August-September 2012 Av-Elul 5772
In August of 2002, I had the opportunity to speak with Senator Lieberman during his visit to Denver. My question was, "What can you do now to counteract the delegitimization and eventual boycott of Israel?" He told me it could not happen here. My daughter, Rachel, related an event that oc-curred. She had attended a USSA (United States Student Association) meeting earlier that year. The focus was on illegal behaviors and human rights violations by Israel. All the speakers presented only the Palestinian side. Rachel alone stood to speak for Israel. She was soon prevented from speaking, as she was no longer recognized by the moderators. Still, she contacted me every night of the convention to obtain historically accurate information to bring to the conference body. I looked at Sen. Lieberman and said, "Historically, what happens at the university level will be main stream in ten years." His response was, "It can't happen here."
Well, here we are, ten years later and as I expected, BDS has become a national movement. However, it has been building throughout this decade with little resistance. Indeed, I would say with a level of support not only from anti- Zionists but also from well meaning Jews who site halacha (Jewish law) as if it were universally accepted (which it blatantly is not, even among Jews, let alone non-Jews).
Are you familiar with the BDS movement? BDS stands for boycotts, divestment and sanctions and refers specifically to Israel. BDS "call(s) upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era." Signed by 116 Arab organizations in 2005, its purpose is:
1. Ending its (Israel's) occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
According to the President of the International Court of Justice, Stephen M. Schwebel (1997-2000), professor of International Law at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, "Where the prior holder of territory [Jordan] had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense [Israel] has, against that prior holder, better title."
"Jeffrey S. Helmreich, author and writer for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs is quoted, 'The settlements are not located in ‘occupied territory.’ The last binding international legal instrument which divided the territory in the region of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza was the League of Nations Mandate, which explicitly recognized the right of Jewish settlement in all territory allocated to the Jewish national home in the context of the British Mandate. These rights under the British mandate were preserved by the successor organization to the League of Nations, the United Nations, under Article 80 of the U.N. Charter.'
"The Jewish right of settlement in the West Bank is conferred by the same provisions of the Mandate under which Jews settled in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem before the state of Israel was created. … The Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated. …" recorded Eugene W. Rostow, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and Distinguished Fellow at the U.S. Institute for Peace.
Addressing the equal rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, it is unfortunate but seemingly true, that minorities in any community may be viewed as unequal. We have but to look in our own country to see this truth. Yet, the apartheid accusation is far from accurate. First, a definition of the word. Apartheid, according to my computer dictionary means, a separation of different peoples from those of European origin or any system that separates people according to race, caste, etc. Under these definitions, I can think of a number of countries that would be apartheid. However, one has but to walk the streets of Israel to see that it is not among them. Find a picture of the marketplace, the housing centers, the hotels, the beaches and you will see for yourself that it is not segregated or separated except for a few specific religious centers. Unfortunately, for liberal American Jews, The Kotel (Western Wall) is among them.
As for the 'right of return' argument via the UN General Assembly Resolution 194: on November 12, 1948, the GA (whose resolutions are non-binding) wrote "... that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible." The War of Independence was in full bloom and the entire Arab world rejected the resolution since it meant that the equally displaced Jews from Arab lands should also have the ability to return to their homes. Further, the "live at peace with their neighbors" has never been on the table since even today, the destruction of Israel appears in the Hamas charter (Gaza is under Hamas rule).
So why am I ranting about this now? In 2007, the World Council of Churches produced the Amman Call, a document that condemned violence and endorsed a two-state solution but also called for the 'right of return' for Palestinians and dismantling of the security fence. In 2008, they proposed the Bern Perspective, which, among other things, instructed Christians to under-stand all biblical references to Israel only metaphorically. In 2009, they posted on their website the Kairos Palestine Document which
demonized Israel as an evil occupation and inferred it held no historical ties to the land. In 2010, they urged the U.S. government to withhold funds from Israel. The U.S. Presbyterian Church was at the forefront of the call.
In early July, members of a committee of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church voted in favor of divestment from three companies: Motorola, for providing surveillance equipment for Israeli settlements; Caterpillar, for providing bulldozers; and Hewlett-Packard, for selling hardware used by Israel in its naval blockade of Gaza. The General Assembly narrowly defeated this measure. However, they voted in favor of boycotting products made in the West Bank settlements, such as Ahava, and produce from Hadiklaim Israel Date Growers. The issue is certain to be brought up at subsequent councils. The narrow margin on the vote is an unhappy harbinger of things to come.
Thirteen hundred Rabbis and over 12,000 American Jews signed letters to the Assembly requesting they reconsider this step. Jeremy Ben-Ami, President and Founder of J Street wrote, "I would say to the Church’s leaders as they again consider joining forces with the BDS Movement, that the Movement’s rhetoric and tactics are not only a distraction, but a genuine threat to conflict resolution. Even the limited divestment approach under consideration by PCUSA falls under the rubric of larger BDS ef-forts to place blame entirely on one side of the conflict. Such an approach encourages not reconciliation, but polarization."
I pray that the future brings healing and hope for interfaith as well as Israeli-Palestinian relationships.
1. The Palestinian Unified Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, 9 July 2005,
2. Note to boycotters: Israel is not a thief, David Suissa, July 3, 2012,
4. Boycott, divestment and sanctions put allies at odds, Jeremy Ben-Ami, July 3, 2012 http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/ boycott_divestment_and_sanctions_put_allies_at_odds_20120703/