My comments are in GREEN
Uri Avnery: Against the Israel Boycott
August 31, 2009
How much did the boycott of South Africa actually contribute to the fall of the racist regime? This week I talked with Desmond Tutu about this question, which has been on my mind for a long time.
No one is better qualified to answer this question than he. Tutu, the South African Anglican archbishop and Nobel Prize laureate, was one of the leaders of the fight against apartheid and, later, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the crimes of the regime. This week he visited Israel with the “Elders,” an organization of elder statesmen from all over the world set up by Nelson Mandela.
The matter of the boycott came up again this week after an article by Dr. Neve Gordon appeared in the Los Angeles Times, calling for a worldwide boycott of Israel. He cited the example of South Africa to show how a worldwide boycott could compel Israel to put an end to the occupation, which he compared to the apartheid regime.
(ISRAEL IS NOT ANAPARTHIDE)
I have known and respected Neve Gordon for many years. Before becoming a lecturer at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, he organized many demonstrations against the Separation Wall in the Jerusalem area, in which I, too, took part.
I am sorry that I cannot agree with him this time – neither about the similarity with South Africa nor about the efficacy of a boycott of Israel.
There are several opinions about the contribution of the boycott to the success of the anti-apartheid struggle. According to one view, it was decisive. Another view claims its impact was marginal. Some believe that it was the collapse of the Soviet Union that was the decisive factor. After that, the U.S. and its allies no longer had any reason for support the regime in South Africa, which until then had been viewed as a pillar of the worldwide struggle against Communism.
(MANDELA WAS WRONG -A TERRORIST- HERFUSED TO CONDEMN TERRORISM)
“The boycott was immensely important,” Tutu told me. “Much more than the armed struggle.”
It should be remembered that, unlike Mandela, Tutu was an advocate of nonviolent struggle. During the 28 years Mandela languished in prison, he could have walked free at any moment, if he had only agreed to sign a statement condemning “terrorism.” He refused.
“The importance of the boycott was not only economic,” the archbishop explained, “but also moral. South Africans are, for example, crazy about sports. The boycott, which prevented their teams from competing abroad, hit them very hard. But the main thing was that it gave us the feeling that we are not alone, that the whole world is with us. That gave us the strength to continue.”
To show the importance of the boycott he told me the following story: In 1989, the moderate white leader, Frederic Willem de Klerk, was elected president of South Africa. Upon assuming office he declared his intention to set up a multiracial regime. “I called to congratulate him, and the first thing he said was: Will you now call off the boycott?”
It seems to me that Tutu’s answer emphasizes the huge difference between the South African reality at the time and ours today.
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 percent. That means that more than 90 percent 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 percent of Israel’s citizens, and constitute a majority of some 60 percent throughout the country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. 99.9 percent of the Jews oppose a boycott on Israel. (INCLUDING ANVERY AND HIS “PEACE MOVEMENT”)
They will not feel the “the whole world is with us,” but rather that “the whole world is against us.”
In South Africa, the worldwide 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.” (The boycott would, of course, have a different impact on the Palestinians, but that is not the aim of those who advocate it.)
Peoples are not the same everywhere. It seems that the blacks in South Africa are very different from the Israelis, and from the Palestinians, too. The collapse of the oppressive racist regime did not lead to a bloodbath, as could have been predicted, but on the contrary: to the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Instead of revenge, forgiveness. Those who appeared before the commission and admitted their misdeeds were pardoned. That was in tune with Christian belief, and that was also in tune with the Jewish Biblical promise: “Whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
I told the bishop that I admire not only the leaders who chose this path but also the people who accepted it. (HE DON’T ADMIRE THE OTHER LADERS WHO CHOSE THE OTHER PATH- THE PATH OF “TERRORISM” AND THE PEOPLE WHO ACCEPTED IT)
CRYING HOLOCAUST, ANTISEMITISM, HOLOCAUST ….
by Carlos Latuff
One of the profound differences between the two conflicts concerns the Holocaust.
Centuries of pogroms have imprinted on the consciousness of the Jews the conviction that the whole world is out to get them. This belief was reinforced a hundredfold by the Holocaust. Every Jewish Israeli child (INCLUDING AVNERY) learns in school that “the entire world was silent” when the 6 million were murdered. This belief is anchored in the deepest recesses of the Jewish soul. Even when it is dormant, it is easy to arouse it.
(That is the conviction which made it possible for Avigdor Lieberman, last week, to accuse the entire Swedish nation of cooperating with the Nazis, because of one idiotic article in a Swedish tabloid.)
