A Self-Defeating Boycott Bill

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Supporters of Israel's settlement movement want to criminalize calls for boycotts, not only of Israel, but of products made in the settlements. The way to fight calls to boycott Israel itself is through argument; the way to fight calls to boycott settlements is to bring about the creation of a Palestinian state, and let the settlers become part of Palestine, or encourage them to come home to Israel proper. About the boycott-Israel movement I have no mixed feelings at all; it is a type of anti-Jewish discrimination campaign (as are these awful flotillas). About calls to boycott settlement-made products, I'm not so sure. I hate (I mean, really hate) the idea of economic boycotts launched against Jews, because of the obvious historical echoes. On the other hand, who can blame a Palestinian who wants a state on the West Bank for boycotting settlements, which serve to block the emergence of such a state? Hussein Ibish:

The campaign against Israeli settlements is real, but this new law will almost certainly backfire. By crudely conflating Israel -- which is almost universally regarded as a legitimate member state of the United Nations -- with its occupation and settlements in the West Bank -- which are almost universally regarded as illegitimate and indeed illegal, as well as a threat to peace -- the Knesset has yet again provided an official Israeli argument for those who would extend the boycott campaign to include all Israeli institutions and not just aspects of the occupation.

The Israeli government has done this numerous times in the past. For example, when Israel applied for OECD membership, the national economic statistics it presented included the entire settlement economy, but no statistics reflecting the Palestinian villages surrounding the settlements throughout the West Bank. What this suggests is an official Israeli perspective in which there is a virtual Israel that exists wherever a settler happens to be at any given moment, and an undefined, unresolved occupation everywhere else. This legally and politically untenable and indeed preposterous position is similarly reflected in the new "Boycott Bill.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/07/a-self-defeating-boycott-bill/241872/