Two days ago, Newsweek Magazine published an online article entitled, "Don't Boycott Israel. They Very Idea is Repellent," authored by Jacob Weisberg, an editor at Slate. The article itself isn't particularly revelatory, save for the mild air of desperation about it.
But what is no less than stunning is the comment section of this milquetoast, middle-of-the-road publication. Newsweek's online readers just aren't buying it, confirming what republican pollster Frank Luntz found regarding American attitudes toward Israel in a poll commissioned by The Israel Project following the Flotilla raid:
56% of Americans agree with the claim that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza;
43% of Americans agree with the claim that people in Gaza are starving;
[Only] 34% of Americans support the Israeli operation against the Flotilla;
[Only] 20% of Americans “felt support” for Israel following announcement of easing of Gaza closure.
Israel is losing the PR war for America.
What are these commenters objecting to? Weisberg reviews the pros and cons of boycotting Israel, finally concluding that the idea is repellent because...well...it's Israel. He employs a well-worn deflection ("Hey, look over there! China, Syria and Zimbabwe are a lot worse"), and he manages to gently play the anti-semitism card.
Weisberg's sneering attack on Meg Ryan (?!) for being "sheeplike" and bowing out of an appearance at a Jerusalem film festival fails to convince. He also pounces on Elvis Costello for canceling a concert--and then gives Costello a few more points for being thoughtful about it (unlike that bubble-headed ding-dong Ryan?). According to Weisberg, a boycott of Israel has consequences that are "intrinsically vile," but he doesn't adequately explain what those are, because he actually seems to be arguing with himself about it. It's vile because it's just vile, you know, academic boycott of the best people, and probably counter-productive, but on the other hand we can't be authoritarian about it, and, um, it's unlikely to work. And stuff.
Whatever. It seems more and more Americans have become well-versed in the particulars of Israel's founding, including the ethnic cleasing of 750,000 Palestinians, its 43-year occupation and the criminality attendant to that enterprise, its tactics, its danger to the United States, and the role of our own government in propagating the injustices going on there. These commenters know about and mentioned the savage war on Lebanon in 2006, Israel dropping white phosphorus on UN schools and hospitals during the assault on Gaza in 2009, the blockade of Gaza, the Flotilla raid, General Petraeus' warning that our interests are harmed by our perceived favoritism of Israel, Netanyahu's insults to our President and Vice-President, the amount of aid we give to Israel annually.
They also sound like they're sick of it.
Speaking of which, here are some of the comments from the Newsweek thread. Most of these can be found closer to the beginning of the thread, before the anti-semites and the Israeli Keyboard Defense Forces showed up.
Yes, boycott of everyone except Israel is OK. Boycott of Iran, Cuba, Serbia, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Austria (Jorg Haider), Arizona, Iraq, Myanmar, Greece, Turkey, Iceland and many, many other in a diverse group of countries is productive except when it comes to Israel. Then the boycott becomes unproductive.
Boycotting is one of the few avenues open to peaceful civilized humans. It may be a slow process, but it has worked in South Africa, and it will work again in Israel. It shows the steady progress of international opinion as more join the boycott. What governments can't do, the people will do for them. When the people lead, the government will follow. Apartheid will not prevail in Israel, it will deteriorate as the world around her, progressively becomes disgusted with her behavior.
Thoughts on the only democracy in the Middle East:
It always amazes me that one of the cornerstones of the Israeli arguments about their special place in the region and in their relationship with America and the world is that they are the only liberal democracy and promoter of Western values in the Middle East and yet their basic argument when called on to live up to those standards is that they are not as bad as Zimbabwe, Syria or China. Strange argument indeed.
Let's be honest here: he can talk all he wants about Israeli "democracy," but the Palestinians living in the occupied territories do not have ANY voting rights under this "democracy" and are subject to a different set of laws and rules than are their newfound "neighbors" (aka Israeli settlers). As such, the best analogy is with South Africa: while the word "apartheid" may be a magnet for controversy, "apartheid" or "legal separation" is exactly what is going on here.
On the anti-semitism card:
You expel me from my home at gunpoint and I don't give a rat's what religion you are.
On International Law
International Laws are being broken.... cant imagine why Jacob would protest the idea of Boycotting Israel
On the Plight of the Palestinians:
Mr. Weisberg you never got around to mentioning the valid reasons that a person may choose to support a boycott of Israel. Many of is in the world see Area as a racist semi-rogue state on par with 1980s South Africa or 1960s United States. The boycott makes sense to us. The rationale is that the people of Israel and the world must know that the status quo is unacceptable.
Boo hoo. Israel displaces, occupies, bombs, massacres, imprisons, tortures, discriminates against, blockades and starves Palestinians, and you are crying about missing an Elvis Costello concert? People of conscience will continue to boycott apartheid Israel until its apartheid policies end: one state with equal rights for all its peoples. Boycott, divest and sanctions until there's right of return for displaced and reparations.
On the Tactics of Israel's Defenders:
I 100% agree with Mr. Wilson. No one who gets to the end of this article will end up feeling very persuaded by the author's argument because this form of sophistry does not even really attempt to make one; in the end this entire story was little more than an exercise in obfuscation and propaganda. The tides have changed and it is clear that Israel can not win the public relations battle for World Opinion much longer. Several noble peace prize laureates have already condemned Israel as an apartheid state (Carter, Tutu, etc.) and Millennial generation American Jews are no longer willing to claim antisemitism when people point out Israeli war crimes likes dropping white phosphorus on UN run schools or murdering innocent people in international waters.
On American Aid to Israel:
"Some Israelis take international rejection as an affirmation, concluding that amid a sea of hostility their only recourse is self-sufficiency."
Israel? Self-sufficient? GLORY HALLELUJAH! I thought I'd never see this day! After years of sucking tens of billions of dollars out of the pockets of American taxpayers, Israel is now ready to stand on its own two feet like a real country. This IS a glorious day indeed, and I have Jacob Weisberg to thank for bringing this new situation to my attention.
Jacob Weisberg says that Israelis now want to be self-sufficient and we Americans should oblige this request to stop all US foreign aid to Israel.
I JOIN JACOB WEISBERG IN HIS CALL FOR AMERICA TO IMMEDIATELY STOP FUNNELING ALL OF THE BILLIONS OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS TO ISRAEL.
Israel has lost me, my Grandpa got shot fighting the Germans. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. Israel does not have an exemption card on morality.
The sleeping giant is waking up. More and more Americans want no further part in subjugating the Palestinian people. And Americans will not support Israel at the expense of America's own interests.
Now, when will America's lagging indicator, the US Congress, finally catch on? Remember, 22% of Americans felt support for Israel after the Flotilla raid. But 84% of the senate and 69% of the House signed resolutions in support of Israel following the raid.
Now that's bi-partisanship we can't believe in.