Americans for Peace Now (APN) announced yesterday it is joining a boycott of the Israeli settlements — but not because it approves of delegitimization tactics. No, the free-speech champions at APN say they’re simply taking a stand against “flagrant attack[s] on the basic democratic value of freedom of expression” – aka Israel’s misguided anti-boycott law – by “joining” the same boycott movement they’ve already publicly been a part of for more than a year.
APN has long maintained that boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) of Israel as a whole are “counterproductive and misguided.” But according to the group’s official statement on BDS from April 2010, “a more constructive approach would be to shift the focus from Israel to the West Bank and the Golan Heights.” The tactics they suggested include:
– efforts aimed at highlighting the point of origin of products originating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank or Golan Heights, to permit people to make informed choices in their purchasing and consumption;
– efforts to raise awareness about companies based in or operating in settlements, to permit people to make informed choices about their investment options;
– efforts to raise awareness about private U.S. funds flowing to settlers and settlements and to explore ways to curb such funding;
– efforts to exempt products originating in settlements from U.S. preferential trade benefits; and
– efforts to bar U.S. government purchase of products originating in settlements
In other words, efforts aimed at boycotting products from the settlements. Which is pretty much the same stance APN is taking right now, and trying to play off as a principled response to Israel’s new anti-boycott measure.
If APN’s latest action was really about outrage over the new law, it wouldn’t have proposed settlement boycotts well before the law even existed. The group has shown it is more interested in opposing Israeli government policies it dislikes than protecting democratic values. After all, there’s nothing more disingenuous than American activists railing against “the threat today to Israel’s democracy,” while supporting a boycott to undermine the policy of a democratically-elected government in a country they don’t even live in. For better or worse, Israel’s leadership supports the settlements. If APN finds that problematic, it should take it up with the Israeli public which put those leaders in office.