For the moment, however, I would like to emphasize an extraordinary admission buried midway through his essay. Dershowitz has in fact presented a powerful argument in favor of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
By far the most common reaction to calls for an Israel boycott is the hysterical Jewish response that this is an anti-Semitic effort bent on the destruction of Israel. In other words, a boycott is not viewed as a policy to put pressure that changes behavior, but rather as a devious mechanism for destroying the state and its people.
Dershowitz dismisses this claim completely:
According to [the Goldstone report] argument, Israel intentionally targets civilians because it considers them the Hamas infrastructure. The report’s purported evidence is this dubious claim is the “indiscriminate and disproportionate impact of [Israel’s] restrictions on the movement of goods and people [into Gaza].” It simply does not follow, however, that Israel’s blockade means Israel considers all Gaza civilians to constitute Hamas supporting infrastructure, or that all Gaza civilians are appropriate military targets.
A blockade is a blunt instrument; by definition it is deleterious to civilian life (see, for instance, the statement by Robert Gates, quoted at page 9 supra). There is an enormous difference—a difference ignored by the report but not by Israel—of depriving civilians of non-essential commodities and targeting civilians for murder.
It is a classic non-sequitur to argue that a boycott proves the intent to kill.” (Emphasis added.)
I would argue, in contradistinction with Dershowitz’s claim, that how deleterious is a boycott is, in fact, a critical matter in deciding whether or not a boycott aims to kill civilians. As Dershowitz points out, the United States has implemented a number of utterly catastrophic boycotts that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. On Iraqi sanctions, for example, which had by that time possibly killed half a million children, Madeline Albright famously responded to a pointed question on their effects on civilians by saying: “We think the price is worth it.” I would argue this is sickening, deeply immoral, and most pertinently, a likely violation of international law protecting civilians.
But let us return to Dershowitz’s argument. He is defending in unambiguous terms the notion that a boycott is simply a policy designed to effect pressure on a group, with negative but necessary impacts on the resident population, but which must be distinguished from an intentional effort to kill or destroy that population.
Very well then, Alan. I trust you will be the first to speak up in defense of this distinction as Israeli hysteria explodes against the backdrop of the growing BDS campaign.