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Responding to Pro-BDS Zionists, Part 2

By Ameinu Office

To read the first part of this discussion, click here.  The following comments address the fact that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is one of many in the world, and probably not the worst from a human rights point of view:

Among the world’s occupations, I am personally involved in contesting only one—Israel’s. But I still welcome comparisons that give some historical and contemporary context and that limit the BDS inclination to treat Israel as the world’s most demonic nation. Comparisons that deny Israel that unique status can help direct people toward the need for negotiation, empathy, and compromise. Whereas if Israel is Darth Vadar or Nazi Germany, only condemnation followed by elimination of the Jewish state will suffice. The resistance to comparisons with other Arab countries is particularly disingenuous. None of this excuses conditions on the WB, but it does suggest there is a basis for a conversation and at least theoretical hope for a solution.–Cary Nelson

There is an argument to be made along those lines, because so few people know about any other occupations other than Israel’s.   Pointing out that Tibet, Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara, Kurdistan (from the Kurdish perspective) have been occupied for decades (the last three by Moslem nations), that Crimea is now occupied, etc., will give honest people at least a chance to pause and think.–Nigel Paneth

There is also a big difference between China and Israel, and I think all the other occupying states listed by Nigel. China killed over a million Tibetans.–Jeffry V. Mallow, Professor of Physics Emeritus, Loyola University Chicago

In addition, if one were to look at these occupations comparatively, Israel is the only occupier who has seriously tried to negotiate an end to the occupation (although of course these attempts have been flawed in various ways) and the majority of whose population supports ending the occupation under various conditions. China won’t even negotiate Tibetan autonomy much less independence and the vast majority of its population opposes granting Tibet independence under any conditions. That’s why the BDS effort to not look at multiple occupations (much less countries who have killed far more in terms of humanitarian and human rights concerns) but to single out the only country who has tried negotiating an end to the occupation, is problematic to say the least. That’s not to say that Israel should not freeze settlements, at least outside blocs which it is likely to keep, until there is an agreement or that it should not more urgently and more seriously pursue peace negotiations today.–Yael Aronoff, Michigan State University

Is the difference [with China’s occupation of Tibet] simply because China is a world power not susceptible to outside influence or pressure on this matter, as despicable a situation as that is, while Israel is, at most, a regional power much more dependent on its relations to North America and Europe? Is that the double standard we are talking about? If so, is that double standard necessarily anti-Semitic, or can it be explained in standard geopolitical terms?

Might something analogous be true of the suppression of the Kurdish nation by Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran,  in terms of a somewhat different geopolitical analysis?  Russia and Crimea, where there is more forceful, if so far ineffective, pushback?

Might it be that it is just more plausible that outside influence, economic pressure, and diplomatic activity have a much greater likelihood of success in modifying Israeli policy than in most of the otherwise somewhat comparable cases?

(In fact, I would not discount anti-Semitic elements, although I don’t think that is all of it.)–Alan Jay Weisbard, University of Wisconsin

I think Alan’s point is well taken—that the selective damnation of Israel has warrant in the US relationship and in geopolitics, as well as in expectations that Jews have, rightly or wrongly, of Jews.  So comparisons, yes, sure. I’ve made them myself and am sure I’ll make them again. That said, the fact that other occupations have been far bloodier than Israel’s on the WB leaves a sour taste in my mouth when it is brandished as a reason to stop the conversation about what to do about Israel, a conversation that American Jews have ample—imperative–reason to pursue. …–Todd Gitlin, Columbia University

As much as I agree that Israel is being subjected to a double standard, I think that we will get nowhere by explaining it, for the following reasons:

1.    BDSers simply say “we’ve got to start somewhere.”  Yes, many are insincere, but others are truly human rights activists who have at least convinced themselves that Israel is not the sum total of their ultimate targets.

2.    Israel is uniquely supported and protected by the United States, which makes human rights violations of more concern to Americans.

3.    There are many other double standards in the world.  The presidents of Sudan and Kenya have been indicted by the International Criminal Court, but many other human rights abusers have not been.  Iran has faced crippling sanctions for its nuclear program, but Israel has never agreed to any inspections at all.  I am not saying that the situations are comparable, but double standards in international relations are hardly limited to Israel.

4.    The implication of the double standard argument is that BDS is anti-Semitic.  For some BDSers, of course, this is undeniably true.  For others it is not at all true, even if they are misguided.  Among them, we create only denial and resentment by raising the argument.  …–Steven Lubet

Let us just remember that as Americans we are involved with Israel in a way that we are not with China, and for me –and this is just my view– as a Jew I am utterly complicit. I have spent a lifetime celebrating and venerating this place. I have defended it in arguments since the late 1960s, contributed money, time and emotion to it while China and all the other perpetrators of human rights abuses have just been there. I therefore find some of the JVP argument compelling.– Hasia R. Diner, Professor of American Jewish History, New York University

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