Tactics – Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

One of the things that continually surprised me about BDS battles within a university or other institution is how unsurprising they are.

BDS itself generally has but one tactic: to find a progressive institution and (often working behind the scenes) to convince them that their principles leave them no choice other than the embrace the BDS agenda. So no surprise there. But it’s kind of startling to see how debate tends to unfold thereafter with the regularity of a Noh drama.

This déjà vu is most pronounced when a boycott or divestment battle comes to a head, often unfolding in a series of intense meetings (always three in number for some reason). Whether those meetings take place within Berkeley’s student government chambers, Somerville City Hall or the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, all parties immediately assume their assigned roles.

In the case of the boycotters, this involves presenting an endless stream of gut-wrenching (and context-free) images of Palestinian suffering with an unwavering accusation of the one and only party responsible for this presented woe: Israel (and/or “The Occupation” or “The Settlements” presented as near metaphysical entities).

The performance of Israel’s defenders also tends towards the familiar, even if it’s a familiarity of inconsistency. For unlike the boycotters, Israel’s friends are not united on their goals or approach. Some want to lash out and attack their critics (bringing up the human rights catastrophe that is Gaza and the Arab world, for example). Some want to focus on peace, reconciliation and ways to work together. Still others zero in on the pain an divisiveness that BDS battles always cause, with everyone frequently invoking the “complexity” of the Arab-Israeli conflict (in contrast to the simple-minded storyline that characterizes Israel’s accusers).

Now the endless failure of BDS would seem to indicate that this is a winning presentation, even if it is seems somewhat confused and predictable. Which presents the question of why criticize a winning tactic? To which I would respond that in any type of conflict (from a political battle to an actual war) it’s never the best idea to be in a position where you opponents know exactly what to expect from you well in advance.

Two stories provide some perspective on what happens when people don’t act according to their assigned roles. Starting in the US, a group of San Francisco pro-Israel activists decided to use the tactics of the BDS organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) against them.

You may recall that JVP was the group that chose to disrupt a speech Prime Minister Netenyahu gave in New Orleans last month, using a tactic of repeated interruptions that’s become popular within West Coast universities as a means of muzzling pro-Israel speakers. This time, however, it was JVP’s turn to be on the receiving end of their own medicine (at a meeting celebrating the Young, Jewish and Proud Netenyahu-interrupters no less) where pro-Israel forces jumped up repeatedly to read from Hertzl and other Zionist texts.

Now some of you may wonder why this “sauce for the gander” approach is not taken more often (a subject for another time), but in the case of the Young Jewish and Proud event the JVP crowd was caught completely off guard. So stunned were they at the very notion that their tactics could be used against them that violence ensued, starting with a JVP assault on an elderly activist, leading to a pepper spraying, leading to JVP calling the cops on their opponents. Putting aside attempts to propagandize this kerfuffle to advantage, the real lesson is how disorienting it can be to Israel’s foes when its friends do not act in ways they are told they must.

The other story did not involve pepper spray or cops, but was no less educational with regard to the effectiveness of surprise. By now, many of you will have read about the student who took part in the umpteenth Oxford Union debate over the Middle East, this one set up to debate the subject of whether or not “Israel is a rogue state.”

Usually when these events take place, everyone lines up along predictable patterns, each party plays its assigned role, a vote takes place and no one remembers the results. But in this case, Gabriel Latner (in support of the assertion that Israel IS a rogue state) brilliantly redefined “rogue” to provide an accurate illustration of why Israel is unique among the nations.

Needless to say, Israel’s critics cried foul that the sides did not line up as they were supposed to. But in this case there was no “cheating” involved. For the Oxford Union is meant to challenge people, to address a particular issue given the full range of rhetoric tools at the disposal of opponents to an issue. And unlike the many now-forgotten debates over Israel’s perfidity (debates designed to package the same dreary propaganda message in the garb of Oxford robes), this story has lived on to become the stuff of lore, simply because one bold individual decided to surprise the world by not doing exactly what was expected of him (a lesson we would all do well to learn).

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38 Responses to Tactics – Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

  1. Anonymous December 15, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    Jon you are lying about the JVP incident.

    The incident began when a number of activists from the Israel advocacy groups tried to obstruct a meeting of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). So far so good.

