J.J. Goldberg’s perfect argument for cultural boycott of Israel

by Yaniv Reich on June 22, 2011

A series of recent discussions in my life (with very well intentioned people) have focused on whether cultural boycott of Israel is perhaps a bit too extreme of a position. Doesn’t it just run the risk of alienating Israelis and making them less likely to make sacrifices for peace and justice?

The problem with this question is its framing. In my reading, Israelis are far too comfortable with the status quo and will never make any sacrifice or question their tribalist and commonly racist ideology without increased incentives to do so. And one of the primary ways Israelis are made to feel comfortable is by their (largely erroneous) self-image as a modern “Western” democracy, which includes, among other things, gay pride parades and visits from prestigious internationals.

Today, JJ Goldberg captures this argument about normalization to an immaculate degree in The Forward. It really is one of the finest arguments for cultural boycott I have ever heard:

If you’re one of those people who tries to follow the news out of Israel, late June probably found you feeling anxious about the impending launch of the next Gaza protest flotilla. You’re worried about a repeat of the May 2010 fiasco, when the Israeli navy boarded a Turkish protest ship to enforce Israel’s Gaza blockade and ended up killing nine Turkish citizens. You’re saddened and angry about Israel’s growing isolation, and hoping its navy gets it right this time.

If you actually live in Israel, on the other hand, there’s a pretty good chance your thoughts were focused on Bob Dylan. You might be one of the 25,000 people who paid to hear him June 20 at Ramat Gan stadium outside Tel Aviv and left feeling confused, annoyed, cheated and perhaps wondering why, after the fiasco of his last appearance in 1993, he couldn’t get it right this time. And, yes, saddened and angry about Israel’s isolation. Fans expected Dylan, the maverick moral voice, spiritual seeker and sometime Chabadnik, to show some sign of love. What he gave was a flat, mechanical performance, 15 songs and then back to the airport without so much as a hello or goodbye, leaving Israelis as alone as before.

Mind you, there’s a part of Israel that revels in isolation, believing it is meant to be, in the Torah’s words, “a nation that dwelleth apart.” For most Israelis, though, it’s a source of mounting dismay. Most Israelis believe their country is unfairly blamed for a conflict that isn’t their fault. They pack their sons off in uniform, worry about rockets and bus bombs and then read that their leaders have been indicted for war crimes and international rock stars are canceling local appearances in protest. Sometimes it feels as though the very walls are closing in.

When celebrities do show up to perform, therefore, it’s more than just a night out. It’s an affirmation that Israel is still part of the world.

Obviously, JJ Goldberg thinks this a fine thing. But for anyone concerned with Israel’s reckless, continuous program of ethnic cleansing and apartheid in service of 19th century ideals of ethnic purity, then this statement is one of the best arguments for cultural boycott you are likely to find.

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1 Clif Brown June 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm

A Chicago area folk singer (long gone) named Steve Goodman wrote a wonderful ditty with the lyrics “It’s not hard to get along with somebody else’s troubles, and they don’t make you lose any sleep at night. Just as long as someone’s out there bursting somebody else’s bubbles, everything’s gonna be alright”

but it’s deeper than that.

America got away with exactly the same project Israel is working on. We put the redskins on the run and settled the whole darn continent and there was no “world public opinion” to say boo about it, heck many were on boats coming over to join the land grab! Perfect timing. Are modern Americans tossing in their sleep about Native-Americans drowning in alcoholism and despair? No, we pulled it off beautifully. Is there anyone today more proud and self-satisfied with stainless national pride than the American? Just ask one to find out.

But Israel is a peanut of a country surrounded by the displaced and far, far too late to the nationalism party which made the 20th century pretty much hell outside of North America. Zionists definitely caught the disease but with their eyes on the prize ignored the lessons learned by others all around them. So we are seeing the whole sorry progression on display again with, of all things, the mighty savior of Europe providing full funding and weaponry to run the movie again (because of Zionist money and influence blindly pushing it to do so in the supposed best interest of Israel!!!).

If the Jew, the ultimate victim, can come to be the Ubermensch, and revel in it as much as any who played that part in the past, can there be any further proof that anti-Semitism, along with all bigotry is absurd – that we are all the same kind of animal?

The irony of Israel is that the project to protect a people because they were different and therefor subject to abuse by nations turns out to demonstrate they are no different and once equipped with a state of their own are downright eager to try some serious abusing for themselves.

We’re seeing the same rise of fanaticism, the same arrogance of power, the degradation of the other to the status of non-human, the obsession with purity of race/religion, the elevation of the Mythos unconnected to fact, the absolute refusal to be judged by any standard but one’s own…only now this is played out by the world’s most heavily armed peanut performing for an audience of billions.

Can we doubt where this will end? The only real debate outside Israel/U.S. is about what reel of the movie we are viewing, I suspect it is the last. Israel shows us that a “race” can be created out of thin air from the most diverse group of people but the result of power disconnected from responsibility is the same. Israelis will come to the same humiliating dead end as have others before them.

All the rest of the world can do is try to pull the plug, difficult only because the USA is running full bore to run more power lines, my U.S. senator Mark Kirk one of the chief electricians.

Boycott, divest, sanction, fill the Mediterranean with flotillas, all ideas are welcome and should be explored to head off the collapse toward which Israel speeds with determination.

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