Some of you folks may recall that in 2003, back in the days of protests against the Iraq War, Rabbi Lerner who founded Tikkun, was prevented from speaking at one of the larger protests because a leftist organization did not wish to have any Zionists on the stage (this was an Iraq War protest!!). Now, just so we are clear, Rabbi Lerner is a flag-bearer for so-called “progressive” Jews. He is a creature of the far Left, his views place a great deal of the blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict upon Israel, his solutions regarding the conflict are generally on the edges of what most Israelis would consider acceptable and on numerous other political issues that have nothing to do with Israel, you could probably count him as a member in good standing of the Nation/Counterpunch crowd. How was he treated by his peers on the Left? The media coordinator for ANSWER said in asserting exclusion of Lerner, “I know that the ANSWER coalition would not have a pro-Israel speaker on its platform.”
Having seen Lerner ostracized by his partners on the Left, I wasn’t too surprised to find that the same thing is now happening to Uri Avnery. Uri Avnery, for those who need a refresher, is perhaps the most prominent left wing activist in Israel. He has spent decades protesting Israel’s actions in war and peace, founded a political party with a strong leftist outlook, founded the peace movement Gush Shalom, befriended Arafat personally and has used the majority of his life to oppose Israeli policies regarding Arabs and the Palestinians.
Yet after decades of such activism, his peers on the Left have now decided it is time to trash him. The reason? He dared to write an article called Tutu’s Prayer opposing the attempts to boycott Israel. You know, the self serving, self-righteous, hypocritical attempts to withdraw cultural, diplomatic and economic ties with Israel such as that of John Greyson boycotting the Toronto International Film Festival because they dared to show a slate of films about Tel Aviv.
Avnery quotes Desmond Tutu as saying that the boycott against South Africa was effective but then contrasts that experience with Israel’s. He writes:
The South African struggle was between a large majority and a small minority. Among a general population of almost 50 million, the Whites amounted to less than 10%. That means that more than 90% of the country’s inhabitants supported the boycott, in spite of the argument that it hurt them, too.
In Israel, the situation is the very opposite. The Jews amount to more than 80% of Israel’s citizens, and constitute a majority of some 60% throughout the country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. 99.9% of the Jews oppose a boycott on Israel.
They will not feel the “the whole world is with us”, but rather that “the whole world is against us”.
In South Africa, the world-wide boycott helped in strengthening the majority and steeling it for the struggle. The impact of a boycott on Israel would be the exact opposite: it would push the large majority into the arms of the extreme right and create a fortress mentality against the “anti-Semitic world”.
True, the Israeli occupation and the South African apartheid system have certain similar characteristics. In the West Bank, there are roads “for Israelis only”. But the Israeli policy is not based on race theories, but on a national conflict. A small but significant example: in South Africa, a white man and a black woman (or the other way round) could not marry, and sexual relations between them were a crime. In Israel there is no such prohibition. On the other hand, an Arab Israeli citizen who marries an Arab woman from the occupied territories (or the other way round) cannot bring his or her spouse to Israel. The reason: safeguarding the Jewish majority in Israel. Both cases are reprehensible, but basically different.
In South Africa there was total agreement between the two sides about the unity of the country. The struggle was about the regime. Both Whites and Blacks considered themselves South Africans and were determined to keep the country intact. The Whites did not want partition, and indeed could not want it, because their economy was based on the labor of the Blacks.
In this country, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have nothing in common – not a common national feeling, not a common religion, not a common culture and not a common language. The vast majority of the Israelis want a Jewish (or Hebrew) state. The vast majority of the Palestinians want a Palestinian (or Islamic) state. Israel is not dependent on Palestinian workers – on the contrary, it drives the Palestinians out of the working place. Because of this, there is now a world-wide consensus that the solution lies in the creation of the Palestinian state next to Israel.
In other words, this is a piece of leftist thinking that rejects the apartheid label, but claims similarities between Israel and apartheid. Or that claims that Israelis “drive out” Palestinians from the workplace, without providing any context.
His problem with a boycott is not with a boycott per se but instead it’s that it will drive Israelis to the right and not because it is fundamentally wrong.
Well, his article has raised the ire of Jewish and non-Jewish leftists/progressives across the internet. Here 3 examples of the responses given to his article:
When Obama bends on this issue as he has become adept in doing on all the others, will you then be ready to support the boycott or will you still be asking the world to continue deferring to Jewish sensibilities and become, in practice, an apologist for the status quo? Believe me, your ads in Ha’aretz and your weekly demonstrations protesting the occupation do not speak nearly as loudly as do your words in this essay.
Prejudice does not always come with an ugly face. The same holds for Zionism and racism. It is entirely possible for well-intentioned people to hold a prejudice and, even worse, act on held prejudices.
Uri Avnery opposes the brutality inflicted on Palestinians. He campaigns for peace with Palestinians. But he also has a Zionist past. He is European born and fought for the terrorist Irgun in perpetration of a holocaust (Nakba) against Palestinans. He later renounced Irgun’s tactics. He is antiwar, but he is not anti-the fruits of war. He approves of a two state solution. In other words, Israeli Jews will keep the fruits of their dispossessing others — this while continuing to press for the return of what they were dispossessed.1
Avnery advocates selective use of tactics against Zionism.
Avneri…is not considered far left by most Israelis on the far left. Do you regularly quote and republish the view of far left Israelis? … What about Palestinians?
Did you care to objectively describe the range opinions in the far left in Israel about the boycott?
Or do you only notice the opinions of one person on the far left in Israel when he writes something that fits in with the prejudices of the US liberal mainstream?
And so it goes.
By the way, you folks should read these links and see what these writers on the far left – these “progressives” – believe and say about Israel (the phrase that came to my mind is “monstrous libel”). And, apparently, if you dare to cross them, even if you have spent a lifetime leading a fight on behalf of the Palestinians,they will immediately treat you like dirt. Or rather, like the evil Jewish Zionist they know you are.
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