Thursday, April 17, 2014

Partners Critiques Dershowitz on Targeted Boycott

Our acting executive director, Nathan Hersh, notifies us from his vacation hideaway that his letter to the editor ("Wrong On Targeted Boycott") has just been published in the New York Jewish Week.  Here it is:
Alan M. Dershowitz writes that a targeted boycott of settlement products is “bigoted in effect if not in intent” (“Marching Together For Israel,” Opinion, April 11.) He goes on to liken such a boycott to Harvard’s limit on Jewish applicants. The writer is far off the mark on both assertions.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Teleconference on BDS & targeted boycott, 4/17 7PM

I will be the guest discussant of the Social Democrats USA -- a group that traces its lineage to the Socialist Party USA, the movement associated with Eugene Victor Debs, Norman Thomas, Bayard Rustin and Michael Harrington -- in a conference call on the politics of boycotting Israel.  I will focus upon the difference between a settlements-only boycott, such as advocated by Partners for Progressive Israel and Peter Beinart, and a general boycott of Israel, as advocated by the international BDS movement and its American supporters, such as Jewish Voice for Peace.  

On Thursday, April 17, 7 PM Eastern time, call this number-- 218.862.6420, with access code 244 6793-- to participate. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

T. MItchell Reviews Khalidi's 'Brokers of Deceit'

Independent scholar and blogger, Thomas G. Mitchell, Ph.D., provides us with his review (below) of Prof. Rashid Khalidi's most recent book, Brokers of Deceit (Beacon Press, 2013; 120 pp.—plus 37-page introduction):

Prof. Rashid Khalidi
The title of Rashid Khalidi’s latest book—a continuation of the Columbia University historian’s themes from his 2007 book, The Iron Cage—reminded me of the classic Sa’adia Touval book on mediation in the Middle East, The Peace Brokers (Princeton University Press, 1982). Touval examined every serious mediation attempt in the Arab-Israeli conflict between 1948 and 1979—from Count Bernadotte to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. He looked at the issue of mediator bias. In the end he concluded that being unbiased was not a requirement to being an effective mediator as long as the party that the mediator was biased against believed that he could change the bias through his actions. Thus, although Henry Kissinger ultimately had a pro-Israel bias, he was successful because Anwar Sadat thought that he could change him. The reverse was true with Jimmy Carter, who was biased in favor of Anwar Sadat, and Menachem Begin thought he could influence him otherwise.

Prof. Khalidi starts chronologically where Touval finished off, with three cases from 1982, 1991-93, and 2009-12, and stresses American bias in favor of Israel and against the Palestinians. In his 37-page introduction, Khalidi spells out his basic themes: Since Truman in 1945, the United States has been biased in favor of Israel, and against the Palestinians in particular and the Arabs in general. This bias is mainly due to American domestic politics, which overwhelmingly favors Israel against the Palestinians. During the Cold War, the United States supported Israel (or opposed it in 1956) for reasons having to do with countering the Soviet Union. Finally, because America is allied with undemocratic oil-producing regimes in the Gulf and with Egypt and Jordan, this pro-Israel bias is not as harmful as it otherwise might be, but is storing up problems for the future when the region democratizes.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bahour & Klug's New Idea on Ending Occupation

Sam Bahour
Dr. Tony Klug
Palestinian-American businessman Sam Bahour (who met with our visiting delegation to Ramallah in 2012) and British-Jewish peace activist and Mideast policy analyst Tony Klug have co-authored an article in the English Edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, "If Kerry fails, what then?" They propose an international ultimatum to Israel for a three-year period for its decision on how to resolve its relationship with the Palestinian Territories. We are not endorsing this idea, but only sharing it for the purpose of discussion.  This is an abridged version of the article, with some additional comments beneath it:

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Rwandan genocide closely paralleled Nazi Holocaust

No two historical events are ever exactly the same, but when we read current headlines of the 20th anniversary of the mass slaughter of 800,000 (mostly Tutsi) Rwandans, we may want to note its close parallels with the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews during World War II.  There have been many mass killings, before and since, aimed at peoples with real or imagined ethnic, racial, religious or ideological differences -- usually minority populations -- which others found intolerable.

A key difference with Rwanda is that the Shoah, the Nazi Holocaust, occurred amidst the fog of war on a continental scale, before the electronic revolution in communications, while the Rwandan genocide was centered in one small country within the full glare of television.  I still recall the shocking sight of bodies floating down a river, being imprinted on my brain by the evening news.

Yet the predominant world reaction to both events was indifference, denial and evasion, with apologies after.  We've become accustomed to historical works that find fault with the Roosevelt Administration and the Western Allies for their years of hardhearted inaction and starkly limited help -- both in the 1930s run-up to the Holocaust and during the events themselves.  With this in mind, I found it all the more amazing to see the Rwandan genocide covered in real time in radio and television news broadcasts, while United Nations peacekeeping soldiers were actually being withdrawn.  (In a somewhat related vein, I've found these brand new articles at the website of Foreign Policy magazine on the UN's failures in Darfur: "'They Just Stood Watching'," and "'Now We Will Kill You'.")

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Beinart & Ibish debate Stephens & Boteach

Columbia's School of International Relations hosted a debate last week pitting liberals Peter Beinart and Hussein Ibish against conservatives Brett Stephens and Shmuley Boteach on whether Israel's policies are justified. I felt that Beinart was effective in making the case for Israel needing to withdraw from many settlements, including the long intrusive salient that culminates in the small city of Ariel, in order to make a two-state solution viable; he was also correct in characterizing Stephens and Boteach as engaging in diversionary arguments, and that Rabbi Boteach argued in an ad hominem fashion (and, I'd add, with a very minimal grasp of facts).  I'll comment on Ibish and Stephens below this video of the entire debate, which begins (unfortunately) with a virtually unintelligible intro by a student:

Monday, April 07, 2014

Effort to Exclude Us from 'Celebrate Israel' Parade

Spectators at Celebrate Israel parade in New York, June 3, 2012. Photo by AP
Partners has recently been the target (along with the New Israel Fund and B'Tselem) of a nasty campaign to bar us from participating in the annual Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City.  (J Street activists participated as individuals in the "progressive cluster" of marchers.)  Right-wing groups, including the Zionist Organization of America, J.C.C. Watch and Americans for a Safe Israel, have planned a protest in front of the U.J.A.-Federation of New York for Tuesday, April 8.

Ha'Aretz has published an article about this controversy.  In it, Partners is mentioned as follows:
Partners for Progressive Israel (formerly known as Meretz USA) endorses boycotting products made in the settlements.
Those lobbying against the progressive groups' inclusion say there is no distinction between boycotting Israel as a whole and products made in the occupied territories.
 . . . "To single out Israel or even those communities in Judea and Samaria is discriminatory and immoral," [claimed one of the protesters] . . .
But the parade's sponsor defended its inclusive policy: