Quantcast

Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Israeli universities continue to collaborate with the Israeli war machine that commits war crimes in violation of the Nuremberg Trial Accords and the UN Charter in Gaza every day. At Tel Aviv University, for example, Tel Aviv University professors are working on sixty-four campus war research projects. So it's about time that US antiwar activists began more actively supporting an academic boycott of Israeli universities by US universities.

bob feldman

http://bfeldman68.blogspot.com/2009/01/tel-aviv-universitys-comp, MA

Jan 12 2009 - 12:39pm

Web Letter

What the apologists for the IDF keep forgetting to mention is that far more Gazans have died in a few hours of one day of the multi-week-long Israeli assault than have killed by all the rocket attacks launched over the past decade and a half. (Many if not most of the rockets don't have payloads; that's why they don't cause nearly as much damage as the IDF can and does.)

They also don't mention the use of incendiary chemicals such as white phosphorus against Gazan civilians by the IDF.

They especially don't mention the slow starvation that Gaza has undergone since Israel "pulled out of" and then cordoned off Gaza in 2005.

Did they cheer when Yitzhak Rabin was murdered for daring to consider treating Palestinians as human beings?

Tamara Baker

St. Paul, MN

Jan 11 2009 - 10:24pm

Web Letter

"In other words, I am boycotting the Israeli economy but not Israelis." And "Ramsey says that his decision wasn't political; he just didn't want to lose customers. "We can't afford to lose any of our clients," he explains, "so it was purely commercially defensive." OK, so perhaps Israel should take away all those toys that we have all grown accustomed to? After all, they invented them.

Does anyone really believe Ramsey when he says it's not political? I have worked in the US for a very long time, was a CEO of a software company, and have never ever seen an issue made about where the software tool was made having any impact on business decisions. Sorry, Ramsey, your argument reminds me of all those people who say they are anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic or anti-Israel (really weird). Let's put it this way: the slogan anti-Zionist by definition is being against a national home for the Jews. It is often uttered by people who have a national home--in England, France, Germany, US, Canada--but who for some reason believe the Jews shouldn't have one. Often these same people, who naturally believe they are entitled to such a place, also believe the Palestinians should have a national home--but not the Jews. Bizarre.

Now, what about the boycott? Can Ms. Klein explain how boycotting the Israeli economy will not result in a boycott of Israelis? After all, an economic boycott means refusing to purchase the goods and services, in this case of Israelis. In Ms. Klein's simplistic statement is buried a war crime--starve the Israelis! Presumably this will teach the Jews a lesson.

What I find offensive about Ms. Kelin is not so much her argument (offensive as it is) but that no one--she certainly has not--made those arguments against the Chinese for taking over Tibet and repressing Tibetan rights. Is Mr. Ramsey refusing to buy Chinese products? Is Ms. Kelin refusing to buy Chinese goods? Is anyone? Boycotts begin and end with popular causes. Today the popular cause is liberty and justice for Palestinians. The fact that there is a Palestinian state already--Jordan--and two more in the making, albeit struggling, the West Bank and Gaza, each ruled by a different political entity, is simply below the radar of anyone's knowledge.

Were there any calls for a boycott of Arabs when they rocket Israel, was there a call by Ms. Klein to mobilize the world against Hamas rockets into kindergartens and schools in Israel for eight years prior to the Israeli response? Finally, should we not slap Hamas on the wrist just a little bit for importing guns into Gaza when Israel exited Gaza instead of importing knowledge and capital to build an Arab Singapore.

Oh and one more thing. I believe Ms. Klein is from Canada. I wonder what she would think about what America would if rockets were lobbed from Canada towards Buffalo? What does she believe the US would do first? (A) Negotiate with the Canadian government (b) Investigate (C) Bomb Canada. I think we know the US would do all of the above but it would start with the bomb. So would any other country--except Israel; it waited eight years!

Ran Kohn

New York, NY

Jan 11 2009 - 6:14pm

Web Letter

The boycott promoted by Naomi Klein offers only an unconstructive diversion from finding a solution to the perennial Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More attention should be given to addressing the root problems that have made a negotiated solution elusive and seemingly unachievable.

While this conflict has been usually couched as a battle between Jews and Muslims, the greater battle is between moderate and extremist Muslims. While we in the West seem to have overcome (arguably) our greatest periods of religious imperialism of, say, the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition centuries ago. In the Muslim world, there are similar delusions of conquest sanctioned by God today, and a competition for the soul (or at least voice) of Islam. Israel is a cause célèbre for the extremists.

The other problem is that such groups as Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda that exemplify today's religious extremism are not state actors, and therefore are not accountable to any moderating influences. Even Iran has to act with caution, as not all citizens subscribe to the government's strict Islamist views and Tehran does have a "return address" should it directly attack another country (i.e., Israel). Extremist groups, unlike states, have a self-selecting membership who are closely aligned philosophically with their group's goals and tactics. The presence of a Jewish nation on so-called Islamic soil provides an opportunistic lightning rod for these groups to exploit anti-Jewish, anti-Western and anti-democratic sentiment among the disenchanted and deprived in the occupied territories and elsewhere in order to build their own support. Ultimately, such groups wish to impose Sharia law in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and across the Muslim world.

There are better approaches to the problem than Naomi Klein's boycott, which is superficially one-sided and would be wholly ineffective anyway (the Israeli fear of missiles from Hamas will rightly far outweigh the fear of economic sanctions from US consumers). Ms. Klein naïvely misses the point that Hamas actually wants this war, and benefits from the Israeli bombardment as the images outrage Muslims worldwide and therefore strengthen them in Palestinian public opinion. Hezbollah "won" their war against Israel since they increased their strength, support and political influence in Lebanon--their ultimate goal-- and Hamas seeks to achieve the same.

The solution--that is, allowing both sides to step away from the brink and save face, and create the quiet that may allow a long-term peace process to take root--requires the following:

1. Encourage moderates (especially clerics) throughout the Islamic world to speak out against extremism and the perverse interpretation of Islam that Allah considers killers of civilians as "martyrs." This requires Israel to avoid Palestinian casualties (and maybe take more of their own) in the interest of avoiding undermining Arab moderates such as Mahmoud Abbas, Egypt's Hosni Mubarek, Turkey's Erdogan, and Jordan's King Hussein.

2. Encourage wealthy moderate Muslim states to build infrastructure (e.g., schools, hospitals) and an economic foundation in the occupied territories to undermine Hamas's strategy of "buying" support among moderate Palestinians through their own "charitable" programs and projects.

3. Give the Israeli's better assurances (possibly through NATO-like treaties) that the US and EU would stand behind them firmly should the country's existence truly be threatened, but ask in return that they take the risk of not attacking Hamas (or Hezbollah) with overwhelming force, which simply increases sympathy for these terrorist groups.

4. Make greater use of Islamic mediators such as Turkey and Egypt, as the United States has deflated credibility in the Islamic world.

5. Push the UN and Arab League to help disarm non-state actors, as only governments should control the armed forces within a country. For example, both Hezbollah and Hamas silence the moderate voices within their populations through intimidation, since they control the most powerful armies within Lebanon and Palestine, respectively.

6. Accept that Hamas will not change its charter to eliminate Israel as a precondition to direct negotiations with them. "Respect" is critical in the Islamic world. We must start with a cease-fire (however imperfect), and work for as long as it takes to undermine the support for extremist groups by providing Palestinians with a better alternative, rather than trying to defeat a portion of their population to "save them from themselves."

Simple, feel-good reactions to the conflict, such as boycotts, provide unhelpful alternatives that alienate moderate Jews and Israelis who wish to focus on finding a consensus approach that really could make a difference.

Robert Fisch

South Orange, NJ

Jan 11 2009 - 12:39pm

Web Letter

Yet again Ms. Klein takes a very simplistic view to make her point. It is well known fact that Israel has and continues to commit injustices toward the Palestinian people. However, (without offering justification) they are not acting in a vacuum. Israel is surrounded by states and non-state organizations that strive to see its destruction.

Let's assume that this boycott is successful beyond one's wildest dreams and Israel removes all illegal settlements, recognizes Palestine as an fully independent state and allows the unhindered passage of legitimate goods and services and people in and out of Palestine. Will Hamas and its supporters suddenly decide that Israel has a right to exist?

Israel's current offensive has resulted in terrible and unacceptable losses of civilian lives however you conveniently overlook Hamas' culpability. Hamas does not primarily target military personnel and installations. Hamas fires rockets and sends suicide bombers into Israel with the hope of killing and injuring as many civilians as possible.

The solution to the conflict will only come about when the infractions that have and continue to be committed by both sides are addressed. Unfortunately, when the ultimate goal of one of the players is the complete destruction of the other, I'm not sure a lasting peace can be reached.

Glenn Lamothe

Wakefield, Quebec, Canda

Jan 11 2009 - 11:51am

Web Letter

Naomi, I absolutely love you, and you are a blessing to those of us with righteous indignation.

However, I doubt that any efforts proposed by you to defeat Israel will have any effect, as the US government is still blindly and loyally voting for military and economic support of Israel. This money cannot be stopped. These politicians will never vote against Israel. In the face of some of the most heinous war crimes in recent history, our Congress still votes overwhelmingly in favor of Israel.

The boycott--if it should be effective--should be of US goods. The establishment here in the US needs to be depleted of its resources to the point where Israel cannot get funding, lest it deprive our own citizens of any quality of life.

Sadly, I don't trust that our Congress would vote against Israel's policies even in the face of something that dire.

