Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BDS. Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.

Sent 25.May.2010
I recieved the following question from a friend who works within B'tzelem:

This was my answer:
Aaron - I was wondering what your feelings (gut and reasoned... may not be the same) are about the divestment movement that is stirring (whether targeted at the Occ. Territories or at all of Israel) (I'm taking a poll). I feel very uncomfortable about jumping into bed with the majority of that movement, people who do not support Israel's right to exist, who are exercising the double standard (i.e. why target Israel, of all nations... is there a lack for nations behaving unethically). On the other hand, an end to the occupation is just not going to happen from internal pressures only, and time is precious.

Your query ("just curious"….."taking a poll") is giving me an opportunity to try and put in writing some things I've thought about recently.

BDS. Boycott, Divestment (actually disinvestment), Sanctions.
I find it easy to identify with those words, and I find myself involved with incitement among my friends towards activating the meanings behind those words.

Boycott our companies producing goods in the occupied territories? Of course. Divest ourselves of investments in firms owned by supporters of our Palestinian policies? Of course. These are sanctions I support both as legitimate political activities and as forms of self-decontamination.

But the term BDS is used today by an amalgam of movements and organizations in ways that I cannot be part of nor support.

While I’m a constant critic of our Jewish State, there are clear borders within which I need to come to its defense. No doubt this is an emotional response, but it is one that I’ve had to investigate in order to understand my own self, and to assess whether my sentiment runs contrary to my judgment.

The BDS movement singles out Israel in our less than perfect world, though we are up against a totality of enemies so much larger than us and so much closer to our homes than other nations.

The BDS movement singles out Israel in our less than perfect world, because we are smaller and more vulnerable than other nations who are no less perfect (such as, Russia, United States) but much more formidable.

The BDS movement is crowded with individuals and movements who have no intention of evaluating both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

And perhaps most damning in my eyes:
The BDS movement seems to be saturated with individuals and movements who use its moral heading (BDS) to obscure a genuine intention to delegitimize the very existence of the State of Israel. (So is my impression). Perhaps we are the only country in the world today whose very existence is put into question by so many.

Having long ago laid aside my youthful indoctrination as a Zionist, I spent time reinvestigating both my indoctrination and those many missing pieces left out of that indoctrination. As it turns out, in my non-youthful years I re-became a Zionist…..with fewer illusions and many more misgivings, but with a fair certainty that history carved a path that needed to happen, to a place that needed to be the place. Needed to happen one way or another……and certainly the better way was not always taken….but Israel needed to be the place, the only place.

My misgivings are many….how we got here and what we did along the way….where we are and what we’re doing today. Nevertheless, I’ll voice and activate those misgivings directly towards my country, to the Jews in my country and to my people around the world……..and not alongside and through groups who include so many who would prefer to solve the conflict (and the oppression) by the demise of the Zionist State. [and yes, I think a Zionist State can be a democracy, and yes I think a (primarily) Jewish State must have a separation between religion and state. but these matters also need further elucidation.]

We are staged in an end game for a Two-State resolve (I never call it “solution”) to our local conflict. Likely, if it doesn’t happen soon, it will never happen. Time will allow us Israelis to engineer the kind of map which will make that possibility totally unacceptable. We will then be on our way to continue the conflict on the basis of a One-State reality. It’s a reality which will be undemocratic at its worse. It will legitimize a continuation of the conflict and violence. It will eventually (demographically and otherwise) put an end to a Jewish homeland, which will not cause a tear to drop from a great many in the scattered BDS movement. It will soon also have a striking affect on the safety and security of Jews in the Diaspora. Back to square one.

Our struggle against policies and actions of our own country need not combine us with those who may also want to be rid of us. We struggle not simply as liberal cosmopolitans. We struggle as Jewish Israelis who know that our country is doing wrong and are trying to invest the rest of our people with that understanding.

And finally, a direct answer to your original question:
I will “jump into bed” with any non-Jewish partner who also accepts my Zionism, and who also appreciates the complexity of both sides of the conflict. With such a partner I will B-D-S (such as, I saw Obama as a partner). But most of all I’ll look for partners within our people both in Israel and in the Diaspora. Mostly through these will a change of policy come via understanding rather than via coercion or arm-twisting. For that reason I am slightly encouraged by the advent of JStreet in America and JCall in Europe. You are right in saying that time is precious, but how we get there is usually no less important than where we’re going. It generally affects the outcome.

This is longer than I meant for it to be. Yet so much is still left out. As always.

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