Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Peter Beinart Backs Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Against Israel

Beinart writes at yesterday's New York Times, "To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements":
In 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called the settlement of Ariel, which stretches deep into the West Bank, “the heart of our country.” Through its pro-settler policies, Israel is forging one political entity between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea — an entity of dubious democratic legitimacy, given that millions of West Bank Palestinians are barred from citizenship and the right to vote in the state that controls their lives.

In response, many Palestinians and their supporters have initiated a global campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.), which calls not only for boycotting all Israeli products and ending the occupation of the West Bank but also demands the right of millions of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes — an agenda that, if fulfilled, could dismantle Israel as a Jewish state.

The Israeli government and the B.D.S. movement are promoting radically different one-state visions, but together, they are sweeping the two-state solution into history’s dustbin.

It’s time for a counteroffensive — a campaign to fortify the boundary that keeps alive the hope of a Jewish democratic state alongside a Palestinian one. And that counteroffensive must begin with language.

Jewish hawks often refer to the territory beyond the green line by the biblical names Judea and Samaria, thereby suggesting that it was, and always will be, Jewish land. Almost everyone else, including this paper, calls it the West Bank.

But both names mislead. “Judea and Samaria” implies that the most important thing about the land is its biblical lineage; “West Bank” implies that the most important thing about the land is its relationship to the Kingdom of Jordan next door. After all, it was only after Jordan conquered the territory in 1948 that it coined the term “West Bank” to distinguish it from the rest of the kingdom, which falls on the Jordan River’s east bank. Since Jordan no longer controls the land, “West Bank” is an anachronism. It says nothing meaningful about the territory today.

Instead, we should call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.” The phrase suggests that there are today two Israels: a flawed but genuine democracy within the green line and an ethnically-based nondemocracy beyond it. It counters efforts by Israel’s leaders to use the legitimacy of democratic Israel to legitimize the occupation and by Israel’s adversaries to use the illegitimacy of the occupation to delegitimize democratic Israel.

Having made that rhetorical distinction, American Jews should seek every opportunity to reinforce it. We should lobby to exclude settler-produced goods from America’s free-trade deal with Israel. We should push to end Internal Revenue Service policies that allow Americans to make tax-deductible gifts to settler charities. Every time an American newspaper calls Israel a democracy, we should urge it to include the caveat: only within the green line.

But a settlement boycott is not enough. It must be paired with an equally vigorous embrace of democratic Israel. We should spend money we’re not spending on settler goods on those produced within the green line. We should oppose efforts to divest from all Israeli companies with the same intensity with which we support efforts to divest from companies in the settlements: call it Zionist B.D.S.

Supporters of the current B.D.S. movement will argue that the distinction between democratic and nondemocratic Israel is artificial. After all, many companies profit from the occupation without being based on occupied land. Why shouldn’t we boycott them, too? The answer is that boycotting anything inside the green line invites ambiguity about the boycott’s ultimate goal — whether it seeks to end Israel’s occupation or Israel’s existence.

For their part, American Jewish organizations might argue that it is unfair to punish Israeli settlements when there are worse human rights offenses in the world and when Palestinians still commit gruesome terrorist acts. But settlements need not constitute the world’s worst human rights abuse in order to be worth boycotting. After all, numerous American cities and organizations boycotted Arizona after it passed a draconian immigration law in 2010.

The relevant question is not “Are there worse offenders?” but rather, “Is there systematic oppression that a boycott might help relieve?” That Israel systematically oppresses West Bank Palestinians has been acknowledged even by the former Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, who have warned that Israel’s continued rule there could eventually lead to a South African-style apartheid system.

Boycotts could help to change that. Already, prominent Israeli writers like David Grossman, Amos Oz and A. B. Yehoshua have refused to visit the settlement of Ariel. We should support their efforts because persuading companies and people to begin leaving nondemocratic Israel, instead of continuing to flock there, is crucial to keeping the possibility of a two-state solution alive.
I think the phrase "useful idiot" was invented for people like Beinart.

I remember a few years ago Beinart emerged on the scene with some writings on foreign policy (although I can't recall the titles of his books, which should tell you something). And now apparently he's a professor at the City University of New York. I wouldn't recommend him to my students. Beinart's giving aid and comfort to Israel's enemies. Recall that I'm reading Professor Michael Curtis' new book, Should Israel Exist?: A Sovereign Nation Under Attack by the International Community. Let me refer readers to Chapter 9, "The Mufti of Jerusalem and the Nazis." The Mufti was Haj Amin al-Husseini, an Arab nationalist who worked with Adolf Hiter and top leaders of the Nazi regime to develop Germany's policy on the Middle East and the Jews. One key policy proposed was a Jewish boycott. In the 1930s, the Mufti was the lead organizer of Palestinian Arab campaigns of assassination and terrorism against British forces and the Jews in the area of Palestine. After World War II, Husseini was the head of the Arab High Committee in Palestine that imposed an economic boycott on Jewish companies, industry, and trade throughout Palestine. According to Curtis, "The Arab League in 1948 formerly organized a boycott, which had begun more informally three years earlier and had preceded the establishment of Israel, not only of Israeli companies and products, but also of those from other countries maintaining economic relations with or who were perceived to be supporting Israel." Curtis notes that elements of the "boycott is still in existence" today and it costs Israel "considerable amounts of finance in terms of lost markets and economic problems" (p. 149). (The boycott was the economic arm of the Arab state strategy that came to a head in the Arab's war of aggression against the new state of Israel in 1948 --- and it's thus in fact a central cause of the current conflict in the Middle East today.)

Folks should get a hold of Curtis's book --- it's a must-read history, vital for the intellectual and political defense of Israel. And you can see why: The idiot Beinart is attempting to make distinctions between this and that side of the Green Line where none exist. The West Bank territories do not belong to Arab states or the so-called Palestinians. These are not "occupied territories." The lands were delineated and internationally accepted by the 1948 partition plan: "there was never an international border on the Green Line..." Beinart is involved in helping to propagate a lie that works to further the delegitimation program of the global left's Israel extermination industry. He should be ashamed of himself.

In any case, Beinart has a new book out, The Crisis of Zionism. I haven't read it but Sol Stern has a review at Commentary, "Beinart the Unwise."

I'll have more later.

In the meantime, keep pushing back against the assholes. This is getting ridiculous.