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Law – Fini

29 May

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series BDS and International Law

One of the most powerful objections one could raise to the critique I’ve been making regarding Israel and international law would be that it is a “shooting the messenger” – style argument.  “So what if the institutions condemning Israel as being in violation of international law are flawed or even corrupt?” the argument goes.  “If Israel is guilty of what they say, then it shouldn’t matter who is making the accusations.”

This is actually a strong argument, which also implies another one that says it doesn’t matter if other nations (including Israel’s accusers) are guilty of even greater human rights “crimes,” since the question under discussion is Israel’s guilt (or innocence) of the charges.

Israel’s supporters need to treat this argument with respect since Israel does not stand alone with regard to the developing framework of international institutions and rules, so should not be quick to dismiss the entire edifice as illegitimate.

In order to counter this argument, one would need to demonstrate that there exist objective standards for judging whether these accusations are unfair or not.  And fortunately, we can go back to our original discussion of the nature of law to find such standards.

If you recall, this analysis began by describing the rule of law (based on consent and enforcement) representing a pact between generations to believe (and raise their children to believe) that the law is fair and thus worth preserving.  And there are some situations which have reasonably shaken this belief, (regardless of the societies in which these situations have emerged).

The first is inequality before the law.  After all, the law is meant to be impartial (and blind), applying equally to rich and poor, aristocrat and worker, well-connected and isolated.  And if it can be demonstrated that law is applied unequally on a systematic basis, that is a strong foundation for challenging its legitimacy.

Inequality before the law can take two forms: a law that can clearly be applied to many instead being applied to just an unfortunate few.  Alternatively, law can be written so selectively and precisely that it is designed to prosecute just a few specific individuals or groups.  The non-stop (and systematic) condemnation of Israel by international bodies made up of nations far more guilty of the crimes they accuse Israel of committing fall into the former category.  And the increasingly narrow definitions of “Occupation” (which didn’t apply to Jordan and Egypt when they occupied the West Bank and Gaza, but are now considered the worst crime on the planet, just short of genocide) is an example of the latter.

The other principle that can be used to demonstrate the fairness vs. unfairness of law is the notion of selectivity, in this case selectively enforcing parts of a law while ignoring important components (such as context, qualifiers or additional obligations) found elsewhere in the same law.

For example, Israel’s accusers routinely claim the Jewish state is in violation of United Nations Resolution 194 which states that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date,” to support the so-called “Right of Return” of Palestinian refugees.  But even within this sentence, 194 is meant to apply only to those refugees wishing to “live at peace with their neighbors,” which immediately highlights that it might not apply to refugees who refuse to this day to acknowledge their neighbor’s (Israel’s) right to exist (much less live at peace with her).

Similarly, Article 13 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which states that “(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state; and (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”) is also frequently invoked to “prove” Israel is in violation of the law by not allowing Palestinians an unlimited right of return.  But the legal ambiguity of the territory under dispute in the Arab-Israeli conflict (coupled with the fact that “Palestine” is not a state, and thus cannot be a party to the Declaration), means that this freedom of movement and return can equally be applied to both Jews and Arabs, rather than selectively applied to Arabs alone.

Both strands of unfairness (inequality and selectivity) come together when you look at the aforementioned Declaration of Human Rights in its entirety.  For reading through all 30 articles of the Declaration, one is struck by how one region in the world more than any other: the Arab Middle East, exists in contravention to almost every one of these principles: from freedom of the individual to representational government to freedom of religion, peaceable assembly, and equal rights before the law.  Yet those who most aggressively flog the distorted reading of just one article of the Declaration are the most passive with regard to the clear meaning of the Declaration as a whole applied outside of Israel’s borders.

BDS advocates making this or that accusation of illegality are free to use their free speech rights to do so (as long as they don’t mind other people using their free speech rights to point out the BDSers inaccuracy and hypocrisy).  But accepting newly-devised or newly-developing international law that is supposed to transcend the laws of nation states requires that evolving legal framework prove itself to be at least as good as the national law (especially national law based on the twin pillars of consent and enforcement) it is meant to replace.

Israel, its friends and supporters obviously have their work cut out for them ensuring that new laws are not invented or selectively enforced at their expense.  But those who truly believe the emergence of international law to be a positive trend have an even greater obligation to fight the exploitation of this emerging field by ruthless state actors.  For if international law turns out to be just another means by which the powerful and numerous can torture their smaller and less powerful rivals, it will join the League of Nations but as an even greater (and costlier) noble failure.

Law – 3

28 May

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series BDS and International Law

It’s easy to criticize and even condemn multi-national institutions, even the most successful of them.

For example, today historians agree that NATO represents one of the most successful political and military alliances in human history.  But during its entire history, many leaders (American and European, Right and Left) complained bitterly about the institution, decrying it as a “military occupation” or asking why US taxpayers had to pick up the tab for European countries that continually wobbled on which side to be on in the Cold War.

Yet despite these critiques (some of which were legitimate), this remarkable multi-lateral organization managed to keep at peace a continent that had been at war for centuries.  And given how many people during the Cold War insisted that the only options for the West were capitulation or nuclear annihilation, NATO (plus patience) showed that there was an acceptable alternative to this false choice.

Given its size, pretentions and corruption, The United Nations is an easier target for similar criticism.  Yet it too has played an important role in the post-war world.

Take the Security Council, a part of the UN often criticized as undemocratic (given that it preserves in amber outdated international power relationships, giving the victors from World War II veto power over binding decisions made by the UN as a whole).  If you think of the Security Council as presiding over a global democracy, this arrangement is clearly unfair.  But if you look at it as means for facilitating communication between superpowers at odds with each other (like the US and USSR during the Cold War), the Council provided a way to diffuse tensions by presenting compromises that might be rejected if originating from one or the other Cold Warrior as UN proposals brought by “neutral” third parties.

In exchange for this important mediating role, it was required of participants to act as though the UN had more international authority than its actual clout would dictate.  But this was OK for those who felt that organizations like the UN might eventually evolve into an organs of global governance.  For by creating informal powers for such an organization and getting nations to act as though these powers were real and enforceable, there was hope that this informal legalism would formalize over time (much like many common law traditions eventually evolved into enforceable binding law within nations).

But for such fiction to eventually become reality, it was necessary that these informal practices perform a useful function (as they did during the Cold War) and that the leveraging of international organizations for narrow national purposes did not go too far.

Unfortunately, the temptation of powerful states to use newly emerging international institutions (not just the UN, but also NGOs working to create codes of international and human rights law) for their own partisan purposes was just too great.  And nowhere is this more apparent than in the exploitation of these weak institutions by Israel’s political enemies.

Much of the “rap sheet” BDSers routinely read out regarding Isreal’s alleged violation of international law is made up of accusations brought before organizations like the UN to be voted on by what has been called the “Automatic Majority.”  This term originally referred the UN General Assembly where the fact that every nation (small or large, democratic or not) got a single vote, allowing ruthless actors (like the Soviet Union) to stitch together a coalition that could be counted on to condemn the behavior of the USSR’s democratic enemies while ensuring that the human rights spotlight would rarely if ever be turned on the members of this automatic majority.

Sadly, this exploitation did not go away in the post Cold War world but instead was picked up by other powerful groups (such as the Arab League and Organization the Islamic Conference) which, via their numbers and a corrupt bloc voting system within the UN, can be assured that any accusation they make against Israel will become “law” (or at least an official declaration that Israel is in breach of law).

At the same time, these very organizations (which represent the greatest human rights abusers on the planet) are careful to never bring the crimes of members of the automatic majority to the floor, thus keeping the finger pointing eternally at Israel (and, on occasion, the US).

