David Landau tends to be a bit of a prima dona as he proved when he urged at a private dinner that the U.S. “rape” Israel by imposing a peace settlement on it against its wishes. That little bit of grandstanding helped cost him his job as editor of Haaretz.
But despite or perhaps because of his flair for drama, he’s penned a provocative and probing op-ed in Haaretz urging the world to boycott Israel’s Knesset if it finalizes plans to criminalize the advocacy of boycotts against Israel by those Israelis who oppose the Occupation:
I hereby call for a boycott of the Knesset.A bill proposed by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud ) and the chairwoman of the Kadima faction, Dalia Itzik, together with MK Aryeh Eldad of the National Union, would punish any Israeli calling for a boycott of any Israeli individual or institution, whether in Israel or in the territories. The fine is NIS 30,000, plus any damages that can be proven. The bill passed its preliminary reading on Wednesday.
I therefore call for a boycott of Ze’ev Elkin and Dalia Itzik as individuals, and of the Knesset as an institution. I call on parliaments throughout the democratic world, and interparliamentary associations, to boycott Israel’s parliament, once the pride of the Jewish people, until it buries the bill and recovers its democratic heritage.
…I am hastening to call for this boycott because I want to be the first person prosecuted under the new bill when it becomes law…I want to earn a footnote in Jewish history: He tried…to stand against the wave of fascism that engulfed the Zionist project. I’m ready to pay NIS 30,000 for that.
Beyond that little vanity, perhaps a call to boycott the Knesset, if it gained any traction, could puncture that most smug and pernicious piece of propaganda: that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Israel is a democracy for Jews. “We’ll deal with your presence in the Knesset later,” MK Ofir Akunis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s longtime aide, informed Arab MK Ahmed Tibi ominously, unashamedly. True, he was admonished by the Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin. But Rivlin the democrat is a mere fig leaf now, a holdover from another age.
I call this legislation Neve’s Law because, contrary to Landau’s machinations, it seems primarily directed against Ben Gurion University Prof. Neve Gordon and those like him who advocate the global BDS movement, contrary to the wishes of the Israeli political and academic élite.
While the boycott call is admirable along with Landau’s willingness to face the legal assault sure to follow, I note he doesn’t call for his own profession, Israeli newspapers to boycott the Knesset and deprive it of the oxygen of PR which it needs to fuel this political machine promoting intolerance and anti-democracy. Even a single day of boycott from the Israeli press of all news involving the Knesset would work wonders to bring home the point. Imagine if the Israeli phone company turned off the phones at the Knesset for a day. Or if Israeli constituents turned their backs on their elected representative for a day. The politicians would surely die for lack of adulation and the accompanying self-preening that is like swimming to a shark: if they don’t do it, they die.
As is standard with Landau, he must throw into an otherwise perfectly fine column an incendiary device which is also thrown Neve Gordon’s way. While Landau claims to stake out the high ground, he wishes to make clear that professors like Gordon are beneath his contempt:
I deprecate and despise the people calling for boycotts of Israeli universities. I most especially disdain them if they themselves remain faculty members of those same universities. Israeli universities do not deserve to be boycotted.
Landau clearly has an excellent mind and probing intellect. But he wastes it on such triviality and narischkeit which only demeans and detracts from his main argument. In addition, I note his further undermining of his premise when he concedes that his beloved grandchildren live in a settlement. I guess what this proves is that even the so-called “good” (and I intend a double-edge meaning in Landau’s case) Israelis are implicated in the machinery of Occupation. There is no way of escaping every Israelis’ participation in this evil. And I include in this, contrary to Landau, the Israeli university system, which participates both intentionally and unintentionally in perpetrating the Occupation. No one is blameless. All are implicated. No less a moral philosopher than Martin Luther King said this about American racial injustice and it is true in the Israeli context as well.