Commentary Magazine


Lawless Administration Won’t Enforce Law Against Israel Boycotts

The signing of a trade bill last week that included provisions specifically requiring U.S. trade negotiators to oppose European boycotts of Israel was a signal defeat for the BDS — boycott, divest, sanction — movement. The willingness of a bipartisan majority of Congress to label efforts to wage economic war on the Jewish state as inconsistent with American law was especially important since it rightly dismissed any distinction between boycotts of all of Israel and those that only target Jewish communities in the West Bank and Jerusalem. But it appears celebrations about that victory were premature. Comments by State Department spokesman John Kirby let it be known that, although President Obama signed the bill, he won’t enforce it. As it has on so many other issues, such as immigration, this administration regards laws that it likes differently from those it doesn’t and will simply ignore the latter.

The statement by Kirby, which was related on Twitter by the Associated Press’ Matt Lee and picked up by Lori Lowenthal Marcus of the Jewish Press, makes it clear that laws passed by Congress and signed by the president are null and void if they conflict with administration policy. According to Kirby:

By conflating Israel and “Israeli-controlled territories,” a provision of the Trade Promotion Authority legislation runs counter to longstanding U.S. policy towards the occupied territories, include with regard to settlement activity. Every U.S. administration since 1967 — Democrat and Republican alike — has opposed Israeli settlement activity beyond the 1967 lines. This administration is no different. The U.S. government has never defended or supported Israeli settlements and activity associated with them, and by extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize them.

Kirby is right that the U.S. government has never formally recognized the right of Jews to live in Jerusalem or the West Bank. But he’s wrong to assert that President Obama’s policies are entirely consistent with that of his predecessors. This administration has made an issue of the existence of 40-year-old neighborhoods in Jerusalem in a way that is unprecedented since it treats the presence of Jews in parts of Israel’s capital as being just as illegitimate as the most remote West Bank settlement. Moreover, no previous administration has ever considered boycotts of Israel, whether of the entire country or of the half million Jews who live on the other side of the 1967 lines as legitimate. Kirby’s statement is an implicit endorsement of some Israel boycotts while opposing others.

Nor does the focus on settlements aid the cause of peace as the administration claims. Israel has already made far-reaching offers of withdrawal from the West Bank including statehood that has been repeatedly rejected by the Palestinians. The refusal to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn is the obstacle to peace, not the presence of Jews in Jerusalem or the West Bank.

As I have written previously, the notion that it is okay to boycott some Jews but not others is one that sends a dangerous signal to Israel’s enemies. Once it is deemed lawful to anathematize parts of the Israeli economy, it is a slippery slope to treating all such boycotts as legitimate. Since the original Arab boycott that sought to strangle the Israeli economy was only broken by U.S. efforts to ban trade with those who enforced the boycott, a Congressional effort to move against BDS now was entirely in keeping with longstanding U.S. policy. But since this administration is obsessed with the idea of banning settlements, it is prepared to let a Europe in which a rising tide of anti-Semitism has fueled support for BDS activity get away with such boycotts.

This is a disgrace, but any thought of a legal challenge to the decision is a waste of time. Since the U.S. Supreme Court gave President Obama the right to invalidate laws about Israeli rights to Jerusalem in a decision handed down earlier this month, he can be confident that he will be granted similar latitude to ignore anti-BDS law.

But it isn’t just friends of Israel who should be outraged about this decision. This is an administration that views law enforcement as an option, not an imperative. Just as he did on immigration, where he ignored the will of Congress and used executive orders to effectively annul legislation by not enforcing those concerning illegal immigrants, President Obama regards his personal opinion as being above the law. That is a dangerous tendency to substitute his preferences for the rule of law ought to scare all Americans, regardless of their views about trade or Israel.


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11 Responses to “Lawless Administration Won’t Enforce Law Against Israel Boycotts”

  1. DAVID MARKS says:

    if only Congress would now repeal his trade authority. Of course that would require a veto proof majority.


    So if “State” defies Congress why doesn’t Congress defy “State” by slashing its budget…nothing gets attention better than that…


    Tobin’s readers should remember that each time Tobin cites yet another act of lawlessness by this administration, Tobin (and his Conservative media members) are largely responsible. Tobin, et al, knew what Obama was and was not in 2007, but said nothing and did nothing to prevent Obama’s nomination. And this they did twice. If there are ever legal prosecutions for aiding and abetting Obama, Tobin should be among those put in the dock.

    • JAY STRICKLAND says:

      That is dumb. How could they prevent His nomination? Conservative media never endorsed the “unqualified” community organizer for president.

      • STEPHEN PARKER says:

        Dumb? Hardly. Unless you are describing your own comment. Had the Conservative media, that’s print,online,radio and TV, risen as one and speaking as one, denouncing Obama for his past associations, and noting, that in his Senate race, he admitted to not being a “natural Born Citizen, it might have aborted his nomination. The second time around,the same Conservative media remained silent even after Obama procured and published a crudely forged birth certificate. The silence of the Conservative media about Obama’s constitutional illegitimacy has been shocking and shameful. By remaining silent, Tobin, et al, have fled from their affirmative obligation to protect the well being of their Conservative rank and file readers, to say nothing about their self-assumed obligation to protect and defend the Constitution. Would Bill Buckley have remained silent in the face of an ineligible presidential Candidate? The Conservative media has shamed itself, and will have left an indelible stain on its history.

    • JAY R SHAYEVITZ says:

      That’s called “blaming the victim.”

      • STEPHEN PARKER says:

        Victim? For the Conservative media Obama has been the gift that never stops giving. Obama has brought the CM seven years of prosperity: Increased circulation, increased viewers online and TV and increased listeners, nonstop invitations to speak, to join and to dine; the CM has been a well paid Obama enabler. Victim? You and your fellow readers may have been victimized under Obama; the CM has enjoyed unparalleled prosperity.

    • MARK MANDELL says:

      Obama is the worst president since James Buchanan and he should be impeached. But you’re wrong to write that he was not born in the United States. Obama didn’t have to be born in Kenya to be an arrogant and incompetent president. The good news is that just by regression to the mean, the next president is bound to be better, almost regardless of who is elected. I just hope that his disaster of a foreign policy doesn’t result in Iran with nuclear-tipped ICBM’s pointed at the United States.

      • STEPHEN PARKER says:

        You do not, in fact, know that Obama was born in America; you do not, in fact, know where Obama was born. But you do know that Obama’s (putative) father was a citizen of Kenya (and of the UK) when Obama was born; and, surely, you have read and understand the Constitution’s requirement that a person must be a “Natural Born Citizen” to legally occupy the office. Surely, you know the meaning of “Natural Born Citizen. Surely, you know these things.


    I am concerned that the media is giving Hillary cover. She is even more flawed than Obama. Intelligent and qualified to president? I don’t think so.

    The media is as invested in Hillary as they were in Obama. God help us if the “Low information” public puts her in office. Four more years of failed Obama POLICIES!

    • STEPHEN PARKER says:

      Not to worry. Hillary may have to run against one of the three constitutionally ineligible Republican candidates, and constitutionally ineligible candidates clearly have an edge over eligible candidates. Who are they? I’ll let one of Commentary’s writers tell you.

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