Yes, there are occasions when the accused rouse themselves to fight back (as when the US got the UN’s infamous 1975 Zionism = Racism resolution reversed in 1991).  But for the most part, this exploitation of weak international institutions by powerful national interests has become the norm in international affairs.  To restate a simple example, how much more likely is it that Saudi Arabia will obey UN resolutions regarding human rights for women vs. the UN following Saudi Arabia’s lead regarding the passing “laws” condemning criticism of religion (referred by some as “global blasphemy laws”)?

When the 1975 Zionism = Racism resolution was debated in the UN, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (then the US ambassador to the UN) prophetically warned that the vote would send a message to the world that international institutions created after World War II to keep the peace were becoming tools to help the powerful wage war by other means.

Many remember his famous quote that “The United States…does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.”  But fewer remember the prophetic warning he gave to smaller nations (including many voting Yes on this “infamous act”) that they were destroying the very institutions they might one day need to turn to if they ever found themselves targeted by powerful predators.

Israel will likely survive the slings and arrows thrown at her by accusers using international organizations, human rights institutions and human rights itself as tools of propaganda.  It’s not entirely clear that the same can be said for the institutions that have allowed themselves to be turned into weapons of war for someone else’s benefit.

To be concluded…

Law – 2

25 May

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series BDS and International Law

Until very recently, “international law” consisted of agreements (treaties, alliances, trade deals) negotiated between individual nations to cease hostilities, form alliances, or define political and economic spheres of influence.  While “nations” might refer to tiny city states of a few hundred thousand people or empires ruling millions, the treaty – a binding contract between the specific parties to the contract – was the cornerstone of internationalism.

While some broader “internationalist” principles (such as diplomatic immunity) evolved over time, these were primarily means to facilitate (not transcend) inter-state communication and negotiation.  The notion that there might exist a distinct body of law that bound all nations, and institutions separate from and above nation states that could interpret and possibly enforce such law on a global basis, is a very modern (20th century) concept.

With the emergence of the nation state (itself a recent phenomenon), political activities (including war) primarily took place between countries.  And as new weapons and ways of waging war entered national arsenals (thanks to the industrial revolution), these inter-state wars became particularly brutal.

It was after what people felt was the most brutal war that could ever take place (World War I, “The War to End All Wars”) that the notion of an international organization that all nations would defer to – a League of Nations – was born.

This first attempt to lay the foundations for a broader international order was based on the assumption that no nation wanted to go through anything like the First World War again, and thus national interests and international interests would forevermore be in aligned with the goal of preventing such a war.  All that was needed was an institution to facilitate communication, interpret emerging “international law” that transcended the laws of nation states, and work together as a global alliance to ensure the peace was kept.

There are a number of reasons why this experiment failed its first test (the challenge of an emerging Fascism which led to World War II), but at its core the assumption that national interests and international ones would naturally fall into alignment was at best utopian, at worst delusional.  For once a nation capable of projecting power and mobilizing international diplomacy towards its own ends emerged, what was to stop it from making demands on the new international order (rather than accepting dictates from it)?

After World War II, a new international peace-keeping organization – the United Nations – was created.  And since the fall of the Soviet Union, hundreds (if not thousands) of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have emerged, many of which are dedicated to laying the foundation to a new set of rules – a  new truly international law – that will bind all states to behave in ways that do not disrupt global peace, prosperity and progress.

We’ll get to the glass-half-empty side of this development in a moment, but even if you consider this trend to be all for the best, this newly emerging international law runs into an immediate problem in that it does not rest on the two pillars discussed previously that undergird the successful legal systems you find within nation states: consent and enforcement.

Like treaties negotiated between states, membership in international organizations is not derived from the consent of the governed, but by the decisions of national leaders to negotiate a treaty or join an alliance or group.  And while one can claim that elected leaders are empowered to make such decisions on behalf of the governed, most nations (including most nations in the UN and other international bodies) are not democracies which means that decisions to participate (and how to participate) in international organizations are being made by an unelected individual or a ruling elite.

