Thursday, January 21, 2016

Nothing is 100 Percent

Nothing is 100 percent. No person is totally good or totally bad, nor is any action. We all wind up contributing to things that we would not choose to support.  By the time I had breakfast this morning, I had supported sweatshops where the sheets on which I slept were sewn and left a significant carbon footprint by its transportation to the store where I shop. Global warming is a product of living.

Politicians love this aspect of being able to find an alternative argument to any action or policy that does not benefit their cause. This intertwining of good and bad in everything we do means that opponents can always find enough flaws in our good efforts to bring us to inaction.  When we call Israel to cease its abusive treatment of non-Jews both within its walls and beyond, its defenders accuse us of ignoring all the good there is about Israel, and they are right.

Israel does protect the freedom of its press, holds open elections, has developed high-tech medical procedures and engineering systems. Israel has established a land of opportunity… at least for Jews.   

For these reasons, the United States has been the patron saint of Israel for decades. However, Lawrence Davidson points out that the popular reasons for supporting Israel are not the whole story:

The common given reasons are suspect. It is not because the two countries have overlapping interest. The US seeks stability in the Middle East and Israel is constantly making things unstable (mostly by practicing ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, illegally colonizing conquered lands and launching massive assaults against its neighbors). Nor as is often claimed, is the alliance based on “shared Western values”.  The US long ago outlawed racial, ethnic and religious discrimination in the public sphere. In Israel, religious-based discrimination is the law. The Zionist state’s values in this regard are the opposite of those of the United States.[i]

For these reasons, I support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) non-violent movement, which has gained much more traction outside the US than here. Our presidential candidates love cast dispersions on BDS. By doing so, they not only gain praise, it makes them sound as though they are on top of the Israel/Palestine situation and would probably cost them very few votes, if any. 

Jeb Bush, “On day one I will work with the next attorney-general to stop the BDS movement.”

Ted Cruz, “BDS is premised on a lie and it is anti-Semitism, plain and simple.”

Marco Rubio, “This BDS coalition of the radical left thinks it has discovered a clever, politically correct way to advocate Israel’s destruction.”

Hillary Clinton, “We need to make countering BDS a priority.”

Marc Ellis, Jewish scholar and activist, finds such caricature amusing:

The Knesset anti-BDS solutions are becoming more and more bizarre. First they try to stamp BDS out by waving the magic wand of anti-Semitism around the world.  Then they propose to mobilize Jews and everyone else that counts politically to rise up because BDS wants to destroy Israel. Even supporters of Israel should ask: Can these strategies succeed when the world is aware that an entire people are being ghettoized by Israel.[ii]

I have been an anti-Zionist for almost thirty years. I move in those circles, read anti-Zionist books, attend conferences, study documentaries, subscribe to anti-Zionist magazines, have hundreds of anti-Zionist friends and I have never, ever heard anyone talk about wanting to destroy Israel or “push all the Jews into the sea. No one wants that to happen.  What they do want is for Israel to become a democratic nation committed to living in peace with all its citizens and its neighbors. That cannot happen as long as Israel insists upon being a Jewish state.  

I support BDS, not because it is perfect, but because it is the best hope I know of to pressure Israel into living by the rules that respect liberty and justice for all like any other nation claiming to be a democracy.

BDS is not perfect. As it exposes Israel’s underside, it inevitably feeds to latent anti-Semitism. It hurts some innocent people along the way and disrupts the social unity in Israel and its critics.  

But, having said that, I support BDS because it works.

During the Gaza war in the summer of 2014, dock workers in the Port of Oakland refused to unload cargo from an Israeli ship. That same summer the Presbyterian Church passed a divestment resolution that pulled millions of dollars from companies profiting from the occupation. [This summer, the Methodists joined the Presbyterians and voted to withdraw their investments from five major Israeli banks for divestment]. Last April, the British bank Barclays dumped its holdings of Elbit Systems and the Danish bank Merkur terminated its contract with G4S.  The European Union is about to start “slapping labels on products produced in Israeli settlements.”[iii]

And what do the supporters of BDS want?  At least three things: To end the occupation. To give Palestinian citizens within Israel equal rights and protection, and to respect the right of refugees to return to their homes. Is that enough?  No. But it would bring hope to the Palestinians and peace to Israel.  


It’s not perfect. I wish it were 100%.  But it is enough to get Israel’s attention and cause anxiety in the Knesset for its failure to stem the effects of BDS. Hopefully Israel will get the message: Join the nations of civilized people or become even more isolated.

Thomas Are
January 21, 2016

[i] Lawrence Davidson, BDS in the crosshairs of US Presidential Candidates.
[ii] Marc Ellis, The (Jewish)) Civil War Heats Up. Sort of., Mondoweiss,  January 1, 2016.
[iii] Mondoweiss, An Open Letter to Dan Rabinowitz: Let’s Get our Facts Straight about BDS, November, 2015.
My note: G4S and Elbit Systems provide security equipment to Israeli prisons at which political prisoners are held without trial and subjected to human rights abuse, including torture.
[iv] Jack Moore, Foreign Investment in Israel Drops by 50%. Newsweek, June 25, 2015.