In my weekly piece at Souciant, I do a post-mortem on the PC(USA) divestment initiative, which failed by a 333-331 margin with two abstentions. I conclude that the defeat still shows a growing intolerance for Israel’s trampling of Palestinian rights.
Later today, perhaps by the time you read this, or perhaps tomorrow, the plenary session of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly will vote on the recommendation of its Committee 15 to divest from three corporationsthat are profiting from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, and its concomitant violations of Palestinian human rights.
Jewish Voice for Peace has been a key player supporting the divestment resolutions. But they face opposition not only from the major Jewish and pro-occupation groups, but also from the Zionist peace groups, J Street and Americans for Peace Now.
J Street has been consistent in opposing any kind of pressure on Israel. Their program seems to be to find ways to ask Israel, with more and more “pretty pleases” all the time, to end their occupation.
But APN has supported limited boycotts of settlement programs, products and institutions in the past. Still, one can argue that divestment in general has always been opposed by APN, so the case can be made that their call for PC(USA) to defeat the divestment resolution is also consistent with their positions.
I’m sure they think so.
APN is a wonderful institution. No one does better work in documenting the activities of AIPAC and other pro-occupation lobbying groups on Capitol Hill. They are an indispensible source of information on settlements, especially in East Jerusalem. They have done a huge amount of good on this issue, as much as any group, and more than most. I am proud to have worked with them and proud to call several of their staff members and others affiliated with the group both colleagues and friends.
But this time, they are dead wrong.
In my latest piece for Meretz USA, I argue that the pro-Israel/pro-peace, or two-states movement should be embracing boycotts of settlement products and other economic actions directed at settlements only. The point is that settlements should be separated from Israel in people’s minds and that we need to address the point that, economically, Israel and the settlements are, in practice, one unit.
I will continue to defend the rights of those urging sensible economic actions against the occupation, as I did when writing about the divestment proposition at UC Berkeley. Such efforts, even if I don’t agree with them are not, by definition, anti-Israel, much less anti-Semitic. As I’ve said, there are such strains within those movements, and we must consciously discern between those who are trying to bring legitimate economic pressure against the occupation and those who are motivated by animus towards Jews or some bizarre Zionist conspiracy theories.
But I do not believe BDS is an effective strategy strategy, even though Israel’s own sometimes cruel and always harsh and self-destructive are lately giving that movement a good deal of steam. Bernard Avishai, an economist, professor, writer and activist explains very well why this is a dead-end strategy. His article was published in The Nation and at his blog here.
Whether you support BDS or not, I think considering Avishai’s clear-headed arguments, which do not demonize the BDS movement but merely argue about the tactic, is well worth your while.
My recent piece on UC Berkeley’s divestment vote, Principled Opposition, drew a response from Akiva Tor, the Israeli Consul General for the Pacific Northwest region. Zeek printed it at this link. It was also posted at the consulate’s site.
Today, I published my own response to Tor. You can read it below or at Zeek’s web site.
By Moshe Yaroni
In Principled Opposition, I discussed some of the implications of the divestment vote at UC Berkeley. Akiva Tor, Israel’s Consul General for the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, took the time to write a response. It is a response one must read carefully. I have.
Mr. Tor begins by relating two incidents of anti-Semitism that apparently occurred among members of the crowd. It is indeed a sad reality of activism on the Israel-Palestine question that bigotry too often raises its ugly head.
But that bigotry occurs on both sides. Some might be interested in comparing the frequency or viciousness of the bigotry among activists on different sides of the issue. I find such comparisons distasteful. The important point is that, as someone who is in very regular contact with both activists and supporters of different sides of this issue, I can attest that neither side has a short supply of such people.
Yet I can also say that for neither side is this the norm. Mr. Tor fails to point out that the activists bringing this issue to the fore at Berkeley publicly denounced anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
I’ll go a step further. Mr. Tor is correct that I was not in Berkeley for these events. But I am a graduate of Berkeley, and I saw first-hand both the passions and the hatred that this conflict can stir. Neither Jews, Arabs nor other supporters of either side on campus were immune. Continue reading