Regarding enforcement, even the largest and most powerful international agency (the United Nations) has virtually no military power of its own and must call upon nation states (which still remain the only actors able to exercise and project power) to “volunteer” to implement  UN mandates.  In theory, it does this by moral suasion: by convincing “members of the international community” (i.e., nation states) to demonstrate their commitment to global stability by providing the manpower and resources needed to keep the peace and prevent war and genocide.

Glancing through the last few decades, one can make an argument that this system has been effective with UN-initiated action stopping a Communist takeover of Korea or an Iraqi takeover of Kuwait, and UN peace-keepers deployed to separate warring parties in places like Yugoslavia.  But if you look a bit closer at each of these examples, enforcement of UN-interpreted international law only seems to have taken place when it was in the interest of a nation or set of nations to do so.

It was in the interest of the US and its allies to prevent Communist encroachment in Asia, just as it was in the interest of the US, Europe and many Middle East states to prevent Saddam Hussein from adding oil-rich Kuwait to his dominion.  And thus the inviolability of national borders was enforced in the case of the 1991 Gulf War, even though this principle was not enforced (or even invoked) when powerful nations (such as the US, USSR and China) penetrated borders in placed like Panama, Hungary and Tibet.

Similarly, ending genocide on the European continent was in European interests, and thus the UN intervened in Yugoslavia but only stood by impotently as Rwanda descended into murderous chaos.

Some people (including a very thoughtful commenter who visited us a while back) have noted that the emergence of a global legal system is bound to encounter growing pains, but that it must be supported and nurtured if we are to ever evolve away from a system where only nation states get to call (and fire) the shots.

This is a fair argument, but if and only if those who make it are willing to answer (or at least ask themselves) the key question of what is to prevent an international order that is not based on consent or enforcement from becoming dominated by the very state actors they are meant to impartially judge, limit or control?


Law – 1

24 May

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series BDS and International Law

In the discussion that ensued in the comments section of a recent posting, I made a pretty big blunder in the heat of debate regarding a particular aspect of international law (similar to one I made in haste in a different debate a year back).

As in that previous case, being in error got me thinking about the issue under discussion, notably international law (or, more particularly, BDSers insistence that Israeli settlements, “The Occupation,” and possibly the state itself all exist in violation of it).

Their case is pretty straightforward, being built in rulings from international bodies (such as the UN) that Israel is in violation of various accords (including UN resolutions, the Geneva Accords, etc.).

In previous postings, I’ve written about how BDS supporters would like to turn the Middle East conflict from a political dispute to a legal one since political disputes can only be solved via compromise (which they’re not interested in) while legal ones require no such compromise but simply demand anyone acting illegally stop doing so.

But to get beyond the politics to the core of the matter, we must look first not at international law, but at law itself.  And the first thing we need to recognize is that rule of law rests on two critical principles: consent and enforcement.

As Hobbes pointed out centuries ago in his Leviathan, agreeing to live under the rule of law requires one to give up a certain amount of freedom in exchange for important benefits (such as the ability to live free from anarchy).  And given the anarchy of the religious wars in Europe that Hobbes was living through, he felt it necessary to give up nearly all individual freedoms to live under a state that could keep the law of the jungle at bay.

We seem to have reached a point in history when the freedoms we must relinquish to live at peace are not so all-encompassing.  But they are our freedoms, which is why members of a society must consent to live together under a set of rules (laws) for a law-based society to function.  Now one can make the case that a child born into a society of laws doesn’t get the chance to make such a choice him or herself.  But the pact described above is a multi-generational one in which citizens agree not just to live by certain laws but to raise their children believing that living under these laws is the right thing to do.

Enforcement is the other requirement for the rule of law to function, specifically the existence of an entity with a monopoly on the right to use violence to enforce the law as well as sufficient power to exercise this monopoly.  Absent an entity to take on this role as sole enforcer of the law, you end up back with the aforementioned anarchy (or, at best, a society where the blood feud becomes the means of seeking legal redress).

