The Forward publishes several magnificent articles in its current issue. The first is an important interview with Richard Goldstone, who directed the UN Human Rights Council report on the Gaza war, which recommended that war crimes charges against both Israel and Hamas be referred to the International Criminal Court. The story is a perfect antidote to the poison being spread about both Goldstone and the report by the Israeli foreign ministry and right-wing pro-Israel blogosphere. In it, the South African jurist talks about his deep personal and family commitment to Israel.
The article fairly notes that while Goldstone took on a mandate to investigate the crimes of both sides in the Gaza war, it remains to be seen how a UN Council, known in the past for pro-Palestinian partisanship will deal with his report. One hopes that the Council will refer the entire report to the Security Council for deliberation. Anything less may harm the credibility of the document.
Gal Beckerman also wrote a masterful account of the growing impact of the BDS movement on the debate around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is an article that was crying out to be written given the increasing level of success of this human rights effort. It’s critically important it was publised in a Jewish media source like The Forward.
The reporter nicely summarizes the recent string of BDS victories and also notes the concerns even some progressives have about the amorphousness of the political agenda of the international effort:
The BDS movement is highly decentralized, with each group in the coalition allowed to choose its own targets as it sees fit. It has no articulated political vision. such as a one- or two-state solution to the conflict. The principles that guide the movement — as set out in a call for boycott, divestment and sanctions issued in June 2005 by a wide group of Palestinian civil society organizations — demand instead that Israel adhere to international and human rights law. The amorphous structure and broad goals appear to be responsible for many of the group’s appeal.
In a debate here with Alex Stein, who claimed BDS was anti-Zionist, I noted the studied unwillingness of the group’s mission statement to take a firm position on the issue. I think this is one of the strengths of Jewish Voice for Peace as well. The refusal to lay out a political solution to the overall conflict doesn’t mean, as enemies would claim, that these groups are obfuscating their more radical principles. Rather, it means they are trying to bring as many activists together around basic core principles.
Here, Omar Barghouti, one of the Palestinian leaders of BDS, expands upon the strategy:
…The BDS movement “does not adopt a particular political solution to the colonial conflict.” The main strategy, he wrote, “is based on the principle that human rights and international law must be upheld and respected no matter what the political solution may be. This was key to securing a near consensus in Palestinian civil society and a wide network of support around the world, including the Western mainstream.”
The exclusive focus on rights rather than on a political prescription for the conflict brings together both those who want to target Israel’s existence as a whole and those—mostly American activists—who stick to the more narrow issue of the occupation and settlement activity.
As far as Barghouti is concerned, BDS is a “comprehensive boycott of Israel, including all its products, academic and cultural institutions, etc.” But he understands “the tactical needs of our partners to carry out a selective boycott of settlement products, say, or military suppliers of the Israeli occupation army as the easiest way to rally support around as a black-and-white violation of international law and basic human rights.”
I was slightly concerned about the middle paragraph since it seems to imply there are those in the movement who wish, to use that tired pro-Israel locution, to “destroy Israel.” But I’m very leery, on such sensitive subjects, to trust a reporter who paraphrases the views of a subject. I’d prefer to see this in Barghouti’s own words before I’d trust that Beckerman got it right.
Barghouti, by the way, is a grad student at Tel Aviv University. He recently wrote his Masters thesis on BDS and there was a huge uproar on campus. To his credit, the University president refused to cave in to pressure and ensured that Barghouti was not ejected from his program. Unfortunately, Neve Gordon did not receive the same support from his University’s president when he published his piece endorsing BDS.
Richard Witty says
As I’ve stated a number of times I disagree with Richard’s endorsing characterization of the BDS movement.
As Norman Finkelstein even reiterated in his voluntary disassociation with the “Gaza Freedom March” http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/why-i-resigned-from-the-gaza-freedom-march-coalition/, for BDS to be effective and moral (not his language directly) it must be specific and limited.
To be unspecific in demands, is TO morph well-meaning efforts into fascistic and manipulated. And, those that are undertaking BDS from what they regard as an ethical approach, take offense that they may be participating in an effort that is or can become functionally fascistic.
And, then rather than identify what features prevent the corruption of the movement, they rant at the messengers.
Further, I am opposed to BDS in general, and specifically directed to cultural and academic institutions, as I observe that to achieve peace the exact opposite of the isolation compelled by BDS, is necessary TO achieve peace and reconciliation and justice in the region.
I believe that discussion, interaction, institution-building and relationship-building is what is critical to achieve peace and to achieve improvement in Palestinians’ lives.
The demand for Israel to respect human rights and international law may seem superficially unspecific because Israel’s violations are so varied and manifold. Or rather, as Jerry Haber put it, “Israel’s battle is not against the human rights NGOs but rather against the whole concept of human rights and international law.” To restrict one’s demands to lifting this or that checkpoint, or to allow a pound of pasta into Gaza is treating symptoms while leaving the disease unattended. It may even be counter-productive if it serves to plaster over some of the ugliest sides of the occupation and thus increases tolerance for it. (You know what they say about how to cook a frog.)
It is taken for granted that the Obama Government will not seek to protect alleged war criminals
Israel today stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Using civilians as human shields to terrorize the population, being one such horrific allegation.
