to its right path. Bronstein reminds us that the anti-boycott law is the putrid gravy on the rotten turkey. At its best, and Israel is very far from being its best, Israel would remain a country that necessarily values some lives higher than others, based upon genetics and tribalism. It doesn’t help that the minority victims have, on the average, a much longer and more provable tie to the land.

    • Mooser says:

      “based upon genetics and tribalism.”

      Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say: ‘based upon perceived genetics and perceived tribalism? As far as I know (and please correct me if I’m wrong) there is no genetic test for Judaism and no way of determining or officiating membership in the “tribe”.
      It’s just another example of the way Zionism pimps Judaism and Jewishness.

      • David Samel says:

        Mooser, you’re right, and you make a good point, but I did not mean genetic connection to any group thousands of years ago, only birth to parents who consider themselves Jewish. As for tribalism, it seems to me that is almost always perceived.

        • Mooser says:

          Forgive me, Dave, I was just being way-too-picky about the words to make a point, that point being that Israel and Zionism wish to dictate what Judaism and Jewishness is, and who the Jews are, based on the needs of the Israeli state.

        • VR says:

          I think David and Mooser are right, they could do better, like the USA, and put it all in legal writing but follow through on little to nothing… (anybody want some examples?)

      • libra says:

        mooser: “As far as I know (and please correct me if I’m wrong) there is no genetic test for Judaism and no way of determining or officiating membership in the “tribe”.”

        It so happens that Richard Witty is an expert on the “Jewish gene”, having actually written a post on MW covering this very subject. Perhaps he’ll update us on what it is, and what uniquely Jewish attribute or property (other than a land title in Greater Israel) it conveys on those lucky enough to possess it.

        Though, to jump the gun on Richard, I did some research myself and discovered that indeed there are maternally-inherited mitochondrial DNA markers that statistically correlate to diverse Jewish communities. Now it seems to me, Judaism and Zionism are two huge edifices to build on a few short strands of DNA code, inverted pyramids indeed. Nevertheless, who can deny this has been done? And this gives us hope for the future. Because it turns out these Biblical base-pairs cover all bases when it comes to the Holy Land, being most commonly shared with the Druze, Palestinians, and Bedouin.

        So now we have the opportunity to build a third structure on these “chosen” code sequences – a democratic single-state with equal rights for all citizens. If common decency can’t get Richard on-board, let’s hope this common genetic heritage can.

        • MHughes976 says:

          This evidence would reinforce the point that there is no scientific test for deciding who is Jewish and who is not, even though there is quite often evidence for where certain ancestors lived. I’ve been impressed by the arguments of Richard Lewontin (who is Jewish, I think) that there is no scientific value in the idea of race. We assign ourselves to races on grounds connected with culture and imagination – and some trivial differences in appearance – but the differences between individuals within the ‘perceived’ races is always more significant, scientifically and morally, than that between the ‘races’ as ‘wholes’. I did think Mooser’s point was very important and that it complemented rather than modified what David Samel had said.

        • Mooser says:

          “that there is no scientific value in the idea of race. “

          Race is a social construct, which was given a pseudo-scientific basis in the 19th century.
          If I remember right, all men may not be brothers, but nobody is any further away than about fifth cousins. Even before the mechanical transportation age, we were pretty mixed, and when ocean crossing became common, it was all over for race purity, such as it was.

        • “It so happens that Richard Witty is an expert on the “Jewish gene”…….

          It always amuses me when these supreme beings, God’s chosen ones, bring genetics into the argument. If in fact their is such a thing as the “Jewish gene”, then the classic stereotyping of physical traits becomes an exceptable premise, does it not? What, if not predisposed genetics, is a big nose?

          I mean, hey, its not like I actually engage in this type of stereotyping. I don’t. But if Witty is convinced theres a “jewish gene”, then we gotta assume that its OK to posit that Witty must have a big nose. Which begs the question, is he less fortunate than my friend Reggie, who happens to be black????

        • CigarGod says:

          Thanks. I needed a chuckle this morning.
          If you really want to throw Witty and his friends into fits, you can start talking about the human race migrating out of the Great Rift Valley and breaking off into different strains from there.

        • Mooser says:

          Witty don’t go for that Great Rift Valley nonsense.
          He’s strictly a fan of Piltdown Man.

  5. Djinn says:

    “Western-led boycott movements like BDS”

    How on earth do you support this statement? How exactly is the boycott western led?

    • hophmi says:

      Most of the activists are Westerners and most of the activism is in the West.

      • Is Israel in the West? Just wondering, since BDS has plenty of support there

        • hophmi says:

          What support, exactly? I don’t think many Israelis support boycotting all of Israel.