    An Oakland-based attorney named Robin Dubner then tried to videotape the faces of the 50 to 60 Jewish Voice for Peace activists at the meeting against their will. Two Jewish Voice for Peace members, Alexei Folger and Glen Hauer, then attempted to nonviolently block Dubner from videotaping. The lawyer responded by pepper-spraying Folger and Hauer in the eyes, face and hands.

    Folger and Hauer were careful to make no physical contact with her or her camera prior to the attack.

    ”When one of the intruders [Dubner] continued standing and filming people despite the facilitator and facility manager repeatedly telling her that she could not, I first asked her politely to please put away the video camera, then several times told her to put away the camera, and then tried nonviolently to stay in front of the camera with my body,” said Hauer. “I could have taken the camera but decided instead to talk to the woman and to try to be the only person she photographed.”

    “I did not see it coming and all of a sudden there was gooey stuff all over my head and hand,” said Folger. “I have never been pepper-sprayed before, my whole head felt like it was on fire.”

    Dubner was temporarily handcuffed by police, and paramedics were called to treat Folger and Hauer.

  2. Jon December 16, 2010 at 1:56 am #

    I wondered if all of these anonymous posters were actually Jewish Voice for Peace members. Tell me, am I speaking to Mr. (or Ms.) Young, Jewish or Proud?

    I understand that this incident triggered a round of dueling narratives, and just to show you I’m a good sport here is what JVP has had to say about the confrontation:


    And here is what the local Voice for Israel group claims to have happened:


    Can’t get more fair and balanced than that, can we? (Certainly not on any JVP site.)

    As a last point, if you are having trouble getting people to believe your version of events outside your own circle of the like minded, perhaps an organization that boasts of its shouting down (i.e., muzzling) speakers you don’t like on the same site where you maintain another board (Muzzlewatch) where you continually claim to be censored might give you guys a small credibility problem.

    Now since you have chosen to shut off comments on sites over which you control, I guess we’ll have to use this blog (where comment is free) to continue any conversation.

  3. Rebecca Lesses December 16, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    Why is it always an anonymous who posts remarks like these? Who are you and how do you know what happened? Were you there? Jon goes by his own name, publicly, and we know who he is. I will also post this comment with my own name.

  4. Anonymous December 16, 2010 at 3:40 am #

    Jon actually we can get a lot more fair and balanced. How about starting by telling the truth?

    Are you guys denying that some pro Israel nut used pepper spray on JVP members or just spinning?

    Can't wait for the spin/response.

  5. Anonymous December 16, 2010 at 3:52 am #

    Come on anonymous….. the Dubner character had to use pepper spray in self defense. This was a (existential) threat.

    Sounds familiar? Reminds me of Israel and the criminal IDF acting in “sell defense”.

  6. Anonymous December 16, 2010 at 3:55 am #

    The recorded evidence substantiated Ms. Dubner's side of the story. (did you wonder why charges were never filed against her?).

  7. Anonymous December 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm #

    Clearly “Anonymous” has failed reading comprehension. S/he states
    “Are you guys denying that some pro Israel nut used pepper spray on JVP members”

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Read Jon's post. He states:

    “So stunned were they at the very notion that their tactics could be used against them that violence ensued, starting with a JVP assault on an elderly activist, leading to a pepper spraying, leading to JVP calling the cops on their opponents.”

    Does that sound like denial?

    No one involved in this denies that pepper spray was used. The pro Israel activists stated that Ms. Dubner was physically isolated and backed into a corner. Her hand was grabbed and shook until she dropped her camera.
    Ms. Dubner, who has had multiple surgeries and is legally disabled felt threatened and protected herself with non lethal means.

    Not surprisingly, Jewish Voice for peace denies the attack.

    Over the last few years in the San Francisco Bay area talks by Netanyahu, Daniel Pipes, Nonnie Darwish, Akiva Tor and others have been interrupted by JVP and their allies. An educational series at the JCC featuring such highly controversial topics as “Contemporary Israeli Art” and “Being Black in Israel” was interrupted by shrieking “peace activists”, leading to multiple arrests. The reason for the rudeness? People had the audacity to be learning in honor of Israel's 60th anniversary, and that in its self was sufficient for this public tantrum.

