Of Boycotts and Double Standards

by Corey Robin on December 18, 2013

Last month, Brandeis University announced that it was severing its decade-long relationship with the Palestinian university Al Quds. Since 2003, the  two universities have engaged in sustained academic exchanges, involving joint research projects, conferences, study abroad programs, and more.

Brandeis severed the relationship in response both to an Islamic Jihad rally on the Al Quds campus that featured Nazi-style salutes, military-style outfits, and fake weapons, and to the failure, in Brandeis’s eyes, of the Al Quds administration to respond appropriately to that demonstration. Three Brandeis professors who have been involved in the Al Quds exchange wrote a lengthy report protesting this decision by Brandeis.

In terms of actual academic exchange, the Brandeis decision has a substantive impact. It ends a real relationship, with real infrastructure and opportunities for scholars and students to communicate with each other and work together.

To my knowledge, not a single professor of American Studies at Brandeis has publicly protested the decision of the university. Indeed, the only public comment on the controversy by an American Studies professor at Brandeis that I could find was a criticism of the three professors’ report protesting the decision.

Now the ASA has voted for an academic boycott of Israel. In response, the entire American Studies department at Brandeis has resigned from the ASA in protest. Claiming, among other things, that “we can no longer support an organization that has rejected two of the core principles of American culture–freedom of association and expression.”

• • • • • •


In related news: In response to the BDS movement against Israel, critics say, “It’s not South Africa!” Turns out that in response to the sanctions movement against South Africa, critics said, “It’s not Palestine!” Seriously, they did.

{ 155 comments }

1

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 12.18.13 at 11:17 pm

All we are saying
Is give war more chances
~

2

Ed Herdman 12.19.13 at 1:04 am

I would like to see somebody (from the Israel policy defense camp) come to grips with the double standards here presented that does not take the form “it’s not really a double standard” or “but there’s other double standards that are worse.”

Interesting tidbits here – thanks!

3

Elkoshi 12.19.13 at 1:40 am

To Ed Herdman (2),

Honestly, your comment confuses me. Brandeis severed their relationship with one institution due to specific actions at said institution. The ASA wishes to sever relations (at least partially) with every institution in Israel, regardless of the political views or actions of those institutions. Where, pray tell, do you see a double standard?

4

Corey Robin 12.19.13 at 4:16 am

Elkoshi: The Academic Boycott guidelines state that “all Israeli academic institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence, actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel’s violations of international law and human rights, or indeed through their direct collaboration with state agencies in the design and commission of these violations.”

You may disagree with statement or find it repellent. But it’s clear that it is not a boycott of institutions “regardless of the political views or actions of those institutions.” Should an academic institution come out against the Israeli occupation and violations of Palestinian rights, it would not be boycotted.

The double standard of the Brandeis faculty comes from their claim that the ASA boycott violates the freedom of association. As I tried to explain in my OP, the academic exchange between Brandeis and Al Quds was far more robust and intensive than the exchanges between American Studies scholars in the US and Israeli scholars. The latter, as both critics and defenders of the boycott acknowledge, is virtually nil.

So the Am Stud faculty at Brandeis would find their exchanges with Al Quds far more compromised by the Brandeis decision than they would by the ASA decision. Yet they don’t protest the former while resigning over the latter. Even though the former is a response only to the failure of a university administration to sufficiently rebuke a rally Brandeis finds objectionable while the latter is a response to the failure of Israeli institutions to voice any official challenge to the government’s systemic violation of basic rights. And indeed in many cases to collaborate with that violation.

5

Ben Alpers 12.19.13 at 5:00 am

The double standard of the Brandeis faculty comes from their claim that the ASA boycott violates the freedom of association.

This point would be significantly stronger if you had evidence that the American Studies faculty at Brandeis were actively defending the decision regarding Al Quds. On the face of it, your argument looks to me like a mirror image of Michael Kazin’s inconsistency argument against the ASA’s boycott which you (quite rightly IMO) criticized in an earlier post.

6

Corey Robin 12.19.13 at 5:11 am

I guess I was trying to show the double standard of the double standard meme. Like so: you guys complain about double standards; well, here’s a doozie of a double standard. I know, a little meta. Probably should have been clearer about this all.

My personal feeling is that if the Brandeis faculty want to say that the defense of Israel takes priority, that they care more about that issue than others, that b/c Brandeis is a historically defined Jewish school with closer ties to the State of Israel, that’s fine. But the faculty shouldn’t dress it up in more neutral or universal sounding arguments about freedom of association and the like. They should name the problem, in other words.

One of the things I actually liked about Peter Beinart’s critique of BDS is that he focused on what he thinks is the real substantive issue at stake, which has nothing to do with tactics but with deeper ideas about whether Israel should exist as a Jewish state or not.

I wish other critics of BDS would be as honest.

7

William Berry 12.19.13 at 6:41 am

This is going to get very nasty.

I am going to waste my time and this brief comment on the following appeal: Everyone, please look ahead to whatever future you are helping to realize, then think again about what you think you believe and desire.

8

GiT 12.19.13 at 6:56 am

“On the face of it, your argument looks to me like a mirror image of Michael Kazin’s inconsistency argument against the ASA’s boycott which you (quite rightly IMO) criticized in an earlier post.”

Well yes, that’s the point, right?

9

MPAVictoria 12.19.13 at 1:49 pm

” Even though the former is a response only to the failure of a university administration to sufficiently rebuke a rally Brandeis finds objectionable”

Shouldn’t we ALL find that rally objectionable?

10

Ronan(rf) 12.19.13 at 2:42 pm

Not if you value freedom of expression

11

MPAVictoria 12.19.13 at 2:51 pm

“Not if you value freedom of expression”
Really? I never said that they shouldn’t be allowed to rally, I said we find a rally that featured “featured Nazi-style salutes, military-style outfits, and fake weapons” objectionable. You don’t find it objectionable?

12

MPAVictoria 12.19.13 at 2:52 pm

sorry should have been
“I said we should find a rally that featured “featured Nazi-style salutes, military-style outfits, and fake weapons” objectionable.”

13

Ronan(rf) 12.19.13 at 3:07 pm

I mean it’s pretty much built into Islamic Jihad ideologically that they don’t much like Israeli’s, (and at this stage by extension Jewish people), and this is probably a net gain compared to their usual activities.

It’s probably not ideal, admittedly, but shouldn’t we all should be encouraging Islamic Jihad to take to antisemitic protest rather than armed struggle? Imagine if Israel used this moment to agree to a comprehensive peace deal ,and offensive protest replaced armed struggle around the world? That’d be great ! (I’m serious as well)

14

Z 12.19.13 at 3:08 pm

I said we should find a rally that featured “featured Nazi-style salutes, military-style outfits, and fake weapons” objectionable.

Why, yes sure. And we should all find the occupation of the occupied territories objectionable. If boycott is an efficient and appropriate response for the former, then it probably is for the latter. And if boycott is appalling for the latter, then probably it is for the former. Apparently, not so for (part of) the faculty of Brandeis.

15

MPAVictoria 12.19.13 at 3:15 pm

Fair enough Ronan but you originally said that you can’t find this march objectionable if you value freedom of expression. Were you kidding and does my irony detector need adjustment?

16

Ronan(rf) 12.19.13 at 3:19 pm

No I was serious, although I also misread what you were saying. I can see why someone might find it objectionable.

17

Ben Alpers 12.19.13 at 3:26 pm

My personal feeling is that if the Brandeis faculty want to say that the defense of Israel takes priority, that they care more about that issue than others, that b/c Brandeis is a historically defined Jewish school with closer ties to the State of Israel, that’s fine. But the faculty shouldn’t dress it up in more neutral or universal sounding arguments about freedom of association and the like. They should name the problem, in other words.

Isn’t it just as likely that an American Studies department is focusing on the actions of the ASA because the ASA is the professional organization that represents their (inter)discipline? Indeed, as the link above notes, Brandeis is the second institution whose American Studies department has done this. The first was Penn State Harrisburg, not, so far as I know, “a historically defined Jewish school with [close] ties to the State of Israel.”

It would be a step in the right direction in this discussion — and in discussions of Israel / Palestine in general — if everyone on all sides spent a little less time telling their opponents what those opponents really believe or what really lies behind their actions. When everyone simply assumes bad faith on the part of their interlocutors, discussion is pretty much impossible

18

Mao Cheng Ji 12.19.13 at 3:37 pm

I know that throwing rocks at tanks is objectionable, but the objection to fake weapons sounds like a new rule of etiquette for people who are being slowly exterminated. Perhaps they were not aware.

19

MPAVictoria 12.19.13 at 3:56 pm

“No I was serious, although I also misread what you were saying. I can see why someone might find it objectionable.”

Okay. Thanks for the clarification.

20

MPAVictoria 12.19.13 at 3:59 pm

Imagine my surprise when Mao “I am an expert in all things Jewish and Tibetan” Cheng Ji comes out in favour of Nazis salutes.

It is possible to find both the treatment of the Palestinians and the use of Nazi imagery objectionable at the same time.

21

Sebastian H 12.19.13 at 4:20 pm

It would be better for the world if mothers and fathers could learn to have good relationships and stay together.

Some specific mothers and fathers definitely shouldn’t stay together.

I believe both of those statements to be true, and while the are in tension based on the details of the generalities expressed, they aren’t contradictions. I might even work to make marriage more manageable for people who love each other (work for gay marriage, provide financial support for families, etc) while still support structures that help people who shouldn’t stay together get apart from one another (battered spouse shelters perhaps).

The BDS movement seems to operate at the first level of generality, while the Brandeis case operates at the second level of generality. Operating differently at one level of generality from another is often ok.

The question the BDS movement raises is how appropriate it is to collectively punish universities and researchers on the basis of their nationality or ethnicity.

The question the Brandeis case raises is how appropriate it is to sever a specific personal relationship when confronted by what they perceive to be a betrayal.

Morally interesting contradictions come at similar levels of generality: you want to boycott Israel over Palestine but not China over Tibet–main difference, China completely squashed the local religion and had an active settler plan to overwhelm the locals while Israel isn’t as ruthless and has a permissive settlement regime allowing small numbers if settlers rather than an active one.

At different levels of generality, things aren’t necessarily even contradictions. Saying, “you say you support marriage but REALLY you are willing to help the battered wife get divorced, HA!” just seems weird.

The Brandeis case as presented seems somewhere in the middle. Clearly a different level of generality but I’m not sure if different enough.

The weird thing about Corey’s presentation in the OP is that he seems to suggest that it is worse to terminate existing specific relationships over individual problems than to do a blanket termination over general problems. That seems like the opposite of how we normally expect thing to work.

22

Shatterface 12.19.13 at 5:31 pm

No I was serious, although I also misread what you were saying. I can see why someone might find it objectionable.

Yeah, funny that some people might find a celebration of Nazism offensive.

