On Foreign Policy’s website, Hussein Ibish, senior research fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, weighs in on the Israeli “boycott bill”:
Perhaps the greatest irony is that the Knesset members who passed the “Boycott Bill” and their supporters do not seem to understand that boycotts, divestment, and sanctions that are carefully targeted against the occupation and the settlements but scrupulously avoid targeting Israel legitimize rather than delegitimize the Israeli state. They say, in effect: We do not want to buy or sell the products of the illegitimate settlement program, but we are happy to buy or sell Israeli goods because Israel is a legitimate state. By carefully targeting the occupation and the settlements, such boycotts implicitly recognize the legitimacy of Israel itself.
Jeffrey Goldberg, usually quite thoughtful, seems to quote Ibish approvingly on his Atlantic blog (while expressing ambivalence at best about boycotts of Jews in the West Bank).
What Ibish either does not realize or chooses not to mention, is that many, if not most, boycotts of Israel do not “scrupulously avoid targeting Israel,” and openly call for boycotts against all Israeli products, academics, and cultural institutions. Even campaigns with the pretense of focusing exclusively on settlements make unrealistic demands on pre-1967 Israel. They pledge to continue their activism until descendants of Palestinians who left or were expelled during the 1948 war are allowed to settle within Israel, thus eliminating the only Jewish state in the world. Hardly selective targeting of “the occupation and the settlements,” in Ibish’s words.
If only the major boycotts against Israel focused on the settlements, as Ibish imagines they do. Let’s see how carefully boycott campaigns carefully target settlements, and not pre-1967 Israel:
“PSC has been working since 2001 to promote a consumer boycott of Israeli goods.”
“The suspension of the EU-Israel Trade Agreement, which provides Israel with favourable trading terms, is an absolute priority.”
PSC also advocates “the withdrawal of corporate foreign investments in Israel complemented by individual shareholders taking their investments away from Israeli companies and companies which benefit Israel.”
Their claims against Israel are not limited to the West Bank and Gaza. They accuse Israel of denying “Palestinian refugees their right to return” to Israel proper, and say that Israel “operates an apartheid, racist system on both sides of the ‘green line.’” In short, this is not at all limited to settlements.
From the ICTU press release: “At its Biennial Delegate Conference in May 2008 the public sector union IMPACT passed two motions criticising Israeli suppression of the Palestinian people and calling for a boycott of Israeli goods and services.”
To the ICTU, the creation of Israel itself is the problem, not the occupation: “Sixty years after the ‘Nakba’– the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their lands–the Palestinian people continue to endure conditions that have been described as ‘apartheid under occupation.”
Costello is among many artists who cancelled shows within pre-1967 Israel. After cancelling two concerts in Caesarea, Costello wrote on his website, “Merely having your name added to a concert may be interpreted as a political act … and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.”
“The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was launched in Ramallah in April 2004 by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to join the growing international boycott movement. The Campaign built on the Palestinian call for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel issued in August 2002 and a statement made by Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the occupied territories and in the Diaspora calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in October 2003.”
They too make a pretense of focusing on settlements, but their claims, like their boycotts, are against Israel as a state. They justify boycotting all Israeli academics for the creation of Israel and refusal to allow millions of Palestinians to live in Israel, and the “Denial of… responsibility for the Nakba–in particular the waves of ethnic cleansing and dispossession that created the Palestinian refugee problem–and therefore refusal to accept the inalienable rights of the refugees and displaced stipulated in and protected by international law.”
They also advocate boycotting all Israeli academic and cultural institutions for the treatment of Israeli Arabs, entirely unconnected to any issue of settlements: PACBI decries, “The entrenched system of racial discrimination and segregation against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, which resembles the defunct apartheid system in South Africa.”
The MSU, in its announcement of support for the divestment against Israel campaign, used settlements as pretext. But to pretend they see Israel as a legitimate state while opposing only Israel’s presence in the West Bank is preposterous in light of the language in their statement. They justify terrorism against Israeli civilians while pretending to oppose it: “While we don’t agree with blanket support of the actions and stances of groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and others, we do believe that it is important to distinguish that the expressed support for such groups, made by one of our speakers, comes in the context of leading resistance against a state that continues to function based on genocidal and apartheid-like politics.” Israel is the genocidal actor here, not Hamas or Hezbollah?
The list goes on and on.
In 2006, the Ontario division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) decided to support the boycott of all of Israel, not just settlements. They referenced occupation, but also cited the security barrier, and the chairwoman of CUPE’s international solidarity committee said that these tactics will continue until Palestinian refugees were allowed to settle in Israel. A month later, the Congress of South African Trade Unions joined the boycott of Israel itself.
In 2007, Britain’s National Union of Journalists voted for “a boycott of Israeli goods similar to those boycotts in the struggles against apartheid South Africa led by trade unions, and [for] the [Trades Union Congress] to demand sanctions be imposed on Israel by the British government.” No mention of settlements, of course.
In 2009, South African dock workers refused to unload a ship because it was from Israel.
American university professors called for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel in 2010, after Operation Cast Lead.
Yes, some boycotts target just Jews living beyond the 1949 armistice lines. But the preponderance of major campaigns to boycott “the occupation” target much more than that. They will seek to harm Israel until its means of defending itself are rendered illegitimate, and its existence as a Jewish democratic state is ended.