    Sure looks to me that the Bay area Jewish community is “mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore”. Yet the anti- Israel activists clearly have not learned their lesson- 7 of them were just arrested this week for attempting to disrupt the Oaklnad AIPAC dinner.

  8. Witness December 16, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    Actually, the JVP's campaign of deception about this incident seems to have begun at the scene. Although there were JVP'ers present with video cameras, for some unknown reason,the idea that they might be photographed by Ms. Dubner seemed to make the JVP'ers go wild. There is no explanation as to why, after inviting the public to their meeting, that the JVP felt specially entitled to use force to stop others from video'ing in a public venue. The JVP'ers ganged up on her, and assaulted Ms. Dubner,smashing her camera to the floor by grabbing at her clothes, hands and wrists. Ms. Dubner was scared, worried about for her personal safety and so she defended her person with pepper spray. Its interesting to note that ALL of the video shown by the JVP was taken AFTER the incident, not OF the incident and there has been no explanation as to where the missing JVP footage might be. Then, “leadership” of the JVP grouped up, had a brief discussion and then called the Berkeley Police. Glenn Hauer,only had a drop or so of pepper spray, maybe ricochet off of the other person and seemed to be in a state of annoyance rather than distress. While I don't know what was said in that call to the police, it must have been blown out of all proportion, maybe even using the word “riot” as perhaps half a dozen police cars arrived. When the police arrived,the JVP'ers did everything that they could to prevent the police from speaking to a non-JVP person at the door, saying,”you can't talk to them, they weren't the ones that called the police”, in a transparent effort to control the message the police heard. The JVP internet campaign of fabrications, distortion, harassment and libel as to Ms.Dubner began the next day, thus revealing the true nature of the JVP.

  9. Anonymous December 17, 2010 at 1:18 am #

    Those vicious JVP people. They have no mercy on a handicapped person, they corner her and attack her, grab her hand, drop her camera and beat her. The poor attorney had no choice but to “defend” herself by using pepper spray on the attackers.

    The victim, Robin Dubner, is none other than a Stand with Us thug seen in the video wrapped in the Israeli flag and the one who refused to say what she had sprayed on the 2 JVP members.

    Looks like our attorney Dubner has had issues with law enforcement in the past. Read the third paragraoph from the bottom which states:

    ” Dubner alleged in her complaint that her camera was forcibly removed while she was in the jail cell and that the guards seized her and brought her to the floor with one arm twisted behind her back in order to remove the camera. Dubner also alleged that she was refused medical attention for her asthma. These claims were dismissed after the bench trial as well, but Dubner does not challenge those decisions on appeal.”

    Sounds familiar?


  10. Jon December 17, 2010 at 1:46 am #

    If anyone outside of Northern California is reading the various accounts described above, all I can say is this enjoyable exchange is just a small taste of what you can expect to come to your community if you invite BDS through the door.

    Consider yourself warned.

  11. Sandy O. December 17, 2010 at 3:25 am #

    Is this sort of polemic really necessary? The clear lines, us vs. them, zero-sum game vision presented here seems to me of little use in creating a positive future for all the subjects of this “debate”.

    I'm a UC Davis student who supports BDS but only as a last resort, to hopefully help bring positive change where institutions such as the UN and ICJ have failed. I think many of us come to BDS out of frustration.

    If you have ideas for other (maybe more constructive) ways that citizens of the world can ask governments to honor international agreements and rulings, I would appreciate hearing about it. Let's work together.


  12. Anonymous December 17, 2010 at 3:27 am #

    Robin Dubner described by the JVP as ” right wing” , is an animal rights advocate. She is involved in the movement to ensure equal rights in the LGBT community, and has been an environmental activist and feminist since well before the ” young Jewish and proud” crowd were out of diapers.
    JVP was more interested in promoting their ideology as eternal victims than fact checking, which is of course, how they found themselves on the wrong side in this conflict.
    But it's time to leave this dead horse alone. And JVP may just end up realizing that choices have consequences, even for them

  13. Anonymous December 17, 2010 at 3:53 am #

    Sandy, there are many organizations that are truly working for peace – organizations that believe that the path to peace is built on strong economic, personal and cultural ties between the Israelis and the Palestinians. (This is the opposite approach of the BDS 'ers)
    Google “One Voice “. Google ” Arava Institute”. There are real peace organizations out there ( and here's a hint. Not one of them supports BDS)

