It’s About Settlements, Not BDS [ssba]

It’s About Settlements, Not BDS

Hiam Simon (Ameinu’s COO) and I responded to a false assertion that PPI supports BDS.  Both Dr. Scott David Lippe’s charge and our response were  published in our local New Jersey community weekly, The Jewish Standard, as letters to the editor.  This is most of our letter:   

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement was established in July 2005 by 171 Palestinian organizations to promote the general boycott of Israeli companies and companies doing business with Israel, the general boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, divestment from Israeli companies and companies doing business with Israel, and international sanctions against the State of Israel. For many years, Partners for Progressive Israel and its predecessor organizations have actively opposed this movement as a general attack on the Jewish state and the Israeli public.

But we don’t believe Dr. Lippe was particularly interested in investigating either our personal views in opposition to the BDS movement or those of Partners for Progressive Israel. He is interested in promoting a particular agenda in support of West Bank settlement activity. So let’s discuss this real agenda, and the substantive differences between us. Read More »

BDS on the Campus [ssba]

BDS on the Campus

A draft was submitted to the NY Jewish Week as entitled above. It was published as “BDS: The Legal Fights To Come.” Here’s a brief foretaste of this piece:

. . .  The hot spot of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, of course, is the college campus. BDS has been with us [for ten years], so why the sudden explosion of activism, especially on campuses?

. . .  One reason for what’s different in 2015 is that there is a right-wing Likud government in Israel, one that is tailor-made to exacerbate an already hot situation. Closer to home is the emergence on campuses of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which has become a vocal, well-organized, highly effective group on many campuses. SJP has focused much of its activity on attracting uninvolved students to BDS activism. The Anti-Defamation League reports that there are only 29 campuses on which there are unusually active SJP groups, but the number is growing. Almost every campus has some sort of BDS activity.

Yet at the same time, in terms of the impact of BDS activity, anti-Israel activity and anti-Semitism — always a complicated relationship — the overwhelming majority of Jewish students on campus feel, and indeed are, secure. It’s important to note that, with all the BDS activity and activism, not one university has adopted a divestment policy.  . . . Read More »

It’s Still the Occupation [ssba]

It’s Still the Occupation

The Jewish and Israeli worlds – and to some degree the America political world – are being roused to battle by a growing campaign highlighting the evils and dangers of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel). It is being termed the greatest danger since Hitler, one that threatens Israel with over $10 billion in losses a year (with a lot of questionable assumptions). While at the moment, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the US right wing are issuing ever more dire warnings about the purported dangers of the seemingly imminent Iran nuclear deal, they undoubtedly recognize that they have probably lost that fight, so BDS will clearly be the next big push.

Push for what? Why, to distract attention from the ongoing Occupation of the West Bank and the expansion of settlements. And it may be working, at least in certain quarters. It seems to be part of a larger strategy of delegitimization; not of Israel, as is being widely claimed, but, rather, of those, especially Jews, who oppose the Israeli rightwing and who are trying to stop it leading Israel towards isolation and disaster.

Necessary Disclaimer: There is no doubt that the Middle East in general, and Israel in particular, faces real and dangerous threats, some of which have been metastasizing to an alarming degree. A nuclear Iran, worldwide anti-semitism, the success of ISIS, the failure of Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Libya as states with no solution in sight; all of these are genuine crises, and some are causing far more immediate death and destruction in the short term. So why am I and others pushing for settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the face of all these? No one seriously believes that such a mutually-agreed on settlement will stop ISIS, Iran, or the Arab civil wars in their tracks. Read More »

Economic Warfare and Economic Pressure [ssba]

Economic Warfare and Economic Pressure

This is the first of a series of articles dealing with the subject of BDS. The others will in turn be dedicated to boycotts, divestment, and sanctions as means of economic warfare and/or pressure. This article deals with the overall subject.

