Some 300 professors and intellectuals—among them Peter Beinart and Todd Gitlin—signed an October open letter in the New York Review of Books, opposing a boycott of Israel within the pre-June 1967 armistice lines but endorsing a boycott of territories occupied after the Six-Day War. The letter provoked an indignant response, signed by Angela Davis, Richard Falk, Rashid Khalidi, Alice Walker, and some 120 others, arguing that the first letter, “by omitting Israel’s other serious violations of international law, . . . fails the moral-consistency test.” To the critics, the only reasonable approach is to boycott Israel altogether. Elliott Abrams takes a look at the first and ostensibly more “pro-Israel” of the two statements:
Note the tricky language in this letter, from people who no doubt think they are about the most honorable and principled folks in the land. At one point they refer to “entities [that is, settlements] in the West Bank.” But everywhere else in the letter they refer to Israel “as defined by its June 4, 1967 borders,” to the “Occupied Territories,” and to places “outside the 1949 Green Line.” The difference between those latter formulations and “the West Bank” is huge: it is Jerusalem. Fairly read, this letter calls for boycotts of goods and services from east Jerusalem, including the old Jewish Quarter. It calls for removing tax exemptions from any charity that, for example, spends money on the Western Wall, a synagogue in the Old City, or on archeology in the City of David digs—or any other place in what used to be Jordanian-occupied Jerusalem.
But of course they are all pro-Israel, you see; they “oppose an economic, political, or cultural boycott of Israel itself.” Small problem: their version of “Israel itself” does not include its historical and political capital, Jerusalem.
There is one other key point to make about this letter. In it, and in the view of the world apparently held by its signers, there are no Palestinians—or at least no Palestinians who are grown-ups, who can act, who are able to make decisions. . . . The letter suggests that a boycott may “help persuade the Israeli electorate to reject the costly and wrongheaded settlement enterprise and get serious about a two-state solution.” What’s to make the Palestinians “get serious about a two-state solution?” That thought never seems to strike the authors.
More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, Peter Beinart, Rashid Khalidi, West Bank