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.

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

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times