Naomi Klein is wrong to call for a boycott of Israel – David Hirsh

In The Guardian and on thenation.com Naomi Klein calls for “Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.”

She wants Israeli sports teams to be chased out of the arena.

She wants Israeli scholars and teachers to be excluded from the world academic community.

She wants Israelis to be excluded from the economic, cultural and artistic life of humanity.

She argues that this is the “best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation” of Gaza and the West Bank.

She argues that it would be more fruitful in the fight for peace for the world to punish Israel than to engage constructively with it.

She argues that Israel is not like South Africa but she quotes Ronnie Kasrils approvingly saying that the “occupation is infinitely worse than apartheid”.

She argues that Israel should be singled out for punishment not because it is the only state which deserves it but because it is the only state where such punishment would “actually work”.

She argues that a boycott strategy would not cut communication with Israelis but that it would dramatically grow such engagement.

These are not arguments for a boycott, they are attempted rebuttals of obvious reasons to oppose such a boycott.

Astonishingly she doesn’t even bother to rebutt the most obvious reason which is that building a global campaign to punish Israel – and only Israel – would normalize hostility to the only Jewish state and to the overwhelming majority of Jews who would rightly and bravely oppose such a movement.

Klein wants to mobilize a mass worldwide movement to picket shops selling Israeli goods, to prevent Israeli sports teams from playing, to silence Israeli intellectuals, to boycott Israeli dancers, to shun Israeli firms, to black out Israeli movies.

She could only possibly countenance such a call if it is her judgment that racism against Jews is absolutely a thing of the past; a dead thing which could no longer grow; a thing which could never regain its virulence. Is that her jugment?

In Italy this week there is a campaign, no doubt inspired by Klein’s boycott movement, to ‘boycott’ Jewish shops.

In London this week a socialist pro-Palestinian activist was bundled off a demonstration against Israel’s war against Hamas by Islamists because he believed in Israel’s right to exist.

In London this week Jewish children have been bullied because of their responsibility for Israel’s war.

In London this week an attempt was made to firebomb a synagogue. There were attacks on synagogues in Toulouse, Toulon, Metz, Charleroi and Brussels; on a Jewish school in Brussels; on cars and shops belonging to Jews in the Kremlin Bicetre (France), in Toulon (France), Brussels and Antwerp (Belgium).

A gang of between 15 and 20 youths rampaged down Golders Green Road last Wednesday trying to force their way into Jewish restaurants and shops. A motorist was dragged from his car and assaulted. The following day, another car was driven up and down the road while its occupants shouted antisemitic slogans.

Hamas, the antisemitic movement which currently claims leadership of the Palestinians, and which organizes the killing of Israelis whenever it can manage it, has explicitly threatened to kill Jews around the world, and specifically Jewish children.

Antisemitism is not dead. Yet Klein proposes to build a mass, popular political movement across the world, to boycott Israel – and only Israel. She must judge that the danger of the accelerating emergence of antisemitism is trivial when compared to other political dangers.

Klein makes much of the precedent of the boycott against apartheid South Africa. But she doesn’t think to mention the rest of the history of boycotts against Jews.

Why does she not mention the fact that Jews have been subject to exclusions and boycotts by non-Jews routinely and across many centuries? How can she think that the boycott of South Africa is the only relevant precedent?

What kind of judgment does she make when she remembers the Nazi picket lines excluding Jews from Universities or preventing customers from entering Jewish shops?

It will be said that I am illegitimately attempting to “use” the history of antisemitism to protect Israel from the punishment that it deserves. But actually what I am doing is pointing out the huge political irresponsibility of inciting exclusions against Jews – and against nobody else. Experience demonstrates that where there is a movement for singling out Israelis for boycott, there follows antisemitic ways of thinking, antisemitic arguments and antisemitic exclusions of the Jews who oppose the movement.

It will be said that I am worrying about trifling inconveniences for Jews when I should be worrying about the much greater hardships faced by innocent Palestinian civilians who are being caught in the current war. I don’t accept the logic of this kind of political calculus of priorities. If I did, I would point out that hugely greater suffering of innocent civilians is being caused right now in Darfur, in Zimbabwe, in North Korea, in Congo, in Sri Lanka, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in many other places. But antisemitism is, in itself, a serious harm and a serious danger. It is dangerous to Jews; it is a danger to peace in the Middle East; it infects and disables Palestine solidarity movements; it acts as an indicator of a profound sickness in precisely the kind of non-socialist radical political current of which Klein claims leadership.

Even if a boycott of Israel was a good idea in some ways, the danger of encouraging an antisemitic movement would outweigh the good. But in fact, there is nothing good about the arguments to boycott Israel – and only Israel.

Boycott is not a “non-violent” strategy as Klein argues. It is counterposed to a politics of peace and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine. It is war against Israel by other means. Boycott would therefore not be effective in ending the occupation. It could only be experienced by Israelis as an antisemitic attack. Israel was born in the aftermath of an antisemitic attack. It was an attack from which all of the world’s civilization was unable to rescue the Jews. It was an attack which drove many Jews to the conclusion that in the future they should put themselves in a position to defend themselves against antisemtic attacks without relying on anybody else. Boycott would not bring out the “dove” in most Israelis.

Israel is not like apartheid South Africa. I made that argument here. Other people made it here.

In backing a global “anti-apartheid” movement against Israel Klein is making a serious error of political judgment. But more importantly she is acting in a politically irresponsible way.

David Hirsh
Goldsmiths, University of London
Editor, www.EngageOnline.org.uk

65 Responses to “Naomi Klein is wrong to call for a boycott of Israel – David Hirsh”

  1. Susan Says:

    Well, here I am repeating myself again. Is Naomi Klein asking for a boycott of ALL Israelis or just the Jewish Israelis? I never get an honest answer to this question.

    • lior Says:

      what does it matter? your quetion just goes to show you know nothing about israel and it make you a real susspect of biased opinion against jews not only israel.

  2. Gil Says:

    Happily, I have some non-Jewish friends who are making a point of buying Israeli produce, appalled at the way the clock is rewinding back to the 30s.

  3. Saul Says:

    David Hirsh,
    You make some interesting points, especially on the particular history of Jews, antisemitism and Israel.
    If Jacqueline Rose (Question of Zion) and Daniel Finkelstein (Times this week) is right, and that Israel carries the scars of antisemitism within it, then a boycott Israel will not only have no effect at all, but will produce negative results in terms of the situation in the Occupied Territories. It will simply reinforce the idea that the world stands against them, that it has never excepted the idea of Jews existing on an equal basis with other peoples and, as you say, will be read within the context of not only the Arab boycott, present since Israel’s birth, but also connect with the European tradition of such acts. Threatening Israel with a boycott would not have the effect of bringing them to the “negotiating table”, but of their refusal to even contemplate such a compromise.

    Moreover as with so much comment when it comes to Israel, the politics of the situation – as opposed to knee-jerk reactions which sees Israel as some sort of apolitical evil – augurs in the complete opposite direction to the isolation of Israel. With the change of personnel and politics in the White House, the upcoming election in Iran, the development of US, Israel and Syrian relations, the willingness of many Arab states to recognise Israel as well as those same states politically justifiable hostility to Hamas and Hizbullah, it would be simply foolish adopt a policy of isolation.

    For such a position to be accepted, of course, would mean the end to the manichean, eschatological nonsense through which many see the current conflict and, in its place, a critical understanding of the political dimensions of the Middle East.

  4. David Says:

    David Hirsh “It was an attack which drove many Jews to the conclusion that in the future they should put themselves in a position to defend themselves against antisemtic attacks without relying on anybody else.”

    The whole point of Naomi Klein’s article was to point out how the opposite of this is true…..how dependent on U.S. military aid and favourable trade terms with the E.U. Israel actually is.

  5. jdyer Says:

    Ms. Klein is wrong that it would work. It would only exacerbate the already dangerous high levels of antisemitism in the world.

    Beside it is illegal for any American company to join a boycott against Israel.

  6. N. Friedman Says:

    Very good piece, David. The only thing I see missing is that you essentially overlook that Ms. Klein’s understanding of the dispute itself is based on mythology and propaganda, not on a close examination of the events.

  7. academic Says:

    Good article, David.

    It is noteworthy that the only “example” Naomi Klein offers of a “boycott action” of her own is in fact not a boycott action at all but rather her choice to make sure that the Israeli publication of her latest book is with an Israeli publisher (Andalus) with particularly progressive pro-peace policies (such as translating Arabic books into Hebrew). Nothing wrong with that at all. Just a pity she didn’t write an article proposing the establishment of links with pro-peace enterprises in Israel and Palestine — of which her own actions would in fact be a true example.

    There is also something very illogical about something she says about what she did. She writes that she also forwent all profits from the book but donated them instead to Andalus (i.e. her new Israeli publisher) and in this way did not input wealth into the Israeli economy. But surely by leaving the money in Israel, she is boosting the Israeli economy more than if she had taken her royalties!

  8. Eric Lee Says:

    A very good rebuttal to Klein, David. Well done. Her article is particularly stupid. She even goes so far as to say that to do her bit for the boycott of Israel, she was prepared to make sacrifices. She therefore chose to publish her most recent book in a Hebrew edition in Israel with a small publishing house, guaranteeing low sales (I’m not making this up). And — in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians, she is not taking her author’s share of the (non-existent) income. Is she aware that in spite of these profound sacrifices, to the Jew-haters she is still a Jew, and when they boycott Jewish businesses – as they’re now starting to do in Italy – they may very well boycott her too? Probably not. After all, she’s not one of those ‘bad Jews’. She’s a ‘good Jew’. Pathetic.

  9. James Mendelsohn Says:

    Very good piece David, well done

  10. Objserver Says:

    “David’s” point is absurd.

    Israel is not so stupid as to confuse autonomy with isolation. The desire of early Zionism was to be a normal state (a desire thwarted by a whole host of reasons).

    Normal states trade, normal states make alliances with others, etc. (Most countries are dependent on larger states). Maybe what upsets people with an “anti-imperialist” bent is that Israel decided to choose the US over the Soviet Union.

    I would assume that an independent Palestine would make alliances both regionally and internationally. As with Israeli independence, Palestinian independence would not preclude alliances with larger, more powerful states.

  11. allan s. Says:

    Well, one needs to debunk David’s first point that a boycott would “would normalize hostility to the only Jewish state.” Does this mean Israel is a theocracy? Isn’t a Zionist theocracy a bit of a contradiction in terms of common notions of democracy? All the rhetoric aside, in not too subtle terms non-Jews just do not have the position within the legal hierarchy as Jews. It masquerades as a democracy in the same way the U.S. did before the civil rights movement. But, among other things, the government supports the settler movement which is blatantly racist. But, more than anything else, having been around for 50 years now, Israel is first and foremost a state – pure and simple. And as such acts in manner which is designed to enforce and insure its economic and ideological interests. Its actions in Gaza to protect Jewish lives (in Southern Israel) should be viewed from the perspective of Zionist actions during World War Two. Not at all a pretty picture. The fact is, Jews such as David, are blinded by a distorted reality of what they want Israel to be symbolically and cannot see it for what it is.

  12. Bill Says:

    “She argues that Israel should be singled out for punishment not because it is the only state which deserves it but because it is the only state where such punishment would “actually work”.”

    This is pretty much the typical stupid, lazy and unprincipled excuse for demonizing Israel and only Israel. It won’t work against Communist China or Iran, and we can’t afford to do that anyway. So don’t boycott China or Iran, boycott the Jews so we can pat ourselves on the back for a job done well while the real face stompers are emboldened — and we can probably still blame the Jews for that ’cause that’s so much easier.

  13. Nancy Says:

    jdyer writes:
    “Beside it is illegal for any American company to join a boycott against Israel.”
    I believe that’s misleading. It is illegal under U.S. law for an American law to participate in the Arab boycott of Israel (see: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Arab_boycott.html) Otherwise, Americans acting privately – be they companies, individuals, state pension funds, etc. – can refuse to conduct business (divest, boycott) with whomever they want. Hence, proponents of the Presbyterian Church’s various BDS resolutions are not being prosecuted by the federal government. Ditto various local governments urging divestment. Ditto one of my local food cooperatives where a group of employees routinely call for the store to stop selling Israeli goods. And why I’ve never heard Caterpillar claim it can’t accede to demands that it cease doing business with Israel for fear of prosecution.

  14. vildechaye Says:

    RE: Its actions in Gaza to protect Jewish lives (in Southern Israel) should be viewed from the perspective of Zionist actions during World War Two.

    Another idiot who has seen Perdition or read similar slander against Zionists and Jews and actually believes it’s true, contrary to the overwhelming historical evidence — not to mention good old common sense.

    This “zionists aided the nazis” stuff is the most vile spew and that who call themselves leftists willing to believe or worse, unquestioningly accepting this garbage is frightening.

  15. Comment is not free Says:

    Eric,
    Klein will probably be only too happy to pass whatever test they offer her to prove her “good Jew” status.

    And, talking of “good Jews”, the “allan s*. prize of the week” has to go to a letter in today’s Guardian. Early tips for next week’s prize is from “Jews for Justice” and their claim that only they are Jews endowed with humanity, implying all the other Jews (i.e. those who old other opinions to them) are not. (“We, Jews who insist on the humanity of all regardless of race or creed, call for…..”)
    Any more contributions for consideration greatly accepted.

    *I have not idea if “allan s” is jewish or not, but after his contribution here, adoption of his name for this prize seems suitable.

  16. Gil Says:

    allan s., there are non-Jewish members of the Judiciary, Executive and Legislature. So stop posting lies about non-Jews not having rights in Israel.

  17. Mark Gardner Says:

    Naomi Klein’s primary concern about antisemitism appears to be its utility to Israel and Zionism.

    See here for evidence, and also for the warming reassurance that the left’s crazies aren’t antisemitic. (Despite what Naomi herself sees on Indymedia): http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2002/04/sharon-le-pen-and-anti-semitism

  18. David Says:

    Objserver:

    Apologies that my post was too cryptic. I was trying to point out, in the light of David Hirsh’s statement that Israel had been founded to allow Jews to defend themselves against anti-semitic attacks “without relying on anybody else,” that military spending has made the country economically non-viable. As a result the country is TOTALLY reliant on others, principally the U.S. for economic and military aid and the E.U. for tariff-free trade. Naomi Klein was drawing attention to this fact, but anyway, a boycott may be pre-empted as the world economy goes into deep recession and protective trade barriers are re-introduced in Europe, and the U.S. simply cannot afford to continue funding Israel’s wars.

  19. wendy kellett Says:

    Excellent response to the latest call fo a boycott.
    Why were there no similar calls when Iran executed helpless teenagers and women?Why no calls in the face of Mugabe’s wilfull destruction of Zimbabwe’s people and economy?
    I wish the fighting could stop now and I see the pressing need for a proper peace settlement,but why the endless demonisation of Israel?
    There is an awful lot of selfrighteous hypocrisy flying around
    at this time.
    The UK government has sent troops into several areas in recent years,as we all know too well.
    On radio 2 the other day,I heard a former Guardian Editor railing against Lorna Fitzsimmons about her support for Israel.
    I just hope that the conflict won’t spread to the northern border and beyond.

  20. Joshua Says:

    ‘As a result the country is TOTALLY reliant on others, principally the U.S. for economic and military aid and the E.U. for tariff-free trade.’

    A common cry of the anti-Semite when confronted with the evidence of the massive Jewish contribution to society is that “without us” the Jew would be nothing. Like many who are “critical” of Israel, you are saying exactly the same thing, except that the Jewish state has been replaced by “the Jews”. Both claims are utter rubbish.

    Let’s look at some of the evidence (all the figures directly below refer to Israel):

    In 2007 Israel’s GDP (purchasing power parity) was $185.8 billion

    http://tinyurl.com/9atdnk

    Excluding diamonds, total trade with the EU represented 35% of Israel’s total trade

    http://tinyurl.com/2deodz

    Government revenues: $53.6 billion
    Government expenditures: $53.63 billion (2007 est.)

    http://tinyurl.com/9atdnk

    Military expenditures: 7.3% of GDP (2006)

    http://tinyurl.com/8hzb6c

    US military aid to Israel for 2009: $2.55 billion

    http://tinyurl.com/aycu8b

    Even a cursory look at the facts above shows that whilst a withdrawal of US aid and EU subsidies might be a little painful for Israel, neither action would affect Israel’s economy or well-being in a particularly dramatic fashion. On the other hand, the withdrawal of EU subsidies to nations like Poland and Ireland could well sink their economies into a deep economic depression. As far as US military grants and subsidies are concerned, no nations on earth, apart perhaps from South Korea, receive more than the members of NATO. Indeed, without massive U.S. subsidies, Europe would be completely unable to defend herself from a serious attack (and that has been true, as Britain and other nations learned to their great cost, since World War I), at least in a conventional war. But what is really ironic about Klein’s piece is the fact that no nation is more reliant on the United States for its protection (Canada spends merely 1.1% of GDP on her military less even than neutral Sweden which spends 1.5% of GDP – Source: CIA – The World Factbook) and economic well-being (Canada exports – partners: US 78.9%, UK 2.8%, China 2.1% (2007) – Source: CIA – The World Factbook) than Canada.

    “a boycott may be pre-empted as the world economy goes into deep recession and protective trade barriers are re-introduced in Europe, and the U.S. simply cannot afford to continue funding Israel’s wars.”

    1) A military and economic boycott of Israel by the U.S. or the EU of Israel is so improbable as to not be worth considering. Aside from other considerations, I really don’t think the world is ready to go back to a time when Jews were not able to defend themselves. And, as Daniel Finkelstein pointed out so eloquently a few days ago in The Times, if Jews do not defend themselves, no-one else in the world will do it for them. To hope that Israel cannot defend itself is also to hope that Israel will be destroyed. Even now, at a time when the guilt over the Holocaust has more or less worn off and the genie of anti-Semitism is once again out of the bottle, that is something that would not sit well with most civilised people.

    2) Given, inter alia, the strategic importance of Israel and its popularity in the U.S., that latter nation cannot afford not to support Israel. In any event, compared to the costs of supporting other allies like Britain, Korea, Canada and Germany, the costs are really quite negligible.

  21. Robin Stamler Says:

    I realized Klein was a pathological Israel hater after the Beslan school massacre in 2004. When the Russians condemned Islamist extremism in the wake of this, Klein claimed in a Guardian article ((http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/10/russia.comment1) that not only the USA but now the Russians were undergoing “Likudisation” with Israel in a “mentoring role” and Sharon the “guru”. For her, the demonic powers of the Jewish State had now bewitched two of the world’s superpowers. It follows naturally that such a malign influence should be singled out.

  22. adam d. Says:

    I’m intrigued by Saul’s comment

    > If Jacqueline Rose (Question of Zion) and
    > Daniel Finkelstein (Times this week) is right,
    > and that Israel carries the scars of antisemitism
    > within it, then a boycott Israel will not only have
    > no effect at all, but will produce negative results
    > in terms of the situation in the Occupied Territories

    A similar argument forms the basis of most rationalizations of Palestinian violence. According to that argument, the frustration of occupation make suicide bombing, among other things, understandable if not actually ok.

    Why should not, then, the frustration of enduring ceaseless international hostility to Israel’s safety justify its outbursts? Why not promote, in a serious way, that Naomi Klein and those like here are in fact the root cause of ongoing tension making peace and reconciliation impossible in the Middle East, ultimately even justifying Israel’s harsh actions?

    Besides being in some measure correct, it would have the wonderful advantage of turning the rhetorical tables.

  23. Keith P Says:

    Is Engage editorial board member John Strawson also wrong when – in extreme departure from the Engage line as presented here – he describes Israel’s current actions in Gaza as a War Crime, “categorically rejects” the self-defence justification, and declares, in a statement co-signed with others including Richard Falk, that the actions in/on Gaza amount to:

    “collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5m inhabitants contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.”

    This analysis seems inconsistent in tone, content, and logic to all that presented here and advanced by David in the name of Engage. Are we to assume that Engage’s editorial board is fundamentally divided as to whether what we are witnessing and have been witnessing in Gaza is a war crime or a justifiable act of defence against an existential threat to the lives of Jews?

    The petition in question is here:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article5488380.ece

    Looking forward to any clarification on this.
    Thanks.

  24. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “She argues that Israel should be singled out for punishment not because it is the only state which deserves it, but because it is the only state where such punishment would ‘would actually work’.” Has she been talking to Tom Hickey? _He_ said, in print, back in 2007, in answer to his own question why an academic boycott against Israel, “…we are speaking of a culture, both in Israel and in the long history of the Jewish diaspora, in which education and scholarship are held in high regard. That is why an academic boycott might might have a desirable political effect in Israel, an effect that might not be expected elsewhere.”

    At the time, it was pointed out that this was racist on at least two levels: it singled out Jews (specifically: “and in the long history of the Jewish diaspora”) and made all other groups and states who _might_ be boycotted (Zimbabwe, China, Sudan, etc etc,) lesser animals without.

    But, of course, we can’t expect such a renowned, well-respected, high-selling and wealthy anti-capitalist author to recognise such a small thing as antisemitism in her own writing. She is, after all, as has been noted above, “a good Jew”, not like us “bad Jews”, expecting equal treatment all round.

  25. David Hirsh Says:

    Keith,

    Engage has no collective position on “whether what we are witnessing and have been witnessing in Gaza is a war crime or a justifiable act of defence against an existential threat to the lives of Jews?”

    Engage is a campaign against antisemitism, not an Israel/Palestine campaign or discussion group.

    I tried to sum up what I feel are some of the central ideas of Engage, but it is only my attempt. Here http://engageonline.wordpress.com/about-engage/

    John Strawson is one of the most incisive and committed campaigners against antisemitism that I know. I’m proud that he thinks of himself as being part of Engage.

  26. john strawson Says:

    Kieth P should read the letter more carefully. It is making a certain legal point – which I have made in comments here. The letter in addition to making it clear that Hamas’s rockets and suicide attacks are war crimes ends by saying

    “We condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and suicide bombings which are also contrary to international humanitarian law and are war crimes. Israel has a right to take reasonable and proportionate means to protect its civilian population from such attacks. However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas. “

  27. David Hirsh Says:

    Incidentally Keith, I don’t think I’ve written anything at all on the current conflict in Gaza.

  28. Keith P Says:

    Thanks for your replies, David, John.
    I did read the letter carefully. I understand that it includes the condemnation of Hamas’s actions as contrary to international law, and i did not for a second mean to imply John had meant to entirely absolve Hamas and entirely fix blame on Israel.

    What I was surprised about was the fact that this letter includes clear and unequivocal statements describing the PAST year (+)’s “siege” of Gaza and the CURRENT/RECENT attacks on the Gaza Strip as war crimes. This may or may not be the case – i am not arguing against this on a legal basis (I am unqualified to do so) or suggesting it is false.

    But I do think it departs from Engage’s previous posts and comments concerning both the “siege” and the conflict in content and tone. David, I know you say that Engage has shifted its concerns over the years and is less attentive to points on the conflict than it used to be perhaps, but you’ve also conceded that “Engage business overlaps with wider political issues in Israel and in Palestine – so these are editorial decisions and not clear and automatic rules.” (http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/comment.php?id=1551) and I think that its clear from your covererage of both Lebanon 2006 and the current violence, that the posts on Engage are either themselves concerned with the conflicts or are selected as ways of directing readers to sources selected from amongst many possibilities; it therefore follows that there is some position being articulated and not a random or ambivalent approach to the way the conflict is parsed here at Engage.

    This brings me back to my original comment/question, which is whether or not Engage’s (and if its easier to answer David I would understand if you’d prefer to answer as an individual rather than for the whole campaign) position (unavoidable and implicit in the selection and recommendation of sources on the conflict) is also that the Israeli government and military are presently comitting war crimes and that they have been doing so for at least the last year in the form of the “siege” of Gaza.

    I am not suggesting that there needs to be uniformity on the subject across your editorial board, but I am aware of and puzzled by the following:

    1. Falk (a co-signatory of John’s) has been condemned quite harshly for “israel-hatred” and in particular for making Nazi-Zionism analogies that Engage has criticised very forcefully. David, I think you have yourself charged him with”being used by antisemites as cover” (http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1806) and have reproduced a “Flesh Is Grass” commentary where he Falk is charged with “publicity-seeking exaggerations and falsehoods” (again I’m for or against Falk – just observing that this appears to indicate a position which departs from the co-signing of statements with someone quite a bit) (http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2008/12/18/flesh-is-grass-on-richard-falks-exclusion-from-israel/)

    2. If Engage does agree with the statement a member of its editorial board has signed on the current conflict – then surely it makes sense for it to be reproduced here or linked to in the way some dozens of external reports and commentaries on the current conflict have been linked to over the past fortnight.

    3. If Engage does not agree with the statement made by its editorial board, how does it situate this statement published in the mainstream UK press that Israel is, and long has been, engaged in war crimes within its overall context of “defining and defending” the limits of “legitimate criticism” – is John, like Falk, not preparing the ground for demonization? is he lending credence to the arguments as well as the vocabularies of co-signers like Falk? Or is the attribition of war crimes to the Israeli state and armed forces unproblematic in this scheme?

    Sorry for the long reply – and thanks again to you both for your time, its appreiciated and my questions are not intended to imply any intentional disingenuousness, but to get a better understanding of how this very explicit statement by a board member and contributor relates to the campaign as a whole, which I DO see as articulating a politics on Israel/Palestine, while I accept this is not its primary agenda.

    Thanks.

  29. Keith P Says:

    sorry: “3. If Engage does not agree with the statement made by its editorial board….”

    should have read:

    “3. If Engage does not agree with the statement made by a member of its editorial board…”

  30. Joshua Says:

    ‘However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.’

    When will you and your fellow travellers be writing a letter to The Times about Britain’s many and terrible war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan especially in the light of the fact that neither country has posed any serious threat whatsoever to Britain?

    I also do not remember any similar letters when the Royal Navy murdered 323 sailors who were aboard the General Belgrano during the Guerra de las Malvinas in 1982.

  31. MITNAGED Says:

    The more I read rubbish like morally bankrupt Klein’s the more Israeli produce and goods I promise myself to buy

  32. Joshua Says:

    ‘Kieth P should read the letter more carefully. It is making a certain legal point – which I have made in comments here.’

    If the law means that the Jewish state is unable to defend itself effectively then to hell with those laws. I think in those circumstances we should pay no more attention to them than we would have done to the laws enacted by the Nazis against Jews. And the law is anti-Jewish because it is only ever discussed in any meaningful way when Israel’s interests are being debated. When Russia raped Chechnya and brutally mauled Georgia did you and your colleagues write a letter. When have you been moved to protest in The Times against the disembowllment of poor and innocent little Tibet by the Chinese? Has Daniel Machover attempted to arrest any British or American generals recently?

  33. Saul Says:

    Adam,
    As far as I understand your comment, that is precisely Rose’s line but with a different evaluation. She argues that the history of antisemitism has left such scars on the Israeli “psyche” (i.e. a rehash of the normally discredited “national character” argument) that she thinks explains its inherent aggression.

    Interstingly, she does not draw the same conclusions for the Palestinian after their experience of 40 years of occupation. (But that could also be because she grounds in some nonsense about Jewish messianism – and, therefore, makes it a Jewish “thang”).

  34. Inna Says:

    Great article David. I can’t see what I could add to it.

    Saul, you are quite right in that the boycotts and the general world anti-Semitism has driven many, many Jews to the right. I may of course be “projecting” but that is how it seems to me.

    And I think the Beauty and the Beast cross-post added a sorely needed touch of (some) comic relief to a very grim situation.

    Thanks for that!

    Inna

  35. David Says:

    Joshua:
    “Like many who are “critical” of Israel, you are saying exactly the same thing, except that the Jewish state has been replaced by “the Jews”.”

    I really don’t follow your logic. It seems you are deliberately conflating Israel with all Jews in order to dishonourably sling a charge of anti-semitism. Many Jews, including Naomi Klein, do not support Israel unconditionally. Does this make them all self-haters and anti-semites? Who exactly has replaced the the Jewish state with “the Jews?”

  36. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    David, no it doesn’t make Naomi Klein and those like her self-haters. As Anthony Julius memorably said on one occasion, “they’re not self-haters; they love themselves. It’s their parents they hate.”

    Actually, it’s often very difficult _not_ to sling a charge of antisemitism against those who criticise Israel and the policies of its government in ways that they would not criticise other countries or their governments. It’s also difficult not to make this charge against those who choose to hold Israel, its government and people to higher standards than they hold other countries, their governments and people to.

    What would _you_ call such criticism and standard-holding, then, David, if not antisemitism?

    Of course, many such people then use the Livingstone Formulation to evade the charge and duck having to think about what they’re doing. Why should think along those lines? After all, they’re “progressives” aren’t they? (See Nick Cohen “What’s Left?”, passim)

  37. Naomi Klein Wants to Mainstream the Boycott at Z-Word Blog Says:

    [...] for a boycott is not just “politically irresponsible” for all the reasons listed by David Hirsh. Her aim is to bring campaigns against Israel from the activist fringes into the political [...]

  38. Angela Wine Says:

    Dear Ms. Naomi Klein,
    You as most of the world today see things “topsy turvy” – what is truth is seen as a lie and visa versa.
    With all due respects to the erudite comments here, not once was there mentioned the bottom line in the Palestine/Israel conflict. The problem involves not only the Palestinians but the whole Arab (mainly radical Islam) world.
    To understand this (and sorry to be a bore in repeating what is in fact known but not remembered) , we have to go back to history.

    Ever since the partition plan giving part of Palestine to the Jews (whose presence in the area has been for the last 3000 years) and part to those Arabs living in the area. the Arab world has not accepted this fact, that there is a state of Israel and it exists.

    And so in 1948, the Arabs declared war on the fledgling state of Israel, encouraging those Arabs living in the state to leave and come back after their victory, while sending the Jews into the sea. Apart from Egypt and Jordan who made peace with Israel – by the way indicating Israel’s willingness to make peace with whoever sincerely wants peace — the other Arab states have until this day been in a state of war with Israel. Not only that but starting with Yasser Arafat and his PLO movement, they with Hamas and Hizballa today, have a charter whose agenda is to destroy Israel (and as Achadinejad says wipe it off the map).- —a better word is annihilation.

    What is it with those “beautiful people” that either don’t want to know the truth or are simply ignorant that Hamas (backed by Iran and Syria believes that the land of Israel is all OCCUPIED territory that has to be regained and so is fighting Israel not for freedom of Gaza and the West Bank but to take over the whole area by wiping out Israel.

    5x5s – please note
    it is the Arab world with all their wealth that kept the refugees after the war in 1948 in refugee camps with no attempt to integrate them into their countries (as did Israel the refugees that had to flee the Arab countries).

    Let those that write about Israel using excessive force , let them note that Hamas doesn’t care about its own people, they care about their ideology and desire for power. They violate childrens’ rights by forcing them to carry weapons and kill. They teach them hatred, to kill the Jews. And as for the ordinary Palestinian, he is fearful for his life if he opposes the Hamas machinary.

    Not only that, let the world take note, the writing is on the wall. Hamas’ ideology as is Iran’s and other Islamic fundamentalists is to occupy and Islamisize the world making it one big Islamic power. They already have footholds in the U.K., France, Africa etc.

    So what is little Israel supposed to do? Use your head lady, Ms Naomi Klein, I would like to see you living in Iran today. Does Israel have to say ” thank you Hamas for sending in only 3000 or more rockets into Israel – let’s sit down and talk peace and then you can move freely around even come into Israel and kill us because of your ‘good intentions’, you ONLY want to destroy us” ! ! ! ! ! ! !
    So the bottom line is –were the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to stand up and say we want to make peace with you,(as did Sadat, no more war no more bloodshed, and mean it by changing their charter and accept the existence of Israel) I promise you Israel would gladly do so. Israel nor the Palestinians would be in the position it is in today

  39. Angela Wine Says:

    Don’t miss this video of Hamas in their own words:

    http://www.memritv.org/video.html

  40. Denis MacEoin Says:

    The one thing you miss, David, in an otherwise excellent piece, is reference to the fact that Islamic (hence Hamas) hatred of Jews is religious in nature rather than racist. To some people, that lets Hamas et al off the hook, since only racism is a grave sin in the eyes of the Left, and because any challenge to Islamic doctrine or practice is regarded as…. well, racist. But a hatred based on ancient texts and doctrinal assumption deserves as much contempt as do hatreds based on race or gender or whatever. A boycott of Israel translates too easily into a boycott of Jews, especially when a driving force (or the driving force) behind it is a medieval religiosity.

  41. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Angela, you’re quite right to remind us of the facts (or at least some of them) that get buried. These have been, quite frequently, given here, but the fight continues at such a pace that the last time what you have just said was some many pages ago.

    Regrettably, the anti-zionists and antisemites will distort this picture, and so we will have to say it again, and again, and again…

    If we get really lucky, they’ll tire of distorting the truth before we get tired of telling it.

    We must _not_ let truth become the first victim of war yet again.

  42. Robert Sadin Says:

    Very good rebuttal. One thing is not clear to me. According to Ms. Klein, should she not be chased out of the lecture hall, out of the classroom, her books burned….should people not refuse to let her speak, boycott her books…

  43. David Says:

    Brian Goldfarb says:
    “As Anthony Julius memorably said on one occasion, “they’re not self-haters; they love themselves. It’s their parents they hate.”

    It’s a Jewish joke, right?

  44. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Hopefully no, she shouldn’t be boycotted: I can decline to read her books and decide not to attend her lectures or public appearances, but this is _not_ a boycott. If we reject a boycott of Israel, then we can hardly claim to be even on the foothills of the moral high ground should we boycott or demand a boycott of others just because we think that they are wrong, antizionist or even guilty of demonising Israel. We can, however, expect _them_ to treat us in the same way, and to expect the same rough intellectual treatment as they think is all we deserve.

  45. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    David, if you don’t get it, that’s your problem, not mine. I’m not about to start explaining witticisms – it’s not a joke, because Anthony Julius was deadly serious when he said it.

    More importantly, _you_ were the one accusing us of saying that Klein is a self-hater. I don’t think anyone here has said anything like that. _We_ have been suggesting that she is, inter alia, misguided, misinformed, incapable of adequately interpreting evidence (despite her best-selling books – but then being a best-selling author is no guarantee of being able to adequately interpret evidence) and being guilty of using words in a way that leaves her open to accusations of antisemitism and/or racism.

    In my own view (and it _is_ a personal one), she has actually made antisemitic and racist statements. She may not mean them, but then, in that case, we’re back to not being able to adequatedly interpret evidence…or write in a way that makes her meaning crystal clear.

    Of course, there is a chance that she knew what she was doing and therefore _is_ guilty of antisemitism and racism, as opposed to doing it by accident.

    And, yes, Jews can be guilty of antisemitism.

  46. David Lawrence Says:

    This is a letter to the Guardian which they did not publish:

    Naomi Klein is deluded if she thinks that a boycott of Israel will be useful: on the contrary it will harm the chances of peace. The white South African Government yielded on apartheid for many reasons, but would not have done so, with or without the boycott, if it had thought that the African National Congress would have used accession to power to kill the white South African community: they had a partner for peace. Hamas not only initiate killing Israelis, but are killing Palestinians as well.
    Given that Hamas refuse to negotiate, accept a two state solution and will continue to threaten Israel’s existence by force, a boycott of Israel would push Israel in the opposite direction to what Naomi Klein hopes. A serious boycott will damage economically not only the Jewish population, but also over two million Arab Israelis and West Bank Palestinians. But it will make the Israeli Government more intransigent and will unify the Jewish population against compromise in the face of an implacable enemy.
    I am as outraged at the killing of civilians as everyone else and if it were not just indulgent gesture politics of the worst kind, I would be calling for a boycott of Hamas and those supplying it with arms and finance. A much more realistic movement towards a two state solution is One-Voice, groups of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Guardian readers should look at their web site http://www.onevoicemovement.org/ and offer support.

  47. arash - iran Says:

    hi
    you say , people should not boycott israel but the imperialist world along 30 years boycotted iranain nation
    ” supporters of israeli state terrorism ” , shame on you!

  48. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Funny that, Israel has never called for a writer to be killed because of something they wrote; Israel has never demanded that an existing state be wiped off the map of the world; Israel has never held diplomats and other citizens of another country hostage, poeple who hadn’t broken any laws of the country they were held in; Israel has never asserted that historically agreed events of an horrific nature never actually happened; nor has Israel sponsored an international conference to support this last assertion.

    However, arash-iran, I know of a country where all these things are true.

    And I don’t support “israeli state terrorism”, but I do support Israel’s right to exist in peace and not be faced with antisemitic terrorist groups funded by the government of that country, even as I criticise certain Israeli government policies. Further, groups whose charters specifically call for the death of Jews, all Jews, and the establishment of an Islamist state “from the river [Jordan] to the [Mediterranean] sea”.

    What’s your view on this, arash-iran? Or can I guess?

  49. arash - iran Says:

    Hi ;
    usa used atomic bomb on Japanese people .
    usa was [coup plotter] in 1953 on mosaddeq [ iranian prime minister] in iran .
    Great Britain empire stole our oil
    Great Britain changed goverments in region .
    CIA was active in my country .
    ” Israel has never demanded that an existing state be wiped off the map of the world ” ha ha ha
    see gaza ; israel wiped off palestine state of the world ,
    they came from europe and killed palestine people and occupied lands of palestine !
    iran did not attack on any country but usa , ussr and germany and france and england and soudi arabia regime started first persian gulf war along 8 years with chemical bombs against my people !
    They armed saddam regime with – weapons of mass destruction –
    ” Israel has never asserted that historically agreed events of an horrific nature never actually happened; ” !!!
    israel existed on the world map with terrorism .
    in united nation org , UN Resolution gave to israeli regime 50 % of palestine lands , but today israeli lands is about 88 % !!!
    and other lands occupied by israeli regime .
    iran did not use atomic , chemical , phosphoric bombs
    against others .
    [sabra & shatila - qana ( in Lebanon ) - gaza ] you didnt see war crimes ?
    [ hiroshima & nakazaki vietnam afghanistan iraq ] you didnt see war crimes ?
    Do not forget Most of the israeli people agree with israeli crimes in gaza ( see polls ) .
    thanks .

  50. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    arash-iran, you clearly didn’t bother to read what I wrote, but merely restated in a slightly different form what you had already said. For the most part, the presentation of evidence, backed up by argument based on that evidence goes further than merely repeating earlier assertions. So:

    “see gaza ; israel wiped off palestine state of the world”. As I write this, Hamas has announced a cease fire, with conditions. So, it still exists and has hardly been wiped off the map. Given that its charter contains antisemitic clauses and leaders of Hamas have stated publicly that they wish to kill all the Jews in the world, I would start to wonder at the nature of this organisation. I would also start to wonder even more at the nature of the sponsor of this organisation and also of Hezbollah. The president of the sponsor nation has demanded the destruction of Israel, he has questioned whether the Holocaust ever happened, and his theocratic masters called for the death of a writer for what that author had written.

    And you attempt to distract us with witterings about what the US, Britain and other states have done or not done.

    You misquote the UN Resolution which established the State of Israel – it gave less than 50% of British Mandate Palestine to “the Jews”, and much of that was arid desert – the Negev. However reluctantly, the Jews accepted this, but the Palestinians and Arab states did not. Unfortunately for them, they lost the war they started, with a loss of land that _should_ have been Palestine. And they refused to recognise then or later, resulting in the wars that have plagued the Middle East.

    And Israel does not “own” 88% of Palestine: it occupies much of what is outside the 1967 Truce Line, which is not the same as owning it.

    “they came from europe and killed palestine people…” Actually, at least a third of Israelis came from Arab and other Moslem lands, as refugees; the ancestors of others had lived there for decades or centuries. More Palestinians have been killed by fellow Palestinians and other Moslems than by Israelis in all the wars between the two peoples. Many Arab and Moslem regimes are homophobic and mysoginist, and they don’t care much for trade unions either: all things which are permitted in Israel, but hated by Hamas and Hezbollah.

