Giving Peace a Chance

Outside of responding to the occasional comment, I tend to avoid talking about general political matters (domestic and international) on this site, if for no other reason than there exist an infinite number of places to fight the Arab-Israeli conflict online, but only a few places where the specific subject of BDS can be analyzed and dissected.

But while the focus on a seemingly narrow subject (like BDS) is often a good way to reveal wider truths, there come times when political matters become so large and looming that they must be addressed in the context of everything. And with upheaval sweeping regimes across the Middle East, with spillover already reaching Israel in the form of renewed rocket fire and bombings, we are now living through such times.

Surprisingly, it is often my friends and political allies who take the most convincing that everything we do in support of Israel and everything BDS champions and other home-spun Israel defamers scheme really don’t matter much beyond the proverbial “hill of beans” when governments fall and quasi-government militant groups sitting on giant stockpiles of weapons decide to start making use of them.

BDSers could, for example, map out their entire year of baba gunoush boycotts or nursery school protests, and we can plan our own counter-attacks and activities. But if the rockets start flying from Lebanon or Gaza (again) or if a new government of Egypt decides to set the clock back 40 years, than all bets (and all of both side’s plans, well-laid or otherwise) are off and our agenda will be set by events and people over which we have absolutely no control.

This type of powerlessness is not the easiest thing to accept by political activists of any character, which is why we often inflate the significance of this or that BDS victory or defeat (for example) because the alternative requires a scale of humbleness that diminishes one of the primary benefits of taking part in political activism: a feeling of empowerment.

Not that preparations are not being laid for the next inevitable war on of Israel’s borders. In fact, from here in suburban Boston I can almost hear the BDS cru licking their lips in anticipation of such a clash since it gives them the chance to really ratchet up their numbers and their noise level at rallies that will inevitably spring up the moment Israel decides it must respond to attacks against its citizens (a la the West Bank in 2002, Lebanon in 2006, and Gaza in 2008). Not that you ever hear a peep from them during the months or years of rocket and terror attacks that make these ultimate clashes inevitable. On these subjects, they are as silent as they are about anything currently happening in the Middle East that can’t be easily fit into their narrative of Israel-o, American-o, Zion-o imperialism against the forces of righteousness of good (symbolized by them and communicated on hand-written signs scrawled together in their parent’s basements).

Again, I don’t see the “Israel-is-wrong-about-everything” club having much (if any) influence over organizations like Hamas and Hezbolah. But couldn’t they make even a small show of protest against militant assaults that will inevitably lead to the death of hundreds (if not thousands) of the people they claim to love so dearly? But that would only make sense if BDS actually represented the “peaceful alternative to war” they claim to be, rather than the propaganda arm of military confrontation that they actually are.

In all of the mayhem sweeping the region, it is surprising when the simplest and most obvious solution to a problem seems to be the most fantastically utopian. And, in this case, this simple, obvious answer is provided by Benjamin Kerstein, an Israeli writer who I discovered during our common anti-Chomsky days who continues to be one of the most insightful political commentators working in this area.

In his Open Letter to the Arab Street, Kerstein calls for something so simple and profound it almost seems the fantasy of a crazed Pollyanna: why don’t these new (and, hopefully better) governments we see being born across the region simply call off their war against the Jewish state? After all, this war has cost the world trillions, it has impoverished nations, killed off generations and turned others into monsters. The darker forces involved with toppling old regimes have been fed anti-Semitic paranoia with their mother’s milk and may soon act on the hatreds they have been raised with, raising the specter of more death, more squandering of human and other resources, more darkness, in short more of everything we don’t want in the world.

Israel’s neighbors (and their friends and supporters abroad) have spent the last 60+ years giving war a chance. Would it be too much to ask to give actual peace a whirl (even if only to see what good might come out of it)?

In the interest of humility, fifteen people have recommended Kerstein’s sage advice on Facebook. In the meantime, a Facebook group calling for a Third Intafada to begin this May is closing in on the 300,000 mark.


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13 Responses to Giving Peace a Chance

  1. Anonymous March 27, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Boycotting Israel … from within

    Israelis explain why they joined the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement.

  2. Anonymous March 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    the true answer is very simple – money and fame.

  3. Jon March 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    I read the piece and the only thought I had was: Leave it to a BDS fan to look over the border at Egypt and see nothing but a precedent to keep doing and keep thinking only about what he or she was doing and thinking already.

    Hint-hint to the author: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and (now) Syria and (previously and maybe next) Iran shows you what things look like when people are turning against their own government, not some spoiled brat refusing to buy organges from one place vs. another (while all the while fantasizing that dark forces conspire to squash their courageous selves).

    If anyone is interested in demonstrating real courage, they should give Benjamin's proposal to actually call for genunine peace a try. I'd be interested in how far that would get you in Gaza city.

  4. Anonymous March 28, 2011 at 10:24 pm #


    When comments are posted that deal with the historical context of the Israel /Palestine conflict and the “why” of the BDS movement, your response is that this blog is only about the BDS movement and not the Israel/Palestine conflict.

    When an article is linked that deals with some Israeli's support of BDS, then they are labelled as some “spoiled brats refusing to buy oranges from one place vs another” and how the much bigger picture relates the realities on the ground in the ME. Well done Jon !

    When the despotic and brutal regimes of the ME (mostly supported by the US and in the case of Egypt, supported by Israel) are pushed out and democratic institutions begin to sprout in these nations, the Arab world will certainly demand freedom for their Palestinian brothers/sisters in the WB (no to occupation) and Gaza (no to air/sea/land embargo), and a viable, contiguous Palestine (no to settlements).

    Tell me Jon do you think democratic movements in these Arab nations are good or bad for Israel? I know AIPAC was pushing hard to support “our friend Mubarak” in the early days of the Egyptian revolt. Mubarak was doing US's and Israel's dirty work for them but apparently the Egyptians did not approve of their leader.

    My guess is that Israel will be on the wrong side of history this time.

  5. DrMike March 29, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    Just like the Arab world demanded freedom for their Palestinian brothers in the West Bank and Gaza in 1947, and then through the subsequent 20 years of Jordanian and Egyptian occupation, respectively? And how the Arab world continues to insist that all they want is peace with a Jewish state of Israel if Israel would just turn the West Bank over the peaceful Palestinians (who would never think of then launching any rockets at Israel, especially once they can freely import heavier rockets from Iran…..)?

    So, yes, anon, BDS is about the I=P conflict– it is the war against the existence of Israel, within any borders, carried on by other means. Jon's just writing to expose the truth about it.

  6. Anonymous March 29, 2011 at 3:05 am #

    DrMike your comments are tired and repetitive. Don't you have anything to contribute other than “BDS wants to destroy Israel”?

    Israel, and people like you, cannot continue to frame the Israel Palestine conflict as an existential threat to Israel by the terrorist Arabs and Israel as the victim who is just trying to defend herself.

    The ME is changing and a people who have put their lives on the line to gain
    freedom will not settle for your disingeneous arguments.

    Remember that Israel does not have but one friend in this world, and that
    friend is losing ground. The days of Israel behaving as it has in the past two or three decades are over.

    The key question is whether the powers to be in Israel and the US have the foresight to see these new “facts on the ground” (no pun intended of course).

  7. goodbird March 29, 2011 at 4:35 am #

    Hello anonymous..”.the ME is changing”….yeah for the worst(they don't want democracy and the current US administration does not have the foresight, they have NO SIGHT and/or clue of the cultural experience that defines the ME and the ARAB STREET mindset). Israel is the JUSTICE of the Peace, and PEACE will guide the planet. So anonymous, show some respect for Israel please. Take notice, how Israel is the only stable country in the whole ME region. I think they are doing something right.

  8. DrMike March 29, 2011 at 6:09 am #


    how's this: as soon as the BDS leadership (Omar Barghouti and his fellow travelers here such as Ali Abuminah) publicly repudiate their statements that the goal of the BDS movement is indeed the end of Israel, I promise that I will stop quoting them!

  9. Jon March 29, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    I don’t think there’s been a single instance of Middle East politics brought up in the comments section where I haven’t provided a straight answer to a question. Now those answers have (accurately) placed a majority of blame of the Middle East conflict on the Arab states and the Palestinians themselves which no doubt conflicts with the world view of those like yourself who are hard wired to accept nothing but Israeli blame for everything. But here on earth all facts must not bend to the wishes of Palestinian hasbarah.

    Speaking of which, it never occurred to me that countries like Libya, Yemen and (now) Syria where the people are rebelling against tyrannical government were actually ruled by Zionist stooges. In fact, there would be no BDS movement or even a call for Palestinian statehood without the decades of support these very tyrannical states have given to your cause. Whenever BDSers fall back on UN votes to support their accusations, they never mention that the reason the UN has become a virtual Israel-condemnation factory is because these nations that you are now condemning have been the most stalwart supporters of Palestinian hasbarah for decades, which is why Palestinians get a seat at the UN while the plight of peoples like the Kurds and Tibetans are virtually ignored.

