A cringe-making boycott letter

Via Jewcy – the Yes Men write an open boycott letter and it’s been a while since I read anything as sanctimonious. I’m wondering why, in their professed love for Israel, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno link their decision to a branch of the longstanding campaign to end its existence. I also wonder about the grounds for their assertion that the cultural campaign to boycott South Africans worked, other than as social lubricant for international anti-racists. And whether they understand that the conscientious activists they tout who refer to sections of their government as ‘fascist’ would find their boycott counterproductive. Why they think that their presence would normalise anything for Israelis.

I wonder whether they would refuse to present their film in any other country. Would they end the announcement with a little message in the language of the land? The Hebrew words at the end of this open letter work like an ostentatiously Jewish seal of approval, a kosherising of the exclusion of the worlds only Jewish state.

The idea that Andy Bichlbaum’s and Mike Bonanno’s pressure – and impatience! – would contribute to the revelation of a path forward for Israelis would be pretty funny if it weren’t so tragic.

And does international law only apply one way? It’s no wonder that so many ordinary Israelis reach defencist conclusions. Who stands with them?

If you care about Israel, feel involved with Israel, feel terrible about Israel (or even terribly embarrassed by Israel), help the Israelis who are trying to make things better. These Israelis invariably say “Come, please use the platform, confront Israel with the occupation, criticise us to our faces”. If Andy and Mike really cared about Israel, that’s what they would have done.

31 Responses to “A cringe-making boycott letter”

  1. Empress Trudy Says:

    I hope they are never invited back. That way they can pout and scream that they’re being ‘silenced’ by Israel.

  2. Alex Stein Says:

    I think this is unfair; they’ve said they’re going to show the film, presumably in an anti-occupation platform (Naomi Klein, also pro-boycott, spoke at a Jewish-Arab centre in Jaffa last week). I’m still opposed to a cultural boycott, although I think we should recognise when some people strive to do this with some degree of integrity, despite the difficulties. The letter was rather self-righteous though.

  3. Mira Vogel Says:

    And Omar Barghouti is going to TAU, nemesis of SOAS students’ Palestine Society. It’s just a self-indulgent, futile, but dangerous noise, isn’t it, this celebrity boycott.

    I’d have to know these people a little better to comment on integrity and anyway, integrity is a bit of a garbage-in-garbage-out thing.

  4. Mira Vogel Says:

    And Alex, you might be against it, but here you are normalising it.

  5. Saul Says:

    “It is painful to do this. But it is even more painful to hear Israeli policies described as “fascist” – not just from the ill-informed and the clueless, not just from the usual anti-semitic morons, but from well-informed Jewish activists within Israel. They know what they’re talking about, and it’s painful to think that they could be right.”

    So, I guess its best to leave them isolated

  6. Saul Says:

    Pressed the send button by mistake too early.

    As we know, the BDS movement want to boycott all Israeli Jews and/or initiate a “political test”. So, when someone wants to invite these “Jewish activists” to a meeting, or seek to work with them, they won’t be able to. After all, when all is said and done, they are “Israelis” and tarred with the same brush. After all, for some, any Palestinian who is prepared to work with Israelis (of whatever stripe) are labelled “collaborators” (and, no doubt those Israelis who seek to make contacts suffer a similar fate).

    It is to be noted also what films have and can be made in and on Israel. If one looks at what the Israeli film industry has produced in recent years, the targeting of a film festival is, at the very best, misplaced, and at the worst, shows how absurd a boycott is.

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    “This decision does not come easily, as we feel a strong affinity with many people in Israel, sharing with them our Jewish roots.”

    Who, in Israel, then, do they not share an affinity with? Arab citizens in Israel? (they don’t have “Jewish roots”, do they). Or, “fascist” Israelis/ (does being a “fascist” mean you are not a “proper” Jew?).

    Yet, another version of, either anti-Arab racism (they have no “affinity” with Israeli Arabs – and here the meet with the “fascists”) or, another version of the “as a Jew” bullshit, that people think that either, Jews don’t do bad things or, of they do, its twice as bad as when done by non-Jews – more racist nonsense (about both Jews and non-Jews).

  8. GideonSwort Says:

    “And Alex, you might be against it, but here you are normalising it.”

