Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Sam Smith

Every time Israel does something mean, cruel or stupid you can almost hear the sound of liberals and progressives rushing for a place to hide. Strip away the rhetoric and the excuses and the problem basically comes down to the fact that people don't like being called anti-Semitic.

It's a great shtick the Israelis have used so effectively that behaving appropriately towards their country has cost the U.S. over $100 billion since Israel was founded. For gratitude we have been granted a plethora of unnecessary conflicts, anger in the Muslim world that contributed to 9/11 and the madness of the war on terror, as well as periodic spying on the U.S. by Israeli agents. What other country to whom we have given so much has been so loath to return the favor?

Israel's attack on Gaza, for example, is not only vicious, inexcusable and a violation of international law, it is a direct attempt to interfere with American politics by making sure Obama's hands are completely tied.

Yet, once again, the Israelis are getting away with it because even such supposedly enlightened corners of America as the media and liberal groups are afraid to take them on.

If, the other hand, one feels that it is far worst to support a cruel and unnecessary war than it is to be labeled an anti-Semite then it may be time to be as brave in the face of right wing Jewish accusations as we are confronting criticism by Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh. It is, after all, a partner in illogic - of the sort where unsupportable accusations are used to drown actual facts - such as the constant evocation of the Holocaust in which past victims are shamefully dishonored by using them to justify the creation of still more victims.

Once you take the simple liberating step of saying that you don't give a damn what Abe Foxman says about you, then the whole Mid East issue takes on a new look.

For example, you are suddenly free to wonder whether some sort of boycott against Israel might not be worthwhile. As UN General Assembly President, Miguel D'Escoto Brockman put it recently, "More than twenty years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a nonviolent means of pressuring South Africa to end its violations. Today, perhaps we. . . should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations."

Such a boycott might include all of the following: AOL Time Warner, Coca-Cola, Disney, Estee Lauder, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, L'Oreal, Nokia, Revlon, Sara Lee, Home Depot, Starbucks, Timberland, or McDonald's. Or it might include just one for ease of organizing.

Another approach would be a campaign to cut aid to Israel. A modest ten percent - $300 million - would start to make the point.

If you're not quite up to being at least as tough on Israel as Congress was on the auto workers, there are other ways to make your discomfort known - including sending some money to groups like the New Israel Fund that are trying to set an example of what a progressive Israel would be like.

But whatever the approach one prefers, we should all take a New Year's vow not to be afraid of pro-Israeli extremists anymore. They are bullies and it's long past time that we started treating them as such.