Goldberg and Cohen stoke fears of BDS

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Talk of the boycott is alarming many of Israel’s supporters. In the last month the mere mention of it bolted from online forums onto the main stage, so politicos are now scrambling to figure out how to handle the issue. Haaretz reports “Netanyahu convenes ministers to discuss growing Israel economic boycott threats”. They are trying to decide “whether to activate AIPAC… in order to promote legislation in Congress against the economic boycott of Israel,” among other things.

It was easier to feign that the expanding boycott was the product of a loony fringe outside the bounds of normal discourse until the SodaStream/Oxfam/Johansson controversy — and then certain people started mouthing the word “boycott”.

Jeffrey Goldberg, clearly irked, is the best guide to the new talking points. He’s miffed John Kerry had the audacity to broach the topic of boycott publicly. In “Kerry errs when he invokes specter of boycotts of Israel,” Goldberg segues from boycott to an unsupported outlandish claim.

Kerry makes the argument that Israel will face new, and intensified, boycott pressure if peace talks fail, and he may be right. But by publicly discussing this possibility, he is providing fuel to the forces aligned against Israel (and keep in mind that most boycotters are not opposed to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, but instead to the idea of a country for the Jewish people).

So according to Jeffrey Goldberg– in parentheses– most boycotters are not opposed to Israel’s occupation. And he knows this… how? The arrogance suggests desperation.

But BDS’rs’ supposed opposition to “the idea of a country for the Jewish people” is now a hasbara truism. NYT columnist Roger Cohen doesn’t trust BDS’rs either; and he writes that the movement’s “hidden agenda” is the “end of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Cohen makes BDS sound sinister:

the hidden agenda of B.D.S., its unacceptable subterfuge: beguile, disguise and suffocate.

Why don’t these pro-Israel writers deal with BDS at face value? The assumption that everyone who supports BDS is on the same page and has an agenda of the “destruction of Israel”, is a worn-out talking point of the right, but it’s now being adopted as the norm by mainstream voices. The hasbara ignores the possibility that for many people, one state is a fallback position because they’ve simply lost faith, with good reason: they don’t think Israel will ever agree to two states.

Like Tom Friedman before him, Goldberg also adopts the view that BDS is not a Palestinian-led movement initiated by Palestinians. Friedman said Europeans were behind it and Goldberg says one reason he can’t trust BDS is because it doesn’t focus on boycotting any other countries. But why should Palestinians, so many of whom have no rights or citizenship, not exclusively target Israel?

The growing boycott movement is very much a Palestinian achievement. Hanan Ashrawi has an unequivocal article in Haaretz today with that thrust: The boycott is our Palestinian non-violent resistance.

She knocks the idea that BDS doesn’t serve the agenda of 2 staters right out the window:

Initiated by Palestinian civil society and sustained by solidarity groups and people of conscience worldwide, including within Israel itself, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is, in several respects, modelled after the long but efficacious struggle to end apartheid and institutional racism in South Africa. Its success in raising global awareness and prompting action within economic, cultural and academic spheres has gained traction incrementally.

This global movement represents an effective and responsible way of dealing with the escalation of Israeli violations, particularly its settlement activities, the confiscation of Palestinian land, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the military blockade of the Gaza Strip, and the annexation and isolation of Jerusalem. It also constitutes a proactive method of nonviolent resistance that is essential to the Palestinian struggle for equality and freedom. It provides individuals, groups and networks all over the world with an opportunity to engage effectively and to make a difference by means of individual and collective acts of social responsibility.

Such a solidarity movement empowers both Palestinians and their supporters and enables them to withstand the Israeli occupation’s oppressive measures and to resist in a responsible and nonviolent manner. It further demonstrates that the occupation is costly and creates an incentive for members of Israeli civil society to hold their government accountable and to call it to end such policies that are undermining their own national interests and destroying the two-state solution.

The idea that BDS’rs have a “hidden agenda” of anything other than what is stated by the campaign is one of those ad hominem attacks where you go after the “true feelings” or intentions of people in a movement. The only hidden agenda here is the other side’s effort to blame BDS for the conflict, and thereby remove responsibility for decades of violations against international law right from where it belongs, Israel.

