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How BDS Gets Israel Wrong, and Vice-Versa

Jan. 30 2018

The recent decision by the Israeli government to deny entry to the country to representatives of organizations dedicated to boycotting it has sparked a fair amount of controversy. To Haviv Rettig Gur, these measures are a product more of grandstanding by some Israeli politicians than of any real strategy to combat the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS). Moreover, he writes, BDS is bound to fail because its premise is based on a misunderstanding of what motivates Israelis:

Some of the [BDS] movement is rather openly and bluntly bigoted against Jews and Israel. Some of it is made up of well-meaning liberals at a loss for how else to aid the Palestinians in their plight. And some, as with all political movements, is a mix of well-meaning empathy and unexamined prejudice. . . . [Its supporters] seek to affect Israelis’ behavior through boycotts and sanctions, but have no clear sense of why Israelis behave as they do in the first place—and thus of what sorts of pressure might be required to change that behavior.

They do not know that most Israelis back, in principle, withdrawal and separation from the Palestinians, or that since the second intifada that began in 2000, most Israelis no longer believe that Palestinian politics can reciprocate such an Israeli withdrawal with peace. That is, they don’t know that Israelis oppose withdrawal because they believe the vacuum they leave behind will be filled by the likes of Hamas, Hizballah, or Islamic State. . . .

Most Israelis believe their children’s lives are literally and directly endangered by the Palestinians’ liberation—far more endangered by that liberation than by the continued low-level conflict required to maintain the occupation. No amount of diplomatic shuttling . . . is likely to make a dent in that mainstream Israeli fear, which is constantly bolstered and validated by the rhetoric and actions of Hamas and other mainstream Palestinian groups, as well as the experience of the 2005 Gaza withdrawal. . . .

If . . . Israelis believe their children’s safety is on the line, what possible effect can an economic boycott have? Would any BDS activist risk his own children’s safety to escape someone else’s boycott? This, for Israelis, is the damning truth behind BDS. . . . Average Israelis, [for their part], mostly hear about BDS from their own politicians, since these boycotters do not engage Israelis and so have no control over how their efforts are being presented to the targets of their ire.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Israeli Security

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen