July 14, 2011


Knesset of Fools: A harsh new anti-boycott bill will help achieve the exact opposite of what its advocates intended: the delegitimization of the Jewish state. (HUSSEIN IBISH, JULY 12, 2011, Foreign Policy)

Perhaps the greatest irony is that the Knesset members who passed the "Boycott Bill" and their supporters do not seem to understand that boycotts, divestment, and sanctions that are carefully targeted against the occupation and the settlements but scrupulously avoid targeting Israel legitimize rather than delegitimize the Israeli state. They say, in effect: We do not want to buy or sell the products of the illegitimate settlement program, but we are happy to buy or sell Israeli goods because Israel is a legitimate state. By carefully targeting the occupation and the settlements, such boycotts implicitly recognize the legitimacy of Israel itself. But to supporters of the settlements, this is of little or no importance. To them, it's all simply Israel.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has been engaged in precisely this kind of boycott in the small areas under its control in the West Bank. Beginning in March 2010, it circulated brochures to every household in "Area A" complete with color images of the logos of the banned settlement companies so that no one could have any doubts about which products were unlawful. After an initial grace period, the PA began forcibly removing these products from Palestinian shops and then shortly afterward began prosecuting those distributing them. Palestinians have been effectively urging people the world over, including sympathetic Israelis, to join them in seeking clarity, and drawing a sharp distinction between Israel on the one hand and the settlement project on the other.

This Palestinian boycott of settlement goods is an integral part of the program of nonviolent resistance to occupation currently under way in the West Bank, and the international campaign is an extension of that. The "Boycott Bill" is an attack on precisely this kind of nonviolent protest, which is, of course, the appropriate alternative to the self-destructive and self-defeating violence of the past. But, as with other forms of nonviolent resistance, Israel is proving as intolerant to this nonviolent tactic as it has been to all other forms of combating the occupation. For Israel, it seems, the only accepted response is to submit and stop making a fuss of any kind.

It's no surprise that large numbers of prominent Knesset members were unaccountably missing from the "Boycott Bill" vote, most notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is not only because the law is an obvious affront to freedom of speech and other principles of democracy, but also because of the high likelihood it will be struck down by the Israeli Supreme Court. Canny Israeli politicians no doubt also understand that rhetorically conflating Israel and the settlements in such a crude manner is a very dangerous thing to do in the immediate term, and potentially disastrous in the long run.

Given the powerful international consensus against the settlements -- including the United States, which unequivocally holds that the settlement project is at least illegitimate, if not outright illegal, and which clearly distinguishes between Israel and the occupation -- this crude law inflicts the most powerful delegitimizing blow against Israel in living memory.

Posted by at July 14, 2011 2:35 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus