Autumn Updates

Time to catch up on a couple of stories from earlier this year.

Starting with the forever-coming, but never-arriving “cultural boycott,” I’ve already pointed out that the spillover effect of Elvis Costello’s decision to ditch his Israeli fans didn’t seem to extend to his own bedroom (Costello’s wife Diana Krall played Israel over the summer). An astute Divest This reader provided the best summation of the whole effort to get rockers to boycott the Jewish state coming from Johnny Lydon (aka the Sex Pistol’s Johnny Rotten) who, while defying boycott calls and playing Israel, let it be known that: “Belief is a very personal thing, but when someone inflicts their view on other people, they’re a pig.”

Compare that short and peppy bit of truth-telling (or even Elton John’s one-sentence “We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.”) to Costello’s multi-page, mealy-mouthed explanation as to why screwing his Jewish fans amounts to an act of conscience. Let’s all hope that this leads to a Sex Pistol’s reunion (minus Sid, of course) at the next Superbowl.

Onto more serious matters, Dexter Van Zile (unsurprisingly) has provided the best follow-up to this summer’s Presbyterian divestment/Middle East debates. It’s on the long side (and well worth reading in its entirety), but in brief Dexter makes the case that this year’s excesses by anti-Israel activists within the church has finally awoken a new force – religious and lay leaders of several of the PCUSA’s largest urban Presbyteries – to the fact that the anti-Israel antics that have been allowed to run amok within the church are starting to take their toll on the reputation of not Israel but the Presbyterian Church itself.

It remains to be seen whether the dynamic of the last decade (whereby opponents of divestment within PCUSA only start to organize before a General Assembly whereas divestment supporters – and their enablers within the church bureaucracy – remain active continually between GAs) will change after this year’s conclave. Dexter sees cause for hope, but I’m withholding judgment until I see if the institutions created to build a fair case for church involvement in the Middle East conflict are allowed to do their job or (as in previous attempts to balance church policies) are hijacked once again by anti-Israel zealots for their own purposes.

Finally, after Spring’s antics at Berkeley, it’s a safe assumption that BDS will focus its efforts on student governments this year. Some of the folks who successfully organized against the Berkeley divestment vote are posting their story at Bluetruth. Again, it’s a longer (three-part) piece with part 1 and part 2 already posted. Well worth reading in its entirety. [UPDATE: Part 3 is up now – read it all.]

With school just getting started, supporters of Israel should assume that attempts to subvert student government for the narrow purposes of BDS are already underway and should plan, organize and act accordingly.

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18 Responses to Autumn Updates

  1. Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    US actors now supporting Israeli boycott (repeat Israeli boycott) of West Bank theater;

  2. Jon September 7, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    As I've stated before, it gives me no pleasure that some people are reacting to BDS by trying to enact their own counter-boycotts. This extends to efforts by the Israeli government to enact laws trying to punish those to campaign to get the world to boycott the Jewish state.

    As understandable as these reactions might be on an emotional level, they tend to justify acts of boycott and divestment which (from my point of view) should only be enacted under extreme circumstances where they might have practical results (beyond making the boycotters feel good).

    More importantly, BDS itself (for all its protests of being about “peace”) in fact exists to drive a wedge between communities. This is why BDSers have no problem creating divisions within churches, cities, co-ops, etc. because division is what they're all about. It also explains why BDS targets exactly those institutions trying to bring Arabs and Jews together.

    So people boycotting Palestinian institutions strikes me as another BDS victory, given that it accomplished a key (if unstated) BDS goal of making peace that much less likely.

  3. Fred September 7, 2010 at 8:21 pm #

    “This extends to efforts by the Israeli government to enact laws trying to punish those to campaign to get the world to boycott the Jewish state” Not exactly a democracy is it?

    “…acts of boycott and divestment which (from my point of view) should only be enacted under extreme circumstances”. The international community considers the moving in of civilians into occupied territories as illegal. Apparently this is a minor detail in your distorted view of the world and not an “extreme circumstance”.

    “More importantly, BDS itself (for all its protests of being about “peace”) in fact exists to drive a wedge between communities.” Excuse me but who are you to judge a movement comprised of many individuals of all backgrounds, races, nationalities, religions, etc of “existing to drive a wedge between communities”? Speaking of “wedges” hasn't Israel driven many many wedges in the Palestinians communities by building illegal and immoral settlements (not to mention the separation wall)? Have you seen how families and communities have been destroyed by Israel's settlements?

    “So people boycotting Palestinian institutions strikes me as another BDS victory…”

    A cultural center in the settlement of Ariel in the West bank is not a Palestinian institution.

    Hiding behind your words will not make the BDSers go away, having a semblance of justice in this conflict will. Stop defending the indefensible.

  4. Jon September 7, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    Actually, Fred, the anti-boycott motion is being debated by a democratically elected body and, if passed, will be subject to judicial review like other Israeli laws (i.e., like laws passed in any democracy). I would prefer that such a motion not get passed, but if it does this would represent just another example of a democracy that I am not a part of doing things I think they shouldn’t (something that happens in the democracy I belong to all the time).

    In comparison, how many people got to vote to participate in the Arab boycott of Israel (in effect since 1921)? And what say did the Palestinian Dentists Association have in joining or not joining the 2005 “Boycott Call by Palestinian Civil Society” the BDSers are so fond of citing (given that the “first organization among equals” that signed on was Hamas)? As a matter of fact, isn’t the only victory BDS has ever had in this country after ten years of trying (the Olympia Co-op) the result of a sleazy backroom deal? Not exactly a democratic movement, is it?

    I’ve already pointed out the legal and historic arguments I’ve made regarding the status of the West Bank and Gaza in previous comments. You are free to comment on those arguments, although you are not free to assume you can throw around accusations of illegality as though they were unquestionable facts just because they have become sacred totems for you and your fellow BDSers.

    As for hoping BDS will go away: far from it! If only the entire Israel-hating world would sign up to a tactic that has proven to be this counter-productive, life would be a breeze. In fact, I don’t blog about this topic because it’s difficult (I’m far too lazy for that). I blog about it because it’s just too easy to chronicle one BDS banana peel pratfall after another.

    Keep up the great work!

  5. Fred September 7, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    Jon you have not made one argument (let alone a valid argument) for building settlements in occupied territories.

  6. DrMike September 7, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    Fred: if BDS was only about settlements, then that would be a discussion worth having. But it's not only about settlements. It's about Tel Aviv as much as about Ariel. It's about delegitimizing the existence of a Jewish state of Israel within any boundaries at all.
    After all, as Jon pointed out, the first group to sign on to the boycott call was Hamas. Check out their charter when you have a moment.

    Let's put it this way:
    if Israel completely withdrew to the 1949 armistice lines tomorrow, would you then agree that there is no need for tactics such as boycotts, divestment and sanctions? If so, great! Welcome to the world of those who accept the Jewish people's right to national self-determination.
    if not, then what does it matter what kind of arguments Jon, or I, or anyone else makes as far as settlements? And unfortunately, the leaders of the BDS movement clearly and unequivocally state that their demands do not end with the removal of all of the settlements. Their demands end with the removal of the Jewish state.
    Lots of Israelis support an end to the settlements. Only a fringe minority of Jewish Israelis call for their own national rights to be eradicated.
    So please let us how YOU define a “semblance of justice” and please compare that with the BDS movement.

  7. Fred September 7, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    DrMike If Israel agrees to

    1. Withdraws to the 67 borders including some equitable land swaps

    2. Share Jerusalem

    3. Some monetary compensation for the refugees (NOT a right of return for all refugees)

    this conflict will end.

    It is unfortunate and sad that you characterize BDSers as wanting to “deligitimize the existence of a Jewish State of Israel” because it is absolutely untrue. It is your tactic, and that of many other pro Israeli groups, to silence any and all criticism of Israel. For too long critics of Israel have been unfairly branded as 1. antisemitic, or 2. self hating Jews, or 3. lacking in understanding of Israel's security concerns.

    Unfortunately, the ruling government in Israel is comprised of many elements that have no interest in the items outlined above and believe that the land of Israel should extend from the river to the sea. Bibi would not even bring himself to utter the words “2 states for 2 people” until last year after Obama's speech in Cairo. Israel's representative to the international community, the settler Lieberman, is a bigot that has no interest in genuine peace.

    The BDS movement, and organizations such as Hamas did not come to being because they just want to destroy Israel. They are here because Israel is occupying the Palestinians, Israel has built illegal/immoral settlements in these occupied lands, and Israel has done this with impunity and defiance and with no regard for the Palestinians, and because Israel will cry antisemitism and victimhood every time these issues are raised.

    The Palestinians are not responsible for the holocaust. The holocaust was a dark and shameful chapter in the history of mankind, but it is high time Israel stop abusing the events of 60 years ago to justify its shameful behavior towards the Palestinians.

    This is how I define justice Dr Mike: 2 states for 2 peoples, not saying that settlements are not good and then supporting a government that continually expands them.

  8. Jen September 8, 2010 at 3:20 am #

    It's curious how pro-BDS visitors keep coming here and trying to argue about philosophies of the history of the Middle East, instead of addressing the particular facts you've presented about the topic that you created this site to discuss.

    You do great work here, Jon. L'shana tova to you (and everyone else).

  9. Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 4:21 am #

    Visit and see the names of over 150 theater and film professionals in the US and the UK who support the Israeli boycott of the center in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

    A truly impressive list including many Jews.

  10. Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 4:31 am #

    Supporters of this boycott include Ed Asner, Stephen Sondheim, Cynthia Nixon, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Tilley,Mandy Patinkin, and many others.

  11. DrMike September 8, 2010 at 5:14 am #


    Your actual position is far closer to that of many Israel supporters (including myself), and much further away from the BDS movement, than you might realize.

    If your position was shared by the BDS movement, and by anti-Israel groups on campuses, then I would be delighted. Unfortunately, it is not. For example, see or try

    Or, as I suggested, go to a meeting of BDS organizers on or off campus, stand up and say that you oppose the settlements– but you also support 2 states for two peoples and you do NOT support a “right” of return for all refugees. (those two positions also directly contradict the PA leadership that refuses to accept Israel as the state of the Jewish people, and insists on a non-negotiable “right' of return).

    Then be prepared to run like hell.

  12. Jon September 8, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    The references below deal with legal matters related to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza. Suffice to say that, despite the holy intonation of “The Occupation” as the source of all things evil in the Middle East (if not the world), that your opinion regarding international law remains just that: your opinion. So please identify it as such (unless you’re comfortable with all of us using comparable language, which means both Arab and Jewish towns anywhere in the region be referred to as “Settlements”).

    I am glad that you’ve listed your requirements for peace. As already pointed out, they do not reflect the demands of the BDS movement you are defending, but it’s good to know that individuals can make progress in matching their demands to reality. Sadly, your list is exactly what was on offer to Arafat at Camp David and not only did it not lead to peace, but it ended in war. Similarly, Israel’s end to “the Occupation” in Gaza once again led to war.

    If you pull back your lens beyond Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories (sorry, I couldn’t resist), I think you’ll find the answer to this puzzle. War in the region exists because the nations of the region have gone from monarch and oligarchs to military dictatorships now vying with religious fanatics for control of the region and its resources. For these nations, war is not terrible thing (as it is for you and I), especially since it is a proxy war which means others have to do the killing and dying.

    To date, this fundamental dynamic has never been addressed in any peace negotiation or in any “humanitarian” activities trying to end the struggle. Instead, propaganda campaigns like BDS contribute to the war effort by condemning one party and one party only, while ignoring whitewashing the true cases of the conflict. When BDS starts to target the real sources of suffering, then it can be termed a real “peace movement,” not before.

  13. Jon September 8, 2010 at 10:55 am #

    I apologize. Apparently the discussion of a West Bank theater boycott referred to the boycott of an Israeli theater, not a Palestinian one (no idea how that story slipped by me):

    Anyway, I've already said my piece(s) regarding cutural boycotts of anyone by anyone, and please forgive me if the notion of Ed Asner striking a moral pose regarding not appearing in a theater he'd never travel to anyway seems lame beyond belief.

    As the story above points out, the boycott is following the familiar trajectory of a petition, followed by a counter-petition, condemnation and embarce of the Israeli cultural organization for standing up to bullying.

    Indeed, if the Ariel theater is now being sold out because of the actions of the boycotters, that represents a lot more Jews voting with their wallets than a few dozen Americans taking a stand that will never cost them anything.

  14. Fred September 8, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    Jon: if we are now going to argue whether Israel does or does not occupy the West Bank or whether the settlements are illegal or not then we are not moving forward but regressing.

    Here are just a few links related to the illegality of the settlements:

    Amnesty International



    UN resolutions

    Please pay particular attention to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) opinion, lengthy but worth the read.

  15. Jon September 8, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    It never dawned on me that not accepting your interpretation was a step backwards.

    Anyway, no need to regress! You have your opinion on the legality or illegality of settlements backed up by your choice of sources and I have mine. Let's simply agree to disagree and to present complex issues of legality as open rather than settled (which they clearly are not).

    Now that that's behind us, I'm curious about the formula you want to use to calculate reparations to Palestinians for 1948. One formula I've always recommended is to take the money owed to the million Jews who were kicked out of the Arab world in 1948 (and robbed of their posessions on the way out) and multiply that by .78 (since the largest number of refuggees I've ever heard of is 780,000 – although that number may have gone up again last week).

    So, help me out Fred, what number shall we use as the basis of this calculation, i.e., what do the Arabs owe the Jews for 1948?

  16. Fred September 8, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    No Jon the issue of the legality of settlements is not behind us.

    I presented you with links to numerous UN resolutions and the International Court of Justice while you have given me a couple of links to obscure blogs dealing with BDS.

    The UN resolutions and ICJ opinion linked above are based on international law and the 4th Geneva Convention.

    Or is it that the UN and the ICJ are filled with antisemites and/or self hating Jews who are determined to destroy Israel? Remember my comments about victimhood and entitlement? One set of rules for Israel and another for all others because, after all, we are the chosen people.

  17. Anonymous September 8, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    Hi Jon,

    I see you're going about your slanderous business in fine fettle as we head into Rosh Hashanah. Here's some new grist for your disinformation mill, courtesy of Mondoweiss:

    CARE USA drops board member over ties to Lev Leviev’s settlement building empire
    by Adam Horowitz on September 8, 2010 · 10

    Having connections to the settlements is really becoming a scarlet letter, isn't it? Adalah-NY reports that the international humantarian organization CARE USA has dropped a member of its board of directors over their relationship to Lev Leviev's Africa Israel which builds homes in West Bank settlements.

    From the Adalah-NY press release:

    A member of the board of directors of the leading international humanitarian aid organization CARE USA has taken a voluntary leave of absence from CARE’s board due to the involvement of his employer, Africa Israel, in Israeli settlement activities. The move last week came after a July 12 letter to the Atlanta-based non-profit by the rights group Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel that outlined Africa Israel’s settlement ties, followed by letters from Jews Say No, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) andCODEPINK, and meetings and discussions between representatives from CARE and Adalah-NY and JVP.

    Riham Barghouti from Adalah-NY explained, “We thank CARE USA for acting swiftly to appropriately address this issue once it was brought to their attention. Representatives from CARE USA told us that they have approved the Board member's request for an indefinite leave of absence while he remains in any way affiliated with Africa Israel. While on leave, we have been assured that the member in question will not attend or vote at Board meetings, receive Board information, or play any other role on the CARE USA Board.” . . .

    Update: Here is an official statement from CARE USA on the issue:


    Rich Marin is voluntarily taking a leave of absence from his position on the CARE USA board of directors.

    Mr. Marin has been a long-time supporter of CARE, playing key roles in the former CARE Corporate Council and in several fundraising efforts. After joining the CARE board in 2008, Mr. Marin was hired as the CEO of Africa Israel Investments USA (AFI USA), a real estate investment company that invests in the United States and Panama. The parent company of AFI USA is Africa Israel Investments Ltd.

    Recently, a grassroots organization called Adalah-NY notified CARE and Mr. Marin that some companies under Africa Israel Investments Ltd. have been connected to building settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law. Although Mr. Marin and AFI USA do not build settlements in the West Bank, Mr. Marin did not want even the appearance of a connection to hinder CARE’s work, especially in West Bank and Gaza, so he voluntarily stepped aside from his CARE USA Board obligations.

    CARE opposes illegal settlement building and encourages all parties to redouble their efforts toward a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the West Bank and Gaza. Mr. Marin remains committed to CARE's work in the West Bank and Gaza and to CARE's global vision: a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and all people live in dignity and security.

    We continue to thank Mr. Marin for his service to CARE and to the people living in extreme poverty around the world.

  18. Jon September 8, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    Hmmm. Let' see, since the UN was created in 1945, more than half of the General Assembly resolutions and Security Council resolutions condemned Israel. Yet during that period, over 100,000,000 people have been killed by human rights abusers that were not similarly singled out for such scrutiny.

    I will not pretend to know what goes on in the soul of individual UN members (required to know whether anti-Semitism or some other form of prejudice is at work), but I think it's safe to say that the organization you are holding out as the moral conscience of the world whose every utterance is to be taken at face value is sadly a corrupt institution where the powerful and numerous bully others (read: Israel) while simultaneously placing that their own human rights abuses beyond discussion.

    Perhaps it is not Israel's but your sense of victimhood (on behalf of the Palestinians) that allows you have one set of rules for Israel (where its every “crime” – real or imagined is globally condemned) and another set of rules for everyone else (who can buy themselves a get-out-of-jail-free card at the very institution you are claiming should be the moral arbiter of internal legality and legitimacy.

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