        • Cliff says:

          Why the hell wouldn’t most of the activism be in the West? BDS has to get support from outside of Israel.

          The boycott was initiated by Palestinian civil society.

          If you hadn’t noticed, Palestinians are under occupation. The boycott has to get international support for it to be effective.

          The movement is Palestinian. It is for the Palestinian people. The people who promote BDS in the West are no more ‘leading’ the movement than people promoting it in let’s say, South Korea. They are simply promoting it. And it just so happens that it matters a lot, that it is promoted here – in the West.

        • annie says:

          I don’t think many Israelis support boycotting all of Israel.

          no shit sherlock. another brilliant observation by hophmi. let’s subtract the population of israel from the global population. imagine that number. that’s our target. if we relied on israel to boycott itself we’d be up shit creek.

        • “no shit sherlock”

          Leave the brits out of this!

        • Chaos4700 says:

          I don’t think many Israelis support boycotting all of Israel.

          So when did you stop beating that straw man you married?

        • What support? All of the ‘honorary’ third-class Israeli citizens in the West Bank and Gaza, not to mention in ersatz Israel, who were there generations before the post WW2 mass immigation of Jews. That’s quite a lot. Of course you won’t count them on account of refusing to accept that they are people with opinions and rights just like your homeboys.

      • Djinn says:

        Bullshit. The call to BDS was initiated by Palestinian civil society and western activists act in solidarity. Our protests are more visible because we are unlikely to be skunk watered, gassed, shot with gas canisters, arrested & detained without charge for years for staging them.

        When was the last time you went to the West Bank Hophmi? Or spoke to a Palestinian citizen of Israel about the boycott campaign? NEVER that’s when.

        You are so full of it, I can smell the stench from here.

      • annie says:

        Most of the activists are Westerners and most of the activism is in the West.

        hophmi, you might want to hop on over to the new BDS thread on the front page, Boycotters ramp it up: “put an end to Agrexco’s presence in Europe”, and scroll:

        * The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups. It was formed as the Palestinian reference point in the broad campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which resulted in the July 2005 Palestinian Call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, with the initial endorsement of over 170 Palestinian organizations

        whereas in the preamble and the text it explains (w/ links)

        A coalition of 23 organizations from across Europe issued a “Political declaration after the Forum against Agrexco” outlining their campaign against the Israeli agricultural giant which is half owned by the Israeli Government and responsible for 60-70% of the agricultural produce grown in Israel’s illegal settlements.

        that’s merely a sampling of the bds actions, and solely wrt agrexco. nonetheless i think it demonstrates a solid majority block for palestinian civil society is behind (and in front) of this campaign. i’m not sure what point you are trying to make. can you be clearer what you are saying? are you claiming bds was initiated by non palestinians? if you have any evidence just present it because i’m in contact w/the campaign and i’ve never heard of anyone else running it besides palestinians.

      • Shingo says:

        Most of the activists are Westerners and most of the activism is in the West.

        Most Zionists are Westerners and most of the Zionism is in the West.

  6. American says:

    Interesting.
    30,000 rioting in Israel over esculating rent cost.

    link to alternet.org

  7. seafoid says:

    what the Israel-Palestine conflict is about: the conquests of 1948 and the Palestinians being prevented from returning after the violent Judaizing of the country.

    It’s not just about 1948. It is about all of the Palestinians .
    And it is an insane vision.
    The country could only be “Judaised” if it had a Jewish majority. And even if you leave out the refugees it doesn’t.

  8. RE: “that law prohibits citizens of the state from engaging in any activity that encourages avoiding ‘economic, cultural or academic connections with a person or other entity solely because of their connection with the state of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, the effect of which is to cause economic, cultural or academic damage.’
    No mention of ‘territories,’ of ‘settlements’ – no nothing. The law actually deals with boycotting Israel as a whole.” ~ Eitan Bronstein

    FROM GERSHOM GORENBERG: “…The phrase in the law referring to “an area under [Israel’s] control” is a very thinly-veiled reference to the West Bank. The phrase is there to outlaw boycotts of Israeli settlements…” SOURCE – link to prospect.org

  9. mig says:

    I didnt know where to add this, so ill just put this here ( maybe admin can use their visdom better ;) )

    Former Israeli diplomats in Washington: 1967 borders are defensible
    The former ambassadors and decorated soldiers met with U.S. National Security Council in Washington with an appraisal of Israel’s security needs significantly different from the prime minister’s.

    A group of former Israeli army officials and diplomats visited Washington Monday, claiming that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is urgent in spite of, and because of, regional turmoil, and that contrary to what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims, the 1967 borders are, in fact, defensible.