Thor Menowski

Chicago, IL

Jan 10 2009 - 11:15pm

Web Letter

It seems unrealistic to expect a boycott to become popular enough to have an effect on the situation, as long as Hamas and its partners rely on terror to wage their fight against Israel. This of course was not the case in South Africa when the ANC used violence. But while it is true that the way in which Israel manifests its power in the occupied territories is quite apartheid-like, Israel itself is quite a different story. Perhaps a movement to support nonviolent opposition to Israel's policies by Hamas and Jihad would empower a truly effective boycott movement. Perhaps if people who sympathize with the Palestinian cause raised their voices for nonviolence, true change could come about. Maybe even without a boycott. As long as the battle is being led by fundamentalist zealots every bit as bloodthirsty as the worst elements in Israel (or anywhere else), it is unlikely that a boycott will gain adherents outside the most far left and right (as you can see today in Italy.

Danny Baron

Los Angeles, CA

Jan 10 2009 - 6:19pm

Web Letter

This time I wished I was a subscriber of The Nation. Why? Because in that case I would have an incomparable pleasure in canceling my subscription to it.

Jacob Metelitz

Basking Ridge, NJ

Jan 10 2009 - 4:53pm

Web Letter

And then what, Ms. Klein?

Bombs, raids, walls, occupation, checkpoints, settlements, blockades etc... All this is sad, regrettable and very undesirable to Israel. No one likes to live like this, whatever side of the border you're on.

Yet when you have a very small territory (the size of Wales) and a very small population (same as Switzerland--though 20 percent of them are Israeli Palestinians), and you're surrounded by people who do not accept your right to exist, who instigate hate from the most tender infancy, who almost exclusively target civilians, who advocate for martyrdom... what else can you do?

How many demonstrations were there during the so-called "truce," while Hamas's rockets kept raining down by the dozens every day over Jewish civilians? I remember none. How many world leaders called Hamas to order then? No one. Where was the media and the TV crews (and Naomi Klein)? I don't recall any pictures/footage of Israeli kids crying in shock when a rocket blew their houses down (except in Israeli newspapers, of course). This is the frustration in Israel, and what they refer to when they talk about the "unbalanced media." If the world would have stood up to Hamas then, we wouldn't be where we are now.

Suppose Israel withdraws its army and stops all attacks on Gaza. Suppose they remove all settlements (whatever may remain), go back the pre-1967 borders, tear down the walls and eliminate the checkpoints and all restrictions on passages. Suppose Israel says: "OK, guys, there's your country, here's ours; let's live in peace." In other words, suppose Israel gives the Palestinians pretty much everything they want. What do you think will happen? Will Hamas & Co. miraculously change their position, accept Israel as a legitimate state and renounce to violence? Yeah, I doubt it too.

As Daniel Finkelstein, from the Times, wrote this week: "The Palestinians need only say that they will allow Israel to exist in peace. They need only say this tiny thing, and mean it, and there is pretty much nothing they cannot have. Yet they will not say it. And they will not mean it."

No. Until Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Sirya, Iran, etc say and mean this, there's very little hope for peace. What guarantees does Israel have that by removing its army, its checkpoints and its walls it is not digging its own grave? Who will come to Israel's rescue if these people, then in a much better position to do so, launch full-scale attacks on us? The UN? The EU? Naomi Klein?

I do not agree with everything Israel does. I think they are tragically stupid when it comes to diplomacy. I believe they are playing along Hamas's game. And I think some of them become shockingly indifferent to human suffering sometimes.

But I understand where all that comes from. And Naomi Klein doesn't.

Ezequiel Brodsky

London, UK

Jan 10 2009 - 1:48pm

Web Letter

This article is totally absurd. Apartheid? How many intelligent people can believe such BS is beyond me. What kind of apartheid have Arabs living in the middle of a country with all the benefits of citizenry, with all the power to vote and representation in government, like Israel does? How the world can stand and condemn Israel is totally beyond me. Israel left the Gaza Strip, left buildings and factories as they agreed to do. Israel stood aside and allowed a terrorist group, Hamas, to be elected and then when Hamas decided to smuggle in guns and rockets supplied by Iran and use humanitarian funds to do so instead of bread and food and medicine, Israel is the villain? Excuse me?

Have you not read what Hamas and Hezbollah are determined to do? Their prime motivation is to kill every Jew (with collateral damage to Arabs living in Israel) and drive them into the sea! And along the way they will do what they have always done to any property left to them--strip and destroy. This is what you think is apartheid? When Hamas and Hezbollah take care of the needs of their people and stop sending rockets into Israel--where the only reason more people have not been killed in the attacks is because Israel provides shelters and sirens to warn their own, instead of like Hamas putting rocket launchers and mortars and arms smack dab in the middle of homes, hospitals and mosques--then maybe there can be peace and all the economic benefits that go along with the cessation of armed conflict. Stop being an apologist for terrorists. Stop this nonsense.

Rachele Levy

Ulster Park, NY

Jan 10 2009 - 11:33am