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Rage over ASA boycott shows, world has never punished Israel for human rights violations –Derfner

Israel/Palestine
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ASA logo tiff (1) copyEveryone is passing around this slam-dunk argument from Israeli-American Larry Derfner at +972 saying that the “reaction” against the ASA boycott vote highlights the fact that Israel has enjoyed favored immunity from boycott, forever. It’s titled, “The world’s blatant double standard – in Israel’s favor,” and points out that Israel’s human rights violations have gone completely unpunished forever. Here is the gist:

the powers-that-be in the world have gone after any number of human-rights violating countries – yet still haven’t gotten to Israel and its 46-year military dictatorship over the Palestinians.

If you look at the serious, painful punishments the world metes out to oppressor nations, Israel is not being singled out, it’s being let off the hook.

And here is the brilliant ending, stating that boycott, divestment, sanctions could have ended the occupation long ago if people had gotten behind it.

The occupation is not, by any means, a human rights violation on the scale of Assad’s butchery, or the Congo’s, or Sudan’s, or Zimbabwe’s, for example. But it is a greater one than, for example, Iran’s nuclear program, or Cuba’s communism, or Russia’s killing of Sergei Magnitzky and its anti-gay policy – yet Israel gets off scot-free.  The world doesn’t punish this country unfairly – it doesn’t punish this country at all, while America rewards it lavishly.

The ASA boycott, like the rest of the BDS movement’s achievements, are not examples of the world’s double standard against Israel – they’re  Quixotic, rearguard actions against the world’s blatant double standard in Israel’s favor.  If this country were treated with a minuscule fraction of the severity the West ordinarily visits on human rights violators,  the occupation would have ended long ago.

And while we’re on the subject, here is an excellent piece by Kevin Jon Heller at an international law site, Opinio Juris, saying that if NYU really cares so much about academic freedom, per a statement against boycott by President John Sexton, then why is it silent about repression in the Emirates, where it has a school. Lately (as the Nation reported), Sexton justified the arrest of activists, bloggers and a professor by the UAE because they were supposedly a threat to national security. Heller also points out that critics of boycott have had nothing to say about the treatment of Palestinians. “[I] find it distressing that those who criticize the ASA for undermining academic freedom somehow never get around to criticizing Israel for its ongoing repression of Palestinian academics and students.”

Update: This post originally described Opinio Juris as an NYU site and added an aitch to Kevin Jon Heller’s middle name. Thanks to Heller for correcting me.

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33 Responses

  1. kevinjonheller
    kevinjonheller
    December 28, 2013, 10:01 am

    I appreciate the link, but Opinio Juris is not an NYU site and has no institutional connection whatsoever to NYU. We are a completely independent blog. Nor am I in any way affiliated with NYU. I am a professor of criminal law at SOAS, University of London.

  2. piotr
    piotr
    December 28, 2013, 10:16 am

    Good link to The Nation! I found one gem: [In UAE] Multimillionaire businessman Khalaf Al-Habtoor penned an obsequious op-ed for Gulf News titled “Trouble-making is no human right.” I guess this is the gist of most attacks on ASA.

  3. Krauss
    Krauss
    December 28, 2013, 10:19 am

    Derfner’s column was the best I’ve read in regard to the ASA vote thus far. Powerful, strong and direct without mincing words.

    And it helps that he is, on the facts, a hundred percet right.

    • William Burns
      William Burns
      December 28, 2013, 12:29 pm

      Derfner is that rarity–a liberal Zionist who is actually an honest liberal.

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976
        December 28, 2013, 3:15 pm

        Must say that I found his view of the R of Return and his illogical exploitation of the so-called analogy with America/Mexico very illiberal and disturbing. What he says this time is all true!

  4. seafoid
    seafoid
    December 28, 2013, 11:53 am

    Where I am at the moment it is snowing. The ground is wet and the snow melts on contact. It reminds me of the state of hasbara.

  5. irmep
    irmep
    December 28, 2013, 12:58 pm

    Consider this:

    Stanley Fischer, while at the IMF, was king of punishing developing economies with harsh austerity measures.

    Stanley Fischer, while on the Reagan administration’s U.S. Israel Joint Economic Discussion Group transformed U.S. aid by tripling it, and turning it into outright grants rather than loans, while unilaterally lowering US trade barriers to Israel (producing a chronic deficit).

    Fischer, freshly back in the US after a stint as governor of the Bank of Israel, wants the #2 seat at the Fed. See why at:

    http://original.antiwar.com/smith-grant/2013/12/27/aipacs-fed-candidate-stanley-fischer-on-a-warpath-against-iran/

    With people like Fischer running around all levels of the U.S. government shoveling immunity and largesse at Israel, is it any wonder a simple academic boycott would seem like a major thing?

  6. ToivoS
    ToivoS
    December 28, 2013, 11:16 pm

    This essay sounds so much like the Larry Derfner that I have found interesting at 972mag. Though a Zionist, his essays reveal glimpses that some of them have a very realistic understanding of where Israel is heading.

    Then suddenly, a Larry Derfner appears here at MW — http://mondoweiss.net/2013/12/deception-ridiculous-historical.html — and basically accuses those of us in the Western world of hypocrisy because we are insensitive to the plight of Mexicans and Native Americans in the US. We are singling out Israel while ignoring even greater acts of ethnic cleansing in our past. Is that the same Larry Derfner? How can the same person come up with such a well reasoned essay one day and then spout some of the lamest hasbara talking points on another day? I can’t be the same person can it?

  7. LarryDerfner
    LarryDerfner
    December 29, 2013, 4:15 am

    Thanks very much, ToivoS, for the first pgh. :) Here’s the deal – I think the post-67 occupation is colonialism, which the rest of the world realized long ago is indefensible. But I think the creation of Israel, minus the occupation, is entirely defensible because for all the wrongs the early Zionists committed, in the historical context of nation-building, it is as moral, or no less immoral, than the other exercises in nation-building I know something about, the best example being the U.S. And when people say that the wrongs of 1948 were so great that Israel has to undo them – by admitting that the Zionist movement, culminating in 1948, was indefensible, and that the 700,000 Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homes – then I ask: Why do the Palestinian refugees have more of a right to return to their homes than the American Indians? (A second question: Why doesn’t Mexico have the right to reclaim the Southwest, and why aren’t the non-Mexicans living there considered immigrants instead of the Mexicans coming across the border to return to the land that once belonged to their people?) And this was not the first time that the answer I got from leftists (some, not all) was that what the Americans did to the Indians (and Mexico) wasn’t so bad, and that whatever injustices were committed are no longer in place. I think that position, when taken by any American who considers Israel itself illegitimate, is indefensible and hypocritical. Israel was born in sin, but no more than the U.S. (for starters). And since no American is going to recognize the Indians’ (or Mexico’s) right to the land that once belonged to them, where do any of them come off insisting that Israel recognize that right for the Palestinians?

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      December 29, 2013, 8:18 am

      @ LarryDerfner

      “And since no American is going to recognize the Indians’ (or Mexico’s) right to the land that once belonged to them, where do any of them come off insisting that Israel recognize that right for the Palestinians?”

      Why not go back to the days of Attila the Hun? Israel became a state near the middle of the 20th Century, in 1948. The Nuremberg Trials ended in 1946, the cost having been two world wars.

      The Trial of Imperial Japan’s leaders for war crimes ended in 1948.

    • eljay
      eljay
      December 29, 2013, 8:24 am

      >> Israel was born in sin, but no more than the U.S. (for starters). And since no American is going to recognize the Indians’ (or Mexico’s) right to the land that once belonged to them, where do any of them come off insisting that Israel recognize that right for the Palestinians?

      It’s good to know that Mr. Derfner has no objection to a group of people partitioning the supremacist “Jewish State” of Israel and undertaking ethnic cleansing of a portion of it in order to create a new – and perhaps even supremacist – state “in sin” for themselves.