23

Donald Johnson 12.19.13 at 5:56 pm

“I guess I was trying to show the double standard of the double standard meme. ”

There are lots of double standards on this subject. So far as I can tell, it’s a terrible thing for the ASA to engage in some boycott with no real effect beyond stirring up discussion on the subject, but it’s okay for the US and Israel to impose real sanctions and blockades that ruin people’s lives and probably cause deaths. It’s okay for the US to act as Israel’s lawyer and enabler, but it is “singling Israel out” if someone protests in a way that actually draws attention to the problem. “Singling out Israel”, it seems, is only bad if it doesn’t involve supporting them as they continue to steal land.

The real problem with actions like the ASA boycott is that they give Israel’s defenders yet another opportunity to play the victim card, yammer on about academic freedom and distract attention from Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. The NYT story the other day gave almost all of its space to critics of the boycott, and one sentence to someone defending it, so the average person is likely to think that this boycott is just another silly academic exercise at best or at worst borderline anti-semitism. Or they give an opportunity to people to trot out other examples of other countries behaving in an oppressive way, though as it happens there are no Americans who constantly praise China as an emblem of democracy and I see far more bumper stickers protesting the occupation of Tibet than I do protesting the occupation of Palestine. Perhaps there is a bumper sticker double standard.

Well, if you can’t beat them, join them. I also think the ASA boycott is ill-advised. Seriously. The problem for Americans (I can’t speak for what the situation is in Britain) is that our government is strongly biased in favor of Israel and yet pretends to be a neutral arbiter. As American citizens Israel’s crimes are almost as much our responsibility as those we commit ourselves, but we should fight this in ways that might bring attention to the fact that as Americans we are deeply implicated in what amounts to an apartheid system. The boycott of Israeli universities misses the point–the problem is that American politicians in both parties treat Israel as the eternal victim forever deserving of our aid and praise.

24

Kaveh 12.19.13 at 6:51 pm

@23 “I also think the ASA boycott is ill-advised. Seriously. The problem for Americans (I can’t speak for what the situation is in Britain) is that our government is strongly biased in favor of Israel and yet pretends to be a neutral arbiter. … we should fight this in ways that might bring attention to the fact that as Americans we are deeply implicated in what amounts to an apartheid system.”

I don’t see how a boycott fails to do that. Anybody paying even a tiny bit of attention to the whole issue cannot fail to notice how the US government is super-committed & partial.

25

Corey Robin 12.19.13 at 7:48 pm

“The weird thing about Corey’s presentation in the OP is that he seems to suggest that it is worse to terminate existing specific relationships over individual problems than to do a blanket termination over general problems.”

If your concern is an abstract concern with freedom of association, as the faculty at Brandeis have said, Brandeis’s termination of a specific relationship is a far greater threat to that freedom of association (as well as actual academic exchange) — and is a response to a much lower level of provocation, as the three Brandeis professors pointed out — than is the ASA blanket termination. And thus would seem a more likely candidate for protest action. Which is what I said in the OP. Nothing really weird about it.

26

Ronan(rf) 12.19.13 at 7:57 pm

“Yeah, funny that some people might find a celebration of Nazism offensive.”

I really don’t mind someone at Brandeis being offended by Islamic Jihad (!!) engaging in an offensive protest at a university thousands of miles away, I just don’t get it. If it had been the Ontario teachers union, or whatever, that might make sense to me.
I think it’s a ridiculous reason to break of relations with Al Quds, which will primarily affect the majority non protesting students. The only reason I can see for it happening is as a result of hypersensitivity or political pressure. I think it’s a double standard and probably wouldn’t have happened if a similar protest had been held at, say, Birmingham (UK) University.
I think the people of Brandeis University quite clearly have no respect for freedom of expression. Though more power to them

27

Sebastian H 12.19.13 at 8:16 pm

I don’t understand how you think one break between two universities is a greater threat than terminating relations with all universities. All is greater than one.

I also don’t understand how you use lesser provocation. They are tough to compare. At least in the Brandeis case they are reacting or overreacting to something done at the target university. Unless you impute everything that happens in Israel to every university (which indeed the BDS movement appears to do) you can’t really say that. And frankly that position is quite a stretch. Especially since I suspect you’d resist arguments for collective guilt and collective punishment in most other cases.

28

Ed Herdman 12.19.13 at 8:26 pm

@ Sebastian: Corey has already addressed this (if tangentially) in asking commenters to think about what they are trying to actually achieve.

The BDS thing is
a.) politically active students, not supposedly sober and sane adult bureaucrats
b.) not going to actually have a sizable impact on academic freedom
c.) clearly targeted (even though it is obviously only clear by virtue of being a blanket target; the disanalogy between the two types does make this a bit of a stretch but clearly stating that citizens of Israel being a boycott target by virtue of the acts of their democratically-elected government is a bit more obvious than punishing everybody at Al Quds by the non-virtue of affiliation)

Just as I thought, this is turning into “the double standard isn’t really a double standard.”

29

MPAVictoria 12.19.13 at 8:43 pm

“Especially since I suspect you’d resist arguments for collective guilt and collective punishment in most other cases.”

Pretty much this. However, having considered the issue I am in favour of everyone boycotting anyone they choose. I haven’t been to a Walmart in years and I try to buy products made by workers who are treated well and paid a decent wage. Will it change the world? No, but it makes me feel better about who I am and what I claim to believe in. And that isn’t nothing.

30

ezra abrams 12.19.13 at 11:39 pm

Mao @ 18
Do you find these objectionable ?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaar_HaNegev_school_bus_attack
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avivim_school_bus_massacre
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haifa_bus_37_suicide_bombing

And yes, I’m sure you can find counter examples…the point is, this is not just fake weapons.

31

ezra abrams 12.19.13 at 11:46 pm

Some of you seem unsure as to why a Jew would find a Nazi salute offensive.
May I refresh your memory ?

http://www.shamash.org/holocaust/photos/
and see
http://www.shamash.org/holocaust/photos/images/Teeth.jpg

This is not just history, like the Inca genocide at the Potosi silver mine, or the Sack of Magdeburg, it is within living memory.
I guess it is sort of like a black guy walking down the street in any American City: you are always aware that someone may pick on you.

32

Sean McCann 12.20.13 at 1:47 am

all Israeli academic institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence, actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel’s violations of international law and human rights, or indeed through their direct collaboration with state agencies in the design and commission of these violations./

I am wondering if I misunderstand this passage. Am I wrong to think this is sweeping language and that the argument is functionalist (Israeli academic institutions are complicit with occupation and the denial of basic human rights because in their very existence, whatever other activities they enable–or because of the other activities they enable?–they divert attention from violations of law and rights)?

If that is not wrong, would there be any way for an academic institution to prove that it was not complicit with occupation and the denial of basic human rights? How would the proving be done and who would it be done for?

33

Ed Herdman 12.20.13 at 6:04 am

@ 31: Or like an Arab walking the streets of Israel, perhaps. Those histories of repression aren’t limited to the Jewish case.

Trying to extend the condemnation of terrorism to cover an institution which at one time hosted a group of almost certainly non-affiliated demonstrators who happened to choose a protest form that you personally find repellent is a neat trick. I am sure that the American Studies members department at Brandeis would not be astonished to know that cries of “naziism” are still regularly used as an emotional crutch by certain people within Israel for its own government whenever said government does things they do not like, like pulling them off stolen lands.

I think in this case you come to the belief that the one case is justified and the other is not by failing to apply the same fears of repression and the same rights of protest to foreign nationals – for whom also the abuse of Palestinians is not dead history. Trolling through the papers looking for incidents where college administrations were not Sufficiently Serious vis-a-vis acting on behalf of the supposed rights of people in Israel not to be fussed is going to land us trying to find and shame Dark Helmet’s “…former roommate,” which is going to leave us absolutely nowhere.

Speaking of being Sufficiently Serious, has anybody an indication that Brandeis attempted to reach some kind of policy change on the part of Al Quds? I suppose there is also no problem if you decide that boycotts are terrible but cutting people off at the knees is not. Perhaps the ASA protesters’ only sin is actually attaching something resembling an attempt at a dialogue to their actions; the Brandeis way is apparently that dialogue has no part of being sufficiently serious.

I think that in one respect the Al Quds President’s statement is, while certainly odd, also obviously correct in one respect: After it gets around to making a connection between poor protest choices and the villification of people seeking justice for Palestinians – which we see in this very comment thread by the comparison of such people for their views to violent terrorists – that University’s President asks students to respect other groups. And then Brandeis goes and bans them. QED, I guess.

34

mud man 12.20.13 at 6:40 am

I think there is a problem here conflating “offensive” and “objectionable”. It’s the same problem as conflating use of imagery with use of superior armed force.

35

Mao Cheng Ji 12.20.13 at 8:20 am

Ezra, “Mao @ 18 Do you find these objectionable ?”

I find the situation where these happen objectionable, and I look for the root cause. I don’t believe that masses of olive farmers tend to suddenly leave their villages, get crammed into a small blockaded area, and start shooting rockets at random strangers, just because they feel like it.

Does it make sense? Or should I ignore the context entirely, like you do?

36

Donald Johnson 12.20.13 at 12:09 pm

“I don’t see how a boycott fails to do that. Anybody paying even a tiny bit of attention to the whole issue cannot fail to notice how the US government is super-committed & partial”

Most of the coverage of the boycott says absolutely nothing about the bias of the US government. It’s almost entirely about the sorts of distractions we see in this thread and the previous one. The focus shifts from Israel’s crimes and American complicity to the horrors of “collective punishment” directed at Israeli universities and the implied anti-semitism of the dastardly academics who would condemn Israel and ignore the occupation of Tibet. So we argue about a tactic and the motivations of those who use this tactic. I would rather that the ASA and all other groups put forward a motion condemning the complicity of the US government in Israel’s apartheid-like system. No one could argue with a straight face that the US supports China and is partially responsible for China’s crimes the way we are for Israel’s. But boycott Israeli universities and you get a lot of hyperventiliation about trivialities, exactly as we see in the two threads here and in the press coverage.

37

Mao Cheng Ji 12.20.13 at 12:51 pm

Donald Johnson, you’re confusing the coverage of the boycott with the boycott itself. Boycott is not about making statements, it’s about creating incentives, inflicting pain.

Academic boycott is very good, it hits exactly at the right place. A boycott of the private sector middle-class professional activities (pharma, military, software, etc.) would also be good. Most of them are, according to my observations, quite chauvinistic and racist, but they are not religious nuts. They will emigrate before they sacrifice their careers. And once they start emigrating, the government will have to do something.

38

Corey Robin 12.20.13 at 1:57 pm

” I would rather that the ASA and all other groups put forward a motion condemning the complicity of the US government in Israel’s apartheid-like system. “

If you care about the issue of the Palestinians, that cannot be true. Or if it is you have a very attenuated sense of political efficacy. I guarantee you that such a resolution would be roundly ignored. The only reason we’re here discussing the issue of Israel/Palestine at all — in however truncated or misdirected a fashion it may be — is b/c of the ASA vote. And from the reports we’ve read in Haaretz and elsewhere, which I’ve cited in my various posts, it is actually having an effect on the Israeli government. What that effect will ultimately be, we don’t know. But they are much much more worried about this than they are by an idle resolution condemning them.