    Damn right Alex!
    Wassamatta with you boy? You wasted your time on Naomi Klein? What joy could come out of that Satlan?

  9. Nicole S Says:

    The letter is the most emetic thing I have ever read. What is it with these people, Jews yet, who like to make themselves feel all warm and glowing by doing the wrong thing, and feeding anti-semitism to boot. What business of theirs is it to criticise anyway? Do they do national service, endure bombs and rockets? Israelis are defending a homeland for all Jews. They can criticise if they want to, not us. Alex Stein: If a boycott does not help, where is the integrity? What difficulties? Please.

  10. visitor Says:

    Dear Ms Vogel,

    Am I correct to understand that you and this website prohibit democratic anti-Zionist Jews (or any Jew for that matter) to speak “as Jews” if they so choose and wish?

    Can you please let us know who appointed you as the “big sister” of the Jewish people?

    Do you require the same thing from Zionists i.e. not to speak “as Jews” – or are you applying a racist double standard?

    And aren’t you merely like typical iliberal censors who systematically defame Jews who exercise their democratic right to be anti-Zionists AS JEWS, as well as to be disgusted by the appalling actions the self-proclaimed Israeli “Jewish” state who chose to legally extend rights to non-citizen Jews outside its territories and to deprive right of its non-Jewish citizens?

    Apologies, Ms Vogel, but some explanation seem to be needed here to establish the difference (if any of course) between the position you advance here and the “regular” anti-democratic/racist position of right. Shabbat Shalom

    • GideonSwort Says:

      “Can you please let us know who appointed you as the “big sister” of the Jewish people?”

      We, the Elders Supreme Council, in a special unprecedented meeting that recognized Mira’s immaculate sister abilities, and other unrelated genetic niceties.

      “Do you require the same thing from Zionists i.e. not to speak “as Jews” – or are you applying a racist double standard?”

      No, but you do have to apply for AzzaJoo credentials, and pass a written exam.

      “…the self-proclaimed Israeli “Jewish” state”

      That credit goes to the UN in the first instance. Israel can and does proclaim itself a Jewish state as do other states proclaim themselves Islamic.

      “who chose to legally extend rights to non-citizen Jews outside its territories”

      A state’s prerogative.

      • Stan Bantu Says:

        @Gideonswort quoting visitor: “who chose to legally extend rights to non-citizen Jews outside its territories”

        you missed a bit at the end of that sentence, didn’t you…”and to deprive the rights of its non-Jewish citizens?” Is that a state’s prerogative too?

        • Lynne T Says:

          Funnily enough, a Pew poll of a year or two ago found that over 60% of Palestinians and Arabs with Israeli citizenship would rather be or remain citizens of Israel than live under the governance of any of Israel’s immediate neighbours.

          From a recent article by Khalid Abu Toameh titled “As Hamas Tightens its Grip:

          “A Palestinian journalist in the Gaza Strip remarked: “The Americans and Europeans are fighting against Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan while Hamas is building a new fundamentalist entity here. The settlements may be an obstacle to peace, but Hamastan will soon become a major threat to stability in the region.”

          Read it all: http://www.hudsonny.org/2009/07/as-hamas-tightens-its-grip.php

          “Stan Bantu” — geez, how long did it take for you to figure a clever screen name like that one out?

        • GideonSwort Says:

          “you missed a bit at the end of that sentence, didn’t you…”
          Whoa, yeah I did didn’t I…….. lucky you’re around then.

          ”and to deprive the rights of its non-Jewish citizens?”

          That’s a pretty circumscribed perspective – what about the Jooz then? See, I’m a Joo citizen, and my rights are deprived daily. It’s the damn Zionist state, a uniquely depriving entity. Nothing like it on the planet for depravity. It stands alone amongst the nations, guilty of this charge. On this alone we need to fold it up and ship all them Jooz back where they all belong.

          “Is that a state’s prerogative too?”

          Yup, seems as though you’re getting the hang of it. I guess there’s some of that deprivation up your road too.

  11. Absolute Observer Says:

    People are free to speak “as a Jew” to their heart’s content. As far as I see it, Engage doesn’t prohibit anyone from so doing. It does, however, reserve the right to criticise (and not defame) those who do (or anyone else it wants to).

