In my recent post on the J Street Conference panel on Boycotts/Divestment/Sanctions, I focused mainly on Rebecca Vilkomerson, whose support for BDS in a moderately left/liberal Jewish space was greeted with civility even by most of those who disagreed with her; and on Kenneth Bob of Ameinu who, though certainly a staunch advocate for peace, made sweeping and unfair generalizations about the BDS movement.
A wish to conserve space led me to say very little about the other two participants, and I’ll address half of that deficiency now.
Bernard Avishai’s stance on BDS largely mirrors my own, in that he supports economic action specifically targeting the settlements, but not Israel. On the other hand, his
“offense” (his word) at those advocating something different is precisely what, on both sides, leads to the anger and useless fighting that student Simone Zimmerman of UC Berkeley (also a panelist at J Street) found so distressing about bringing up the BDS issue.
I offer here Avishai’s thinking on why he believes it is so important to resist all-out BDS against Israel, a point on which I agree with him. I include his full blog piece because it also reflects some of the condescension and hostility (which, to his credit, Avishai is trying very hard to tone down) that is present on both sides. Indeed, Avishai reacts to it and points it out himself as something he sees in “the other side.” I’m seeing it in both, and on both sides it needs to be done away with. As with so much else when dealing with this subject, we should all be taking every measure we can to keep things civilized and reasonable because we’ve seen for decades the result of letting emotions hold sway.
And without further ado, here is Avishai’s piece:
Last week, at the J Street Conference, I appeared on a panel considering BDS. I made the case I had made last spring in The Nation, that lumping the three together–boycott, divestment, and sanctions–was rash. Moreover, targeting West Bank settlements is not the same as targeting Israel more generally.
For my part, I said, I support a boycott of Ariel’s college and of products made in West Bank settlements. When James Baker, back in 1991, told the Israeli government that every dollar spent on settlements would be deducted from US loan guarantees, I supported that. So I could be said to have supported certain sanctions, and would again. At the same time I strongly oppose boycotting Israeli universities or companies or divesting from global companies that do business in Israel, even if some of their products might be used by occupation forces. Continue reading