39

Kaveh 12.20.13 at 5:16 pm

@36 Most of the coverage of the boycott says absolutely nothing about the bias of the US government.

Do you have a suggestion for how to force what are basically pro-Israel institutions like the NYT to acknowledge the extent of US support for Israel? I think a lot of people would like to hear good suggestions for doing that.

(The lefty blogs, journalistic websites, &c. that I read hammer this point constantly, so it’s hard to see how this could be true. I’m assuming you mean that coverage in the NYT &c. doesn’t mention the extent of US govt support? They don’t do a good job of mentioning Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians either. A boycott that makes news forces institutions like that to pay attention to the issue, so people find out about the mistreatment of Palestinians and US govt support for those same abusive practices, when the news makes them curious and they look into the issue.)

40

matt 12.20.13 at 5:19 pm

“all Israeli academic institutions, unless proven otherwise”

“I could answer the question exactly the way you want , but if I did I would hate myself in the morning”.

http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=444

41

Corey Robin 12.20.13 at 5:40 pm

If loyalty oaths are not your thing, matt, and I can certainly see why they wouldn’t be — not mine either, incidentally — here’s a lengthy report on the actual ties between Israeli academia and the state, including the occupation. I think if universities, for starters, foreswore even half of this stuff, we’d be making some progress.

http://usacbi.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/economy_of_the_occupation_23-24.pdf

42

Ed Herdman 12.20.13 at 11:30 pm

Speaking of trivialities, Eszter Hargittai hasn’t seen fit (at this writing) to open up a blurb, praising a statement from the AAU against boycotts, to comments, so here’s mine:

Unfortunately, any admirable qualities of giving a strong support to the important issue of “academic freedom” is somewhat smothered by the obvious appearance of naked self-interest and the obvious reality that academic freedom, while a pillar of democracy, is simply not as important to those organizing the boycotts as political pressure.

Really it reminds me of Huntington all over again. I don’t mean to say that these people have sold their loyalties – far from it, I personally agree that academic freedom is worthwhile and I’d even argue that on balance it is worth more than a boycott, in the normal case – the complete lack of respect this shows for the legitimate political pressure tactics being employed is, ironically, not without some import as a kind of pressure against “academic freedom.” There also lurks the unstated belief that anybody the AAU partners with must be part of the normal liberal situation and therefore not an appropriate target for political pressure, which I think is debatable at least.

43

Sebastian H 12.20.13 at 11:38 pm

I guess to me it really boils down to going after the wrong people. Wherever you want to put the actions of the Israeli government on the scale of bad things governments do, almost all individual professors and students at universities that happen to be located in Israel are pretty far from implicated in the formation and prosecution of that policy. Academic freedom is, at the core, about allowing the free expression, dissemination and propagation of academic ideas. As such this proposed boycott is an attack on academic freedom.

Now I’m not nearly as convinced as most academics that academic freedom is the trump card to almost everything. But, it is an important consideration. As such it shouldn’t be attacked willy-nilly. And this seems like a fairly stupid excuse to attack it.

It also strikes me as a form of collective punishment. It looks that way because the proposed boycott isn’t to building companies building settlements, or to military hardware companies, or numerous interests actually related to the issues of Israeli settlements in Palestine, Palestinian oppression, etc. It is like mugging a Sikh after 9/11 because you confusedly think he is Muslim, and figuring that all Muslims are alike anyway. It is combined stereotyping and collective punishment.

The Brandeis thing seems stupid to me too, but in a much more limited way. They at least are reacting directly to the singular local institution that they believe acted improperly. And they are cutting off their own relationship over what they feel is a betrayal OF THAT RELATIONSHIP. No we can all argue about whether or not it was really enough of a betrayal or whatever, but it isn’t the same class of mistake as deciding that you should cut off all universities and students and professors who happen to work or study in Israel. If you want to not actively write papers with them, fine (the Brandeis level non-association) but trying to get them banned from any dealings with the outside academic world is a totally different thing. And frankly I’m surprised that so many academically oriented people around here are having trouble with that level of line drawing.

44

Collin Street 12.21.13 at 12:14 am

almost all individual professors and students at universities that happen to be located in Israel are pretty far from implicated in the formation and prosecution of that policy.

Did they do their national service?

45

matt 12.21.13 at 12:41 am

What I take from that is that if Israelis are not purer than pure, then they are subject to loyalty tests. And, while I’m generally open to the good intentions of individuals, it has mostly convinced me that the boycott is rotten at the core.

The claim is that “The report demonstrates that Israeli academic institutions have not opted to take a neutral, apolitical position toward the Israeli occupation but to fully support the Israeli security forces and policies toward the Palestinians..” Elsewhere, the report speaks of “unquestioning support.” But what could possibly count against the evidence, much of which is no more than your own university hosting ROTC? The universities support work critical of the occupation (and even critical of Zionism itself). They educate Palestinians, even Omar Barghouti. The case of Ariel University is raised, which is a unique case as it is the only institution accredited as a university while located in a large settlement, but there is no mention in the section that there is and has been a large boycott of Ariel University by Israeli academics and loud protest by administrators. I’m afraid what is demanded is far, far more than neutrality.

The justification for such standards is that “..the situation of the Israeli army is unlike that of other armies around the world and no support given to the Israeli security agencies can be defined as ‘neutral.’” But that is very much against the claim that the reason Israel was chosen was merely because “you have to start somewhere.” It is a claim that Israel is a special and uniquely evil case and all evidence must be judged according to different standards.

So my view absolutely remains that the boycott is McCarthyite. Individual academics would be forced to participate in a ritual of debasement in order to participate in normal academic activities.

46

Sebastian H 12.21.13 at 12:59 am

“Did they do their national service?” Yes. So the standard is: in order to be a recognized academic you must register as a conscientious objector for all service for Israel? That’s ummmmm interesting. But at least we are getting down to brass tacks. Being a male citizen of Israel means you pretty much can’t be an academic. Got it.

47

Sebastian H 12.21.13 at 1:00 am

Perhaps the issue is clearer if we call it what it really is: a blacklist. Are you or have you ever been a member of an Israeli Party….?

48

Matt 12.21.13 at 1:49 am

Academic freedom is not a relevant concept when 3/4 of university faculty are contingent.

49

Ed Herdman 12.21.13 at 2:07 am

Interesting points, but I would like to point out that McCarthyism is a joke because it was based on absolutely nothing but innuendo. I don’t think that any CT commenter is going to go so far as to say that there’s no reason to be dissatisfied with the policies in place right now in the occupied territories, and indeed the situation within Israel itself is not perfect. If Israel truly was the 51st State, you’d bet there would be calls for boycotts within Israel, because freedoms in Israel do not seem to be (going by the documentary evidence provided here and in the previous thread) at the standard many of us would like them to be at.

Like I said, different people are going to weigh the issues here differently – so it seems becoming to give the boycott-callers at least a little bit of space for what they are trying to achieve. McCarthy didn’t deserve that much.

50

Chaz 12.21.13 at 2:27 am

Sebastion at 46,

Forget your stupid academic career. If your government tells you to murder people, you say no. If they throw you in jail for that then, sorry, you still have to say no. If you have an actual conscientious objection option and you still don’t say no, then I don’t even know what to say.

51

Mao Cheng Ji 12.21.13 at 4:05 am

“What I take from that is that if Israelis are not purer than pure, then they are subject to loyalty tests”

There are no ‘Israelis’, incidentally. There are Israeli citizens who are Jews, Arabs, etc. That’s what the supreme court declared recently. Israeli nationhood would endanger the idea of a Jewish State. How can you separate the chaff from the wheat, if the identity card simply states “Israeli”?
http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-israel-nationhood-20131003,0,4500258.story#axzz2o4hTWO62

Anyhow: poor Israeli citizens academics. The heart bleeds.

52

Sebastian H 12.21.13 at 5:32 am

“Forget your stupid academic career. If your government tells you to murder people, you say no. “. So now all Israeli academics are murderers? It gets better and better.

If you think some specific Israeli academic is guilty of some specific crime go all out over it. But this collective guilt thing stinks when Israelis do it over their safety concerns and even more when an American group does it to smugly be self righteous.

53

Ed Herdman 12.21.13 at 5:53 am

Idealistic young college kids are probably smug and self-righteous, but they’re also, y’know, idealistic.

54

Kaveh 12.21.13 at 8:32 am

So, answer me this: how, exactly, is the ASA boycott harmful to academic freedom? Be specific. I think most people criticizing the ASA boycott resolution on this account haven’t actually read it, and are just throwing around “academic freedom” like it’s the latest internet meme.

ASA Council statement on the boycott: “Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

The resolution does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange, including conference presentations, public lectures at campuses, or collaboration on research and publication. The Council also recognizes that individual members will act according to their convictions on these complex matters.“

Whereas Sebastian H @43 & many, many others criticizing this as harmful to academic freedom say:

No we can all argue about whether or not it was really enough of a betrayal or whatever, but it isn’t the same class of mistake as deciding that you should cut off all universities and students and professors who happen to work or study in Israel. If you want to not actively write papers with them, fine (the Brandeis level non-association) but trying to get them banned from any dealings with the outside academic world is a totally different thing. And frankly I’m surprised that so many academically oriented people around here are having trouble with that level of line drawing.

Do you seriously think personal refusal by individual American academics to work with Israeli colleagues isn’t going to hurt academic freedom? And it’s not going to attract ANY attention to the issue. And this is the American Studies Association. How much were Israeli scholars collaborating with the ASA before this? Nobody has yet shown even ONE example of an academic activity harmed by the boycott. The ASA boycott is about as cosmetic (which is a good thing–goal being maximum attention, minimum harm) as you can get. You want a really harmful boycott, let the Middle East Studies Association boycott Israeli institutions. But they’re never going to do that, and they shouldn’t b/c it would be harmful for many reasons I hope are mostly obvious.

55

Kaveh 12.21.13 at 8:33 am

Oops, 2nd paragraph w/ bolded sentence above was also part of the quote, italics got lost.

56

Chaz 12.21.13 at 8:55 am

Serving in the Israeli army is itself a crime. The institution is engaged in illegitimate aggression and other more specific war crimes, and even if you serve in some support role your service helps accomplish those crimes (if it didn’t then they wouldn’t have bothered drafting you). I am aware that I am holding people to a high standard. I am aware that most people in the world do not meet this standard. But if you refuse to meet proper moral standards then you don’t have any right to complain when you get mixed up in sanctions/boycotts.

Just be grateful that the punishment for aiding the Israeli military is some loser criticizing you on blogs. Normally the punishment for going to war is death (delivered by your opponents).

57

Mao Cheng Ji 12.21.13 at 9:49 am

So, this is a fake, symbolic boycott? Dammit, I should’ve guessed. A group of feel-good cowards passing a meaningless resolution. What’s the point of this discussion. Nothing is going to change.

58

Eli Rabett 12.21.13 at 11:45 am

Chaz feels better about himself.

59

Donald Johnson 12.21.13 at 3:24 pm

“But this collective guilt thing stinks when Israelis do it over their safety concerns and even more when an American group does it to smugly be self righteous.”

So what the Israelis do to Palestinians is less “stinky” than the boycott? Do you mean that or did it just come out wrong? But either way, this illustrates what I said above. Rather than discuss the manifold ways Israel violates the rights of Palestinians (including shooting at fishermen off Gaza, for instance), we are instead talking about the terrible awful crime of some group of American academics taking a symbolic slap at Israeli universities. Or else we discuss how much worse the Chinese treatment of Tibet allegedly is. So the Palestinians lose out either way–violations against them are less important than trivial symbolic slaps and less important than other major rights violations.

Incidentally, the boycott isn’t aimed at individual Israeli academics. I somehow have picked up the impression that Israel places far more obstacles in the path of ordinary Palestinians trying to obtain a college education than any harm this boycott will do, but I don’t suppose the phrase “academic freedom” was meant to include such trivialities.

“Do you have a suggestion for how to force what are basically pro-Israel institutions like the NYT to acknowledge the extent of US support for Israel? “

No I don’t, not in general. But not every form of activism is necessarily helpful. You get newspaper coverage and blog arguments like this one, but you’ll have noticed how little the discussion has been about what the Israelis do to the Palestinians in the threads here, in the latest post, and as for news coverage, it’s predictably going to focus on the same sorts of issues. People who don’t support any form of pressure on Israel at all take the opportunity to get up on a soapbox and grandly proclaim their support for academic freedom and imply that the boycotters must be anti-semites and get more press coverage for what they say than the boycotters will get. And in the press it’s going to be played as another example of silly academics taking silly inconsistent positions for the sake of political correctness. Unless already interested in the subject, the average person reading such a story is not going to dig deeper.

Incidentally, I’d like to be wrong on this.

60

Sebastian H 12.21.13 at 4:45 pm

Donald I’m saying that collective guilt and collective punishment tend to be crappy principles to use.

61

Kaveh 12.21.13 at 5:11 pm

Donald @59 & Mao @57, how about this: http://mondoweiss.net/2013/12/brooks-against-occupation.html

Yes that David Brooks. I’ll quote at length but the whole thing is worth a read:

My new theme is that the Israel lobby in our country is regrouping around J Street and a program of withdrawal from the West Bank in order to fend off the looming threat to Israel, the anti-Zionist left. To make this shift, the lobby must throw the neoconservative Greater Israel types under the bus– because they are fueling the left by enabling the occupation.

Further evidence comes from the fact that neoconservative David Brooks in the New York Times today comes out against those who would “permanently colonize the West Bank.” His old buddies.

Then Brooks distances himself from his neocon buddies:

” amoral realists [who] decide in the brutal situation that anything that advances survival is permitted. Under their leadership, security becomes insecurity because security measures are taken to the extreme. These are the people who want to permanently colonize the West Bank.”

Brooks can no longer marginalize the left critique. In fact, he is frightened by the American Studies Association vote this week and the movement to isolate Israel. Notice how careful he is not to condemn our side out of hand. We are often good people, with high ideals. And he too is against the occupation… But.

Of course you can’t expect the NYT to just up and give a fair hearing to the pro-BDS side. Their news article on the boycott apparently doesn’t give any significant space to the pro-boycott side. That’s transparently one-sided coverage.

This is what the boycott does: it dispels the myth that big parts of the center left/center right were clinging to, that views critical of Israel are completely marginal and can be ignored. When 2/3 of the American Studies Association votes for boycott, you can’t hide that the cat is out of the bag and the NYT is fooling no-one with their one-sided reporting.

62

Kaveh 12.21.13 at 5:39 pm

To continue… I can see why it would be frustrating that most of the discussion here is meta. But that is just what I would expect in this forum, where people are already well-informed, and the salient questions are more in the area of ‘well what do we do about it?’ than ‘what is happening?’. There’s lots more details I could learn about what is happening to Palestinians but I already know enough to know that Israel needs to be stopped, and I don’t think becoming better-informed is going to help me accomplish that. Ditto most people reading here, or else they know where to go to get that kind of info. And I think within wider circles, too, it has been the case for a long time that the big issue was that many people (say, members of synagogues, or other organizations) knew what was really going on but any kind of recognition of their views was elusive because pro-Zionist forces in the establishment (whether Jewish community establishment, or media establishment, or other…) suppressed their voices. The boycott overcomes that and that’s why it has provoked such reactions. It’s a powerful symbolic act that’s hard to ignore even if it has little material effect. Of course pro-Zionist voices will accuse them of being anti-Semites, but they say that about everything and everyone to the point that it’s a meaningless accusation when the subject is Israel.

Even Rachel Maddow now is talking about AIPAC as a reason why Democratic Congressmen are voting for sanctions on Iran, after people called her out for pretending those votes are some kind of mystery. To convince such a person on an issue like that, I think it helps a lot to show that a big and influential part of her core audience is aware enough about Israel that they will see her as a coward for not talking about AIPAC.

63

Mao Cheng Ji 12.21.13 at 6:03 pm

Kaveh,
those ‘liberal’ Zionists only address the issue of the territories. But occupation of the territories and the ethnic cleansing there, barbaric and sadistic as it is, is only a part of the story. If they accept the 1967 borders and leave the territories tomorrow, there will be no peace the next day still, because of the issues of the right of return, right to self-determination, and an end to the last colonial project. A Zionist (political Zionist) of any shape or form will never accept it, because he/she is, well, Zionist. They just want to cut the losses a bit, and stabilize the project. But that won’t do.

Besides, they can never agree what exactly the absolute minimum is that they must give. Because as long as you have your boot on the other guy’s throat, giving anything away seems like a very bad deal. Otherwise, they could’ve implemented the Geneva Accord 10 years ago already. And no symbolic boycott is going to change this dynamic.

64

Kaveh 12.21.13 at 6:15 pm

Mao, I think Weiss agrees with you entirely about J-Street and other liberal zionists. The point isn’t that Bobo has turned into one of the goodguys on Palestine (hah!) it’s that the Overton window has shifted in a big way. Equally important, the AIPAC-war-with-Iran connection is getting acknowledged more.

The ASA is going to suffer a lot of retaliation for this. http://mondoweiss.net/2013/12/intimidated-supported-boycott.html

[Purdue professor Bill] Mullen’s Caucus on Academic and Community Activism has released a statement decrying intimidation of the ASA members who voted for the measure.

For Immediate Release: The Time for Intimidation is Over

It has come to our attention that members of the American Studies Association are getting hate mail or threatening mail following the ASA membership vote in favor of a resolution calling for boycott of Israeli universities. The ASA Facebook page has been subject to an avalanche of abusive postings for almost two weeks. In other cases, the intimidation has been less public as senior faculty have explicitly and implicitly intimidated junior faculty who support the boycott. More generally within the academy, some are threatening to cut funds for faculty who want to attend the ASA in the future. We are also learning that individuals and groups outside the academy are threatening legal action against the ASA.

65

Mao Cheng Ji 12.21.13 at 6:38 pm

I hope you’re right, but I don’t know. They suffered a bit of a setback in their propaganda campaign. But that goes up and down. Tomorrow some IDF goon gets a blister, the tsunami of sympathy, and all is forgotten. Meanwhile on the ground it only gets worse.

66

MPAVictoria 12.21.13 at 9:09 pm

” If they accept the 1967 borders and leave the territories tomorrow, there will be no peace the next day still, because of the issues of the right of return, right to self-determination, and an end to the last colonial project.”

No peace will ever happen if those are the demands.

/And again with the “last colonial” project bull.

67

Donald Johnson 12.21.13 at 9:57 pm

“If you care about the issue of the Palestinians, that cannot be true. Or if it is you have a very attenuated sense of political efficacy. “

Kaveh made the pro-boycott case better, and without implying that I’m a hypocrite. As for a very attenuated sense of political efficacy, you could be right. In general, I think Israel is starting to lose the propaganda war in much of the West and I think Israel is concerned that victories for BDS like the ASA vote show this–at the same time, that particular tactic gives them an opening to play the victim card again. It’s the only thing they have going for them–the more people find out about the history the less likely they are to buy into the narrative most American politicians still embrace, the one that has Israel as our noble ally in the Middle East, the only democracy fighting against the Islamic hordes. I think BDS victories scare them more because it shows this narrative is falling apart, at least in some circles, but then boycotts give them the opportunity to launch a counterattack. I don’t know if the counterattack will be effective or not, but they have the mainstream press and most American politicians on their side.

68

Donald Johnson 12.21.13 at 10:12 pm

I also think that Netanyahu is the best friend the Palestinians have on the propaganda front. He’s done more to discredit the “Israel as the good guy” narrative than any amount of boycotting could do. (I vaguely recall someone else saying something like this–it might have been Jeffrey Goldberg, which would make me feel faintly nauseous.)

On a related subject, I’m bemused by all the attention Ari Shavit is getting–first David Remnick and then Charlie Rose and Tom Friedman, David Brooks, and now Margaret Warner on the PBS Newshour all blowing him kisses. Warner seemed to think Shavit uncovered the Nakba. For an opposing view of the book, here’s Jerome Slater

Unforgivable Ari Shavit’s my promised land

I think Shavit’s celebrity must mean something–again, I suspect it’s probably Netanyahu. His arrogance is making all the 2SS people desperate, even willing to acknowledge that the problem didn’t start in 1967.

69

Donald Johnson 12.21.13 at 10:15 pm

My Jerome Slater link is broken. Here’s a link to the blog–the article in question is on December 19 and is likely to be the top article for awhile, as he doesn’t post that often.

link

70

Donald Johnson 12.21.13 at 10:35 pm

Sebastian, if you google the ASA statement on their boycott, you’ll find this–

“Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

The resolution does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange, including conference presentations, public lectures at campuses, or collaboration on research and publication. The Council also recognizes that individual members will act according to their convictions on these complex matters”

It doesn’t really sound much like collective punishment–I think of collective punishment as more like the Israeli/Egyptian siege of Gaza, the sanctions on Iran, the former sanctions on Iraq, etc…. Those policies really do (or did) hurt innocent people, probably causing increases in mortality, for instance. It’s just over-the-top to speak about the ASA policy in the same breath as the sorts of sanctions that both Israel and the US have used. If one is going to use the double standards meme, then one would have to ask critics of the ASA what their feelings are about the blockade on Gaza, or the sanctions on Iran.

71

Mao Cheng Ji 12.21.13 at 10:58 pm

“No peace will ever happen if those are the demands. “

Six months of mild UN-wide economic sanctions would’ve ended it for good. They’d pack and go back home. Only the nuttiest would stay, and there aren’t enough of those. It’s not a stable model, and it only survives by US support. It’s just a matter of time.

72

Watson Ladd 12.22.13 at 12:46 am

And which home would that be? Would it be to Baghdad or Ethiopia? Maybe to those cities inscribed in the annals of history with the blood of their inhabitants, like Warsaw, Vilna, Talin, etc. Someone born in Tel Aviv, who lived there for their entire life has a home: Israel. On what grounds should they abandon it?

73

faustusnotes 12.22.13 at 4:00 am

What if they were born in someone else’s home, Watson, and that someone else is living in a refugee camp? Doesn’t that person have the same right to return to live in their home as the occupier does? How do you propose to resolve that problem?

74

hix 12.22.13 at 6:02 am

Prophaganda war, indead, thats how Israels government and a couple of fantic supporters approach the issue. When their special forces slaughtered those unarmed people at the aide flotilla, one could hear the usefull public remark “oh we must have done our PR wrong, such a negative reaction…,” even after they tried everything they could to spin it.

75

Mao Cheng Ji 12.22.13 at 10:35 am

Watson @72 ” Someone born in Tel Aviv, who lived there for their entire life has a home: Israel.”

I’m talking about the Ashkenazim, of course. Even if they were born in Tel Aviv, there is very good chance they have a citizenship (from their parents) in another country. They are Europeans in origin, their background, so I call it ‘home’, but you can call it something else, it doesn’t matter. The point is, they have this option to move back to Odessa, Toronto, or or whatever it is. They speak the language, familiar with the culture, might have some extended family there, and probably travel there once in while. They don’t have to abandon, but it’s an easy and obvious option, obvious plan B. And that, I think, is the source of instability for this model. If (or when) the economy of Israel collapses, they’ll have little incentive to stick around.

76

Kaveh 12.22.13 at 12:09 pm

The point is, they have this option to move back to Odessa, Toronto, or or whatever it is. They speak the language, familiar with the culture, might have some extended family there, and probably travel there once in while.

Mao, where do you get that Ashkenazim in Israel speak a language at home other than Hebrew? Wikipedia tells me that 49% of Israelis speak Hebrew as a mother tongue, 15% speak Russian, 18% speak Arabic, honestly I don’t have time to do more research on this but given rates of immigration from Europe over the years, it’s hard to take your claim seriously without at least a good source for it.

77

Collin Street 12.22.13 at 12:26 pm

The thought struck me that Israel — israel-proper — actually has pretty similar demographics to Singapore. 80% dominant group vs 75%, and yet the singaporean chinese can stay on top with much less violence than the jewish israelis, and seemingly much more securely too.

Mind, the singaporeans didn’t invade johor, which simplifies matters for them… but equally the singaporeans didn’t complicate things by invading johor.

78

Mao Cheng Ji 12.22.13 at 1:47 pm

Kaveh, just common sense. Children of immigrants are at least familiar with their parents’ language and culture, even if it doesn’t become their native language. Citizenship is probably more important, though.

79

MPAVictoria 12.22.13 at 3:05 pm

“Six months of mild UN-wide economic sanctions would’ve ended it for good. They’d pack and go back home.”

You know how I know you don’t know anything but Isreal? These people are home Mao, they have no where else to go and they are the best soldiers in the region by a country mile. They are not going anywhere.

80

Kaveh 12.22.13 at 4:24 pm

Children of immigrants are at least familiar with their parents’ language and culture, even if it doesn’t become their native language.

With their parents’ language, usually, but not grandparents’, and people whose parents immigrated are now middle-aged at least. By this point Israeli thirty-somethings will mostly only know Hebrew. You are making really strong claims based on “common sense” that is very flimsy.

81

Donald Johnson 12.22.13 at 4:51 pm

Mao, people born in a given country are natives of that country. This is where Sebastian’s “collective punishment” criticism would really hold true–you don’t ethnically cleanse Jews of European descent because (some of) the previous generation ethnically cleansed Palestinians. There’s no end to this.

82

Chris Bertram 12.22.13 at 5:30 pm

Whatever the merits of the case for a boycott, I fail to see how it violates academic freedom. How is the academic freedom of academics at Israeli institutions abridged in the least respect when academics elsewhere exercise their freedom not to associate with those institutions?

83

Mao Cheng Ji 12.22.13 at 5:33 pm

Russian-speaking Soviets are about 50% of the Ashkenazim; they preserve their language and culture, and don’t mix much with other groups. And in general, the society there is quite fragmented by national origin. In fact, 49% Hebrew mother tongue from your comment doesn’t indicate that assimilation goes all that well.

Donald, you take your definition of ethnic cleansing way too far. Ashkenazim, born there or not, are the elite. If you boycott the elite lifestyle – because you target the elite, not any particular ethnic group – then I believe they will emigrate, for the reasons I already described. They don’t have to, they can stick with it and become laborers, but I don’t believe many of them will. I don’t see any resemblance here to ethnic cleansing, as I understand the term.

“people born in a given country are natives of that country”

That is not true either, incidentally. It depends. John McCain was born in Panama.

84

MPAVictoria 12.22.13 at 6:27 pm

“How is the academic freedom of academics at Israeli institutions abridged in the least respect when academics elsewhere exercise their freedom not to associate with those institutions?”

100% right, 0% wrong.

85

Layman 12.22.13 at 7:08 pm

@MPAVictoria

“they are the best soldiers in the region by a country mile. They are not going anywhere.”

I confess the justice of this argument completely changes my view. All this time I thought it was somehow wrong for Israel to use its military might to pursue a program of systematically occupying the territory of its neighbors, evicting them from the best places and replacing them with nationalist zealots, with the excuse that it is necessary in order to preserve their theocracy. Yet, how should they not, given the puissance of their warriors?

Now I see the light. It remains only to carry this message to the greater world. It seems to me that there are many places which could serve as a breeding ground to threaten my own beloved United States of Jesus. Just choosing at random, pick Victoria, BC. How can we let those Others live there? Perhaps it’s time we ended that threat to us and, well, to God. After all, we’re the best soldiers in the area by a country mile, and we’re not going anywhere.

86

Donald Johnson 12.22.13 at 7:52 pm

“That is not true either, incidentally. It depends. John McCain was born in Panama.”

Sure, you can come up with exceptions. But AFAIK the majority of Israeli Jews were born there and it’s silly to speak as though there’s some other country that is their real homeland.

“they are the best soldiers in the region by a country mile. “

True once. I’m not completely sure it’s true now. They have the best technology, but my understanding is that the Hezbollah guerillas did rather well against them in 2006. But I’m not anything close to being a military expert.

87

Mao Cheng Ji 12.22.13 at 8:40 pm

“replacing them with nationalist zealots”

It’s a mistake to think about the WB settlements this way. I’m sure there must be a few crazy zealots, but this illegal WB settlement (one of the largest) is probably much more typical:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma%27ale_Adumim

According to the municipal spokesman, the overwhelming majority moved to the city not for ideological reasons but for lower-cost housing and higher living standards.

One of the purposes of establishing Ma’aleh Adumim was to supply affordable housing for young couples who could not afford the high cost of homes in Jerusalem.

I picked this one because I spent a couple of days there once, back in the 90s. It’s a very nice gated, ethnically pure middle-class suburb, populated by professionals, and massively subsidized by the government (or was back then anyway). Easy commute to Jerusalem, by the ethnically pure road built specially for them. They are software developers, biologists, mathematicians. I mean, sure, they *are* nationalist zealots, but I don’t think the way you imagine. They are not religious nuts. They are European colonialists with comfortable European middle-class lives. And to keep it going they have to subdue the locals, and shoot a few of them dead every week. Not that they mind: they feel that the locals there are utterly unreasonable.

And Donald, if things change, worrying about them having to emigrate is really a very low priority, imo. Hardly even worth mentioning. But hey, I’m probably just a heartless bastard.

88

Dawn 12.22.13 at 10:38 pm

This short Henry Siegman essay at
Sic Semper Tyrannis
is what I would have put in comments in Eszter Hargittai’s post if she had opened the comment section, but it belongs here as well.

The charge that the BDS movement is guilty of applying a double standard to Israel is equally groundless. For the opponents of Israel’s half-a-century-long occupation of the Palestinians and its denial of the Palestinians’ individual and national rights would not be conducting BDS campaigns against Israel if, to begin with, Israel had not been singled out for special treatment that no other country with equal or even far better human rights records has received.

I challenge critics of the BDS movement to identify another democracy from among those that do not hold another people under near-permanent occupation (no other democracy does) that receives the massive economic, military and diplomatic support lavished on Israel. I challenge them to identify another country, no matter how spotless its human rights record, about which America’s leaders—its president, vice president and secretary of state—repeatedly declare “there is no daylight between our countries,” even as they warn—virtually in the same breath—that Israel’s policies are leading the Jewish state to apartheid.

snip

Those who have not challenged the singling out of Israel for the unprecedented support it is receiving from the United States have no ground for their challenge of the BDS movement’s singling out of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. BDS supporters would have had no reason for their initiative if Israel had not been favored for that support even as it disenfranchises and dispossesses another people under its occupation.

It is the critics of BDS who have been applying a double standard.

89

Dawn 12.22.13 at 10:39 pm

Well, that came rather messy. The paragraphs following the italicized ones should have been italicized as well.

90

faustusnotes 12.23.13 at 5:08 am

For those saying that the Israelis shouldn’t be expected to leave, what is your view of land rights for indigenous people in your own countries? If Native Americans won a constitutional challenge that enabled them to leave their rundown and poor settlements to return to land they were violently (and everyone agrees, wrongly) evicted from 100 years ago, do you think they should not be allowed to because “it’s home” for descendants of the people who murdered and raped their way into possession? If your view is that mid-western farmers should give a little for the Sioux how can you think differently about a much more recent form of dispossession?

Or do you subscribe to MPAVictoria’s view that the 19th century colonists “had the best soldiers in the region” so their descendants don’t have to go anywhere or give up anything?

91

adam.smith 12.23.13 at 9:17 am

People should maybe re-read the actual exchange in which MPAVictoria made the statement about “the best soldiers” – it’s not a justification for anything, but simply one of the reasons that Mao’s (pretty ludicrous) claim that Ashkenazi Jews would leave Israel after 6months of sanctions is almost certainly wrong.

92

adam.smith 12.23.13 at 9:31 am

@faustusnotes – as for your question about indigenous people. No, I don’t think every US city on land formally inhabited by indigenous people should be de-populated and its inhabitants sent back to “where they came from” – not even sure what that means. Would you send African Americans back to Africa, too?

93

Mao Cheng Ji 12.23.13 at 10:43 am

adam.smith, why is this ludicrous? If you migrated from, say, Russia to Israel in early 1990s, which was an extremely hard period (total economic collapse) in Russia, why would you rule out moving back, when your old country is booming (which it is now), and your new country (hypothetically) is collapsing under economic sanctions? You may be right that it’s ludicrous, but could you explain why? I would like to see the error in my logic.