    As “Visitors” comment shows, “as a Jew” not only essentialises the speaker (as if no other aspect of their involvement in the world has had any influence on their outlook) but also acts as a way of trying to protect the individual from comment and criticism, as if the words from the speakers’ mouths were not their own and to criticise the speaker is to criticise “the Jews”. (As is so often the case, this is an accusation that tends to be labelled against Zionist Jews but is more real in anti-Zionist discourse – note how many Jewish anti-Zionists preface their comments on Israel with how many members of their family were murdered by the Nazis.)

    What does speaking “as a Jew” mean?

    Does the mere fact of one’s being a Jew add insight into a political issue that is unaffected by political choice or substitutes for the hardworking of understanding?

    Or, is speaking “as a Jew” about Israel meant to imply more “authenticity”, more “validity”, more “legitimacy” and more “insight” either than a Zionist Jew or a non-Jew. Often, the nonsense, “as a Jew” implies a moral position, thereby repeating the racist view that Jews are more “moral” than any other people.

    Finally, the term “as a Jew” is meaningless. “As a Jew” can be used to call for the most outrageous of Israeli policies as it can for a more conciliatory position or, indeed, for the destruction of Israel. It adds nothing to what is said in the words following “as a Jew”, the real issue at stake.

    A few years ago, when identity politics was at its highest, I was at a conference when a person prefaced their comments with “as a Jew” and spoke nonsense about something or other for a while. The next speaker stood up and prefacing her words with “as a Jew” stated how they disagreed with every word the previous speaker said. All this proved to me that speaking “as a Jew” (or any other group for that matter) is nothing other than an attempt to eschew one’s responsibilities for one’s own choices and to present oneself as subsumed in a larger unity; never the mark of a progressive politics.

  12. Hal Says:

    Just leave off the ‘Shabbat Shalom’, Visitor, ok? (Especially after loudly sneering at the ‘Israeli “Jewish” state’…)

  13. luny Says:

    Any chance of reserving some of that cringing for Netanyahu’s
    use of Nazi terminology to describe the removal of illegal West Bank Settlements?

  14. Richard Says:

    Luny “Any chance of reserving some of that cringing for Netanyahu’s use of Nazi terminology to describe the removal of illegal West Bank Settlements? ”

    Why should one be dependant on the other ? Does Mira have to pass a litmus test before she can write an article on the boycott.

    Is Luny trying to imply something ? Is Luny trying to say that Mira doesn’t care about Netanyahu or the occupation ? Will Luny complain next time Mira writes a piece in support of the rights of Palestinians or against the racist Killing of a Muslim woman in Germany and doesn’t write against the boycott campaign.

  15. Richard Says:

    Visitor ” Am I correct to understand that you and this website prohibit democratic anti-Zionist Jews (or any Jew for that matter) to speak “as Jews” if they so choose and wish?

    Can you please let us know who appointed you as the “big sister” of the Jewish people?

    Do you require the same thing from Zionists i.e. not to speak “as Jews” – or are you applying a racist double standard?”

    After all , it’s not like anti-zionist Jews attack zionist Jews for speaking as Jews. Good Shabbos. (Shabbat Shalom is deemed by many antizionists as too zionist).

  16. Yaniv Says:

    I am surprised that you have not linked to this one yet.

    http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/07/09/the-absurdity-of-the-boycott/

  17. Stan Bantu Says:

    Gideonswort: despite the sarcastic tone of your response to my post, you raise some important issues about memes of democracy in Israel. When I tried to respond earlier to Lynn T. on this subject my post was rejected by the moderator, so I am reluctant to go over it again for the sole benefit of Mira Vogel.

    • GideonSwort Says:

      “…my post was rejected by the moderator, so I am reluctant to go over it again for the sole benefit of Mira Vogel.”

      Nah. Big Sister Mira lets through posts by some positively inane mumbling plonkers, as long as the general scope of the discussion is held, and then some.

      “…you raise some important issues about memes of democracy in Israel.”

      Try broadening the geographic/political gamut and scope, there’s a slim chance you may happen upon the ball park.

  18. Richard Gold Says:

    Try posting your comment again Stan.

