One of the most common challenges to the Divest-nista crowd is why they don’t call and march for divestment against Sudan, China, Libya or any of the totalitarian dictatorships whose daily human rights abuses dwarf anything Israel could have possibly done over the course of 60 years.
Generally, their first response is to ignore the question and move onto their next accusations (real or imagined) against Israel, hoping that no one will peek behind the curtain. While such stonewalling can work for a while, those trying to sell BDS to the general public must eventually explain the apparent double standard whereby Israel must be punished while its dictatorial critics are left alone. Some of the more easily dismissed excuses I’ve seen from US-based divestniks include:
- Israel is a democracy and thus our protests can have an impact there (ignoring the obvious corollary that the best way to avoid the wrath of these alleged “human rights” champions is to be a dictatorship)
- Israel is an ally of the US, and thus as Americans we are obliged to criticize our friends more than our foes (ignoring the obvious question as to why this hostility does not extend to other US allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt)
- “Israel receives [pick your sum, ranging from three-billion to eleventy-jillion dollars] in US aid so as a US citizen it’s the use of my tax dollars I’m protesting” (never specifying why a country like Egypt, which receives 2/3 as much US aid as Israel – a formula calculated at Camp David decades ago – receives 0% rather than 66% of the hostility the boycotters direct against Israel).
Clearly, these are just excuses or rationalizations for people who have a political agenda (hostility towards the Jewish state) who feel a need to dress up their attitudes in the ill-fitting garments of legitimate principle. Yet even if such hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue, the excuses BDSers use to explain their obvious double standards only stretches so thin, often with embarrassing results.
My favorite example of over-reach in an effort to explain away the double standard was the UK academic boycotters who claimed their effort to sanction Israeli universities would be particularly effective because of the Jews unique love and respect for learning. Needless to say, this implied dissing of the scholarly passions of non-Jewish societies did not go over well with the boycotters third-worlder constituency.
Within this rickety pile of excuses, the only one that is backed by enough fact to not be immediately dismissed as a smoke screen is the claim that the call for boycotting Israel welled up from the Palestinians themselves in the form of a 2002 boycott call from the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (or PACBI). Because the PACBI BDS call (unlike Hampshire College or TIAA-CREF divestment hoaxes) actually exists, poking holes in this argument takes a little more effort. But not much…