94

Mao Cheng Ji 12.23.13 at 11:00 am

Here:
http://www.fmep.org/analysis/analysis/the-million-missing-israelis-israeli-emigration

” …The often-cited reasons for Israeli emigration center on seeking better living and financial conditions, employment and professional opportunities, and higher education, as well as pessimism regarding prospects for peace. Consistent with these motives, one of the most frequently given explanations for leaving Israel is: “The question is not why we left, but why it took us so long to do so.” And recent opinion polls find that almost half of Israeli youth would prefer to live somewhere else if they had the chance. Again, the most often-cited reason to emigrate is because the situation in Israel is viewed as “not good.”

Another important factor contributing to the outflow of Jewish Israelis is previous emigration experience. As 40 percent of Jewish Israelis are foreign-born, emigration is nothing new for many in the country. [...]

Adding to emigration pressures, many Israelis have already taken preliminary steps to eventually leaving. One survey found close to 60 percent of Israelis had approached or were intending to approach a foreign embassy to ask for citizenship and a passport. An estimated 100,000 Israelis have German passports, while more are applying for passports based on their German ancestry. And a large number of Israelis have dual nationality, including an estimated 500,000 Israelis holding U.S. passports (with close to a quarter-million pending applications).”

95

Chaz 12.23.13 at 11:13 am

I think economic sanctions could work. 6 mos. of light sanctions probably not, but severe sanctions carried on for multiple years, as with Iran, could work. Israel imports 98% of their oil. And I’m no expert but as a small country I assume they import tons and tons of other raw materials, consumer goods, and other items that they cannot easily produce domestically. If apathetic secular types in non-settlement Israel had to endure Cuba-style shortages due to Likud’s policy they’d probably get pretty grumpy. But maybe more important is that they import lots of military equipment and make use of US and European technology for their domestic military production. No weapons imports + no oil + no American support would put Israel in a very precarious military position, and a ton of conservative Israelis would probably find that more intolerable than evacuating settlements.

If sanctions wouldn’t work, why not? I mean given that at a minimum all the Security Council permanent members + OPEC supported and honored the sanctions, which is obviously a big if.

96

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 2:18 pm

“People should maybe re-read the actual exchange in which MPAVictoria made the statement about “the best soldiers” – it’s not a justification for anything, but simply one of the reasons that Mao’s (pretty ludicrous) claim that Ashkenazi Jews would leave Israel after 6months of sanctions is almost certainly wrong.”

Thank you adam.smith, that was what I was trying to get across. Though I will need to work on the clarity of my writing as it seems like a number of people misinterpreted what I was trying to say.

97

Sebastian H 12.23.13 at 4:01 pm

I have comment caught in moderation for more than a day, but it was essentially this:

Donald, Ahhh I see your point . On the magnitude issue: people often use crappy reasoning out of fear. So collective punishment over physical threats or giving up your civil rights over 9/11 is bad reasoning, but it springs from something I kind of understand. The problems raised by collective punishment are sufficiently obvious that I wouldn’t expect it to be used except in cases of fear.

So when I say “even more” I mean that supporters of the BDS don’t even have the excuse of the mind killer to fall back on. They blithely use justifications of collective guilt and collective punishment without even the barely understandable excuses. I guess hate is the other obvious mind numbing emotion other than fear that is often paired with collective guilt, but BDS supporters deny that they are hate motivated so their excuse for reaching for collective punishment is hard to find: maybe something must be done and THIS IS SOMETHING. (See also Iraq war…)

A similar analysis holds if you think this is more like a blacklist than collective punishment.

98

Layman 12.23.13 at 4:20 pm

@adam.smith

Re-reading the exchange doesn’t help much. Mao says economic sanctions will force Israelis to emigrate. MPAVictoria says it won’t happen, in part because they have the best soldiers. How do soldiers help one overcome sanctions? You figure it out.

99

I.G.I. 12.23.13 at 5:14 pm

@ 91 adam.smith

I think this is a wrong example as it, if not deliberately misrepresenting, is ignoring completely the cultural context. Before the 20th century, in the 19th and earlier, the conquest and the related militarism carried an aura of romanticism – from Alexander The Great to Napoleon. State expansionism was – and still is if Israel is anything to go by – the product of intellectual climate of cultural supremacy, missionary visions, racism, and not much value in human life. The two world wars in the previous century shacked dramatically these values. I think is incorrect to fully apply the values of today to completely different eras, i.e. to the slave imports, and the genocide of the natives in the Americas. Israel on the other hand in driven by these discredited values, and operate it’s policies of expansion, dispossession of indigenous population and ethnic cleansing; and indiscriminate murder in the world of today.

100

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 6:20 pm

Now Layman be honest. That isn’t all I said. I said that the Israelis are home, they have no where else to go and they have the strongest military in the region. It would take a military defeat followed by widespread atrocities (not that anyone here seems to care) to remove the Jews from what they view as their country, any realistic sanctions regime won’t do it.

While Hamas seeming willing to do the atrocities part of the equation I have my doubts about their ability to complete the military part. Keep in mind the other Arab states in the region have already tried three times to “push the Jews into the sea” and failed miserably each time. I doubt they will have any better luck at a fourth attempt.

A two state solution remains the only way out of this without genocide. I maintain hope that both sides will eventually figure this out.

101

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 6:21 pm

@I.G.I.

Well that is very fucking convenient for us isn’t it?

102

faustusnotes 12.23.13 at 6:40 pm

Bullshit MPAVictoria’s comment “isn’t a justification for anything.” It’s the classic language of the colonialist. Ask any died-in-the-wool opponent of indigenous land rights and they’ll give you the same story: we won it, we keep it. If you don’t want to look like a thuggish land-stealing arsehole, don’t go around saying things like “we have the best soldiers in the region, why should we give it up?” If you can’t see how nasty that is, you’re a colonialist patsy.

103

faustusnotes 12.23.13 at 6:42 pm

… and remember this is the state that supported South Africa’s apartheid apparatus. They were for it all the way. Coincidence much?

104

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 6:54 pm

“Bullshit MPAVictoria’s comment “isn’t a justification for anything.” It’s the classic language of the colonialist. Ask any died-in-the-wool opponent of indigenous land rights and they’ll give you the same story: we won it, we keep it. If you don’t want to look like a thuggish land-stealing arsehole, don’t go around saying things like “we have the best soldiers in the region, why should we give it up?” If you can’t see how nasty that is, you’re a colonialist patsy.”

So if you don’t think every person in North American not of Amerindian decent should go back “home” you are a colonialist patsy? Well colour me a patsy I guess.

By the way I am curious what percentage of Native blood would I have to have before I would be allowed to stay? My Great, Great Grandmother was Cree. Is that enough? Or should I start packing my things and heading back to Wales?

105

SoU 12.23.13 at 6:55 pm

@98, end

how is a two state solution anything but brushing the problems of the region under the rug of traditionally defined national units? call it unreasonable, but it is a one state solution or bust. no one who bandies about this whole 2 state solution thing has ever done a convincing demonstration of how the Palestinian state will be viable. there is the blockade induced economic depression, then the total lack of territorial contiguity, then the issues over water management (which, btw, is a powder keg ready to burst, especially if there are 2 states involved).

but on another level – we really need to admit that a ‘Jewish, democratic state’ is perpetually at internal tension with itself, because the essence of democracy as a political project is incompatible with the notion of a Jewish state. [i say this to people all the time (here in America), and when they protest, it is useful to remind them how angry they get when the fundamentalist Christians try to define this nation in their manner.]

You tell me it is impractical to expect these two peoples coming together into a single state. i will reply that it is impractical to expect that those two states – organizations adept at violence – will co-exist peacefully after they are explicitly identified as the avatars for these two separate populations who have been steeped in angry identity politics bullshit for decades. What needs to be done is blow open these identity categories, not enshrine them further through yet another incarnation of national sovereignty or whatever. How many times has the nation state been proffered up as a solution, only to fail and leave ethnic cleansing in its wake?

We dont need 2 nation states, we need one state that explicitly eschews the notion that a state represents a single people. That no one in this debate (broadly) is talking about things like consociational democracy, alternative patterns for democratic organization, or invoking the whole Lijphart research program is a good clue that they are more concerned with identity politics than political solutions to the human problem of suffering.

yes, a single state solution is harder and a longer way off. But there is the very real possibility that building 2 states only breeds more scapegoating, more victimization, more violence – making a true solution only more difficult. all that is to say – history teaches that states are good at violence, control, and constructing closed identity categories. the region has all of those things in excess already, and i don’t see how more will help.

106

Hal 12.23.13 at 6:57 pm

The credulousness (and sheer bigotry) of some commenters on the subject of Jews and Israel never ceases to astound me. Without retelling their very long and detailed history let me just point out that – unlike the Europeans who settled in America or Australia – Jews have lived in the land from time immemorial (it’s a bit hard at this time of the year to avoid being reminded that Jesus was a Jew) and despite their small numbers during the Middle Ages, there has always been a Jewish population in the area. In fact Jews have been a majority in Jerusalem since the 19th century.

The re-immigration of Jews to the area beginning in the 19th century (under the Ottomans) was not a colonial project in the imperialist sense. They had no army and were agents of no empire. The Jews realized – too late perhaps – that their future in Europe was precarious and the land they settled in Israel/Palestine (under the Ottomans it was considered southern Syria) was not conquered but bought piecemeal, often at inflated prices. They were ordinary immigrants, mostly farmers. And, as in Europe, they were again subject to pogroms. In fact the only people who were ethnically cleansed in Israel/Palestine until 1947 were Jews, e.g.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1834_Safed_pogrom http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1929_Hebron_massacre

Etc.
And the ethnic cleansing during the 1948 war was bipartisan.

http://www.darnna.com/phorum/read.php?19,159872

Had the Arabs accepted the UN’s 1947 partition plan, there would have been no 1948 war, no 1967 war, no 1973 war, etc. We are now well into the 21st century and the Israelis are not going back to Russia or Romania and certainly not to Egypt or Iraq or Ethiopia. And – viz MPA Victoria – they now have the military means to preclude that possibility.

As for the silly comment suggesting that an oil embargo would cause Israel to disintegrate, let me just point out that – thanks to massive offshore natural gas discoveries in recent years – Israel is already a net exporter of energy. In view of this and its intellectual and technological expertise, it should be clear to anyone save some commenters in this thread that the Israelis are here to stay. Though officially only 65 years old, modern Israel is older than over half the countries in the world, and it will probably be around a lot longer (say in some semblance of the 1967 borders) than any of its neighbours save Egypt.

107

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 7:09 pm

SoU you are calling for a democratic single state solution when most of the people on both sides do not want a single state solution. Are you going to use force to compel them to form one country just because it is your preferred option?