    It takes a unique form of chutzpah to now claim yourself as champion of the people right as the denizens of those very countries have turned on governments which have been the cornerstone of your cause for decades. In fact, this latest dance reminds me of nothing so much as Medieval scientists creating more and more epicycles to enforce the earth’s centricity in the universe. The only difference is that you are busy arranging and rearranging the past and the planet in order to ensure you keep yourself (or, more specifically, your self-image as representing all that is virtuous) at the universe’s center.

    Let me know if I missed something.

  10. Anonymous March 29, 2011 at 3:21 pm #


    According to your logic, and I'm quoting “.. there would be no BDS movement or even a call for Palestinian statehood without the decades of support these very tyrannical states have given to your cause”, with the fall of these despots the BDS movement and a call for a Palestinian state should disappear. I offered the exact opposite in my comments above. With democratic movements sprouting everywhere in the ME, the Arabs will demand justice for the Palestinians, and Israel's only ally will be very hard pressed to ignore these demands.
    The US can buy the Mubaraks and the Abdallahs of the world but they cannot buy 80 million Egyptians. The government of Egypt, with time, will be representative of the will of the people of Egypt, and my point was that the vast majority of Egyptians will not buy into the Israel/Palestine status quo of occupation/settlements imposed by Israel and fully supported by the US. I suggested that all of these developments will not bode well for Israel.

    When the Palestinians resisted the occupation by arms and violence they were called terrorists. When they take a non violent approach of boycott, divestment, and sanctions, they are accused of wanting to destroy Israel. Maybe they should just shut up and live in the disconnected bantustans that Israel has planned for them?

    The BDS movement has grassroots supporters all over the world, including Jewish supporters in and out of Israel. Not a single one of these many supporters that I have met are supporters of the despotic Arab regimes so your repeated attempts to connect the two is disingenuous and somewhat pathetic. The many musicians, artists, academics and others living in western democracies and supporting BDS have nothing to do with Arab tyrants and everything to do with Israel's decades long occupation, settlement enterprise and blatant disregard for the Palestinians and their rights.

    The BDS movement is a means and not an end. The end goal is freedom for the Palestinians and a state they can call their own. Now whether they share a state with Israel or have their own is pretty much going to depend on Israel.

    Have a nice day.

  11. Anonymous March 29, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    The palestinians have had many opportuinities for statehood (remember Camp david? (97 % of the West bank? 100 % of Gaza? 30 Billion dollars?). Arafat turned it down without even a counteroffer. The palestinians don't want THEIR OWN STATE. The Palestinians want Israel.

  12. Jon March 29, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    Actually, there are two competing forces that are leading to unrest in the Middle East: (1) citizens hoping to overturn tyranny and create something better (preferably democratic), and (2) would-be tyrants who hope to replace existing dictators with something as bad or even worse.

    The previous tyrants have kept the Arab-Israeli dispute at a perpetual boil in order to keep citizen’s hatred directed towards an external enemy, rather than have it turn inward towards the hated dictators themselves.

    So one way to determine who is in the ascendency as change continues to break out across the Middle East is to see which new governments opt to end the war with the Jewish state and start putting the region’s resources towards better uses (these nations are most likely to end up democratic and free) vs. which governments decide to follow your advice to continue the war (with all its costs) until victory or death.

  13. goodbird March 29, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    Israel needs a Dept. of War Propaganda!
    ISRAEL…the GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH(though so small in numbers and size, you can barely see it. How shameful when 1.2 Billion gang up on a 15 Million people world-wide). ISRAEL BASHERS ARE A SHAMEFUL BUNCH INDEED.

    But, GLOBAL VENTURE CAPITALISTS love Israel! Reading “Start-up Nation” is a must for those that want to understand the FUTURE of the world.

    ISRAEL and the Jewish people are the Scapegoat. Mankind proves it's failure, over and over again, via anti-zionism/semitism.
    This is not a conflict over which side will bring democracy and good government to the Palestinians so much as it is a power struggle over money and power.

    The fight between Hamas and Fatah is not a power struggle between good guys and bad guys: it is a rivalry between bad guys and bad guys. EMPHASIZE the CORRUPTION!

    THEY ONLY UNITE IN THEIR HATRED FOR ZION/JEW! REMINDER…Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism and those that UNITE for this agenda of HATRED towards Israel, are the lowest form of life, on earth.

    A state is not something that Palestinians should expect Binyamin Netanyahu to deliver, handing over land(that belongs to Israel and/or won at arms, sorry folks)! A state is something that the people earn by standing UNITED and establishing good government and proper institutions and infrastructure, as well as democracy and a strong economy.

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