    The group visited the White House on Monday and met with the National Security Council Director for Middle East and North Africa Steven Simon, and were to have meetings later in the evening with acting Middle East envoy David Hale and officials at the Pentagon.

    Among the group participants were Major General (Ret.) Natan Sharoni, a battery commander in the Sinai Campaign and a battalion commander during the Six Day War who later became Head of Planning for the IDF and Ambassador Alon Pinkas, who served as Consul General of Israel in New York.

    Joining the two was Ambassador Ilan Baruch, who served with the Israeli Foreign Ministry for more than thirty years and stirred a public debate in Israel when, upon his resignation, he penned an open letter critical of Israeli government policies.

    Others in the group include Colonel (Ret.) Shaul Arieli, who was Commander of the Northern Brigade in Gaza, and was responsible for the evacuation and transfer of the Gaza Strip to Palestinian control in 1994 and distinguished soldier Brigadier General (Ret.) Nehemiah Dagan.

    Major General (Ret.) Shlomo Gazit, who was head of the Assessment Department in IDF Intelligence and later became Coordinator of Israeli Government Operations in the Administered Territories and Attorney Gilead Sher, the legal representative for the Shalit family also joined the group.

    “We are here because we feel that we are running out of time, and there is no actual status quo,” Sharoni told Haaretz Monday. “The dynamic is such that we must act quickly so that we don’t find ourselves facing actions that cannot be corrected.”

    “We are here because we are concerned that the Jewish state won’t remain Jewish and democratic. Thirty years from now, Jews will be one-third of the population from Jordan to the Mediterranean. And the culture that is developing in Israel these days suggests that the one-third will control the two-thirds,” he said.

    The second issue that concerns the group is that no credible critics have dared to counter Prime Minister Netanyahu’s claim that the 1967 borders are “indefensible”.

    “It has already entered the Israeli political lexicon as an axiom”, Sharoni said. “We think it’s misleading. The 1967 borders are defensible, we just need to define – defensible against what? It’s true they are indefensible against rockets from Iran, but so is all the territory of Israel.”

    “They are indefensible against terror and Hezbollah rockets,” he added. “But to say that the strategic depth of the Jordan Valley will save Israel, that is a deception.”
    Sharoni said that what has traditionally constituted the ‘Eastern front’ against Israel is now non-existent.

    “Iraq doesn’t have the capacity to send ground divisions against us; we have peace with Jordan, and Syria won’t go to war against Israel by herself. I am sure the prime minister knows it – but he probably doesn’t want to make any use of this information,” Sharoni said.

    Sharoni responded to a question from Haaretz concerning a possible threat emerging on the Eastern front ten years in the future, dismissing the supposed necessity of maintaining sovereignty over a part of the West Bank to act as a buffer zone in the event of an attack.

    “Do we actually need to control the Jordan Valley to confront these threats? To move one or two IDF divisions to seize control of the Valley takes up to 36 hours. With our deterrence and mobility, there is no problem with it. If it will be a demilitarized zone – if something happens, there is enough time to get there.”

    “And the Palestinians need Jordan Valley to develop as a viable state, especially if they want to absorb refugees. IDF can protect any borders, it’s just the question of developing the right strategy to do it,” Sharoni continued.

    “It is folly to measure strategic depth in another 1000 kilometers – when our entire country doesn’t provide strategic depth, and frankly, I don’t think any country in the world today does, against the current threats,” added Sharoni.

    “In 25 years, we had five wars with Egypt, from different territorial positions, and before there was a peace agreement, no borders deterred them from going to war against us,” said Colonel Arieli. “Control of the territory can be replaced with advantages of other security arrangements.”

    “What scares us is that our current leadership has no courage and no pragmatism necessary to deal with the challenges,” he added.

    “I have warm sentiments for Nablus and Hebron”, said Maj.Gen. (ret.) Gazit, referring to two West Bank cities that are populated almost wholly by Palestinians.

    “I would love to have all of the Land of Israel. But we need to understand the difference between the defensible borders – and viable borders,” said Gazit. “If the Palestinian state is not viable – we shoot ourselves in the leg”.

    A White House National Security spokesman told Haaretz following the visit, “Meetings like this are a routine part of our work. Our officials meet with a wide variety of groups and delegations on an ongoing basis.”

    link to haaretz.com

    • Shingo says:

      Good find Mig.

      It’s not the 1967 borders that’s indefensible, it’s the settlements, mass murder and land theft.

    • talknic says:

      The ‘defensible borders’ doctrine is outright twaddlespiel. An Israeli invention to justify illegally acquiring Palestinian territory, with no basis in International Law.

      No entity has any right to more defensible borders than it’s neighbour.