108

SoU 12.23.13 at 7:12 pm

@ Hal 104″ In fact the only people who were ethnically cleansed in Israel/Palestine until 1947 were Jews”
this statement is false. for starters just read the old testament. there are accounts of the Jews ethnically cleansing others so as to settle that land for themselves. complete with the dashing of babies heads upon rocks. not that this matters for the present debate, but this statement is just so obviously wrong i had to respond. i mean, what about the violence between different sects of Christianity in the holy land, or different branches of Islam later on? or, y’know, those many centuries of the CRUSADES? now normally i wouldnt get all snarky about stuff going back thousands of years, because its not really relevant, but you did open that can of worms with the phrase “from time immemorial”

109

SoU 12.23.13 at 7:24 pm

@105
there are a lot of good reasons why people on both sides do not want a single state solution. lots of the Jews fear that Palestinians will have the demographic majority, and thus use their voting power to enact retributions/redistributions to settle old historical scores. Lots of Palestinians fear that a single state will just expedite the assimilation/annihiliation of their culture that is going on today. These are valid fears, but that does not mean they will be borne out. as i said in my comment – in order to make something work in that region, we have to be creative about our political forms, building a stronger set of regional institutions than national ones, looking at alternative models for democracy developed precisely in contexts of ethnic tension. again, it is easy to knock things down as not feasible, but if you just throw that charge around at every program for change you reveal yourself as complicit in the passive ethnocide going on today. my comment was just as much about the viability of 1 state solution vs 2 as it was the intellectual integrity of those two positions. my real problem with teh one state solution is how reflexive of a response it is, suggested without any real evaluation of the attendant consequences. imho, 99% of the time that someone says the one state solution is the only way, it reveals that they arent thinking hard enough.

and Yes, Victoria, i am personally going to go there with my bombs and guns and force them all to live happily and sing kumbya. the best soldiers in the region don’t stand a chance against my Good Idea.

110

Mao Cheng Ji 12.23.13 at 7:29 pm

“You tell me it is impractical to expect these two peoples coming together into a single state.”

Well, naturally you’d have to overcome the resistance of the most privileged group, privileged under the current regime. That’s the usual caveat, but as I argued above it may not be too hard in this case. A little push by boycotts and/or economic sanctions, and they’ll hop on the plane; no incentive to stick around: they can easily find a better life elsewhere. That’s the optimistic view.

111

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 7:32 pm

“and Yes, Victoria, i am personally going to go there with my bombs and guns and force them all to live happily and sing kumbya. the best soldiers in the region don’t stand a chance against my Good Idea.”

Good luck SoU. I will say that forcing ethnic groups who have grievances with each other to share a country for no better reason than it “makes sense” to some outsider doesn’t have a particularly good track record in the 20th-21st centuries.

112

SoU 12.23.13 at 7:40 pm

“for no better reason than ‘it makes sense’ “
there are reasons that ‘it makes sense’ – better reasons in fact!
i tried to highlight some in my comment (like – the potential for the 2 state solution to precipitating another war over the water issue) but you evidently don’t care enough to read that comment seriously. instead, you prefer snark. it is a lot easier to reply with snark and miss the point when you are on the side of the status quo and don’t find the current violence all that objectionable.

you sound far too self-assured about this for someone making the claims you have.

113

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 7:49 pm

” it is a lot easier to reply with snark and miss the point when you are on the side of the status quo and don’t find the current violence all that objectionable. “

A two state solution is the status quo? Someone better tell the Israelis and the Palestinians…

/You other comment is a low blow and unworthy of you. I am appalled by the current violence, I just don’t think it will be made better by trying to force two ethnic groups who are at odds with each other into the same country. Ask the Iraqis or the Kurds how that turned out.

114

SoU 12.23.13 at 8:09 pm

@108
i think that there really is something to the sanctions/economic pressure proposal you noted above. specifically, because a lot of the settlements have been enabled by economic incentives by the Israeli state. thus one can target the sanctions symbolically and have a reasonable expectation that you will simultaneously hit them materially.

115

SoU 12.23.13 at 8:11 pm

@111
my apologies for getting testy. i just didn’t get the impression that you were treating my comment seriously, and given the thrust of the comment itself i got annoyed.

116

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 8:12 pm

“my apologies for getting testy. i just didn’t get the impression that you were treating my comment seriously, and given the thrust of the comment itself i got annoyed.’
Accepted. Let me offer mine in return for giving the impression and for being snarky.

117

Collin Street 12.23.13 at 8:55 pm

SoU you are calling for a democratic single state solution when most of the people on both sides do not want a single state solution.

Most people at a football match don’t want a draw, either.

118

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 9:04 pm

“Most people at a football match don’t want a draw, either.”

Football matches last 3 hours….

119

Layman 12.23.13 at 9:24 pm

@MPAVictoria

“A two state solution is the status quo? Someone better tell the Israelis and the Palestinians…”

The Israeli government has effectively killed the two-state solution by co opting the territory of the other state. That is, unless you think they’ll give the settlements back to the Palestinians. If not, then either one group must leave, or another must leave, or they must live together in the same state. If they live together in the same state, as equal citizens with equal rights, it can’t be a Jewish state, so that’s the end of Israel as we know it.

Really, this seems inevitable, doesn’t it? Which do you think will happen? ThatIsrael will drive out, suppress, or kill all opposers, and by so doing, last forever as an apartheid state? Or that demographics will win, and Israel will become a multicultural democracy?

If the latter, what’s the point of their struggle?

120

Seth Gordon 12.23.13 at 9:42 pm

Perhaps Jews and Palestinians would be more enthusiastic about a single multiethnic and multireligious state in their own region if they saw such a state leading to peaceful coexistence, even among Muslims of different ethnicities and sects, in Lebanon or Syria.

121

SoU 12.23.13 at 9:52 pm

@114 thanks much :)

122

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 10:00 pm

“That is, unless you think they’ll give the settlements back to the Palestinians.”

Pretty much this actually. Or at least I hope they will negotiate some sort of mutually agreeable deal that they both hate but both can live with.

123

SoU 12.23.13 at 10:05 pm

@118 -
your criticism is totally valid and deserves a longer response than this, but i have neither the time nor expertise to fully rebut it. what i will make note of, however, is that Syria has/had a host of other problems like only have 2 rulers in 45 years, so i don’t think anyone is making that comparison.
re: Lebanon you have a good point. I just want to add that a lot of the violence in Lebanon, at least of the past 20 or so years, has been caught up quite tightly with spillover effects of the I/P situation right next door.
The earlier civil war era in Lebanon was also tied up with I/P issues, but also with the Cold War and remnants of the French colonial regime & their preferential treatment of the Christian population. So the Lebanese case is clearly overdetermined, and we should ask whether the organization of the state is a net positive or negative, on an already messy situation. Given that Israel and Palestine have seen a lot of similar problems, but seem to be doing worse, i am not confident writing the Lebanese governmental experiment off as a failure, rather than just a hard case, quite yet.

That all being said: i totally agree that improving the viability of the Lebanese model (perception-wise) would be great for the conflict next door.

124

Mao Cheng Ji 12.23.13 at 10:05 pm

Syria and Lebanon became independent in the 1940s. Around the same time as Zionists expelled over 700,000 people from Palestine into the surrounding states, destabilizing the region. And they’ve been destabilizing it ever since. Invading Lebanon several times, devastating the place, occupying parts of it it for 20 years, killing tens of thousands of people, playing Christians against Muslims, and so on. Still occupying parts of Syria and Lebanon. No wonder the place is a mess.

125

Collin Street 12.23.13 at 10:18 pm

Pretty much this actually. Or at least I hope they will negotiate some sort of mutually agreeable deal that they both hate but both can live with.

You need stick, not carrot. Stick-and-carrot, actually, but you can’t neglect the stick[1]. What sort of stick are you proposing we use on the israelis to disincentivise the status quo?

126

I.G.I. 12.23.13 at 10:21 pm

@104
“… modern Israel is older than over half the countries in the world,…”

No, it isn’t . This is a deliberate distortion. With a few exceptions the contemporary centralised bureaucratic nation state spread and became the dominant form in the 19th century. Zionism only took off with the last wave of nationalism in the late 19th century. What you do is cherry picking a single ethnicity from multiethnic population, and equate it with territorial pretension.

127

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 10:27 pm

“You need stick, not carrot. Stick-and-carrot, actually, but you can’t neglect the stick[1]. What sort of stick are you proposing we use on the israelis to disincentivise the status quo?”

Same stick we use with the Palestinians, that the current situation is brutal for all involved and a negotiated peace would be better for everyone.

128

adam.smith 12.23.13 at 10:33 pm

IGI @97:
as clearly marked in my post this wasn’t my example. I’m answering faustusnotes two posts above mine. S/he brings up indigenous Americans, so that’s what I answered. As you can see with Hal’s post above, you can criticize the analogy from both sides of the issue and personally I think it’s pretty useless.

Mao @92: Thought experiments are not exercises in deductive logic, so there is no “logical” error in what you say, but if you really think that Israelis would abandon Israel in light of economic hardships, you know very little about Israel, its history, and its citizens. Do you know many other countries, e.g., to which people immigrate for purely ideological reasons over multiple decades? Chaz could still be right, of course, that longer and harsher sanctions could drastically change the playing field (and they probably would, though I’m far from sure in what way), but that wasn’t the questions.

129

MPAVictoria 12.23.13 at 10:40 pm

“you know very little about Israel, its history, and its citizens.”

You must be new here Adam., Mao is an Internet expert in everything.

130

adam.smith 12.23.13 at 10:52 pm

Same stick we use with the Palestinians, that the current situation is brutal for all involved and a negotiated peace would be better for everyone.

this I don’t buy. I don’t see how the status quo is brutal for Israel. Its allies in Europe and the US are pussyfooting around the crimes and human rights violations taking place on a daily basis in the occupied territories as well as the obvious flaunting of international law and past agreements that the Israeli settlement policy constitutes.
As for potential sticks – e.g. from the US side, there is a lot of policy space between “largest recipient of foreign and military aid” and “harsh economic sanctions”. I’d start by moving away from the former and threatening to move away further.

131

Layman 12.23.13 at 11:18 pm

“Same stick we use with the Palestinians, that the current situation is brutal for all involved and a negotiated peace would be better for everyone.”

Yet in the current situation, the Israelis think they’re winning. They’re taking all the land & water they want under the guise of security. Occasionally they have to kill some people, but, well, omelettes & eggs, you know. Where’s the stick?

132

Collin Street 12.23.13 at 11:55 pm

Same stick we use with the Palestinians

Crippling economic sanctions and air raids every couple of years?

133

Layman 12.23.13 at 11:56 pm

‘As for potential sticks – e.g. from the US side, there is a lot of policy space between “largest recipient of foreign and military aid” and “harsh economic sanctions”. I’d start by moving away from the former and threatening to move away further.’