Despite various historical attempts to prove otherwise, one cannot have a law-based society based solely on consent without an enforcing power.  Attempts at creating such consent-based societies (such as various communal experiments) either degenerated into violent struggles for power (i.e., the law of the jungle), petered out over time, or existed (and may even continue to exist) as novelty sub-cultures under the protective umbrella of the state.

Interestingly, one can have a law-based society based only on enforcement (not on consent).  But these tend to be tyrannies where the rules that are harshly enforced originate from the caprice of the rulers (be they kings or Politburo members), rather than by consent of members of the state.

I mentioned states in the last two paragraphs since, in our modern age, the only institutions that have been able to effectively implement the rule of law are nation states.  In democratic societies, both consent and enforcement exist together, while in totalitarian states the rule of law is implemented by enforcement alone.  But outside of a cohesive political entity within defined borders and a citizenry that understands themselves to be members of a society within those borders, how one defines the rule of law becomes much less clear.

This becomes particularly apparent when you start to discuss international law which neither emerges from the consent of the governed nor exercises (or even possesses) the kind of enforcement mechanism needed to implement its judgments.

So in an era when nation states are still the primary political actors on the world stage, what are the origins and what is the significance of what we call international law?


The Beinart Effect

13 May

While this year has mostly been dark clouds for the forces of BDS, both small (failure at the Park Slope Food Coop), medium (another year of getting nowhere on college campuses) and large (the Methodist Church rejecting divestment yet again), there is a silver lining for them that we in the boycott-fighting business should take note of.

You saw it play out with the Methodists who rejected divestment and just as sensibly rejected various partisan resolutions that could be presented as the church taking sides in the Middle East conflict.  But they did pass a resolution supporting boycott of one segment of Israeli society, namely businesses located in the disputed territories (better known as the settlements, or – to use BDS parlance – “The Settlements”).

We saw a similar decision last month in the UK where the largest food cooperative organization in the country also passed a settlement boycott measure, and it’s very possible you’ll see something similar play out when the Presbyterians meet in June (although I still anticipate that they will reject divestment, as did the Methodists, for a fourth time).

The settlement boycott issue is a tricky one, for while general rejection of BDS has pretty much reached consensus across the entire Jewish political spectrum, attitudes towards what should ultimately happen with the disputed territories remains an issue of deep contention within Israel, among Israel’s supporters, and within the wider world.

And when these two issues (BDS and the politics of the territories) become conflated, it’s much easier to present a boycott of certain Israelis as the “moderate” option located halfway between “doing nothing” (which is deemed unacceptable) and broad-based BDS (which is deemed equally unacceptable).  This is the argument that was used (successfully) in the UK where decision makers thought they were actually being supportive of Israel by seeking this “moderate” option as an alternative to the blanket boycott that was being requested of them by anti-Israel partisans (who are quite strong in Europe).

Sometime in the next few weeks, I’m planning to start a series on the use of rhetoric in the Middle East/BDS conflict.  But just to give you a taste, what is described above is something called the fallacy of moderation which is often employed by partisans who want to convince you to do what they really want by presenting their preferred option as a compromise between “extremes” contrived for the sole purpose of locating their real goal in the mid-point between them.

To take a simple (fictional) example, a candidate who wants to raise the tax rate to 45% by insisting that this represents the moderate option between extremists in his own party who want to raise the rate to 90% and the opposing party that wants to eliminate taxes altogether, is intentionally using the fallacy of moderation to present what is really a major tax increase as the moderate choice located exactly between two extremes.  The fallacy comes in when you realize that the two extremes he is describing are not genuine, real-world options, but exist solely to locate his desired tax rate between them.