    • Sumud
      Sumud
      December 29, 2013, 8:26 am

      Right of Return is THE LAW Larry Derfner, you don’t get to deny people their rights because in ages past some other country somewhere else in the world got away with bad things. Neither because you don’t like the consequences of Palestinian’s rights being observed.

      American Indians (and Indigenous Australians in my country) live with full citizenship and rights, no? There is no population of expelled refugees from either country being denied their right of return. Your analogy falls apart.

      If Israel doesn’t want entitled refugees to return to Israel proper they need to propose a suitably generous opt-in financial or other settlement with refugees *individually*, their host countrie(s) and/or the state of Palestine so that the refugees can be given full citizenship in a country outside Israel. Right of return cannot be ignored, but return isn’t the only possible solution.

      The long-ignored Arab Peace Initiative includes reference to a negotiated solution on the refugee issue.

      The only difference between the land grab of 1947/48/49 and 1967 is the territory being occupied – it’s all colonialism. Don’t forget Israel has declared it’s borders to be those of the partition plan when applying to the UN for membership. No territory outside those declared borders has ever been legally annexed by Israel. 1967 occurred because Israel thought they got away with 1948 and they could repeat it. Mistake.

    • annie
      annie
      December 29, 2013, 9:42 am

      mr.derfner, we had this conversation the other day w/you beginning right here: http://mondoweiss.net/2013/12/deception-ridiculous-historical.html/comment-page-1#comment-623158

      and several people addressed your argument, myself included:

      i don’t think the US ethnically cleansed mexicans from it’s borders when calif, arizona, new mexico and texas became part of the US. i’m not sure how applicable your analogy is to israel. is BDS asking for israel to be ‘given back’ to palestine? is that your idea of giving people equal rights?

      today native americans or americans of mexican heritage can move anywhere they want in the US, they are not restricted to reservations or certain neighborhoods. they have the same rights in the courts as i do and the same citizenship as me. it’s not a perfect set up, but i don’t think it can be compared to israel.

      and toivo:

      The American Indians are American citizens who can settle anywhere in the US. Travel freely anywhere in the US. Vote in the US. Marry whoever they want and live in the US. They’re not hosted in refugee camps waiting to return to the US

      MHughes

      I understand that the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo, which transferred huge stretches of Mexican territory to the United States, specifically permitted existing Mexican residents to remain as US citizens, not as disfranchised persons or as persons subjected to an occupying regime.

      i won’t repeat what everyone said there because it’s available at the link, but several of us made the point (myself included) what we did was immoral and indefensible. but interestingly you responded to jeff b (who argued palestinians were the equivalent of millions of al queda supporters!) by saying:

      Very well said, JeffB. Otherwise, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Americans who think of themselves as leftists give such a clean bill of health to “manifest destiny” and “how the West was won.” …… The Indians weren’t allowed to vote until, if I’m not mistaken, 1924 – only then did the whites feel sufficiently secure that the threat had been vanquished.

      you say all the wrongs the early Zionists committed, in the historical context of nation-building, it is as moral, or no less immoral, than the other exercises in nation-building

      but no one made the argument the ethnic cleansing of native americans was moral. maybe we could unwind the clock and plop israel in the 15th century and afford them the genocide columbus was afforded! pity israel came along so late when slavery was no longer in fashion. and that silly geneva convention, so inconvenient.

      and that the 700,000 Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homes – then I ask: Why do the Palestinian refugees have more of a right to return to their homes than the American Indians?

      let’s look at other alternatives larry, as i mentioned before.

      there’s a lot of land inside israel that belongs to palestinians no one is even living on. land they are actively trying to find jewish setttlers for http://mondoweiss.net/2013/12/blue-erases-green.html

      the US have made attempts to rectify the past. as i said, it is not perfect, but israel could start by giving people rights and allocating land as compensation. and returning the land inside israel that belongs to israeli palestinians that’s been taken away. the gov won’t even do that. there are refugees right inside israel who live right down the road from their agricultural land they are not allowed to go back to. this is not ‘equal rights’. it privileges jews wrt this agricultural land. no one is living on it. and there’s lots of land in the galilee. and what about towns like Iqrit? what is the reason the people cannot go back? http://mondoweiss.net/2012/05/it-is-only-20-minutes-from-my-village-to-the-ruins-of-iqrit-but-63-years-of-dispossession.html

      i mean all this talk lately of the palestinian israeli christians joining the military, but is the government supporting growth in their communities inside israel, the way they do jews? no. even a gov panel that approved rebuilding in Iqrit back in the 90’s, even that fell thru.

      and what about the ruins in canada park? so we know this is not about your specific language “right to return to their homes”, for many of those homes and villages no longer exist. what we are talking about is rectifying the situation, the way the US has made attempts to do. and therein lies the difference between the US and israel. israel doesn’t want to make amends, give people their rights and equality and the opportunity to live a normal life on their homeland. they are still in the process of ethnically cleansing people from their land, inside israel, and coraling them into reservations. they still define citizens differently in terms of their citizenship thru the nationality law, they still deny an israeli nationality based in ethnicity. this is not a rectification. unrecognized villages with no utilities hook ups, no bus service or roads. i mean really, when did 1948 stop? in your dreams perhaps.

      so, it’s rather disingenuous to make the argument in the historical context of nation-building, it is as moral, or no less immoral, than the other exercises in nation-building , when israel’s ethnic cleansing is still going on. as much as you might like, you can’t really draw a line and separate the past founding, since israel, technically, is still in the process of that ‘founding’. it has never stopped and the discrimination and ethnic cleansing is ongoing. with jeffb, the one you support, advocating israeli forces on the border with jordan way into the future! and the idea of the wall all the way on the other side of palestine! so no, you can’t separate 48.

      • Xpat
        Xpat
        December 29, 2013, 10:20 am

        Thanks Annie for putting this together. It is odd that Larry Derfner who was so impressive in this piece on BDS still holds to the liberal Zionist argument that Israel does not need to answer for 1948. He reinforces his own argument that Israel cannot save the Palestinians or itself and so it’s up to the rest of us to stand for justice.

      • Jan
        Jan
        December 29, 2013, 2:12 pm

        Israel must answer to 1948. It must answer to the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the destruction of over 400 of their villages. It must answer to the theft and looting of Palestinian properties. It must answer to the horrible absentee laws which deprived Palestinians who remained in Israel of their homes. It must answer to its rejection of UN Res. 194 calling for the return of all refugees wanting to live in peace.

        Israel has much for which to atone and all the hasbara in the world does not make the birth of Israel any less sinful.

        I usually agree with Larry Derfner but in this case he lets pre 1967 Israel off the hook.

      • ritzl
        ritzl
        December 29, 2013, 11:16 am

        Well said Annie and everyone. Pitch perfect.

        It might tie it all together if we redirected our aid to Israel back to Indian nations, that they could actually buy back their historical lands. Or any property for that matter.

    • Donald
      Donald
      December 29, 2013, 10:38 am

      “Israel was born in sin, but no more than the U.S. (for starters). And since no American is going to recognize the Indians’ (or Mexico’s) right to the land that once belonged to them, where do any of them come off insisting that Israel recognize that right for the Palestinians?”

      “And since no American is going to recognize the Indians’ (or Mexico’s) right to the land that once belonged to them, where do any of them come off insisting that Israel recognize that right for the Palestinians?”

      That second quote is just confused. The right of return is not equivalent to giving all the land back and self-expulsion. You see this as a zero sum game. It is if both sides choose to see it that way, but given that the two sides have to live side by side no matter what, perhaps it would be a good idea to move away from such thinking.

      In the previous thread you made one good point (i.e., one I have thought of myself)–it was easy for white Americans to admit Native Americans off the reservation because of the demographics. What if there were 250 million Native Americans confined to 22 percent of their land? The history in this alternate universe would be very very different, but anyway, I agree that I can’t picture white America with its perennial distrust of immigrants agreeing to their return.

