The decision of science superstar Stephen Hawking to join in the boycott of Israel was a major coup for those working to delegitimize the Jewish state. Hawking’s reputation as a man of reason and a media magnet gave a boost to a movement whose triumphs to date have been confined to figures dwelling in the fever swamps of the far left or right. While many Western European intellectuals have bought into the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) appeal, Hawking’s celebrity is such that he may help anti-Israel activists gain traction in the United States where they have had little success in getting mainstream attention or support.
But there is another downside to Hawking’s move. Rather than stiffen the resolve of the pro-Israel community to stand up against the economic war against the Jewish state, seeing a big name join the crowd piling on in this fashion has the effect of discouraging some and causing others to rationalize the boycotters. That’s the upshot of a couple of posts on the subject over at the Open Zion blog at the Daily Beast where left-wing columnists saying the right reaction to the boycott is to agree with its supporters that Israel is in the wrong. Rather than to fight a boycott that even some of them will admit is tainted by anti-Semitism, they council surrender to it. Thus, although adding Hawking to the roster of those who hypocritically and wrongly seek to ostracize Israel, perhaps the most important aspect of this is the way it could lead some who ought to know better to make their peace with the boycott instead of treating it as just another instance of Jew-hatred.
In 2009, the Sacramento City Council designated Bethlehem in Israel as one of Sacramento’s “Sister Cities.” Tomorrow, the council is set to vote on whether to make Ashkelon, Israel, a Sister City as well, and anti-Israel groups are frantically working to kill the initiative:
Supporters and protesters are expected to pack Sacramento City Council chambers when it decides whether to become a sister city with Ashkelon, Israel.
The council has a vote planned Tuesday on whether to add Ashkelon, a frequent target for bombs from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
The California capital already has joined up with nine cities, including what it calls “Bethlehem, Palestine,” and has been discussing adding an Israeli town for several years.
Those opposed to becoming a sister city with Ashkelon have waged an active campaign, claiming that Arabs there are second-class citizens and that other Arabs were evicted from the area following Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.
By the narrowest of margins, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA defeated a resolution calling for divestment from companies that do business with Israel’s security forces. The 333-331 vote was the closest the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) movement has come to getting a major American Christian denomination to endorse such a measure. The close vote is a victory of sorts for the Jewish groups, such as the Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA) that lobbied hard to defeat the motion. But the narrow margin is a virtual guarantee that divestment advocates will be back next year with expectations of victory at the Presbyterian conclave as well as at other gatherings of mainline Protestant groups.
Though there is little support for Israel divestment among the rank and file members of Presbyterian congregations, there is no denying the growing appeal among church activists for BDS proposals. The defeat of BDS this week may show that a narrow majority of Presbyterian delegates still understands that a vote for such a resolution involves the church in what amounts to an economic war against the Jewish state and a potential break in relations with American Jews. But the close call may indicate that support for anti-Zionism among liberal Protestant groups such as the Presbyterians is on the rise and it may only be a matter of time before they prevail.
In what must be considered among the most egregious acts of discrimination against Israel by leftist intellectuals, author Alice Walker is not allowing her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple to be translated into Hebrew because of her opposition to the Jewish state. The book, which was made into a popular 1985 movie directed by Steven Spielberg, is a story about racism and misogyny in the American south.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that in a letter posted on a site supporting the boycott of Israel, Walker said she was refusing to allow the translation in order to boost support for the movement to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) the Jewish state because of its alleged mistreatment of Palestinians. But in saying she doesn’t even wish her work to appear in Hebrew, Walker is making a broader statement than a mere critique of Israeli policies. This sort of a boycott is an attempt to treat Jews and Hebrew, which is the national language of the Jewish people, as beyond the pale. In doing so, Walker has illustrated how hatred for Israel can erase the line between political opinion and outright anti-Semitism.
Yesterday, Seth ran down the background of that evening’s Park Slope boycott vote. The motion asked the unintentionally hilarious members of the popular Brooklyn, New York, food co-op to vote on whether they should vote on boycotting Israeli products.
In the end it wasn’t even close:
Initially discussed at a co-op member board meeting over two years ago, the proposed boycott was brought to a vote on Tuesday night, with 1,005 members voting against the boycott and 653 voting in favor. Public Advocate and Brooklyn resident Bill de Blasio said he was proud of his neighbors for doing the right thing, calling the proposal inflammatory and destructive.
These posts, about J Street conference speakers who advocate anti-Israel boycotts and sanctions, are becoming an annual tradition. Last year the ostensibly pro-Israel group hosted BDS advocates from fringe left-wing Jewish groups, raising questions as to why J Street’s commitment to “expanding the debate” over Israel only seems to involve stretching the spectrum to include the anti-Israel side.
This year J Street is hosting the book launch of Peter Beinart who — will wonders never cease — just published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for a “Zionist BDS” campaign that would seek to economically suffocate all Israeli Jews who live beyond the 1948 armistice lines.