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Boycott against Israeli Apartheid
Blankfort’s response to Avnery on boycott issue

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30 August 2009

Dear Uri,

If one’s stand on the boycott is issue is a critical moment of truth, and I believe that it is, I am sorry to say that you have come up wanting in your latest column. That you base your opposition to the boycott on a Jewish history that the vast majority of Israelis have never experienced, but on which they have justified their dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians (whose personal history is far worse) and that 99.9% of those same Jews oppose such a boycott (which I suspect is an exaggeration) is to make a mockery of everything that you have been doing and writing for decades.

By what right have you and the 94% of your fellow Israelis who supported the onslaught on Gaza, and with whom you now stand on the boycott issue, to make any claim on those who believe that the only way to bring about a just solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is to make Israel a political and economic pariah? Do you really think that the majority of Israeli Jews living within the Green Line are any less responsible for the present situation than those in the settlements, and if you do, pray explain who was responsible for electing the likes of Begin, Shamir and Sharon as their prime ministers, not that Rabin or Peres were a whit better? Can you honestly make a case that Israel has not merited a pariah status many times over?

And what do you offer in its stead? You write that when Archbishop Tutu asked what the dwindling lot of Israeli peace activists, are hoping for, you told him:

“We hope for Barack Obama to publish a comprehensive and detailed peace plan and to use the full persuasive power of the United States to convince the parties to accept it. We hope that the entire world will rally behind this endeavor. And we hope that this will help to set the Israeli peace movement back on its feet and convince our public that it is both possible and worthwhile to follow the path of peace with Palestine.”

Let’s be honest. You know that it not going to happen when the majority of both houses of the US Congress have already sent the president a letter warning him not to put pressure on Israel and a record number of congressmen and women from both parties, more than a tenth of the House show up in Jerusalem over their summer break to express their solidarity with Netanyahu.

You already anticipated that when on February 21st you wrote:

“Obama has not yet passed a real test on any issue. It is already clear that there is a marked difference between what he promised in the election campaign and what he is doing in practice. In several matters he is continuing the policies of George Bush with slight alterations. That was, of course, to be expected. But Obama has not yet shown how he would act under real pressure. When Netanyahu mobilizes the full might of the pro-Israel lobby, will Obama surrender, like all preceding presidents?”

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.

Jeff Blankfort
mondoweiss.net, August 30, 2009.


Jeffrey Blankfort was raised in a Jewish non-Zionist family. He produces radio programs on three stations and has written extensively on the Middle East. He was formerly the editor of the Middle East Labor Bulletin and co-founder of the Labor Committee of the Middle East. His photographs of the Anti-Vietnam War and Black Panthers Movements have appeared in numerous books and magazines.

In February 2002, he won a lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which was found to have had a vast spying operation directed against American citizens opposed to Israel’s policies in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza and to the apartheid policies of the government of South Africa and passing on information to both governments.