In the case of “partial BDS,” this too is an example of a moderation fallacy since there are any number of alternatives to “doing nothing” (defined as not having any boycott or divestment policy) and implementing a total boycott of all things Israeli.  You could, for example, pass a policy urging positive investment (as did the Methodists), which may not have pleased the BDSers but is certainly one of many alternatives to the false choices that frame an argument which says “well since you must do something, a boycott of settlements is better than nothing.”

When settlement boycotts are debated within the Jewish community, they are generally framed as an alternative to what is sometimes called “Full BDS” (meaning a boycott of companies within Israel proper).  But this analysis (like all analysis of which Israeli companies to boycott) misses the bigger picture.

For as I’ve noted ad nauseum on this site, the goal of BDS is NOT to hurt Israel economically, but to stuff the political positions of the BDSers into the mouth of a well-known, respected institution.  And once a boycott or divestment resolution of any size based on any target gets passed by one of these institutions, the message sent to the world is not “The such-and-such organization has passed a highly limited boycott of just a certain subset of Israelis…”  Rather, the message is “Such-and-such organization agrees with we the BDSers that Israeli is an Apartheid State.  And so should you!”

I titled this piece “The Beinart Effect” in honor of writer Peter Beinart who first proposed a Jewish version of BDS, not targeted Israel’s foes but targeted fellow Jews on the “wrong” side of the Green Line.  This was Beinart’s too-clever-by-half attempt to both subvert a BDS movement (which he claims to loath) by using their own tactics to allow some Jews (who think like him) to demonstrate their dislike of other Jews (who don’t think link him), thus proving their righteousness while showing what a virtuous version of BDS might look like in the hands of people as moral and forward thinking as Beinart himself.

But as anyone who knows anything about BDS could have told him, his complex and somewhat convoluted strategy was doomed to be boiled by the BDSers into a much simpler message: “Progressive Jews (like Beinart and those he claims to represent) want you to engage in a boycott of Israel, and we’re the ones to tell you how to do it.”

With a couple of settlement boycott wins under their belt, it’s just a matter of time before the BDSers re-align their strategy to push for more of these kinds of votes (as opposed to the general divestment measures that have been such a bust for them) and begin to claim any wins they receive regarding such measures (and not their many losses elsewhere) as the only metric with which the rest of us should judge their success.

Having seen BDS tactics morph time and time again, I’ve never been much for whining when they eventually stumble onto something that works.  Rather, those of us who fight against boycotts and divestment activities need to be just as flexible in finding tactics that can counter this new offensive, and let the world know that the success of both Israel and its supporters is not something to be measured by the embrace of a new gimmick by a bunch of narrow-minded, self-righteous partisans who (like their new-found accidental ally Peter Beinart) cannot think beyond themselves.

Beinart’s Tiny World

22 Mar

I’m still planning to get something out on the subject of the bullying behavior that has become the signature feature of the BDS “movement” over the last year or so.  But before getting to that, there are two BDS-related articles that have been published lately, one I want to point out and the other I want to tackle.

First off, I made the press!  And while this is mostly spillover publicity from the media circus that has descended on the Park Slope Food Coop in light of their upcoming boycott referendum vote next week (more on that later), this Jewish Week piece brought up a far more prominent story that was published earlier in the week in the New York Times: Peter Beinart’s call to create a Jewish version of BDS directed not at those who want to boycott Israel but at fellow Jews who choose to live on the other side of the Green Line (i.e., the dreaded “settlers”).

Needless to say, Beinart’s call has been harshly criticized (and just as needless to say, Beinart has claimed that the very existence of such criticism simply proves he is correct).  But even this criticism misses a key point which becomes clear if you look at Beinart’s call for Jews to boycott fellow Jews after reading his previous provocative article on what he claims to be the failure of the Jewish establishmentpublished a couple of years ago in the New York Jewish Review of Books.

Beinart, a CUNY Professor and Fellow at the New America Foundation, is best known for his role as Managing Editor of The New Republic, which tends to mean he is taken seriously as a progressive thinker, especially in New York media circles.