It may well be that the Jewish conviction that “the whole world is against us” is irrational. But in the life of nations, as indeed in the life of individuals, it is irrational to ignore the irrational.
The Holocaust will have a decisive impact on any call for a boycott of Israel. The leaders of the racist regime in South Africa openly sympathized with the Nazis and were even interned for this in World War II. Apartheid was based on the same racist theories as inspired Adolf Hitler. It was easy to get the civilized world to boycott such a disgusting regime.
(“ZIONISM IS NOT DISGUSTING NOT RACIST” SO BUY FROM THE JEWS)
The Israelis, on the other hand, are seen as the victims of Nazism. The call for a boycott will remind many people around the world of the Nazi slogan “Kauft nicht bei Juden!” – don’t buy from Jews.
“THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF ISRAELIS”
That does not apply to every kind of boycott. Some 11 years ago, the Gush Shalom movement, in which I am active, called for a boycott of the product of the settlements. Its intention was to separate the settlers from the Israeli public, and to show that there are two kinds of Israelis. The boycott was designed to strengthen those Israelis who oppose the occupation, without becoming anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic. Since then, the European Union has been working hard to close the gates of the EU to the products of the settlers, and almost nobody has accused it of anti-Semitism.
(“fighting for peace is Israeli public opinion”)
One of the main battlefields in our fight for peace is Israeli public opinion. Most Israelis believe nowadays that peace is desirable but impossible (because of the Arabs, of course.) We must convince them not that peace would be good for Israel, but that it is realistically achievable. (DURING THE 11 YEAR FIGHTING FOR PUPLIC OPINION THE ISRAELIS STRTED WITH SHORON AND ENDED WITH BIBI
BUT STILL AVNERY THE 1948 SETTLER, IS HOPING:)
When the archbishop asked what we, the Israeli peace activists, are hoping for, I 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.
No one who entertains this hope can support the call for boycotting Israel. Those who call for a boycott act out of despair. And that is the root of the matter.
Neve Gordon and his partners in this effort have despaired of the Israelis. They have reached the conclusion that there is no chance of changing Israeli public opinion. According to them, no salvation will come from within. One must ignore the Israeli public and concentrate on mobilizing the world against the state of Israel. (Some of them believe anyhow that the state of Israel should be dismantled and replaced by a bi-national state.)
(NO TO BI-NATIONAL STATE – AVNERY CAN WAIT 20, 50 YEARS, FOREVER)
I do not share either view – neither the despair of the Israeli people, to which I belong, nor the hope that the world will stand up and compel Israel to change its ways against its will. For this to happen, the boycott must gather worldwide momentum, the U.S. must join it, the Israeli economy must collapse, and the morale of the Israeli public must break.
How long will this take? Twenty years? Fifty years? Forever?
I am afraid that this is an example of a faulty diagnosis leading to faulty treatment. To be precise: the mistaken assumption that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles the South African experience leads to a mistaken choice of strategy.
(BELIEVE AVNERY “ISRAELI POLICY IS NOT RACE THEORIES, IT’S BASED ON SAFEGUARDING THE JEWISH MAJORITY- SO BUY FROM THE JEWS)
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, (THE STRUGGLE IS ABOUT THE LAND)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 (IT IS DEPENDANT ON US TAX PAYES, SEX SLAVET, DRUGS TRAFFICING AND ORGAN HRVESTING)– on the contrary, it drives the Palestinians out of the working place. Because of this, there is now a worldwide consensus that the solution lies in the creation of the Palestinian state next to Israel.
In short: the two conflicts are fundamentally different. Therefore, the methods of struggle, too, must necessarily be different.
URI YOU FORGET TO QUOTE: Tutu Says Arabs Paying the Price of the Holocaust!
CRYING HOLOCAUST YOU WANT PALESTINIAN TO PAY THE PRICE OF HOLOCAUST FOR ANOTHER 20, 50 YEARS, FOREVER
YES URI THERE IS FUNDAMANTAL DIFFERENCES, BUT THE METHODS OF STRUGGLE ARE THE SAME: ARMED STRUGLE, NON VIOLENCE AND BOYCOTTING ALL SETLLERS, BOTH 1948 SETTLERS AND 1967 AND AFTER SETTLERS.
Uri, Like your fellow settlers, in 1948 you did the same, committed massacres and war crimes to uproot 750000 palestinian from their homeland, turned them into refugees in their own land and neigbour countries, denied and still denying their right of return.Your real concern is not the Palestinians under occupation, it is new settler endangering the future of Israel, and the future of Zionism.