      But you go wrong in several ways, not all of which I will write about. First, there’s no distinction between how Israel got the land in 48 and what it did after 67. Land theft is land theft. If Israel keeps this up and nothing stops them, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t steal the WB and through pressure or outright expulsion, rid themselves of most of the remaining Palestinians. It’s how Israel came into existence and it’s why Israel’s 1948 borders are larger than what the UN partition agreement (which was still unjust to Palestinians) would have given them.

      Second, you seem to think American crimes justify Israeli crimes. It’s a bridge too far. It shows that you can’t keep your logic straight. What you mean is that what Israel has done and is doing is no worse than what America did, and that countries and people have the morality they think they can afford, and as individuals Americans have little reason to feel superior to individual Israelis. Fine. Extend it further. Comfortable Americans and Israelis as individuals have no business feeling any superiority to oppressed people who use terrorism. Does this mean that terrorism is okay? You once said it was, if I recall correctly, and then backtracked. You were right to backtrack. (Apologies if my memory is faulty and I’m thinking of someone else.)

      If you’re afraid that a right of return would lead to civil war like the one currently in Syria, then say so in plain language. Don’t argue that the Nakba was okay because the US did the same thing. That’s just nonsense. And don’t use that staple of American racists, the trope of “giving the land back to the Indians”. The argument for a one state solution is that it would be one where both sides live in peace and equality. If you don’t think that’s possible, then say that. Personally, I think the road to a 1SS would probably have to pass through a 2ss, one on the 67 borders with at least some token right of return. With time and a buildup of trust, maybe the border would become very porous. Though the way things are going, a 2SS that is minimally acceptable to Palestinians seems as out of reach as a 1ss. And that’s Israel’s fault.

    • philweiss
      philweiss
      December 29, 2013, 11:18 am

      Ari Shavit made the same argument to David Remnick at the 92d St Y and Remnick said, What’s the difference? Shavit said, 100 years. Exactly, Remnick said. I.e., norms have changed. Not to mention the practicalities when dealing with a defeated people and an undefeated one.

    • Ellen
      Ellen
      December 29, 2013, 1:17 pm

      Weary arguments, “you did it it the Indians….” Is as logical and morally bereft as justification of modern day slavery with an argument, “but the US had the institution of Slavery, so can we ….”

      When will the Hasbara machine do away with this line?

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      December 29, 2013, 10:44 pm

      LarryDerfner: But I think the creation of Israel, minus the occupation, is entirely defensible …

      So it would be “defensible”, if the 25% Nonjews in Israel would proclaim a state within 55% of Israel, conquer up to 78% and expell and denationalize 85% of Jews, right? ROFL!

      Why do the Palestinian refugees have more of a right to return to their homes than the American Indians?

      Why do Jews have more rights to an independent state within Palestine than Palestininans to the independence of historic Palestine?

      I think that position, when taken by any American who considers Israel itself illegitimate, is indefensible and hypocritical.

      Oh, so what position are Jews allowed to take, considering their genocides and other crimes against humanity since bible times?

    • tree
      tree
      December 29, 2013, 11:10 pm

      Larry,

      To quote from wiki.answers/com:

      The earliest recorded date of Native Americans’ becoming U.S. citizens was in 1831 when the Mississippi Choctaw became citizens after the United States Legislature ratified the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Under article XIV of that treaty, any Choctaw who elected not to move with the Choctaw Nation could become an American citizen.
      There has been considerable debate about Native American U.S. citizenship. In 1857, Cheif Justice Roger B. Taney expressed that since Native Americans were “free and independent people” that they could become U.S. citizens.
      Prior to the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, nearly two-thirds of Native Americans were already U.S. citizens. The act of 1924 granted U.S. citizenship to those Native Americans who were not already U.S. citizens.

      http://wiki.answers.com/Q/When_did_the_American_Indians_obtain_rights_as_citizens_in_the_US

      In other words, the US had already granted full citizenship rights to all Native Americans well before Israel carried out the wholesale denial of citizenship rights and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians. Any Native American born in the US has a right to live anywhere he or she wants with full citizenship rights in the US. Why are you justifying anything less than that for the indigenous Palestinians as if asking for a much belated recognition of that right of citizenship is hypocritical on the part of Americans. It isn’t. We are asking for the same thing for Palestinians that everyone takes for granted in the US.