  14. Anonymous December 17, 2010 at 5:09 am #

    Sandy this site has nothing to do with peace and resolving differences. The site's founder is only interested in fighting and delegitimizing the BDS movement. I have tried, on many occassions, to engage in meaningful discussions but to no avail. This site has a very narrow focus of “fighting back” the BDS movement. Context (historical and otherwise), which are of paramount importance in any such debate, is completely ignored here. If you bring up israel's occupation, settlements, US's unconditional support of Israel that leads to some israel's unacceptable behavior, you will hear about how this conflict is predominantly the fault of Arab dictatorships and oil. The vast majority of people who read this blog are all supporters of Israel and feel the biggest and most effective response to BDS is buycotts i.e. Fight the BDSers but never try to understand why and how people (many of whom are Jewish) are so completely frustrated with the so called peace process where Israel talks the talk but will never give up the occupied lands, claims that Israel is a western style democracy but treats it's 20% Arab population as second class citizens, intimidates and smears anyone who criticizes Israel (however legitimate the criticism). If you try and articulate that Israel is and has been a US base (a base that is increasingly irrelevant to Americas long term interests in the region) you will be equally attacked by the pro Israeli folks.

    In short no meaningful discussions and absolutely no criticism of Israel, no questioning of America's failed policies vis a vis Israel or you will be trashed. Only blog after blog articulating why and how the BDS movement is made up of a bunch of liars, crooks, and losers and how they should be fought and delegitimized before they deligitimize Israel. No discussion ever about the underlying reasons for BDS actions.

    Maybe it's just some unwritten rule that given the history of the Jews (the holocaust) the Jewish state is an eternal victim and eternally entitled, no ands ifs or buts.

  15. Jon December 17, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

    Sandy – I respect enormously the impetus to take part in a BDS campaign in a desire to “do something” in a situation where you feel wrong is taking place and something must be done about it. But I would make the case that BDS, far from giving you your only alternative to do some good, is actually an option that will have negative consequences regarding the goal you (and I) rightfully seek: peace in the Middle East.

    I promised someone I would finish up this series on tactics this weekend, but if you'll revisit this site every couple of days I promise to write something right after that which talks to your concern in the detail that it deserves to be discussed.

  16. Jon December 17, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    To the Anonymous person who posted a comment at 12:04 AM, I received your comment via e-mail, but it never showed up on the site. I assumed this is because the originator pulled it, but if this is a Blogger error let me know and I can send you the text to repost or, if you like, repost it for you.


  17. Sandy O. December 17, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    Thanks Jon. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  18. Anonymous December 17, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    Sandy and Jon: in the past 6 months that I have followed this site, I have seen no desire for peace and/or resolving differences as Jon states above. The site's stated goal is fighting the BDS movement. Notice the recently published handbook on how to fight back the BDS movement.

    Further, context (historical and otherwise), is completely ignored. If you bring up Israel’s occupation, settlements, US's unconditional support of Israel that has lead to most of Israel's unacceptable behavior, you will hear about how this conflict is predominantly the fault of Arab dictatorships and oil. When I have stressed the issue of settlements, the response is a link that defends the settlements in occupied land as legal, i.e. telling me that it is my “opinion” that settlements are illegal and there are differing opinions. When I bring up the UN and the numerous resolutions, the UN is immediately attacked as a worthless body that has been “bought” by the Arabs. Note that the entire world community with the exception of Israel and the US (Micronesia and a few others) condemn Israel's occupation and settlements, but somehow Israel and her supporters feel they can brush these aside because the UN is “bought”. I have raised the ICJ's opinion regarding the separation wall and settlements with the exact same results. Any institution or person that criticizes Israel is not legitimate and should be discredited. The MO is pretty simple, any criticism of Israel comes from an antisemite or a self hating Jew.

    What people here fail to realize is that the BDS movement is a grassroots movement born out of Israel's occupation/settlement enterprise on the one hand, and Israel’s total impunity in the face of world opinion on the other. Israel goes about its daily business saying that they are the victims and the occupation and settlements are all because of “security” needs. Year after year the UN passes resolutions, the US vetoes them and Israel and her supporters think that all is well and business as usual can continue. Well clearly this is not the case. This is the context in which the BDS movement was born.