The U N Human Rights Commission report today recommends that the Security Council take this matter before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
It is taken for granted that the Obama Government will not seek to protect alleged war criminals by allowing LOBBY GROUPS to exert pressure on it to use its VETO to frustrate international justice, the rule of law and democracy.
That would be condoning war crimes, an act from which no Western government could completely recover.
Obama is not likely to take America back 50 years. This is the 21st century and neocons and neozionists are minority groups that may be tolerated but must not be allowed disproportionate influence over the majority, either in the House of Representatives or in society as a whole.
“It is taken for granted that the Obama Government will not seek to protect alleged war criminals”
Taken for granted by whom? History would suggested that the Obama government will do just as every other U.S. government has done. Why would anything else be taken for granted.
Where is Barghouti identified as one who would “destroy Israel”? He’s only quoted as understanding BDS as comprehensive in nature.
Richard Silverstein says
Not Barghouti per se, but others in the BDS movement. Beckerman is saying there are other leaders/supporters of BDS who endorse Israel’s destruction. There may be. I don’t know. But I don’t trust Beckerman’s statement that this is the case.
Peter H says
FWIW, this is an interview in Electronic Intifada with Omar Barghouti:
I think it’s clear that Barghouti favors the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state, and any kind of Jewish-Israeli national rights for that matter (hence his opposition to a binational state).
I wonder, where were the UN and all others just BEFORE Israel had launched a military operation? Although Israel had clearly warned Hamas, that if it will carry on the rocket attacks on Israeli cities, Israel will strike back.
Wasn’t it clear to UN guys at this stage, that fighting in such densely populated area, like Gaza strip will cause to civilian casualties?
So now, when everything is finished, those hypocrites are investigating what they call “Israeli war crimes”. I want to suggest them to investigate their own “doing nothing to prevent the war” crime.
Richard Silverstein says
You have a slight problem–that is that if the UN investigated the run up to the war they’d also be investigating Israel’s violation of the ceasefire which is what caused those rockets to rain down on Sderot. But you’ve conveniently forgotten that Israel bombed tunnels & murdered Gazans in them in violation of the ceasefire.
Olga has also conveniently forgotten that until Israel violated the ceasefire on November 4 by launching a series of murderous attacks on Gaza, Hamas had not fired a single rocket itself during the ceasefire, and had done such a good job of restraining groups that were not a party to the ceasefire that rocket fire was reduced by 99%. And Olga apparently has conveniently forgotten that Hamas honoured the ceasefire in this way despite the fact that Israel refused to comply with some very critical terms of the ceasefire.
But we have learned a long time ago that memory is both selective and highly inaccurate when it comes to Israel.
Barghouti’s article is full of odd propositions and whimsies. His definition of a master/slave coexistence is not what you might have thought but one where you have no concepts in common. He seems to have little contact with reality: just like the movement he espouses.
Richard Silverstein says
I’d suggest that it is you & Israel’s right wing supporters who have lost contact w. reality. I freely concede though that Barghouti is not in synch with Israeli right-wing reality which denies that it murdered civilians in Gaza and sees Israel as white as snow.
My previous responses were not published. Is that because I said we need both wings left and right in order to fly straight? Or don’t you like opposition?
Richard Silverstein says
Some of your comments were approved. The ones which weren’t violated my comment rules which explicitly exclude gross exaggerations & statements that are not supported by evidence or are clearly false. For example, stating that Arabs want to “murder every one of us” is unsupported, a lie, & racist. Read the comment rules, follow them, & yr comments will be published & responded to. You seem to see yrself as a propagandist on Israel’s behalf, which is not what the purpose of my comment threads is.
[comment deleted for violation of comment rules]
What is your view of what would happen if we allowed free entry to people who up to now have blown up our civilians and celebrated their deaths?
Richard Silverstein says
Hmmm. Let me think. Your attitude implies that all Gazans suffering under the illegal siege have actually blown up Israeli civilians and celebrated their deaths. Is that really so? No, not really. And as not all Gazans have committed acts of terror but all are being made to suffer for them–this is collective punishment. And that too is illegal under international law. The siege actually creates more Gazans who wish to blow up Israelis. But I’m sure you wouldn’t understand that.
One IS reminded that there were crowds of Israelis who gathered like sports fans on hilltops to watch their army blow up civilians in Gaza, and to celebrate the killing. We all saw the photos, and the videos, and read the news stories about them.
I asked you how they would respond on being granted free entry to Israel. You replied by vilifying Israel and with an egregious ad hominem about my understanding. How do you think they would respond?
Richard Silverstein says
No, you asked why Israel should grant free entry to Palestinian terrorists. You didn’t specify entry to where & I thought you were referring to the Gaza (that is, the siege). So I have no idea what you’re really referring to. Denying Palestinians entry to Israel? I don’t get the issue.
The wall between Israel and the West Bank has gaps like a Swiss cheese has holes, which means that WB Palestinians can and do enter Israel more or less freely, looking for work. But the last time civilians have been blown up and their deaths celebrated was in Gaza.
So those scary genocidal Arab hordes haven’t done much lately to earn your angst, have they?