Israel's flacks in Washington

U.S. scholars are misguided in boycotting Israel
By Editorial Board
Washington Post, 2013-12-22

[There are at least two tactics Israel’s defenders use to dismiss criticism:
First, they ask
“Why are you picking on Israel,
when there is so much else evil in the world?”
Second, they deny that Israel has achieved its territorial aims by force,
while they claim that others are trying to use force,
military, political, or economic, against Israel.
This editorial demonstrates both tactics.]

a group of about 5,000 scholars devoted to
the interdisciplinary study of U.S. culture and history,
has called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
The association held a vote on a resolution
seeking the boycott as a way to protest
Israeli “state policies that violate human rights” of Palestinians,
including academic freedom for scholars and students.
The resolution drew support of
two-thirds of the 1,252 association members who voted.
The boycott is largely symbolic; it’s also terribly misguided.

The most difficult thing to swallow about the resolution
is how utterly narrow-minded it seems.
Was the resolution written on a computer manufactured in China,
one of the most repressive regimes on the planet?
[Is the Washington Post dependent on Jewish money for its financial success?]
Did its authors pause to consider China’s incarceration of writers and scholars
who dare to think and speak out for freedom,
or the ethnic groups in China persecuted for refusing to heel to the Beijing masters?
[Does the United States support China economically,
by giving them three billion dollars a year in foreign aid?]

Did they give any thought to what’s happened lately to freedom in Russia,
won at enormous cost in a Cold War that lasted more than four decades?
[Does the United States support Russia diplomatically,
by vetoing in the Security Council resolutions which Russia opposes?]

Does it disturb the scholars that in today’s Russia,
members of a girl band performing a protest against the Kremlin
could be thrown into a cold and miserable prison for two years,
or that civil society organizations are being systematically shuttered?
[Well, perhaps so.
But the fundamental and essential difference is that
without the support of the United States
Israel would not have been able to capture the West Bank in the first place,
and would not be able to continue to hold onto it, 46 years after the 1967 war.]

Have the scholars overlooked the cries for help
from Cuban dissidents bravely standing up to the Castro brothers,
demanding freedoms —
and suffering beatings and arrest almost every week?
Do they condone the decision of a judge in Saudi Arabia
who has just sentenced a political activist to 300 lashes and four years in prison
for calling for a constitutional monarchy?

the United States bears far more responsibility for the misdeeds of Israel,
such as they are,
than it does for the misdeeds of other nations,
which have not received nearly the support from the U.S. that Israel has.
For some data in support of that fact,
see this May 2014 remark by U.S. SecDef Chuck Hagel.]

To focus a resolution on Israel and ignore these injustices is puzzling at best.
It just means that the U.S. clearly is far more culpable for the misdeeds of Israel
than it is for those of those other nations.]

It is also fundamentally wrong.
For all of its difficulties, including the wrenching, long conflict with the Palestinians,
Israel has become a lively and durable democracy.
There is more freedom to speak one’s mind and criticize the government
in front of the Knesset
than will be found in either Tiananmen Square or Red Square today —
and far more in Israeli universities than in academia elsewhere in the Middle East.

[Few will deny that Israel has many attractive features.
But this argument misses the point,
that the proposed sanctions can be averted
if Israel would take constructive steps to reach a reasonable compromise with the Palestinians.
If Israel did so,
would that action harm the attractive features of Israel listed by the Post?
If Israel, say, made the 1967 boundary the basis for negotiations on borders,
would that harm Israel's "lively and durable democracy"?
I don't see how it would.]

This is not to ignore the plight of the Palestinians.
They suffer indignity and human rights violations
for which Israel cannot escape responsibility.
[And the United States too,
for its unstinting support for Israel even under those circumstances.]

But a boycott is not the answer.
Progress toward a resolution of the conflict can be made
if leaders on both sides find the willpower to negotiate with each other
and accept that forceful methods — terrorism, violence and coercion —
lead only to more misery.
The American Studies Association would have more impact
by finding a way to engage deeply with Israelis and Palestinians,
perhaps with scholarly conferences and exchanges,
rather than by punishing Israel with a boycott.

[Israel has demonstrated conclusively, I believe,
by its post-1967 behavior,
that nothing will stop its settlement of the West Bank with Jewish settlers
as long as the United States supports it.]

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