    According to this blog the BDS movement is a hoax, people who just hate Israel for no valid reason and want to delegitimize Israel (obvious implications of antisemitism). Fight the BDSers but never try to understand why and how people (many of whom are Jewish) are so completely frustrated with the so called peace process where Israel talks the talk but will never give up the occupied lands, claims that Israel is a western style democracy but treats it's 20% Arab population as second class citizens, say they want to live in peace side by side with the Palestinians but continue with the settlement construction, intimidates and smears anyone who criticizes Israel (however legitimate the criticism). If you try and articulate that Israel is and has been a US base (a base that is increasingly irrelevant to America's long term interests in the region) you will be equally attacked by the pro Israeli folks. Bottom line is this, if you are part of the BDS movement you are the enemy, we will not listen to you, talk to you, or anything. We will fight you until we have “won”. Does not sound like peace and resolution to me.

    Blog after blog articulating why and how the BDS movement is made up of a bunch of liars, crooks, and losers and how they should be fought and delegitimized before they deligitimize Israel. No discussion ever about the underlying reasons for BDS actions.

    Maybe it's just some unwritten rule that given the history of the Jews (the holocaust) the Jewish state is an eternal victim and eternally entitled, Israel can live by a separate set of standards, no ands, ifs, or buts.

  19. Jon December 18, 2010 at 12:43 am #

    Anon – Looks like you pulled your post to update it. (Glad to know your comment’s disappearance last night was not a Blogger glitch.) So, with mechanics behind us, time to respond to what you have to say.

    To begin with, I will happily acknowledge that this is a site dedicated to the fight against BDS and, as such, that topic has been my focus rather than a general debate on the Middle East (although I have responded to broader issues, especially in the comments section). As a BDS proponent, you are entitled to be displeased with what I have to say, but given the dozens and dozens of blogs and other sites out there (or, as you might describe it “site after site”), promoting your cause I’m not sure why you seem so troubled that I and a handful of others have taken it upon ourselves to provide an alternative viewpoint.


  20. Jon December 18, 2010 at 12:44 am #

    Much of the rest of your commentary serves as a perfect example of the language tactic I brought up a couple of posts ago (http://www.divestthis.com/2010/12/tactics-language.html). For in a debate about the origins and levels of responsibility for problems in the Middle East, you propound one point of view (that Israel is responsible for most if not all of these problems) and I (when I address the matter, usually in response to you) take a different point of view: that responsibility is primarily a result of dysfunctional politics in the Arab world.

    But notice how hostile you become at the mere mention of an alternative viewpoint, at someone having the temerity to suggest that the debate not begin and end with “The Occupation” and “The Settlements” (which, again, get to be defined by you). This makes sense only in the context of what I had to say about language, to wit, you feel a “debate” or any kind of discussion can only be over Israel’s punishment with its guilt assumed.

    In other words, you demand that we accept all (or at least the bulk) of your premises at the outset, insisting that mentioning any alternative viewpoint represents a distraction from what you insist we all accept as “the truth.” So unless you are declared the winner of such a debate at the outset, unless you are granted full rights to the vocabulary and debating points of both sides, you insist your critics are not playing fair.


  21. Jon December 18, 2010 at 12:44 am #

    The fact that Jewish Voice for Peace (which I presume you are a member of) focuses such attention on the tactic of shouting down opponents (either hailing it or doing it yourself – all while insisting that it is you who are “muzzled”) demonstrates the lengths to which you are ready to go to ensure that all opinions other than yours are not allowed the time of day. It’s one thing to turn your head or block your ears when people (like me) bring up Palestinians responsibility for their own plight, or the role played by nations that (among other things) flood Gaza and Lebanon with weapons and then join in a global propaganda effort when war inevitably breaks out. But the threatening actions and even violence that seems to come in your wake always seems to be directed at making sure that people who do not accept your premises immediately and unquestionably cannot be heard by anyone else.

    I strongly suspect that your wiring will only allow you to see everything I have said as yet another “distraction” from “the settlements, the settlements, the settlements,” so to a certain extent this commentary is not really directed to you. But I certainly hope it illustrates to others the points I have been trying to make regarding the difference between a legitimate debate and the one-sided, one-dimensional, monotonous propaganda preferred by the so-called “Jewish Voice for Peace.”