Back to the archbishop, an attractive person whom it is impossible not to like on sight. He told me that he prays frequently, and that his favorite prayer goes like this (I quote from memory): “Dear God, when I am wrong, please make me willing to see my mistake. And when I am right – please make me tolerable to live with.”
99.9% of the Jewish People
Tel Aviv University historian, Prof. Shlomo Sand, author of new book Matai ve’ech humtza ha’am hayehudi? (When and How Were the Jewish People Invented?; Resling, in Hebrew) is sure to prov… more →
Posted by Helena Cobban
August 30, 2009 9:30 PM EST LinkFiled in Israel-2009
I have a lot of respect for the veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery. The first time I met him was in the PLO headquarters in Tunis in the late 1980s– a place that was anathema to both of our governments, but to his a lot more than to mine. (Indeed, for him as an Israeli it was actually illegal to meet with PLO people then.)
However, the argument he published yesterday that was against the burgeoning BDS movement was had some deeply flawed and dangerous arguments in it.
Anees of Jerusalem has highlighted one serious (and apparently very racist) flaw in Avnery’s argument. His criticism was of these statements:
Blacks in South Africa are very different from the Israelis, and from the Palestinians, too. The collapse of the oppressive racist regime did not lead to a bloodbath, as could have been predicted, but on the contrary: to the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.
Actually, Avnery’s argument there is not only racist– with the clear implication that the Palestinians (“unlike the blacks of South Africa”) are indeed intent on a bloodbath; but also illogical.
Because yes, it is true that a “bloodbath” was what was widely predicted in South Africa after the fall of the apartheid regime– but western liberals went along with the sanctions campaign notwithstanding that.
… And then, it didn’t happen. So what good are the predictions of western liberals in regard to South Africa or Palestine, anyway??
Anyway, Anees was right to call Avnery on the racism of his argument there.
I want to call Avnery on a couple of other aspects of his argument.
First, he plays a deliberately deceptive numbers game.
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”.
No, regarding Israel and Palestinians the situation is not “the very opposite” of what it was in South Africa. There are around six million Jews in Israel (and maybe 99.9% of them oppose the BDS campaign; or maybe fewer than that.) But there are some 5.5 million ethnic Palestinians in the area under Israeli control– and an additional five million or more Palestinians forced to live in exile from homeland.
Avnery just wipes the Palestinian exiles from his tally-board of political relevance as if they have no legitimate say in anything!
Well, that is one huge problem with his numbers game.
Don’t you think it would be important to Avnery as a peace activist that Palestinians moldering in refugee camps in Lebanon or elsewhere might finally be able to say, “the world is with us”?
But apparently, he doesn’t care.
Another problem with his argument comes where he tries to say that the Israelis have nothing in common with the Afrikaners– because only the Israelis siffered the Holocaust, and besides, many Afrikaners were pro-Hitler.
But guess what. The Afrikaners were also acting from a very deep sense of past community hurt and community vulnerability. They were the people for whom the whole concept of “concentration camps” had been invented in the first place, for goodness sake!
And they too, like many Jewish ethnonationalists in Israel, had a profound sense of having been “called” by G-d to create their settler state in Africa.
So the two peoples have many similarities in their core culture. But one big difference is that the Israelis have not thrown up their “Frederik De Klerk” figure yet: a peacemaker moved to recognize the equal humanity and equal rights of the long-despised “other.”
What can all of us do to help persuade Jewish israeli society to generate its own De Klerk?
Wide-reaching BDS may indeed be one of the best ways.
But at a very minimum, in the first instance, all those governments in the west that espouse the cause of human equality and human freedoms should absolutely stop the generous and quite unconditional subsidies they continue to give to the Israeli state and business community.
See also the close critique of Avnery’s argument by the South African Ran Greenstein, that Avnery’s own organization was good enough to publish, here.
… Regarding Avnery, this is sadly not the first time I’ve had to remark on the limits of this veteran campaigner’s vision. Earlier this month, I wrote about the plea he had written to his fellow veteran in the peace movement Dov Yermiya, urging Yermiya not to go ahead with his planned renunciation of Zionism as a guiding philosophy.
Filed under: Apartheid, BDS, Demographic Nightmare, Jewish terror state, Peace Movement, Racism, South Africa, This is Zionism | Comments Off on Uri Avnery: Against the Israel Boycott, SO BUY FROM THE JEWS