Tuesday, January 14, 2014
You Don't Boycott Israel Because It's Syria
You boycott Israel because it's supposed to be one of us, a modern liberal democracy with respect for human and political rights. We expect certain conduct from our friends that we know we can't expect from other countries - places like Syria or Uzbekistan or Yemen.
In today's Washington Post, pundit Richard Cohen focuses on what he presents as the hypocrisy of boycotting Israel and giving other nations a pass.
...the boycott movement is absurd and makes the various academics seem detached from the real world. At the same time, they are paying Israel a backhanded compliment. They know that China, for example, would ignore a boycott launched by the American Studies Association. China is a country, after all, that locks up its dissident academics and brings out tanks to deal with protesting students.
Israel is a different matter. Exactly because it is a liberal, Western state, ruled by law and not by whim, it can be pressured. It wants to belong to the worldwide academic community, and, of course, it should.
What matters most about the boycotts is what they represent — widespread and growing antipathy toward the Jewish state. It’s facile to attribute this entirely to anti-Semitism, although it surely lurks here and there. But in the United States at least, anti-Semitism is a spent force...
Nonetheless, there is a special, worrisome fury directed at Israel. I hear it from people who are not in any way anti-Semitic. (I would hear more of it if many people were not afraid of being labeled anti-Semitic.)
Whatever the cause, the fact remains that Israel’s occasionally harsh occupation of the West Bank has put the country on the defensive. One only had to see the extraordinary documentary “The Gatekeepers,” in which six former heads of the internal security service, Shin Bet, discuss — and rue — the methods they used to maintain control of the West Bank, to see what I mean. This is a film — academics, take note — that could have been made only in Israel. That’s good. But what it says . . . that’s bad.
...The boycott resolutions are coldly barren of historical understanding or empathy, and they are painful to read. But what they say is not as important as the sound they make. The Israel I love is increasingly hated.
Of course if you're disposed to perceiving an occupation that has lasted two generations as "occasionally harsh" it's no great intellectual leap to see the boycotts as hypocritical and undeserved. The anti-Semite card, no matter how deftly played, is telling. Perhaps Cohen finds it convenient to forget how we boycotted South Africa in times past for doing pretty much what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today.