Wednesday, June 17, 2015

They’re Called anti-Boycott, Divest & Sanction Laws

The battle over Palestinian independence has played out on the international stage resulting in a very powerful global rejection of the tough Israeli position. As the world seems pretty much to ignore Palestinian Hamas’ horrors, its occasional rain of Gaza-launched rockets against Israel (indiscriminate targets resisted by a very effective Iron Dome defense), Israel has been strongly isolated by most countries on earth. Israel has not helped its case as it continues to build West Bank settlements and as senior government officials pledge that they will not surrender claims to the lands that would otherwise be the designated future Palestinian state. The U.N. is also investigating “human rights” violations based on Israel’s perceived “excessive” retaliation against Hamas attacks.
Israel has courted the world with its position – from PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentations to both the UN and the assembled U.S. Congress to use of the Jewish diaspora to pressure regional politicians – and with the exception of the United States, the Jewish state’s pleas have pretty much fallen on deaf ears. Israel has been arrogant and awkward in her global public relations efforts, further exacerbating her isolation, with most nations finding Hamas’ atrocities to be somehow justified in their quest for independence, more acceptable, perhaps, because Israeli casualties were a small fraction of Palestinian fatalities and injuries. For additional details, see my “Arrogant Isolationism” (March 19th) and “The Palestinian ‘Side Show’” (June 3rd) blogs.
Let me be clear. There is no justification for Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel, particularly since there has been very little attempt by Hamas to direct such efforts against military targets. The fact that Israel’s Iron Dome defense was effective, saving Israeli lives, does not make Hamas rocket attacks any less offensive. Likewise, Israel’s seeming commitment to avoid a bona fide peace agreement with Palestine is also offensive, very much contrary to U.S. polices set during the Clinton administration and never altered by any subsequent presidency.
But right now, folks aren’t addressing Palestinian excess. Israel’s extreme reactions and positions have pretty much relegated its political position to support from the United States, the only major nation on earth still willing to back Israel with very few strings. Overall Republican support, clearly, is “Israel no matter what” while many Dems want Israel to start making bona fide moves towards a peaceful settlement of the issues surrounding Palestine’s quest for autonomy. Virtually the rest of the world is ready to recognize the entire Palestinian state now, the “occupied territories” of the West Bank (with Jerusalem as a divided city) and Gaza.
We’ve seen waves of anti-Semitism rising in Europe, and as Israel refuses to budge in its opposition to Palestinian autonomy, there are nascent parallel movements here in here the United States. People are seemingly unable to differentiate between Zionism and Judaism. Too many have crossed the line on anti-Semitism based on their opposition to Israeli policies. We need to be very, very clear. These are two completely different notions and need to be looked at that way. Ant-Semitism is just plain ugly.
There are a number of American investment funds, including several university endowments, which have come to divest themselves of stocks from companies that are connected with or are in support of Israel and its current policies toward Palestine. And since the United States appears to be Israel’s only significant friend in the world (although France has openly opposed anti-Israel boycotts), politicos in this country are beginning to mount a counter-campaign against such efforts.
“South Carolina has become the first state to enact legislation aimed at thwarting an international pro-Palestinian economic and disinvestment campaign intended to penalize Israel. Illinois will soon become the second, and advocates say plans are underway for similar laws in 18 more states.
“In Washington, Congress could vote this month on trade legislation with language that would encourage the blacklisting of foreign companies that support the pro-Palestinian campaign, known as Boycott, Divest and Sanction, or B.D.S. The trade legislation is notable in part because the scope of its blacklisting could include companies that refuse to do business with Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, even though they are widely considered illegal.
“And in Las Vegas [over the first weekend in June], Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino owner who is one of the Israeli government’s most important American supporters, is convening a private meeting of pro-Israel donors to devise new strategies for countering B.D.S., particularly on American college campuses, where it has gained some support since the Gaza war last summer.
“Alarmed over what they see as the growing influence of B.D.S., Israel’s advocates in the United States, mirroring the reaction among many in Israel, are scrambling to respond. Some have embraced a call by the new Israeli justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, to ‘boycott the boycotters.’
“The extent of B.D.S.’s popularity is hard to assess in the United States, where support for Israel remains overwhelmingly strong — something that boycott organizers concede. Still, the campaign’s effort to isolate Israel economically — even if it has yet to show any practical impact — has struck a nerve among many American Jews. They see the effort as a form of anti-Semitism, an accusation that B.D.S. supporters call a false, cynical and divisive scare tactic.” New York Times, June 5th.
However sincere the effort and however effective the potential to stop the B.D.S. effort, even with public universities or schools that receive federal aid, there is a very big First Amendment issue with these laws, and courts are likely immediately to be drawn into the controversy. Our leaders know that the U.S. pro-Israel position on Palestine is widely out-of-step with most nations on earth (the U.N. General Assembly vote on Palestine, 138 favoring the Palestinian state, 9 favoring hold to Israel’s vision and 41 abstentions, pretty much says it all), but conservative America (particularly the Evangelical movement bent on fomenting Armageddon in the Middle East) is committed to support Netanyahu’s position at all costs. What do you think the United States should do on these B.D.S. practices… if anything?
I’m Peter Dekom, and indeed the muck and mire in the highly unstable Middle East seems hopelessly tangled in toxic barbed wire at every level.

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