But in his article on the Jewish establishment (which I recently re-read as part of a class I’m taking at my synagogue), the author makes a move that helps explain much of his political thinking, including his recent call for his own brand of BDS.

For Beinart does not simply believe that current Israeli policy (including the choice to continue to let Jews live on the other side of the so-called “Green Line”) is simply wrong.  Rather, he takes his opinion on the matter and defines it as not just an unquestionable truth but as the point around which all progressive opinion must pivot.

With his own opinions of what constitutes “genuine” progressive thought placed squarely at the center of his world, all other facts are selected and arranged neatly around this obsession masquerading as gospel truth, much like the epicycles that kept the earth-centered theory of the universe afloat for centuries.

In some cases, facts and quotes (from various Israeli politicians or Benjamin Netanyahu’s biography) are carefully selected to “prove” the illiberal nature of anyone who disagrees with the Beinart thesis.  Other cases (including his self-serving analysis of why students seem alienated from Israel, or the role of mainstream Jewish organizations in shaping public opinion) also serve to prove a foregone conclusion: that Beinart is right and thus anyone who disagrees with him (and acts accordingly) are betraying their principles, alienating the young (by preventing them from following their “true” calling and embracing Beinart’s political point of view) and thus putting Israel at risk (making the author and anyone who agrees with him the only “true” friends of Israel).

I could dwell on the level of dishonest discourse that can be found from the beginning to the end of Beinart’s Jewish establishment piece (the cherry picking of quotes, selective choice of evidence, self-serving analysis of statistics, etc.), but for now I want to highlight how the opinions presented in this previous piece made his recent attempt to create his own brand of BDS inevitable.

For the Beinart world is not only Beinart centered.  It is also exceedingly small, containing only himself, his supporters and the Jewish “settlers” and their alleged supporters in the Jewish establishment that stand in his way and thus stand in the way of others learning “the truth.”  Under such circumstances, it makes perfect sense for the author to propose his “too-clever-by-half” idea of creating a form of BDS that he feels has the added benefit of undercutting the original BDS project (by embracing their vocabulary, but using it as a call for the good Jews to attack the bad ones).

Such a strategy implies near perfect obliviousness to the true nature of the mainstream BDS project which simply looks at Beinart’s behavior and draws up the appropriate short-hand headline: “prominent Jewish progressive supports BDS.”

It also misses the point that the world contains more than the good Jews who agree with Beinart and the bad Jews who do not.  It contains Palestinians and their allies in the Arab world and beyond who are not simply props in an inter-Jewish drama, but actors and contributors to their own situation and fate.  And it also contains the often-overlooked civic organizations whose victimization is at the heart of any BDS debate.

As I’ve noted over and over on this blog, the whole point of BDS is to get the propaganda message of “Israel = Apartheid” to come out of the mouth of a prominent, respected (and usually progressive) organization, be it a college, church, city or food coop.  And to get that to happen, all options are open, such as passing a boycott behind the backs of coop members on one side of the country (Olympia Washington) while demanding a “democratic” vote on the same subject on the other side of the country (Park Slope).

These organizations have already been offered the choice of so-called “Targeted BDS” which allegedly zeroes in on just the bad Jews vs. all Jews.  But only as a bait-and-switch option used to lure an institution into the clutches of the boycotters who will use any “Yes” vote they manage to achieve on any form of BDS (no matter how limited) to propagate the propaganda message that “this school, this city, this co-op agrees with us that Israel is an Apartheid state and is ready to boycott it– and so should you!”

Like other prominent thinkers who have rearranged the world to fit their opinions (Mearsheimer and Walt come to mind), Beinart has created an immoral universe and defined his own morality around it while simultaneously providing considerable ammunition to a BDS movement he claims to loath.

Others take issue with the author’s posing as the only true friend of Israel (one of many such “friends” who attack the Jewish state only to save it).  But my bigger problem is that Beinart’s complete political self-centeredness inevitably means he will be hurting people he doesn’t even know exist.