    I should also be careful of what I say in other regards too, arash-iran. Iran may not have used phosophoros or chemical weapons, but Iraq (another of your favourite places) did in its war against Iran and its war against its own people. It committed war crimes in Kuwait.

    And before you accuse Israel of committing war crimes (which some UN officials in Gaza have only said needs investigating), whatbof the alleged war crimes committed by Hamas, in firing rockets at civilians and placing rockets and other weaponry among civilians and then using this weaponry from among these people: both, if proven, war crimes.

    Get your facts right, produce evidence, argue from that evidence, and don’t defend the indefensible. If you can’t do these things, don’t post here.

    I’d recommend that you read Benny Morris “1948: The First Arab-Israeli War”, but I know that I’d be wasting my time: either you can’t get hold of the book, or if you can get hold of it, you read it. After all, it’s written by an Israeli.

  51. Pushing the Academic Boycott in the US at Z-Word Blog Says:

    [...] Zionism and Nazism have become almost normalized, and when minor celebrities like Naomi Klein are endorsing the BDS campaign via an explicit reference to apartheid South Africa – offers the best opportunity [...]

  52. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Moderators, am I missing something, or is the post immediately after my last comment merely a quote from elsewhere? If so, what is the point of it? It offers nothing, advances no arguments or claims, and doesn’t even assert anything. I know it’s late, my time, but even so… It’s not the first of its kind, and seems utterly pointless. Even arash-iran offers something we can argue back at!

  53. Wizreport » Pushing the Academic Boycott in the US Says:

    [...] Zionism and Nazism have become almost normalized, and when minor celebrities like Naomi Klein are endorsing the BDS campaign via an explicit reference to apartheid South Africa – offers the best opportunity [...]

  54. Naomi Klein and the “get-away-with- genocide free card” and the boycott of Israel « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism Says:

    [...] Hirsh on why Naomi Klein is wrong to call for a boycott of Israel Here. Posted in Uncategorized. Leave a Comment [...]

  55. Vikram Says:

    Good job keeping antisemitism going. Nvm the rest, how about simply not giving the Israelis shitloads of aid all the time? That can be done pretty quietly, except for the outcry from people like you.

  56. aradi 25 Says:

    well it’s the same ole story: anti-zionism is not anti-semitism. Certainly there are many who conflate the two just as Israel has exploited this also but the simple fact of the matter is Israel is an apartheid state and there is no evidence able to refute this except platitudes and cliches; daily life of Palestinians either in the West Bank is like it was for blacks in South Africa (even somewhat worse) and Palestinians in Gaza are like the Jews in the Warsaw Ghettto. Fortunately, the ones who resisted didn’t depend on the Zionists.

  57. zkharya Says:

    “anti-zionism is not anti-semitism.”

    What, never? How about Adolf Hitler’s opposition to a Jewish state on the grounds of it becoming a centre of international Jewry, or Haj Amin Al Husseini’s support for the final solution for the Jews of Europe, Araby and Palestine?

    “Fortunately, the ones who resisted didn’t depend on the Zionists.”

    Oh dear. Another ignoramus who purports to be an authority.

  58. aradi 25 Says:

    You actually seemed surprised at Hitler’s position; a self-proclaimed racist he was opposed to anything that would impinge on Aryan supremacy. Yes, and what about Eichmann negotiating with Zionists? or is that a fantasy also? Or the kidnapping of Jewish orphans? I’m know authority but the Zionist white washing of history needs to be called into account. The ignoramuses are those who buy and sell falsehoods and pretend it’s the truth.

  59. Eran Shayshon says some criticism of Israel, including Naomi Klein’s, is not ‘legitimate’ Says:

    [...] –Promotes Double Standard/ Singles Israel Out – Klein argues in a few sources that Israel should be singled out for punishment not because it is the only state which deserves it, but because it is the only state where such punishment would “actually work” (see her op-ed in the Guardian and an article by David Hirsh). [...]

  60. Protecting Israel’s Lawlessness with Spying and Smear Campaign « Indigenous People’s Literature Weblog Says:

    [...] –Promotes Double Standard/ Singles Israel Out – Klein argues in a few sources that Israel should be singled out for punishment not because it is the only state which deserves it, but because it is the only state where such punishment would “actually work” (see her op-ed in the Guardian and an article by David Hirsh).  [...]

  61. Protecting Israel’s Lawlessness with Spying and Smear Campaign. By Naomi Klein « Kanan48 Says:

    [...] –Promotes Double Standard/ Singles Israel Out – Klein argues in a few sources that Israel should be singled out for punishment not because it is the only state which deserves it, but because it is the only state where such punishment would “actually work” (see her op-ed in the Guardian and an article by David Hirsh). [...]

  62. Protecting Israel’s Lawlessness with Spying and Smear Campaign | The Greanville Post Says:

    [...] –Promotes Double Standard/ Singles Israel Out – Klein argues in a few sources that Israel should be singled out for punishment not because it is the only state which deserves it, but because it is the only state where such punishment would “actually work” (see her op-ed in the Guardian and an article by David Hirsh). [...]

  63. Protecting Israel’s lawlessness: A smear campaign | rabble.ca « streetvisuals Says:

    [...] -Promotes Double Standard/ Singles Israel Out — Klein argues in a few sources that Israel should be singled out for punishment not because it is the only state which deserves it, but because it is the only state where such punishment would “actually work” (see her op-ed in the Guardian and an article by David Hirsh). [...]

  64. Protecting Israel’s lawlessness: A smear campaign | rabble.ca « The Progressive Mind Says:

    […] punishment would “actually work” (see her op-ed in the Guardian [17] and an article by David Hirsh […]


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