Who’s afraid of the cultural boycott?

This piece was co-authored by Joseph Dana.

The day after the American pop star Macy Gray announced controversial plans to perform in Tel Aviv in March, we sat down for a drink at Pua, a bar nestled in the heart of one of Jaffa’s most gentrified neighborhoods. When the waitress, a sociable 20-something resident of the city’s burgeoning young Jewish community informed us of a new brand of beer the restaurant was carrying, we wondered based on rumors we had heard if it was brewed in a settlement in the Golan Heights. The waitress, who was clearly offended, vehemently denied that it was “a settlement beer.” She reassured us that the owner of the restaurant was “a real Tel Aviv type guy,” and as such, “would not carry such a product.”

We were confused. “What exactly is a Tel Aviv type guy?” we asked her. When she returned to our table with two European beers, we asked for more information about the owner and a conversation began. She informed us that the owner of the bar ‘just keeps to himself and his friends in Tel Aviv’. She told us that he was not interested in politics and just wanted to live his life. We asked about her ideas on politics and the occupation. “I am a photographer. I used to go to Bil’in but it is violent.” She continued, “Now I just spend time with my friends and try to be a good person. I can’t take trying to change anything anymore.”

When asked for her opinion on BDS, her response was short and quick: “You can’t fight evil with evil.” She insisted that every boycott in history was wrong. We pressed her gently on the issue of boycotts (what about MLK’s Montgomery Bus Boycott, or the boycott of apartheid South Africa?) but it was clear that she was unwilling to go deep into the issue. She knew about the Occupation, the settlements, the racism that was rising like a tidal wave all around her, but she had deliberately cloistered herself inside a quaint European-style bar and Tel Aviv’s cosmopolitan lifestyle. Perhaps she could have contributed to the fight for a real democracy in Israel and justice for Palestinians living under occupation, but she had surrendered to the culture of apathy sanctioned by an entitled elite.

We began to understand the power of the cultural boycott in disrupting the apathy that pervades middle class, urban Israeli society. Apathy allows Israelis to live in comfort behind iron walls while remaining immune to the occupation and innoculated from its horrors. The culture of apathy allows them to watch the news and let out a groan of concern without thinking seriously about political engagement. In the case of the waitress at Pua, her apathy enabled her to witness the brutal military repression of legitimate political protest in the West Bank, only to return home to Tel Aviv and ignore her culpability.

The cultural boycott forces Israelis to deal with Israel’s behavior towards Palestinians by targeting them where it counts most: in the heart of their affluent comfort zones. The extreme right of Lieberman and the settlement movement must be confronted and exposed, but they are only the most extreme representation of an official ideology of racism towards Palestinians and the Arab world. They have grown and metastisized through fervent political activity, charisma and demagogy, while the “Good Israel” of Tel Aviv sits by impassively, and even cynically, watching the waves roll in while their society goes over the brink. It is the culture of apathy that supplies oil to the Occupation Machine.

Many Ashkenazi citizens of Israel have a second passport, allowing them to travel to and receive benefits from Western countries. They have developed an easy escape valve from the oppressive and violent manifestations of Jewish nationalism. Meanwhile, Palestinians live under a matrix of control devised inside US and European-funded Israeli universities and high tech research centers. An elaborate network of walls, electrified fences, biometric scanning devices, predator drones and collaborator networks ensures that each aspect of their lives is dominated by the Occupation. Because Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are forbidden from living where they choose with West Bank spouses, even their love lives are occupied. How would our waitress at Pua react if her life was subject to such crushing limitations?

We have often heard the argument that Macy Gray and other artists thinking about boycotting should perform in Tel Aviv and Ramallah. This commonly held idea not only reinforces concepts of segregation between Jews and Palestinians, it misses the point of the Palestinian boycott call entirely. The cultural boycott is designed to undermine the normalization of Israeli society. Palestinians do not necessarily want to see rock shows in Ramallah, they want to bring an end to the occupation. The 170 Palestinian civil society organizations who crafted the BDS call concluded that the most realistic non-violent means for ending the occupation was to force Israelis to live with the full responsibility of their actions. This was one of the ideas behind the boycott of Apartheid South Africa and one of the reasons why organizations like the South African Artists Against Apartheid now work to achieve the same goals in Israel.

My colleague and peer, Noam Shiezaf, published a thoughtful piece on this site arguing that Macy Gray should request that a certain number of tickets be sold to Palestinians in the West Bank for her Tel Aviv performance. The Palestinians would buy the tickets and then Israel would refuse their entrance to Tel Aviv. This would then provide a suitable subtext for Macy Gray to cancel her show.

The idea is clever but raises an important question: why would Macy Gray need to create a subtext to cancel? Doesn’t the longest military occupation in history provide a suitable enough reason to boycott? Furthermore, Israel would be able to correctly point out that Palestinians from the West Bank, by and large, are not allowed to enter Tel Aviv due to the sovereign laws of entry and exit to the State of Israel. Thus, the stunt would accomplish little more than reinforcing the notion that a militarized and radicalized Israeli society is perfectly kosher. And by circumventing the substance of the Palestinian BDS call, it allows critics to paint the cultural boycott as a form of collective punishment.

Too much of the commentary about BDS addresses the movement in a vacuum. The fact is, BDS is an integral part of Palestinian non-violent tactics. Quite simply, BDS is the globalization of Palestinian non-violent action against Israel’s occupation. So why do certain Jewish organizations from the United States and Israeli liberal Zionists lend rhetorical support to the joint nonviolent struggle in Sheikh Jarrah and elsewhere, while demonizing the call for BDS as borderline anti-Semitic and beyond the pale of reasonable people? Would the leaders of these organizations sit with the Palestinian families forcibly evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and tell them that their tactics are illegitimate?

It is easy to wash your hands of moral responsibility by participating in noble but ultimately doomed battles against the Occupation Machine. Confronting your own personal responsibility in allowing the crisis to reach such a terrible juncture is much harder, if not impossible, for too many. Perhaps the hardest step for the left-wing of the Jewish Establishment is ceding control of the debate while Palestinians assume the lead in their own struggle for freedom.

If the international community and especially the American Jewish community is unwilling to allow Palestinians a global form of nonviolent resistance against Israel’s occupation, what is left for the Palestinians to do? If violence is out of the question – it is certainly a terrible option for everyone — should Palestinians simply allow the Occupation to sweep them away like dust?

This is the question posed by the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish in his famous poem, “The Earth Presses Against Us.” “Where should we go after the last border? Where should birds fly after the last sky?” he asked. BDS may not be a panacea, but it at least ensures that for the Palestinians a horizon darkened by occupation can be extended until a just solution comes into view.

34 thoughts on “Who’s afraid of the cultural boycott?

  1. E

    From a strictly moral point of view – it really does not make sense for an American artist to boycott Israel.

    American drone strikes have killed many many more Afghani civilians this year than Israel has killed Palestinian civilians. The American occupation of Afghanistan is entering its 9th year. But just like the Tel-Aviv socialites that Joseph and Max like to criticize – this description fits them perfectly in the American context. Max can visit his upper class parents in a white upper class suburb of Washington DC and absolve himself of his father’s participation in an administration that continued to bomb and kill around the world as well as impose a severe sanctions regime on Iraq that makes the sanctions on gaza seem like a paradise

    – yet he can pretend that he is liberal and absolve himself of his guilt because he voted for Barak Obama, and his dad (AFTER circulating racist right wing attacks on him) now writes op-eds in favor of Obama. Will Max advocate for the boycott of the United States or call US soldiers war criminals like he does to IDF soldiers? Of course not – because such a move would horrify his bourgeois white limousine liberal American fans who like to sit in their upper class north eastern neighborhoods and pretend they are fighting for human rights by telling Macy Gray to boycott Israel and calling the IDF war criminals – but would never call US soldiers war criminals because after all – Progressives are patriotic Americans as well and we are good progressives because we vote for Barak Obama, the killer of hundreds of Afghani and Pakistani civilians by escalating drone attacks to a level 10x that of the Bush administration. And of course we are good human rights fighters, advocating the boycott of Tel Aviv bourgeois to shock them out of their complacency – while we sit in our cafes, sipping chai mocha soy lattes wearing our “yes we can Obama” shirts.


  2. lindaj

    I hope “E” the commenter above, will watch this video from Shir Hever at the Alternative Information Center. It explains how a boycott of Israel, which is becoming more and more transparently part of the global ruling class elite, can discipline the elites in the U.S. and elsewhere. http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=5388

    As to Max Blumenthal’s comfort zone, I doubt that he is in it very much since he is always making videos in Israel and for that I cannot thank him enough.

  3. E

    Linda – thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

    Re: Comfort zone – it is VERY easy and comfortable to be an “activist” in Israel – even if you are constantly touting how you were tear-gassed. Try interviewing Hizballah members on whether they are prepared to use their political clout to grant Palestinian refugees in Lebanon full equality and civil rights. Much more gutsy than interviewing birthright teenagers over and over again.

    Much harder to be expose injustices in other parts of the world where you would actually have to RISK your life to get the story out.

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  5. Rose

    Ahh! another Zionist troll using the same old “there are worse places in the world than Israel” talking point instead of engaging with the blog post.

    Just because there are other equally criminal countries in the world doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start somewhere.

    Why aren’t you, E, doing something about American war crimes? And if you are Israeli (or a Jew in whose name Zionist Israeli crimes are being committed), why aren’t you doing something about Israeli war crimes? Oh wait, your job as Israeli Hasbara troll takes up all your time. In this blog you are E and on Joseph Dana’s blog you are F (where you posted the exact same first comment with its personal insults directed at Max and his dad).

    Also, what’s your beef with Max’s dad? Every time you post on this blog you mention him. Did he kick you or someone in your family out of a job?

  6. andrew r

    E, there’s nothing to stop you from working for BDS against the United States. If you think it should be done, set an example.

    Our tax dollars go into the military aid which sends the hardware to Israel. The fact we can live the posh life while Palestinians are shot by snipers in a tower is actually a good reason to culturally boycott Israel — It’s a lessening of our own privilege. It sets a precedent for the future boycotts against the USA you are calling for.

    Oh wait, you actually like that Pakistani and Afghani civilians are killed by drone attacks. Reading comprehension hit a snag there.

  7. andrew r

    “Try interviewing Hizballah members on whether they are prepared to use their political clout to grant Palestinian refugees in Lebanon full equality and civil rights.”

    Just so you know, the Palestinian refugees have the right to return to what is now Israel even if they have full civil rights in a third country. Your concern for Palestinian refugees is touching even as you disparage those who work against Israel expelling more of them.

    “Much harder to be expose injustices in other parts of the world where you would actually have to RISK your life to get the story out.”

    In other words you have an interest in hiding what Max blogs about.

  8. gd

    @ Ed
    Dear boy, how is lying about someone’s daddy going to help you? Might as well say “your mamma is so…”. Only shows your own moral corruption.

  9. walt kovacs

    uh max…the longest military occupation is still china’s over tibet…where you wont go to make your vids, as the chinese would most likely lock you away for a good long time.

    and as you believe that all of israel is occupied territory, how is it that you find yourself spending money in any bar or restaurant?

    i think you should go on a hunger strike till all the jews leave the land

  10. walt kovacs

    bts max…can you list the 170 “palestinian” civil orgs that have promoted bds?

    why do i have a feeling that most are not located anywhere near so called palestine

  11. Michael Levin

    The full text of “Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights, July 9, 2005” — including the initial list of endorsements by Palestinian political parties, unions, associations, coalitions and organizations — is available at:
    For further information about the global BDS movement see: http://bdsmovement.net/

  12. Rose

    The majority of the Palestinians are in the diaspora after being kicked out of their land by settlers like you Mr Walter Kovacs from the Watchmen. The NGOs in the list are Palestinian (but of course, as you have shown us time and again, you don’t know how to read).

  13. Michael Levin

    hey walt,

    Your post included an inquiry regarding the initial list of the organizations which endorsed the Palestinian BDS call; my response was a link to that list.

    As clearly articulated in the call itself, those making the call sought and received endorsements from “Palestinian political parties, unions, associations, coalitions and organizations … represent[ing] the three integral parts of the people of Palestine: Palestinian refugees, Palestinians under occupation and Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

    It would appear the issue is not a “stretch[ing of] the truth” by Blumenthal and Dana, but a shrinking of the truth by walt kovacs — the truth that identity defined and sustained by Palestinians themselves is not identity acceptable to wk.

    [For an insightful, scholarly examination of Palestinian identity see Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness, Columbia University Press, 1997.

    For a valuable selection of resources to support activists in their campaign for BDS see the “Activist Material” section of the Global BDS Movement site: http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/49

    Bonus link: today’s JTA [Feb. 8] highlighted the campaign “Be on our side. End military aid to Israel.” For the website of that campaign see http://www.twopeoplesonefuture.org/ ]

  14. walt kovacs

    no mike, my post was an inquiry on those 170 “palestinian” organizations

    there may be 170…but the majority are not based in the pa or gaza….so max is stretching the truth

    but look…here is another bds success story for max to crow about


    January 31, marked the end of the campaign to gather signatures to qualify The Israel Divestment Act for the California ballot. While the campaign produced signatures in nearly all 58 counties in the state, we do not have sufficient signatures to submit the petitions to the Secretary of State’s office.

    “This was truly a grassroots effort that established deep significant coalitions in several areas of the state that will enable the campaign to continue our advocacy efforts in this state on behalf of Palestinian human rights,” said Andy Griggs of the IDC. The initiative required the state’s two largest pension funds (PERS and STRS) to sell their assets in any companies that supported Israel’s illegal settlements and provided military aid to the Israeli government.

    “We reached and educated many California voters over the past five months who were not aware that their tax dollars supported Israel’s human rights and international law violations,” said Caroline Kittrell an IDC coordinator in Butte County.
    CHECK BACK after FEBRUARY 15th when we will launch Phase II
    of the Israel Divestment Campaign.

  15. Rose

    Michael, Walter is a regular Zionist troll on this website. He is not here to learn anything or to listen. He is here to hammer one point: that Max is a liar.
    Fortunately, it is Walter Kovacs (who uses the pseudonym of a psychopathic character in the well known comic book Watchmen: http://watchmen.wikia.com/wiki/Walter_Kovacs) who comes out as not just a liar, but also an incoherent, stupid one. He is always using the same three or four excuses in defence of Israel which is really getting boring. Whoever pays him should hire someone smarter. At least that way we can have proper discussions out here.

  16. walt kovacs


    i think you are sweet on rorshach….which makes sense

    on almost every comic book geeks list of top 10 heroes…he is there

    and no, despite what you think, that all supporters of israel are on israel’s payroll…i do this gratis

    and please show me how i am lying about the 170 “palestinian” orgs behind bds….the vast majority are not located anywhere near the pa or gaza…

    in fact, you have yet to prove that any of my statements are lies…you just go on with the same old, “israel is evil” clap trap

  17. Rose

    “you have yet to prove that any of my statements are lies”

    You are not just a stupid Ziosupremacist! You are also delusional! Your statements have been proved to be lies by almost every single person who responded to you on this blog!

    Seriously the organisation that is paying Zionist trolls like you can do much better.

  18. walt kovacs


    the delusional person here is you….

    and you keep saying that i am paid by some unknown org…i am not

    another lie

    you big dummy

    remember…im not locked in here with you….you are locked in here with me

  19. poyani

    E says:

    “it is VERY easy and comfortable to be an “activist” in Israel – even if you are constantly touting how you were tear-gassed. Try interviewing Hizballah members on whether they are prepared to use their political clout to grant Palestinian refugees in Lebanon full equality and civil rights. Much more gutsy than interviewing birthright teenagers over and over again.”

    I have seen this supposedly difficult or “gutsy” interview done at least several dozen times. At least a dozen were in English. I am sure Franklin Lamb has published several interviews like this in English. I think Hezbollah also make their position on this issue clear on their Television station.

    Hezbollah says they are in favor of civil rights (including right to residency and work) but against citizenship for Palestinian refugees.

  20. poyani

    walt kovacs says:
    “uh max…the longest military occupation is still china’s over tibet…where you wont go to make your vids, as the chinese would most likely lock you away for a good long time.”

    Don’t compare apples and oranges little Nazi. Tibetans are Chinese citizens. As were Kurds Iraqi citizens and people of Darfur Sudanese citizens.

    None of those dictators were heartless enough to leave the people they oppressed and murdered in stateless limbo. Only a real monster could do that.

  21. poyani

    Since E keeps trolling and reposting the same argument on every topic, I thought I might as well quickly disprove his point. That way anyone can copy/paste the logical response to his non sequitur.

    E says:

    “From a strictly moral point of view – it really does not make sense for an American artist to boycott Israel (because) American drone strikes have killed many many Afghani civilians …”

    This argument can easily be disproved via reductio ad-absurdum.

    E claims that an American cannot boycott Israel on ethical/moral grounds until he/she also boycotts the US.

    The argument is predicated on the notion that one cannot claim ethical/moral grounds for helping resolve an issue in a foreign country until similar issues have all been resolved in one’s own country.

    If this logic was true, then we could claim:

    “From a strictly moral point of view – it really does not make sense for an American artist to donate to starving children in sub-Saharan Africa until the US has a functioning welfare system”


    “From a strictly moral point of view – it really does not make sense for an American artist to denounce women’s rights issues in Islamists states like Saudi Arabia or Iran, until all women’s rights issues in the US have been addressed”


    “From a strictly moral point of view – it really does not make sense for an American artist to speak of the plight of the people of Darfur as long as Iraq is occupied.”


    “From a strictly moral point of view – it really does not make sense for an Israeli to denounce Palestinian terrorism until all Israeli terrorism has ceased.”

    Many similar examples can also be presented. Are any of these statements true? No! Hence the underlying assumption of E’s argument leads to absurd conclusions. Hence it must be false and his argument fails due to reductio ad-absurdum.


  22. E

    Poyani – there is one fatal flaw in your logic. My argument is not “predicated on the notion that one cannot claim ethical/moral grounds for helping resolve an issue in a foreign country until similar issues have all been resolved in one’s own country.” You are correct that that would indeed be absurd.

    My argument is predicated on the much more logical notion, that if one is going to criticize human rights abuses in a far away place, one should ALSO equally have the courage to take a stand when they are being done by your own country and/or by leaders who you yourself helped elect. Personally, I agree with your last statement that it is a bit absurd for an Israeli to criticize the violence of the first intifada (1987) without mentioning the Israeli occupation that sparked it, as if it occurred in a vacuum. I think almost all of Max’s fan’s would agree with that – I find it hard to believe that you would not agree with that statement as well. Even Rose implied that Jews and Israelis have even greater responsibility to speak out against Israeli abuses because it is being done in their name. The idea that an American would have a special responsibility to speak out against American human rights abuses (in addition to any other ones) is not illogical at all.

    The idea that Macy Gray can not boycott Israel until the Afghan war is over is absurd. The idea that Macy Gray has no moral legitimacy to boycott Israel if she refuses to even concede on a theoretical basis that America deserves to be boycotted as well makes perfect sense. Noam Chomsky himself said that if you are to boycott Tel Aviv University why would you not boycott Harvard as well? Both are equally complicit in human rights abuses – since both are simply universities located in countries which commit human rights abuses.

    No one in a million years would ask Macy Gray to boycott the US – not because its not feasible, but because such a move would instantly brand her the most unpopular artist in the country, and everyone knows she would never concede that such a move makes sense. Max would NEVER post the addresses of American soldiers online and call them war criminals as he has done with Israeli soldiers. Why not? if Israeli soldiers who are conscripted against their will while American soldiers at this point in time have enlisted or re-enlisted knowing full well they are going to be taking part in Iraq or Afghan wars In fact, he goes to their graves and lays wreaths there!

    He would never make a public statement that American soldiers should all refuse to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan – because that would make him Persona non Grata on his frequent appearances on MSNBC. And because of the fact that many Americans who are calling for the boycott of Israel are also infected with a little thing they like to criticize in others: nationalism. Hence you have absurd statement like “Fighting for Palestinian rights is consistent with American values.”

    PS. For the record, your statement that Palestinians have it worse than Kurds under Saddam or have it worse than Darfurians is absurd. Not that its really relevant to compare but you were the one making the comparison.

    Oh and Rose – you might want to tone down the rants about “Zionazi Mossad Agent Troll Animals!!111” or whatever you constantly are screeching about. It will make you sound less like Ahmedinajad or David Duke.

  23. Rose

    Hey Poyani,

    I never call anyone an animal. So stop putting words into people’s mouths. Also, since you are all about criticising all sides equally, you should start with your pal Kovacs who for months has been calling all those who criticise him all kinds of names.

    Oh wait, you yourself just did the same…There is a huge distinction between Jewish and Zionist which people like you and Ahmadinijad or David Duke like to ignore because it benefits their agendas. Not all Jews are Zionists because not all Jews believe that they are better than everyone else and have the right to steal a land and slowly exterminate or kick out the indigenous inhabitants. You really should stop acting like you are holier-than-thou especially when you love calling Max and his father a lot of names.

    I call Kovacs a zionist troll and a hasbara agent because it is true that Kovacs is a Zionist troll who like other trolls in other similar blogs, has been posting the same three or four talking points in defence of Israel every time Max posts something.

    Also you yourself are a troll.The first post you put up on a blog you re-post everywhere else that the blog is posted. You are smarter than Kovacs though, which is not difficult to be.

    “My argument is predicated on the much more logical notion, that if one is going to criticize human rights abuses in a far away place, one should ALSO equally have the courage to take a stand when they are being done by your own country and/or by leaders who you yourself helped elect.”

    That is the only part of your whole argument that actually has some sense to it and Max has been criticising his government for years. Just go and read some of his older posts and his articles.

    Max also has videos in which he is basically telling the Republicans, who are the ones who pushed for the two imperialist wars that the US is currently fighting in the Middle East, that they should be the ones fighting the war instead of the mostly poor soldiers who, when they went into the army, did so mainly to pay for college or to get other benefits.

    That said, when did Max post the address of Israeli soldiers? Can you give us a link to that story? As for calling them war criminals, they are war criminals! Just go look at the huge files on Israel in HRW or read the Goldstone report!

    As for Noam Chomsky’s argument. I differ with him on that point because while Harvard and other US institutions may have individuals or programs that approve of the USA’s imperialist foreign policy, US universities in their entirety do not institutionalise or condone occupation. Israeli universities, on the other hand, do.

    Boycott helped end apartheid in South Africa and helped end the British colonisation of India.

    Also, for human beings with moral sense, there is no reason to buy products or interact with institutions that thrive on the misery of others whether that is in Israel or anywhere else.

  24. E

    @gd – no, because I’m not the one who claims that an entire country should be ostracized because they are all war criminals while telling my friends that “my dad can get you involved in the hillary clinton campaign!!!” (Yes max actually did say this). In case you need your memory refreshed, maxs father was in charge of public relations for bill.clinton, the same one that implemented a sanctions regime on iraq so severe that an estimated one million iraqis died as a result. He them was hired by hillary and in charge of sending out email blasts claiming obama was a communust radical who pals around with terrorists. Yet Max thinks some facebook wall posts mean all of israel is racist. Would you accept criticism from ariel sharons son if he refused to say anything about his father?

  25. gd

    @ E
    “No” because you’re either crony or coward, maybe each. The more you write about someone’s parents, family, friends, the more you lose credibility. I do not need to know who someone’s parents worked for, no more relevant more than my own parents’ history.

    I boycotted South Africa, I boycott China when ever possible, I boycott Israel, I boycott whoever, whenever I find necessary. My parents, family, friends don’t dictate my morals, neither will you. I call for the boycotting of US for getting US military out of other people’s countries.

  26. walt kovacs

    e, gd is right…leave max’s drunk of a dad out of this

    oh and poyani…if you are saying that israel should make all the arabs on the west bank citizens, and give them as many rights as those in tibet have as citizens of china…i would agree with you

    if that happens, will you then cease your israel hate???


    never mind that what china did is against international law….you tool

  27. Rose

    A friend just alerted me that I addressed my response #24 to Poyani instead of E (the Zionist). I sincerely apologise to Poyani for that slip.

    Other than that, E’s response #26 shows that he is not just a Zionist troll but also, as I suspected, a coward with personal problems with Max’s dad.

    Since you seem to know Max and his dad why don’t you use your real name when you post here? Why aren’t you letting us know who you and your dad are?

  28. andrew r

    “…if one is going to criticize human rights abuses in a far away place, one should ALSO equally have the courage to take a stand when they are being done by your own country and/or by leaders who you yourself helped elect…The idea that Macy Gray has no moral legitimacy to boycott Israel if she refuses to even concede on a theoretical basis that America deserves to be boycotted as well makes perfect sense.”

    You make principled statements in the name of crapping on those principles. Germans at least had the excuse of being arrested and executed if they worked against the Nazi govt., but Americans? They just need to be fair to the racist military they help fund with their tax dollars. The human rights abuses are in a far away place only spatially. My FIT helps pay for the military aid to Israel. To boycott Israel is to draw attention to that and hopefully put an end to this support.

    The only principle you espouse here is to do nothing. Your criticisms against Max are valid in as much they’re true and coming from the direction of boycotting Israel. Instead you’re employing them as an excuse to let Israel off scot-free and deny a voice to civilians targeted by a military. Pathetic.

  29. Ilay

    Boycotts are effective when you have a strong following. a clear perhaps single GOAL, and RESULTS.

    Not complex un-agreed-on goals (as in this situation)
    and a minor following will yield NO RESULTS.

    Basically this is just another way to fight against Israel, another form of organized anti-Israeli-PR, and that’s working pretty well so far.

  30. poyani


    I am not advocating boycotting Tel Aviv university. I am advocating boycotting products made in the settlements. There is a distinction. The boycott is not an ethical necessity. It is a tactic used to make the settlements growth economically costly. It is partially predicated on the assumption that Israel abandoned the Gaza settlements due to the fact that costs were considered too high.

    I have mixed feelings about artists boycotting events. The important factor is whether or not it will have an effect. When someone like Macy Gray decides whether or not to boycott an event she must consider the effects of such a boycott. Whether the net result will be better or worse than other alternatives.

    You are misinterpreting Chomsky. He does not say that you should criticize the US because you live there. He says your actions should be directed where you have influence and can bring about change. It may be a slight difference in most cases, but it is relevant nonetheless.

    Whether or not the people of Palestine have it better or worse than the Kurds or the people of Darfur is debatable. What happened in Darfur was horrendous, but it was limited to a (relatively) short period of time and now seems to be over. Same is true of Kurds. They suffered horrendously under Saddam Hussein (with western support) but the Kurds in Iraq today have it far better than Palestinians in almost every way. I don’t think anyone is debating that. But the Palestinians’ miserable experience seems to be eternal. There is no end in sight and it has already been ongoing since 1948 (which was the first round of expulsions)

    I also don’t agree with you (and if you are right – with everyone else on this site) that we cannot denounce Palestinian terrorism unless we ALSO equally denounce Israeli terrorism. Palestinian terrorism should stop, in and of itself.

    On violence I also agree with Chomsky. I think you cannot morally resort to violence until all other alternatives have been exhausted. In the case of Palestinians all other options have not been exhausted. In fact they have essentially succeeded in causing Israel and the US to be completely internationally isolated on this issue. Eventually they will succeed in establishing a state. Even the most pig-headed Zionist admits this today.

    P.S. Don’ take my comments at Walt Kovaks too seriously. That guy is a nut and I enjoy getting a rise out of him. He says the most outrageous things when you provoke him.

  31. andrew r

    Poyani ~ Even if you’re for a two state settlement, I don’t see how limiting a boycott to the settlements will work. For one, when Gush Shalom tried this tactic in Israel some years back, the products were simply shipped unlabeled. More importantly, any initiative against an Israeli product will be met with the same counter-offensive, settlement or not. You’re still going to be singling out Israel, blah frigging blah…

    And frankly, distinguishing between Israel and the occupied territories is only useful for explaining the whole system of segregation. Israel does not treat the green line as a border. The settlement building is funded and encouraged by the Israeli govt. The armed settlers are basically a paramilitary organ of the state, as it does nothing to disarm and reign them in. Tax breaks and cheap mortgages are granted to families that cross the armistice line and in many cases African olim were sent there on arrival. The blueprints are drawn at universities.

    Anything in Israel connected with the settlements should be boycotted.

  32. poyani

    Andrew R:

    Boycotts are a tactic. They are not a moral requirement. Boycotting universities doesn’t really get the Palestinians anything. I am not saying that there is something morally offensive about boycotting Israeli institutions. I am just saying that the primary capital for a cost-benefit analysis of a route of action should be its effectiveness.

    Furthermore, just because the Israeli government does not see the Green line as a border does not mean we should not treat it as such. Why would we adopt the positions of the government which we agree is acting completely immorally?

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