Wednesday, February 05, 2014

BDS and One Confused Jew

I think I need to clarify, if only for myself - a self-described liberal diaspora Jew who believes that Jewish nationalism is a convincing proposition - what I believe when it comes to BDS ("boycott, divestment, and sanctions") of Israel in the age of King Bibi. So here goes:

1. I am opposed to academic boycotts, and oppose specifically a boycott of Israeli institutes of higher education (with one exception, see #2). There are numerous reasons that lead me to a complete rejection of academic and cultural boycotts, including the anti-Semitic outcome of this particular boycott.
2. Until there is a resolution of borders between Israel and a Palestinian state, I will continue to observe a boycott of refrain from interacting with Ariel University. I think the existence of Ariel University in the West Bank monstros-city of Ariel is wrong, and I oppose the government of Israel wasting millions of dollars to support its existence at the expense of other Israeli institutions of higher learning, as reported today in Calcalist. All my public opposition to an academic boycott of Israeli institutes of higher education does not apply to Ariel University. If in a final disposition of the border, Ariel falls inside Israel, I will revisit this boycott self-imposed herem.
3. Many years ago I reached the conclusion that the entire Jewish settlement project of the past 40+ years is a disaster for both Palestinians and Israelis, and decided to not use my consumer purse to support it. When in Israel or not, I do my very best to not purchase settlement-based products. There is no Sodastream device in my kitchen, and I would only consider Sodastream if in a final disposition of borders, the factory of Sodastream ends up inside Israel. I do not "visit" West Bank Jewish settlements, and I regard - until a final disposition is carried out - the old Green Line as the demarcation between Israel and Palestine. When I do cross the Green Line, I try to do so at the invitation of Palestinians (and not Israeli Jews), or as a tourist/scholar. I don't exactly know how to carry out this policy while in Jerusalem, but I try to spend as little time in metro Jerusalem as possible. Roughly, I am hewing to what Peter Beinart called "Zionist BDS."
4. I believe that the present government of Israel is completely out of control in matters domestic and foreign, and in matters of style and conduct. It does not have my support. Until it changes, or changes its approach, I will not lend an effort on its behalf. I will not oppose an economic boycott of the current government of Israel with the same zeal I oppose an academic boycott. In the not too distant future, I think Israel will be a better and healthier place without US foreign aid. 
5. So much for what I won't do - here is what I will do: I will donate my time, my philanthropic money, and my limited influence as a public figure, to causes and organizations of my choosing which further the aim of ending the settlement project and the occupation, and advance the concept of bi-national coexistence. I will do what very little I can as a non-Israeli Jew to promote the constitution of an Israeli government which is serious about resolving the conflict fairly. That will keep me plenty busy and productive.
6. I do not feel aligned with either AIPAC (certainly) or JStreet (for different reasons, just as certainly), and will join up with them on a rare case-by-case basis.
7. One last point - none of these musings mean for even a single second that I hold Israel principally responsible for the lack of a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. BDS advocates put the onus on Israel. I don't buy that proposition. BDS advocates seem to fall into 2 camps: the Israel-be-goners (and I include in this category the disingenuous self-styled "agnostics") and the end-of-occupation activists. Either way, they blame Israel alone and its settlements exclusively for the stalemate. That is also a proposition no reasonable student of the conflict could accept.
I am prepared to refine this list or modify these points as I think about these questions more. Let me know what you think, and how you resolve these competing impulses.