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Israel Delegitimizes Itself

The BDS movement is the big winner after yesterday’s law

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“It’s almost as if it were designed to propagate the very thing it’s designed to suppress,” Stephen Clingman, a South African-born English professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told me this morning. I had called him with a leading question that, as a supporter of Israel, I have long dreaded to ask, but that I felt Israel’s passage yesterday of the anti-boycott law demanded: Does the Israeli government legitimately raise comparisons to the former apartheid regime of South Africa? I have long rejected this analogy, and still do (so does Clingman), and can give you about a dozen reasons why, including the nature of the oppressed minority’s politics and the structure of the majority’s government. And it is in part because I reject this analogy that I also reject the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement—both against Israel and against the settlements—that the law would ostensibly combat.

But the passage of this legislation has forced me to grapple with this analogy nonetheless. In striking against the international BDS movement and its undeniable, and undeniably unfair, campaign of delegitimization with such an absurd, draconian gesture, isn’t the Israeli government compelling all honest observers to pay more attention to the motives and arguments of the BDS movement? It seems to me that MK Zeev Elkin, of Likud, the bill’s main sponsor, is the BDS movement’s most useful of idiots. He ought to get a cut of the donations that are about to pour in.

Implicit in insistences today from the U.S. State Department and the Anti-Defamation League that the anti-boycott law offends Israel’s democracy (“among Israel’s many assets is its vibrant democracy,” Abraham Foxman said. “To legally stifle calls to action—however abhorrent and detrimental they might be—is a disservice to Israeli society”) is that, at some point, if you keep going down this road, you no longer are a democracy, and the BDS movement will have won. This is not only a tactical or strategic misstep, as some have suggested; it is a fundamental, moral one.

And here is where the South Africa analogy is most useful. “There was lots of suppression of speech in South Africa, lots of suppression of press reporting, a curtailment of access to news,” Clingman remembers. “I’m not saying there’s a clear parallel here, but every time the laws for detention without trial were extended, these were exercises of authority, but they ended up delegitimizing the regime. Frequently the laws designed to shore up the regime’s power ended up undermining it. An expression of power can become an expression of weakness.” Israeli human rights groups will ask the Supreme Court to overturn the law, and they will likely (and hopefully) get their wish; the notion of a similar thing happening in 1970s South Africa is laughable. But the challenge remains until the judges handle it.

Speaking of challenges, today in Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz had a challenge for Israel: Sue me, he said. I have a different one: Prove me wrong. Please don’t ever force me to me make today’s phone call again.

Israel Bans Boycotts Against the State [NYT]
Israeli Rights Groups To Ask Supreme Court to Overturn Law Banning Boycotts of Settlements [AP/WP]
Israeli Boycott Furor Misses the Point [Contentions]
Related: Unruly [Tablet Magazine]

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Reuvain says:

The US has a boycott law what is the difference ?

Marc R says:

Seriously, now. Is Israel the only democracy to occasionally pass dumb laws? How about the U.S. law against flag burning that was struck down?

Have we delegitimized ourselves?

Carl says:

Leaving aside the fact that it is clear to anyone with half a brain that the problem in the “peace process” is not the settlements, it is illiogical for Israel to fight boycotting overseas while not fighting it in Israel.
It’s also true that many of the “peace” groups from Europe who finance boycott groups in Israel are anti-Zionist and seek the destruction of Israel.

Gene says:

If you find similarity between present Israeli government and apartheid government of South Africa – would you mind also to compare tactics of the leftists in Israel with the actions of Nazis in Germany in 1933?
http://ivarfjeld.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/jewish-boycott-april-1933-200px.jpg?w=200&h=200
This is the “freedom of expression” – isn’t it?

dave says:

I agree that this bill doesn’t seem to be a shining moment for Israeli democracy, but the impetus behind its passage was a government sponsored theatre group refusing to play in Ariel.
Knowing what a centralized society Israel is, the notion of one Israeli ‘public servant’ selectively choosing how and where to perform his duties doesn’t sit right with some people.

Israel is a society made up of Jews who are often miles apart in terms of culture and belief, and yet somehow agree to function together as a nation. There is also a sense of egalitarianism, at least where public service is concerned. If one group (of government employees) selectively decides which Israelis it will perform for and which it won’t, then where does it end?

Of course, the law is an over-reaction, and the right wing people behind it are probably huge hypocrites themselves when it comes to singling out worthy and unworthy Israelis. I see a parallel in various chapters of Israeli history, particularly the war of independence, when all settlements were defended by the nascent IDF–a group comprised of theretofore separate militias each with its own distinct ideology–the citizen/soldiers didn’t decide on their own which settlements were worth fighting for and which weren’t.

Anyway, just thought I’d throw that in there for perspective. As it is, the way the headlines are being reported, it sounds as if Israel is declaring war on anyone in the world who would dare oppose its settlement policy, when in fact it is very much an internal matter.

steve says:

You know this article is a work of fiction when Marc Tracy states he is a friend of Israel. You only have to read his other articles to appreciate how funny this is.

The boycott law is less severe than the US law in that the bill that passed gives one a civil right while violation of the US laws against boycotting Israel seek criminal penalties. Where is the outrage when the Netherlands bans kosher slaughter….not a mere boycott of it. Free speech impaired? Britain’s laws on defamation are a far greater impediment to free speech. And for Abe Foxman? He didn’t even read the bill before he criticized it as evidenced by his comments about it.

Alter says:

What’s all the excitement about? So Israel is a little pregnant in becoming a totalitarian state. But only a little. Relax.

Hersh Adlerstein says:

Let’s all understand that those of us who love and support Israel do not similarly love and support the current coalition, composed as it is of the right-wing (except for the remains of Labor) and/or the lunatic fringe of ultra-Orthodox mishigoyim. A majority of American Jews are not supporters of the settlements and of hate-filled Shas leaders. But I agree that all democracies tolerate – and. alas, often elect – governments that we eventually regret. Where oh where are the Ben Gurions or the Sharons of today? Only Shimon Peres, who’s job as president is without power, remains.

The boycotting of pre-Mandela South-Africa was what brings
this country to where it is today :
a 3rd world country on the brink of becoming a 4th world country(Zimbabwe, Somalia, North Korea…)

This author’s triple talk(1-friend of Israel, 2-criticism of Israel’s
measures in self-defense, 3-delegitimizing Israel in the same breath)
shows clearly where he stands: with the enemies of Israel.

Mr.Gene,
you hit the Bashan bull(Psalm22) in both eyes !

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Israel Delegitimizes Itself

The BDS movement is the big winner after yesterday’s law

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