US aid to Israel is something on the order of 1% of Israel’s GDP. They’ll notice, but it won’t be nearly enough to trigger significant change. Nothing changed in South Africa until the ruling regime realized they were going to lose. Why would it ever change before then? The side that thinks it’s winning seldom changes.

134

SoU 12.24.13 at 12:04 am

@128 is right to point out that there are a lot of options between s-quo and crippling sanctions, many worthy of exploration. and re: ‘aid is only 1% of GDP’ i think it is important to note that a lot of the support that the US gives to Israel is not readily quantifyable – certain technologies/secrets, symbolic support for state legitimacy, defenses and vetoes at the UN.

135

Hal 12.24.13 at 12:41 am

136

MPAVictoria 12.24.13 at 1:24 am

“Crippling economic sanctions and air raids every couple of years?”

or bombing school buses. Whatever.

137

stevenjohnson 12.24.13 at 2:06 am

Here’s another academic’s considered opinion, along with commentary from his flock.
http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/american-universities-reject-ridiculous-call-to-boycott-israeli-universities/

138

Collin Street 12.24.13 at 2:07 am

So you’re a supporter of the Hamas strategy of anti-israeli violence as a way of getting israel to the negotiating table?

[I'm not "twisting your words". Your 125 stated that you supported the use of "Same stick we use with the Palestinians" on the israelis: your 134 states that as far as you're concerned "air raids" and "bus bombings" are equivalent, the "same stick". In syllogism form:
major premise [125]: Israel should be treated the same as the palestinians get
minor premise [134]: blowing up buses is the same as the palestinians get
conclusion: israeli buses should be blown up.

… valid in form, yes? And the premises are both your own claim, so…

Or maybe you want to retract one of your premises. Or maybe you want to reject three thousand years of logic. I don’t know: your call.

139

faustusnotes 12.24.13 at 2:15 am

MPAVictoria, you support a single-state solution for the USA, Australia, NZ, Canada and South Africa, but not for Israel? Why not?

I also note that the “Better army” claim arose in response to Mao’s suggestion that people would leave Israel under a regime of peaceful boycotts[1]. Does this mean you see boycotts as an act of war? That military response to boycotts is justified; or simply that might makes them right so boycotts are unjustified? It seems strange that you would raise the skill of their army at all in such a conversation.


fn1: Mao is being accused of not knowing anything about Israel with this line of argument, but it should be noted that this is exactly what happened when the boycotts started to bite in SA. There are large communities of white south africans in Oz and NZ because of it. We also know – contra the claims that Israelis are special – that there are huge numbers of young Israelis wandering the world trying to avoid returning to their settler state. So it is prima facie reasonable to suppose that boycotts would very quickly cause the elite to rethink their strategy or leave. Claims to the contrary need to explain why Israel is different to SA, and what other reason all those young Israelis have for leaving the country.

140

MPAVictoria 12.24.13 at 3:19 am

Hi Collin,
I never took symbolic logic in university so I bow to your superior knowledge. The point I am trying to make, and if I made it poorly I apologize (it would be far from the first time), is that the current situation itself should act as a stick. Both groups of people love their children and both would be better off long term with a peaceful two state solution. I also want to point out that I am not opposed to other methods intended to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

Faustusnotes:
How about you respond to my question at 102 first?

141

LFC 12.24.13 at 3:32 am

Mao C.J. @122:

Syria and Lebanon became independent in the 1940s. Around the same time as Zionists expelled over 700,000 people from Palestine into the surrounding states, destabilizing the region. And they’ve been destabilizing it ever since. Invading Lebanon several times, devastating the place, occupying parts of it for 20 years, killing tens of thousands of people, playing Christians against Muslims, and so on. Still occupying parts of Syria and Lebanon. No wonder the place is a mess.

Is it now “blame them for everything” time? If, as you imply in the above comment, the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights — the only “part of Syria” that Israel occupies, afaik — is to blame for the current Syrian civil war, then why didn’t that civil war happen in, say, 1967 or 1968? (In the news today, btw, is that the Assad regime is dropping, from helicopters, exploding ‘barrel bombs’ filled with nails/debris/etc. on Aleppo. This is the kind of weapon a regime uses if it actively is trying to kill civilians.) I don’t think the Lebanese civil war or the current Syrian civil war can be blamed on Israel, though I certainly won’t defend, e.g., Israel’s ’82 invasion of Lebanon or some of the subsequent actions, eg in the ’06 war w Hezbollah. I wd note that Syria meddled, to put it mildly, in Lebanon’s affairs for decades and not, as far as I’m aware (though not an expert on this), constructively.

142

faustusnotes 12.24.13 at 3:38 am

I’m only going to answer half of your question at 102 MPAVictoria, because the second part is just a distraction. I don’t think anyone should “go home” from America, because I support single state solutions – they appear to work well. But I do think that Indigenous peoples’ native title needs to be restored, and yes in some cases that means people squatting on stolen land – even generations later – may need to move. They can be reimbursed. Or, if a settlement of that kind can’t be arranged, the claimants need to be compensated and found alternative land. See e.g. NZ for the way this can be done. In Australia relocation is often avoided due to the nature of Indigenous and non-Indigenous title (it can grant access to land to both parties under certain conditions), but Aboriginal people can and do hold up development on areas of sacred importance to them, or they negotiate compromises (e.g. the climbing Uluru compromise).

So yeah, sometimes I think the white squatters need to move on. What of it? Why should the rights of someone born on stolen land extinguish the rights of the person expelled from it?

We’re nowhere near that stage of negotiation in the Middle East of course. But until something is done, posturing about the size of your army isn’t going to help… unless you think you can go down the classic colonial road, and so thoroughly exterminate the dispossessed that they will no longer have the numbers to press their claim…

143

LFC 12.24.13 at 3:40 am

faustusnotes:
We also know … that there are huge numbers of young Israelis wandering the world trying to avoid returning to their settler state.

Isn’t it a tradition of sorts for (some) young Israelis to do a world tour after their army service? (I seem to recall hearing this a long time ago but cd be wrong.) In any case, the fact that there are large #s of young Israelis traveling at any given time does not mean they are fleeing or trying to avoid returning.

144

MPAVictoria 12.24.13 at 3:54 am

“I’m only going to answer half of your question at 102 MPAVictoria, because the second part is just a distraction”

I am not going to converse with you if you are not going to respond to my questions. Should I go back to Wales or is my Cree blood enough to give me the right to stay?

“Isn’t it a tradition of sorts for (some) young Israelis to do a world tour after their army service? (I seem to recall hearing this a long time ago but cd be wrong.) In any case, the fact that there are large #s of young Israelis traveling at any given time does not mean they are fleeing or trying to avoid returning.”

My home town used to get tons of Australian youths backpacking around and teaching snowboarding. I guess they were just giving up on Australia and I never knew.

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MPAVictoria 12.24.13 at 4:03 am

Second question faustusnotes, if the amount of Cree blood I have from my great, great grandmother isn’t enough how much, as a percentage, of my blood would have to Amerindian before I would have the right to stay? Or do you subscribe to the teaspoon of sewage in a barrel of wine theory of race and I would have to be “pure” in order to have the right to live here?

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MPAVictoria 12.24.13 at 4:12 am

*Deep Breath

Okay. I apologize for my last comment Faustus . It was uncalled for. I am going to bow out of this conversation now.

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faustusnotes 12.24.13 at 4:20 am

MPAVictoria, I didn’t mean “a distraction” as in “a bad and useless question” I meant a distraction as in it would create a completely different and equally irresolvable debate that is only tangential to what’s being discussed here. That’s all …

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faustusnotes 12.24.13 at 4:23 am

LFC, I wouldn’t know, but I’ve certainly met young Israelis in many parts of the world who make it very clear that they’re wandering about because the place they’re from is too crazy to return to.

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.24.13 at 7:21 am

LFC “Is it now “blame them for everything” time?”

Doh. Do you feel that I exaggerate the direct role of Israel in the post-war history of the middle east, or do you feel that its role has been more positive than I think?

Certainly in an alternative universe it still could be fucked up (by the cold war, and/or various local power struggles), in a different way, but in this one, I don’t think there are any doubts.

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LFC 12.24.13 at 2:38 pm

@MCJ
Do you feel that I exaggerate the direct role of Israel in the post-war history of the middle east
yes (on the evidence of the comment I was responding to)

or do you feel that its role has been more positive than I think?
well, since you think that its role has been 100 percent negative, someone who thinks its role has been, say, 70 percent negative would have a more positive view of its role. (I’m not sure where exactly I come down but my pt is that having a more positive view of its role than you have is not too difficult, imo.) The fact that Israel signed peace treaties w Egypt and Jordan shows that it was (or is) capable of constructive acts w/r/t its neighbors. But its policy, esp. post-’67, vis-a-vis the Palestinians has been awful.

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Map Maker 12.24.13 at 3:55 pm

“So yeah, sometimes I think the white squatters need to move on. What of it? Why should the rights of someone born on stolen land extinguish the rights of the person expelled from it? “

Yes – cf Greenland, then in more recent times, Karelia, East Prussia, Kresy, etc.

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Mao Cheng Ji 12.24.13 at 4:00 pm

“The fact that Israel signed peace treaties w Egypt and Jordan shows that it was (or is) capable of constructive acts w/r/t its neighbors.”

May I suggest that you take a more systemic view. The history of post-war middle east has been written many times, the role of Israel (the US, its patron, of course) is well understood.

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SoU 12.24.13 at 7:32 pm

LFC @ 141
you totally miss the context for that comment you cite. it was made during the discussion of Syria and Lebanon, and the viability of their multiethnic/multireligious polities, and what that means for a single state solution in I/P. the issue was raised, by myself, of whether or not those cases were comparable, or whether the violence in I/P had spilled over to those regions and destabilized them as well, making it much less a situation of comparable cases than a single case with many facets. the cross border violence between these regions is a historical fact.
I know there is a running game on CT of ‘who can pin Mao to the most hyperbolic statement’, and i also get the impression that Mao relishes this game himself, but in the name of accuracy and constructive dialogue, i really have to object to your comment because the interpretation that you make of those words is ignorant of the conversational context. so sure, you can insist that he was ‘blaming them for everything’ all you want, but just know that when you do so, the more attentive readers here are giving a collective yawn.

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Chaz 12.24.13 at 9:36 pm

To clarify, when I said above that hypothetical very strong sanctions against Israel could “work” I meant that they could motivate Israel to evacuate West Bank settlements. The primary motivation would be fear among the establishment that continued sanctions would make Israel militarily weak and put it in danger of being overrun in the future. I did not mean that they would all emigrate to Europe, though probably a few people would for employment.

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LFC 12.24.13 at 10:39 pm

SoU @153
I was aware of the context, though I had read only some, not all, of your fairly lengthy comments about the 1-state vs 2-state approach/solution/whatever (I have now gone back and read more of yr remarks). I thought Mao’s comment warranted a response and I don’t think my response missed his point, but in retrospect I prob. shd just have let it go.

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