Economic warfare is largely a twentieth-century phenomenon invented alongside collective security as a means of keeping international peace and avoiding warfare by punishing international outlaws. Sanctions are governmental trade or financial restrictions imposed to coerce another government into changing an internal or external policy that is deemed objectionable. Often they are used to signal disapproval of another government’s policies short of going to war. They are the most effective when more comprehensive, both in terms of governments applying them and the number of measures implemented. It was with the creation of the League of Nations in 1920 that economic sanctions first had the potential to become effective as the League could impose them against violators of international peace, as it did against Italy in 1935 after Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia). The sanctions failed to deter Italy because (inexplicably) they did not include a prohibition against oil sales. Read More »

Noam Sheizaf on those Three Noisy Letters, BDS [ssba]

Noam Sheizaf on those Three Noisy Letters, BDS

Noam Sheizaf of +972 Magazine

Our teleconference with Noam Sheizaf of +972 Magazine focused on the BDS Movement and boycotts in general. Noam is one of my favorite commentators on the topic because of his increasingly rare ability to discuss the BDS Movement (note the capital “m” here) and “b”, “d”, and “s” as tactics soberly and without positively identifying with the Movement or the tactics. It is this aspect of his presentation that is especially useful in understanding the Israeli discourse on boycotts.

Noam acknowledges that certain elements within the BDS Movement disregard his identity as an Israeli and rob him of his right to a national home. He does not deny that many of its aims are too far reaching. However, he recognizes its place in the anti-occupation struggle. More importantly, he recognizes the ability of boycotts, divestments, and sanctions to end the occupation. Their successes must be applauded and their failures must be scrutinized and corrected. If these tactics are too radical, what are the alternatives?

Listen to the presentation and develop your own opinions:

Illinois Boycott Law is Quietly Erasing Israel’s Green Line [ssba]

Illinois Boycott Law is Quietly Erasing Israel’s Green Line

Illinois legislators have initiated what could be a dangerous new trend in anti-boycott legislation. The proposed law, tucked away discreetly in an amendment to Senate Bill 1761, stipulates that the Illinois state pension system must withdraw money from any company that boycotts Israel or supports a boycott. Perhaps even worse, the bill specifies that boycotting the State of Israel includes “companies based in the State of Israel or in territories controlled by the State of Israel.”

The bill works something like this: Let’s say that Hewlett-Packard has caved to the BDS movement’s call to cease the transfer of products or services to the West Bank. The vast network of funds within the Illinois pension system would then be withdrawn from HP and reinvested elsewhere. I struggle to think of another political issue that would be handled this way.

Read More »

Conversation with Israel and Palestine: Gaby Lasky on Anti-Boycott Law [ssba]

Conversation with Israel and Palestine: Gaby Lasky on Anti-Boycott Law

Partners for Progressive Israel had a fascinating conversation Sunday with Gaby Lasky. Lasky is a civil rights attorney and a Meretz representative to the Tel Aviv city council. She is a former secretary-general of Peace Now and specializes in freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate. In 2012, she was honored with the Emil Grunzweig Award for Human Rights by ACRI (the Association for Civil Rights in Israel).

Over the years, Gaby Lasky represented many high profile cases and served as legal counsel to environmental, social and anti-Occupation protest movements. She represented Mahsom Watch, B’tselem, and the latest Gush Shalom petition against the anti-boycott law.

Talking about Israel: My disappointment with JTS panel [ssba]

Talking about Israel: My disappointment with JTS panel

First, I want to salute the Jewish Theological Seminary for organizing and hosting this event at its Manhattan campus, and for streaming it live on the Web.  It’s important to have this kind of conversation about how to talk about Israel.  But I continue to be frustrated that mainstream speakers on Jewish issues are ill-informed on the details of recent history, that the critical sequence of events which undermined the peace process are not discussed.

And so the right-wing trope that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected peace with Israel, presented here by Jonathan Tobin (a former editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent who now is an editor at Commentary magazine), goes unchallenged as a consensus Jewish understanding.  This misreading of recent history persuades a majority of Jews that peace is not possible at this time, because there supposedly is no Palestinian partner.

The other panelists did mention how this negativity affects the debate — with dovish, liberal or left-wing Jews being more hopeful on the possibility of “peace in our lifetime,” than those on the right.  But they did not challenge him on the facts; Tobin is wrong in asserting that the Palestinians rejected peace in 2000, 2008 and again last year. Read More »