  8. stevieb
    stevieb
    December 29, 2013, 12:29 pm

    It was a pretty good article until it mentions “Assad’s butchery”…which only works if you believe the corporate media propaganda as Syria is being destroyed by outsiders paid for by western backers. Who can be accurately described as butchers…

  9. LarryDerfner
    LarryDerfner
    December 29, 2013, 4:47 pm

    Since this argument started a few days before Phil put up my +972 post with the cool things he said about it, I’m not going to “go negative” anymore – it would seem ungrateful, and I’m not at all. Actually, though, there is one point of contention I want to take up – Donald, you wrote “there’s no distinction between how Israel got the land in 48 and what it did after 67. Land theft is land theft.” In 48 the Jews didn’t have a state, they were fighting another stateless people for the land; in 67, the Jews had a state and they took the still-stateless people’s last pieces of land, and made them subjects. The distinction seems huge to me. About my views: I recognize that the dispossession is still continuing in the West Bank, and that it continued in Israel after 48 – I’d like it to end completely in the W. Bank and to make large restitution to Israeli Arabs for the land taken from them. While I don’t recognize the right of return – which means the refugees’ right to return to the land and homes they lost – and I don’t think Israel’s birth was illegitimate, I’m personally amenable to letting a few hundred thousand refugees and descendants live in Israel as citizens, and I’m in favor of making restitution, with interest, for the liquid assets, such as bank accounts, that were expropriated from the refugees. I don’t think we’re too far apart on the practical measures needed to solve the conflict; where we disagree is on the morality of Zionism. Finally, I would like to be able to jaw with you folks without the antagonism, and I regret my part in provoking it.

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      December 29, 2013, 10:03 pm

      “where we disagree is on the morality of Zionism. Finally, I would like to be able to jaw with you folks without the antagonism”

      Good! Neither MHughes976 nor I have ever seen a justification for Zionism under normal moral principles. We have never seen even the beginnings of a seriously argued case for it.

      So it would be interesting if you could present such a case, and debate it with MHughes976.

      I’ll try to stay out of the debate, since I am much given to sarcasm and other antagonistic rhetorical devices. I have never seen any antagonism from MHughes.

      • Donald
        Donald
        December 29, 2013, 11:15 pm

        “So it would be interesting if you could present such a case, and debate it with MHughes976.”

        That might be a good idea if you (Larry) and MHughes are both willing. I’d toss in one or two comments from the sidelines, except I’ll probably be offline for a few days and anyway, my views were pretty much set out in the previous post.

        Though thinking about it for a few more minutes, what one really needs are debates between liberal Zionists and Palestinians.

  10. Steven Salaita
    Steven Salaita
    December 30, 2013, 4:02 pm

    Native peoples in North America (and Central and South America) are still very much fighting for return of lands and for sovereignty. Those arguing that Natives are content with American or Canadian citizenship should consult some basic sources. Also, any claim that the dispossession of Indigenous peoples in the so-called New World happened long enough ago that it doesn’t matter legally or morally clearly have no idea what’s been happening in Indigenous communities.

    Just as Palestinians are fighting for their rights vis-a-vis their entire homeland, so too are Indigenous peoples fighting for return of their lands and ongoing forms of dispossession (both governmental and corporate). The matter is nowhere near settled in the Americas.

    The claim that dispossession of Native peoples in the Americas somehow can be used as a normative rationale for denying Palestinians rights of restitution is not only morally indefensible, but also empirically wrong.

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