Boycott Israel?

Recently, a Park Slope co-op voted not to boycott the five Israeli products they had on their shelves. The proposed boycott received much media attention, including Daily Show and NY Times coverage. I just want to point out a few inconsistencies regarding the boycott movement:

1. In an interview in the Daily Show, the lady representing the pro-boycott party, said that the boycott was an act of protest against Israel’s collectively punishing the Palestinian population for Palestinian violence.* When Samantha Bee humorously pointed out that the boycott would collectively punish the Israeli population for Israeli government actions, the woman insisted that doing so was ok, because it was the responsibility of Israelis to pressure their government into peace. Apparently, Palestinians don’t have a similiar responsibility, so its ok if they don’t pressure Hamas into not firing rockets. Meanwhile, anyone who knows anything about Israeli society, knows there is a strong left-wing movement that is trying to pressure its government into peace. Leaving aside that there are small extremely left wing parties that are represented in the Israeli parliament, there is also Peace Now, Women in Black, and Btselem – to name just a few of the Israeli organizations dedicated to protecting Palestinian rights. Then, there are also the joint Israeli-Palestinian rallies held in places like Bilin, where Israelis join Palestinians in protesting the Occupation.

2. Why is there a movement to boycott Israel, and not other countries, like China? If you want to punish a civilian population with mass unemployment because you feel they’re not doing enough to pressure their government into not occupying another land and into not engaging in war, why aren’t you boycotting the US? The number of Afghanis and Iraqis that have been killed directly or indirectly as a result of the US occupations is quite enormous – but there is no mass anti-war movement here, as there was in Vietnam. Shouldn’t you boycott America, by your own standards? (Note: For the record, I do not believe we should boycott the USA. I want the USA economy to rock and for there to be as many jobs as possible – in part because I could use one.)

3. One of the boycotted products (were the boycott to pass) is made by Peace Works, which strives to bring peace through economic prosperity. It’s an olive tapenade made in Israel with olives from Palestinian farmers, and it comse in a jar that’s manufactured in Turkey. If this were about Palestinian rights, at the very least, more research would have been done, and this one particular product would not have been included in the boycott list.

Boycotting products made in settlements (while not something I support) is a separate issue, but for that, one must do research on the product, and find out if it was made on a settlement or in Israel proper. If you’re not willing to do the research, you don’t have the right to deprive someone of a livelihood.

In case you’re wondering why I don’t support settlement boycotts: As a religious Jew, I am obligated to help others. Boycotting is the opposite of that: It is the act of deliberately impoverishing others.

If there were a product produced by murderers, who would use my money to kill, I would boycott. But settlers are not murderers: If I simply disagree politically with someone, I don’t think I have the right to actively deprive them of livelihood because of it. (Obviously, within reason: if someone had genocidal plans,yes, I would boycott their product.)¬† I also don’t think that impoverishing settlers is going to cause them to leave their settlements. This makes the boycott pointless, and to pointlessly deprive someone of a livelihood is cruel.

* Of course, many acts she defines as punishment, might be seen by the Israeli government as unfortunately necessary security measures, but since she didn’t specify what she meant by “punishment”, it is simply impossible to know which Israeli governmental actions she is referring to. Surely she is not referring to the recent Israeli Supreme Court decision to try to force the Migron settlement outpost to be dismantled.

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