  22. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 12:57 am #


    Actually I don't know what happened last night either! I thought it was posted, then checked back and saw nothing so reposted today. I have no problem with you fighting BDS but what I say is that a fight against BDS (as well as one for BDS) should have context.

  23. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 1:11 am #

    Jon I believe (and think the majority of the world agrees) that the occupation is wrong, and the settlements are not only illegal but immoral. A few months ago you responded by posting a link that articulates the settlement are in fact legal. I understood your post to state that the legality of the settlements is an “opinion” not a “fact”.

    Apparently the government of Israel, which has enabled over 500,000 Israelis to be settlers in occupied territories, agrees that settlements are moral and legal, and this has put it on a collision course with the rest of the world (even its closest ally the US). This is not only a major issue in this conflict, but has a lot to do with Israel's delegitimization in the world.

    If you think the settlements are legitimate, moral and legal, then say so.

  24. Jon December 18, 2010 at 1:12 am #

    No problem. As you'll see above context has been provided.

  25. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    Jon I am not a member of the JVP and have never attended any of their meetings. As stated above, fighting BDS because they are “evil” will have very limited impact. Understanding how and why there is a BDS movement (other than saying that BDSers just hate Israel, are frauds, are only supported by homophobic dictatorships)involves a lot more honesty and hard work. It will also expose facts that may not be palatable to you (yes the occupation and the settlements).

    As for my “wiring”, though I believe in both nature and nurture, when it comes to the Israel Palestine conflict, I think nurture (and over a half century of witnessing events unfold) has played a far greater role in shaping my views.


  26. Jon December 18, 2010 at 2:35 am #

    The article I pointed you highlighted the fact that there is an alternative and perfectly respectable set of legal opinions that takes a different view than yours regarding the legal nature of Israel’s control of the territories. While I would never claim that the existence of such a set of opinions clinches any legal argument, it does make it clear that this is a subject of legitimate dispute.

    And this fact that the territories are disputed does not change if you insist they represent “illegal sentiment” once or a thousand times, on this site or a thousand others. Nor does it change if the Arab League or the Islamic Conference or even the United Nations votes that only one legal opinion is allowed (especially given the nature of decision-making within such bodies).

  27. Jon December 18, 2010 at 2:37 am #

    Like I said earlier, you have a right to your opinions but do not have a right to someone else’s.
    While I have chronicled dynamics (including the failings) of the BDS movement here for close to two years, never have I accused them of “being evil.” Nor have I claimed that they “hate Israel,” but have simply pointed out (accurately) that they are acting in support of a party to a conflict, making them participants in that conflict (not the humble “peace warriors” they claim to be).

    Nor have I directly accused them of being frauds, although I have spent quite a bit of time (again, accurately) exposing their many frauds, hoaxes and fabrications, so I can understand why some would see this as characterizing the “movement” as a whole. And as for being “only supported by homophobic dictatorships,” I assume it’s the “only” you object to since (1) I don’t hear you arguing that Israel’s neighbors are not homophobic dictatorships and (2) these nations are, indeed, highly supportive of BDS.

    (As an aside, keep in mind that the only time I have had to bring up this last matter is when responding to anonymous commenter’s insisting that their movement consists of nothing more than grassroots peace activists, ignoring the fact that the only reason Palestinians get their own seat at the UN while Kurds and Tibetans do not is because the Palestinians have wealthy and powerful friends which these other people lack.)

    This is not the first time someone has decided that they are entitled to represent both sides of the debate, although this usually manifests itself through claims that criticism of BDS consists of nothing more than empty accusations of anti-Semitism. I suspect the phenomenon derives from the fact that BDSers are used to (or, at least, prefer) debating Jews who are ready to accept their premises as a starting point (see earlier comments) or Jews whose first instinct is to lash out in reaction to the many false accusations being thrown in their face. While you are free to search for Jews who hold one of these two positions to debate, you will unfortunately not find them here.

  28. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 6:29 am #

    Your above comments are a very lucid explanation, Jon (as usual).

    Regarding “… the only reason Palestinians get their own seat at the UN while Kurds and Tibetans do not is because the Palestinians have wealthy and powerful friends…”

    Moreover, the Kurds et al cannot offer *expiation* to these poor western “activist” types if they were to help them. For their oppressors are not the right type of people.

    The weight of living the western 1st world good life weighs heavily on these tender folks. They ache for some relief via opposing something Western, something white, something Judeo-Christian. It's whom they condemn, not whom they “help,” that determines the expiation yield (EY) of their yelping. (And yes I realize “white” “western” “christian” – but they are opportunistic about this.)

    Their rationalizations – like ignoring the actual state of the world, both in M.E. and beyond – are clung to because they sense some perceived *expiation* they want to rub on their soulsick selves.

    Isn't this little drama's real question “But will you EVER BE expiated?”

    I think they'll chase that carrot forever.

    And so the Israel obsession.


  29. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 6:43 am #

    “Alternative and perfectly respectable set of legal opinions that take a different view than yours regarding the legal nature of israel's control of the territories.”

    How disingenuous of you to point out the differing opinions and not state yours. Are the settlements legitimate, moral, and legal? Just curious.

    PS There is a vast difference between the “control of territories” (most prefer the term occupation) and the moving in of a civilian population to settle in these occupied territories. I trust you see and appreciate the difference.

  30. Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    “Are the settlements legitimate, moral, and legal? “

    Is the ethnic cleansing of all the Jews from the Arab countries in 1948 fit your definition of moral, legitimate or legal? That's 900,000 people. That's your pseudo-morality, kid.

    But that wasn't enough – for it was in the wake of a pure genocide attempt, motivated by the Jew hatred that's embedded in Islam, and which *you* apparently are *comfy* with. Then in 1967, again a pure genocide attempt (“Push Israel into the sea” – a war with a slogan. You understand the slogan, yes?) again, same Arabs, same genocide enthusiasm, same comfyness on *your* part. Same pseudo-moral joke of a lefty (that's you) who convinces himself that genocide is righteous if its against Arab Jews who obviously desperately need a sanctuary from the Arab Muslims. As do the Arab Christians (among others), but you aren't lifting a finger to protect them, are you, from the nightmarish depredations of your 3rd world Islamic mascots. Because, again, that's your pseudo-morality.


  31. DrMike December 19, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    To Sandy, the university student who posted earlier this thread:

    Your post probably represents the thoughts of many other people of good will who would like to see peace. However, you should delve a bit more deeply into the facile statements of the BDS proponents who claim they are “peace” activists.

    To begin with, one of the central tenets of the BDS manifesto is support of the “right” (my quotes) of great-grandchildren of Arab refugees from 1948 to return to the sites of their previous homes inside Israel. Such a “right” exists in fact no more than Santa Claus. It is based on a deliberate misinterpretation of a nonbinding advisory resolution of the General Assembly in 1949. The goal, of course, is to eliminate the right of self-determination for one and only one people in the region– the Jewish people.

    BDS proponents insist, based on this, that BDS activities continue not until Israel ends the occupation of the parts of the West Bank still under its control, but until millions of such descendants are forced upon Israel.

    Not only that, but those leading the BDS movement frantically oppose any efforts at peaceful coexistence, and oppose any peace agreement that would lead to an Arab state of Palestine living ALONGSIDE a Jewish state of Israel. Don't believe it? Listen to them tell you in their own voices:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifZLk6Ei9-U&feature=player_embedded .

    This is the ideology of BDS– anti-peace, anti-coexistence. That's why even groups, such as J Street, that advocate increased pressure on Israel to unilaterally end the occupation even without any Palestinian commitment to peace, oppose BDS. That's why Arab rejectionist groups support it. Go ask any BDS activist one simple question: “do you support peace between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine?”. The answer will tell you everything you need to know.

  32. Jon December 19, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    Anon – Perhaps I need to spell things out more clearly for you. If the territories are the subject of legal and political dispute (which they are), then – by definition – they cannot be declared “illegal” (which would indicate the issue had been settled). So the belief I hold that they are not “illegal” is based on the fact that they aren’t.

    If this collides with your belief that they are, I suspect this is because your belief is primarily faith-based, similar to the religious belief in a transcendent God which supports a wider world view.