Cohen claims the BDS campaign is ambiguous regarding one or two states, and he knows why:

Mellifluous talk of democracy and rights and justice masks the B.D.S. objective that is nothing other than the end of the Jewish state

Sorry, but all politics here are not about “the Jewish people” or “the Jewish state.” The choice of this framing (intentionally or not) is manipulative, it doesn’t leave any mental space for the idea that people of conscience (including Americans who are not naturally gungho on ethnic nationalism) might want to be engaged in the boycott of an ongoing, seemingly intractable cesspool, the occupation. The fact that Palestinians under occupation have no rights and no citizenship seems to have no bearing at all on the question of “hidden agenda”. No, the idea is positioned to validate a point, by invalidating us. And Goldberg doesn’t even address occupation as a main topic, it’s a parentheses. He also says:

But I find the idea of a modern-day economic boycott that targets Jews viscerally offensive.

BDS doesn’t target Jews. It targets a colonialist state that ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands of people from their land and continues to bulldoze their homes and destroy their villages. The fixation on “a Jewish state”and “targets Jews” is irrelevant to a great number of us. End the occupation. Israel is targeted because of its actions, and those are not “Jewish actions,” they are colonialist actions (and colonialism is so last century!).

So if you want two states, advocate for one Palestinians can accept, can actually live freely in. Go to Tel Aviv and tell them to give up East Jerusalem. Tell them to get out of  Ma’aleh Adumim (look at the map: the SodaStream settlement separates Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho, and it will keep doing that no matter how much land is swapped for it). And as Tom Friedman says, Israel will likely not agree to any of this. This is why many of us support one state, because we have no faith that the peace process will compel Israel to relinquish one dunam of land it’s conquered.

More of Goldberg’s mindreading:

 If the so-called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement had any targets other than Israel —  — then it might be possible to ascribe more benevolent intentions to its leaders.

Hanan Ashrawi explains that it has nothing to do with benevolence, and everything to do with opposing ongoing crimes against Palestinians: discrimination, ethnic cleansing, settlement of occupied territories:

Increasingly, individual states are delinking from the settlement colonial enterprise, whether at the bilateral and multilateral levels or in the public and private spheres. These steps are an implementation of policies and principles, as well as domestic and international law, and are intended to rescue the two-state solution in the face of Israel’s profoundly damaging policy of settlement expansion.

With this paradigm shift, the rules of engagement have changed. The citizens, states and governments of the world are no longer prepared to tolerate the Israeli government’s mad rush to create a “Greater Israel” or an apartheid system of occupation and discrimination. When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry alluded to this reality, rather than heeding the message, Israeli officials launched a hysterical campaign against the messenger.

No amount of spin or “hasbara” (however well-funded) will be able to counter such an expanding global movement. The overuse of the tired old mantra of “delegitimization” and anti-Israeli bias are disingenuous given the Israeli government’s persistent and systematic violations and flouting of international law and international humanitarian law. If Israel chooses to define itself solely through its occupation project of colonization and ethnic cleansing, then it alone bears the sole responsibility of its own “delegitimization.”

So, stop impugning the reputations of BDS supporters because of your own fears. There’s no requirement for a human rights struggle to take a political stance on one or two states. If you’re worried about the end of Israel’s Jewish majority, focus on a deal for a state Palestinians can accept and for heaven’s sakes try modeling it after a state you would accept for Israel (and nothing less). In short, quit dillydallying.

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F Cohen, Goldberg, Freidman and all the rest…I am not even interested in reading their drivel. “We must impose sanctions” on Israel says British MP” Stuart Littlewood February 9, 2014 21 Sir Gerald Kaufman, MP for Gorton, Manchester ”The time when we could condemn Israel and think that that was… Read more »

@ Annie,

When Dr. Hanan Ashrawi joins MW I’ll donate. She never failed to impress me.

Beguile, disguise, suffocate. Hello Mr Kettle. May I introduce you to mr pot? Re something visceral about boycotting a Jewish state. I remember being at a Palestine Solidarity meeting in London in 2001. The topic of a boycott came up. An elderly Jewish lady said that while she abhorred Zionism,… Read more »

BDS has finally started to roll over of its own inertia. Every action and reaction is now having the effect of advancing and broadcasting its just cause not least because of hacks like Freidman, Cohen, Goldberg etc.. who can’t complete a sentence which doesn’t ooze with double standards and entitlement.… Read more »

excellent piece from Annie Robbins. over the next few months hasbara will increase to combat the BDS movement: the BDSer’s have a ‘hidden agenda’ ‘unacceptable subterfuge’ to “end of Israel as a Jewish state” etc. etc. The only hidden agenda here is the other side’s effort to blame BDS for… Read more »