  19. Comrade T Says:

    “Try posting your comment again Stan.”

    Actually, don’t!

    Rule no. 1 Never trust people who claim to have The Truth about Israel. They tend to be dickheads.

  20. Stan Bantu Says:

    Comrade T: I have never claimed to have “The Truth” about Israel. I claimed to “write the truth” about a particular set of facts concerning the government of Israel, namely that it is only a democracy if you are Jewish. It is in fact an ethnocracy and the political system has been created to ensure Jewish control of the Knesset and to preserve the Jewish state. I consider that any state which defines itself along ethnic lines is by definition anti-democratic and this applies to a Jewish state as much as an Islamic state, or for that matter a white Christian state. The straw man (ZOG etc.) that you mentioned on another thread is entirely one of your own imagination.

  21. Comrade T Says:

    ” I have never claimed to have “The Truth” about Israel. I claimed to “write the truth” about a particular set of facts concerning the government of Israel, etc. etc.
    Erm……..
    “perhaps that’s because anyone who writes the truth about Israel has their post denied by the moderator”

    As to the rest of your post; not really interested in the present context. As far as I understand it, Engage is a site dealing with antisemitism (including its use around discussions of Israel). If I want to discuss Israel and Palestine I will go to the appropriate site to do so.

    Of course, others may wish to discuss your “Truth” with you, but not me.

  22. Comrade T Says:

    Fascinating to know that what one “writes” becomes the Truth when, prior to the act of writing, what one was about to write was not the Truth that one previously “had”.

    Sounds positively Stalinist when you think about it.

  23. Stan Bantu Says:

    This is just more straw-man argument. I’ll let you knock it down as I have more interesting things to do.

  24. Comrade T Says:

    “Straw man”? Well let’s summarise what has happened, shall we,

    1. You claimed that because you wrote the Truth about Israel your comments were not permitted.
    2. You then claimed that what you have to “write” was not the Truth, but criticism.
    3. In contradiction to 1 and 2 you then made a statement that you claim to be the Truth which now was “not about” Israel but the “government of Israel”, etc. etc. which then shifted to what you see as the nature/Truth of the “Jewish state”.
    4, In contradiction to 1 and 2, those comments appeared on Engage.

    Confronted with these facts, I can see quite clearly why you have suddenly found more interesting things to do; things like, manufacturing more truths, perhaps?

    I await with baited breath.

  25. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Having been away for a month in the antidopes (on a long holiday – it’s one of the things we retired folks get to do, unlike you wage slaves), I’m not sure whether I miss the knockabout or not. However, here goes, back on the horse, so to speak.

    The Yes Men say, early on:
    “This decision (to boycott) does not come easily, as we realize that the festival opposes the policies of the State of Israel, and we have no wish to punish progressives who deplore the state-sponsored violence committed in their name.”

    The obvious (non-rhetorical) question is “so why boycott, then?” Especially as the request for a boycott in the South African case came from South Africans of all “racial” groups, whereas here we have a call from a few (very few) Israeli Jews and a few (again, very few) Israeli Arabs, and _some_ parts of Palestinian civil society, while other parts reject a boycott as positively counter-productive. In other words, their personal boycott positively reeks of self-satified sanctimoniousness: “look how progressive we are, unlike all those other progressive within Israeli society who reject their own government’s actions but refuse to beat themselves up. So we’ll do the beating-up for them”.

    I commented several weeks ago on Stan Bantu’s choice of pen-name, which Lynne T. brings up as well. Unless he(?) commented while I was away, he’s chosen to ignore all these comments. Well, let me put it as bluntly as the rules of civil discourse allow. It’s not clever, it’s not smart, it insults the ANC and its struggle against apartheid and it completely misses virtually every point about the situation in I/P.

    But then that’s to be expected from someone who rejects the democratic nature of the State of Israel, not, note, on poltical science or philosophical grounds – something contestable in empirical terms – but as an “ethnocracy”. This is a term beloved of 1960’s social scientists in the field of “race relations”, but long out of fashion. It also neatly ignores all the other divisions in the situation, both within Israel and beyond.

    Again, no surprises there from someone who chooses such an insulting and misplaced non-de-plume, in preference to using their own name.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: