Despite being a weekly columnist, I feel compelled to respond to the Jerusalem Post editorial titled “Zionist Unity” (22/5/12).
The editorial makes the outrageous claim that left-wing Jews living in the Diaspora who call for global boycotts of Israeli settlements may be considered as acting within a Zionist framework. Furthermore, it states that unlike the South African government, diaspora Jews like Peter Beinart who are allegedly motivated by good intentions should not be condemned.
Some of the worst acts in history were instituted by well-intentioned people. That in no way justified their actions or detracts from deplorable initiatives.
The editorial brackets the boycott by diaspora Jews with similar initiatives promoted in Israel by Meretz and groups further to the left. But there is a major distinction. Those engaged in such activities within Israel, as the editorial itself notes, also serve in the IDF and for better or for worse, will personally reap the consequences of their actions. However, most Israelis would also condemn and regard with contempt those calling for boycotts of goods from settlements.
Diaspora Jews fall into an entirely different category. When they call for global boycotts of Israeli settlements, they are effectively promoting delegitimization and paving the way for broader boycotts. Besides, unlike their delusional Israeli counterparts, they are mere observers, physically unaffected by the negative repercussions of their actions.
It is the ultimate nonsense to suggest that some boycotts are “good” because they are promoted by well-intentioned advocates, in contrast to the South Africans who are “bad”. When we begin assessing hostile acts on the basis of good or bad intentions, we are surely heading towards an “Alice in Wonderland” situation.
A Diaspora Jew engaging in a campaign to boycott any sector of Israel society is indulging in a harmful and “pernicious” act. It reflects an indifference to the double standards employed against Israel and will unquestionably be exploited by those seeking to boycott and delegitimize Israel in general.
It grieves me that the Jerusalem Post would publish an editorial explicitly exonerating Peter Beinart from the harm he is inflicting on the Jewish state when even many of the far left critics of Israel – including J Street – have felt compelled to distance themselves from this aspect of his campaign. As I wrote in a recent column (Breakfast with Peter Beinart), Beinart may be personally amiable and charming but he has now assumed the role of the leading Jew engaged in demonizing and delegitimizing the state of Israel and his “good” intentions in no way detract from the damage he is inflicting upon us.
It is especially distressing to read what could be deemed as a Jerusalem Post imprimatur for Beinart’s actions, when one considers the bias and distortions reflected in his portrayal of Israel and the fact that his analysis is essentially based on the narrative of our enemies which blames Israel for the breakdown in the peace negotiations. Whilst occasionally paying lip service towards condemning some Arab abominations, he emphasizes Palestinian suffering and fails to reflect the impact of the Palestinian violence and terror inflicted on Israeli civilians since Oslo.
Today, we are witness to a sea change in public opinion at the grassroots level, both in Israel and the diaspora, with a broad recognition that the current Palestinian leadership cannot possibly be considered to be a genuine peace partner. One can of course debate the pros and cons of this approach. However, to legitimize and describe as a Zionist, a Jew calling for a boycott of Israeli settlements, gives credence to activities which have the potential of impacting disastrously on Israel. There must be red lines. Many of us have reservations about diaspora Jews publicly condemning the democratically elected Israeli government on security issues but we recognize that in a democracy they are entitled to their views. But that surely does not apply to those directly calling for boycotts against sectors of Israeli society.
The editorial correctly expresses consternation that the South African government is creating an atmosphere in which bullying Israel is considered perfectly legitimate. Surely the Diaspora Jews who indulge in similar activities should likewise be fervently condemned for conducting hostile acts against their own kinsmen. The suggestion that the vast majority of committed Jews in the diaspora as well as Israelis, should welcome Jews calling for such boycotts into “the big tent” if their “motivation” is deemed to be “well intentioned”, is thus idiotic and unconscionable.
The writer may be contacted at [email protected]
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post