    After all, the ultimate underpinnings of all charges of illegality assume (1) that the acquisition of territory by war is legally unacceptable and (2) that moving populations in and/or out of territory acquired by war is equally unacceptable.

    Even if we take these assumptions to be true (although both are hotly debated) and even if we only apply them to the West Bank and Gaza (ignoring for a moment that “international law” cannot be said to be truly “international” and “law” if it is applied inconsistently across the world), at best they only prove that claims over the territory by both parties are either both legal or both illegal.

    For how were these territories (where legal ownership passed the Ottoman Empire to the British and then to international control) fall into the hands of the Arab states (Jordan for the West Bank and Jerusalem, Egypt for Gaza) in the first place? Through the acquisition of territory by war (in 1948). And why were there no Jews in that territory when Israel conquered the territory in 1967, despite Jewish communities having lived in those very regions for millennia? Because the 1948 conquering powers kicked them out and moved other non-Jewish populations in.

    So are all Palestinian claims to the territories thus illegal? Or are both Israeli and Palestinian claims essentially political, possibly with some legal issues clinging to various parts of each? Unless you are willing to accept the illegality of your own position with the same un-ambiguity you insist falls to Israel, then we are left with the position that both sides have legitimate claims which means this is a political dispute, best settled via careful and sincere negotiations between the parties.

    But negotiations require compromise, while rectifying an illegal act requires but one remedy: for the party acting illegally to stop doing so. But since both claims are equally legal/illegal, accusations that Israel alone is acting illegally are shown to be a means of bypassing such negotiations and compromise in order for one side to get its way without having to accept any responsibility or compromise.

    So, in an interesting way, the insistence by people like you that we accept the illegality of the actions of Israel (and Israel alone) is not simply one more way to try to win the argument before it has begun. It is also a way to perpetuate, rather than try to resolve, the conflict.

  33. Anonymous December 19, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    JVP? Where is MVP? Muslim Voice for Peace?

    Is the reason that there is no Muslim Voice for Peace because “Peace” is one of the last things on their minds?

  34. Sandy O. December 20, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    Dr. Mike – Thank you for the video link. It highlighted some serious reservations I have about BDS, or any one-sided movement in general.

    Regarding the stipulation for right of return of refugees (per UN Resolution 242, etc), I was under the impression that was based on 1967, not 1948.

    But regardless, everyone deserves a safe, secure home to which they can return and not worry about it being arbitrarily taken away. UDHR Articles 13 & 17 are pretty clear on this. Making a distinction between Israelis and Palestinians on that point is absurd.

    Personally, I want Israelis to have an internationally recognized homeland, and I want Palestinians to have the same.

    Anonymous: thank you for the pointer to One Voice – very cool. I'm definitely going to check out more of what they're working on.

    In the meantime, I'd love to hear more ideas about constructive, dialectical ways for individuals to get involved.

  35. Mar Vista Mustang December 20, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    Sandy O. – Here are two more organizations that appear to me to be genuinely committed to improving Palestinian economies in an effective way and without offering backdoor means of divestment, like negative screens:

    If anyone knows differently about these two groups, please let me know.

  36. Anonymous December 21, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    Sandy O. said “Personally, I want Israelis to have an internationally recognized homeland, and I want Palestinians to have the same.”

    I admit that I get stuck on this point all the time. I thought Jordan was a Palestinian homeland. It was established at the same time and from the same source as Israel; why isn't it part of the conversation too?

  37. Sandy O. December 21, 2010 at 5:41 am #

    Re: Palestinian homeland – to be more precise, I'm thinking about people who had been living in the area we call the West Bank.

    Now it's under British mandate! Now it's a UN partitioned Arab State! Now it's called Jordan! Now it's Israeli occupied! Yeesh, someone needs to cut those people some slack already.

    As I understand it, Palestinians are from Palestine. And if I remember my 20th century history, Jordan was early on (just after WWI?) made independent, whereas Palestine along with Iraq was put under British mandate. But then I'm not all up on history, so don't take my recounting of events too seriously.

    @ Mar Vista Mustang – thank you! Especially the Lend for Peace link. I'm really into microfinance (I study economic development), and hadn't heard about this organization.

  38. Mar Vista Mustang December 23, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    Sandy, did you know that there were Jewish villages in the West Bank before they were wiped out in the period from the 1920s to the 1940s?

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