This is a guest post by Joel Weiner, responding to Jonathan Hoffman’s comment about the boycott bill
Jonathan, much as I usually have respect for your unreserved and unending support for the State of Israel, which is so lacking in many other people who should have it, I simply can’t agree with you here. I’ll show you what I wrote in a recent email to a friend:
‘The boycott law is terrible. It’s shocking, it disgusts me, and I’m deeply uncomfortable with the way it sits in a society that usually I’m very proud to call myself a part of. Israel has until now been not only the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, but also a shining example to all of what a proper democracy would look like – even amid the hardships of having a sometimes hostile minority within the State. And yet these beacons of democratic freedoms are being hacked away at by a stupid Government which doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care, about the importance of democratic freedoms, and also doesn’t appreciate the work we’re trying to do in the diaspora on Israel’s behalf – every time we talk about Israel being the only liberal democracy and so on.
‘How can we say that now? How can we defend a country whose Parliament passes a law to make it illegal to oppose Government policy? Of course boycotts are harmful and unhelpful and do nothing for the cause of peace or justice; but how can the proponents of this bill claim to be helping the situation when they’re just cutting down on the people’s right to protest?’
So I’d like to highlight again- I do not support any kind of boycott against Israel. I hate the BDS-ers, who in my opinion are insulting the good people of South Africa who had to live under a genuine apartheid regime. My support for Israel, like yours Jonathan, is unreserved.
But I think our support can be more credible if we’re not constantly allowing ourselves to be used as Netanyahu’s (or Lieberman’s) mouthpiece. We should look at this law objectively and say that, no, it doesn’t help our cause against the boycotters. By making them illegal it only helps their campaign to portray Israel as a totalitarian State. Their boycotts may frustrate us no end, but the answer isn’t just to deem them illegal.
I find it very difficult to agree with your comparison between the ‘existential threat’ to Israel of the boycotts, and the ‘existential threat’ to Britain of IRA terrorists. Israel can deal with the boycotts. The Government should stop sitting on the fence and start to take a stand: either show that it’s willing to compromise on the settlements by making real concessions; or present Israel’s case for the strategic, cultural and historical justification for settlements (as opposed to just making lame public statements of support for concerts in the Ariel cultural centre).
And finally: we can’t constantly rely on the Supreme Court for its common sense as a last beacon of democracy; we should expect our politicians to do that in the first place.
(PS – It goes without saying that Roger Waters is a total muppet.)