whyenglandslept.jpgYup, yet another British organization is planning to hold a vote to determine whether they should boycott Israel. This time it’s UNISON, England’s largest labor union. It has 1.4-1.6 million members (to remind you all, Israel has 7 million citizens) and wields some clout with its pension funds and sheer size – it is more than ten times as large as all of the British organizations that have already voted to boycott or announced a vote on a boycott put together. Once this one goes through, I suspect even Tom will stop questioning whether all of England should be held responsible for these boycotts.

In the meantime, the British government, somewhat embarrassed, is scrambling, apparently unaware that the ship has left the harbor:

“The UK government fully supports academic freedom and is firmly against any academic boycotts of Israel or Israeli academics,” said Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education Bill Rammell. “Whilst I appreciate the independence of the UCU, I am very disappointed that the union has decided to pass a motion which encourages its members to consider boycotting Israeli academics and education institutions.”

Israel has a huge labor union, the Histadrut, which has been a force in the Israeli economy as well as political life for many decades. The head of the Histadrut wrote a letter to the heads of UNISON asking that they cancel this vote for its unfairness. He indicated that the Histadrut hasn’t boycotted Palestinians despite their ongoing attacks and told them that it’s really sad to live in Sderot as Palestinian rockets keep landing on homes, cars and people at random. He could have save the ink and the stamp because this is clearly coming to a vote with some internal momentum.

The lesson here may be that we’ve learned little since Durban when we saw how the NGO universe had been deeply infiltrated and influenced by Palestinian and pro-Palestinian forces with a clear agenda. At the time it was clear that the Jewish community was simply outnumbered and clearly outmaneuvered. While the Jews were worrying about social justice, maintaining civil rights and preventing any outbreaks of significant antisemitism, the Palestinians were focused on harming Israel. The same is happening now in England and will follow suit in some other countries. The Palestinians are using inherently biased-to-the-left organizations, namely unions, to establish Israel as a pariah. When a union doesn’t exist to do the deed, it isn’t hard to find 100 or so willing souls from a certain walk of life to band together and create a boycott.

The question is, what can be done? Well, believe it or not, Israel cannot “end the occupation” to satisfy the nebulous demands of these groups, because the “occupation” is what keeps Israel safe from guaranteed Palestinian attacks. How can I guarantee these attacks? I look at the fact that Gazan Palestinians have never stopped attacking Israel despite Israel’s unilateral and comprehensive exit from Gaza. This resembles Palestinian actions in 2000 AFTER they were offered a peace deal AND a state at both Camp David and Taba, but launched a war instead of negotiating in good faith. An “end to the occupation” would also mean Israel giving up all of the Old City including the Western Wall to a nation that is led by two parties that both deny any connection of the Temple Mount or the Western Wall to the Jewish people.

So what should Israel and those who care about it do? Well, there’s still time to lobby the relevant union members about the folly of this boycott. However, it seems to me that Britain can really be written off at this time. Instead, it’s important to study whether similar movements are afoot in other countries, particularly the US and large European countries, and engage leaders in dialogue as well as some form of interaction with Israel. Let them visit and see for themselves the complexity of the situation. Let them hear about the history of this conflict from voices that aren’t Palestinian or wacky-Lefty-anti-Israel. This is not a good time to leave a vacuum anywhere, it may be filled by those whose agenda is the destruction of Israel.

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themiddle

26 Comments

  • Verily, we’re getting close, Middle. This will be an intriguing lesson in British politics, especially the staying power of ‘New Labour’ and the capacities of 10-11 Downing Streets to keep their loony left in line. This boycott stuff has moved well beyond the academy, hasn’t it?

    But what can you do? Sentimental affiliation with a confected, romanticized Palestinian nationalism– this is the European left’s porn stash. Middle’s facts won’t wash here. Something akin to a DK-style stiff upper lip– isn’t that a British invention?– may be the best approach. Respectfully make your case, understanding, at the end of the day, that there’s no persuading these people.

    The Blair era is over. Vote Tory.

  • Oh, and check out the Economist magazine’s leader a week ago on the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War. The Economist ain’t the far left (though I think the Bush Administration has led it to drift in that direction), but the editorial’s a telling example of a mindset that ascibes all Israel/Palestine woes to the occupation. End the latter, and all of the region’s problems go away. Or so they’d have you believe.

    One of the many problems with this view is that it crowds out space for making intelligent, proportionate criticism of Israeli policy.

  • The UNISON website (www.unison.org.uk) makes clear that the proposed boycott’s really about tweaking Tony Blair and George Bush.

    For example, the Enough! coalition UNISON co-founded to oppose the occupation argues: “Britain bears a particular responsibility for [P] suffering. From 1917 to 1948 Britain controlled Palestine. Along with the US and many EU countries, the UK government is today involved in a close military, economic and political relationship with Israel, and fails to stand up for the rights of the Palestinian people.”

    Middle, is your heart in your rather anodyne assurance that the occupation keeps Israel safe from Palestinian attacks? I mean, the occupation may a functional necessity, but for other reasons, no?

  • “Confected!” Great word!

    (The Economist is waaay to the left. They just don’t look it, because their magazine is attractively designed, which gives them an air of responsible dignity. I cancelled my subscription years ago, when someone I personally knew was physically in Israel, and it all suddenly stopped being theoretical, and I got mad. I seem to have survived quite nicely without it.)

  • That was long before the Bush administration. Don’t blame The Economist’s ideas on Bush.

    Look, the British lost their pre-eminence, so it now suits them to put down pre-eminence. It now suits them to tsk-tsk about colonialism, or “colonialism,” because they LOST. OK? So they want to de-value what they have had to cede to others.

    Aesop called that “sour grapes”.

    And most of them work up quite a lot of feeling about people or “a people” who kicked them around, defeated them. What else can they do?

  • Since the Americans are stronger than the British, the British inform the Americans, with great energy, that strength is not at all in fashion this year, and they, the Americans, are very, very tacky.

  • Tom,

    Olmert and his party, following Sharon’s concept, were elected on a platform of unilaterally leaving about 93% of the West Bank (approximately the amount of land outside the security barrier). If they were to do this, 100% of Gaza and 93% of the West Bank would be in Palestinian hands.

    We know, beyond the election results, that polls and surveys of the Israeli public consistently show support for a two state solution where the Palestinians get Gaza and most of the West Bank.

    I pointed this out in the other discussion:

    …what exactly is Israel supposed to do, close itself down? Olmert was elected on a platform of unilateral withdrawal from most of the West Bank. However, two things have destroyed that premise: Hizbullah’s attack and especially their use of rockets, which rendered all Israeli solutions ineffective; Palestinians attacks from Gaza, particularly involving rockets for which Israel has no answer, despite Israel’s unilateral and comprehensive exit from Gaza.

    In other words, the Palestinians have made it impossible for Israel to securely withdraw. Moreover, by electing Hamas and by continuing the attacks, they’ve made it impossible to even consider serious talks about peace.

    There is one more factor to be considered. Between late 1998 and early 2002, the IDF was entirely out of “Areas A” as designated in the Hebron Accords as part of Oslo. This meant, in effect, that almost all Palestinians in the territories were outside the control of the Israelis and under PA rule. The result was a steady increase in sniper and suicide attacks, not just in number but in sophistication. This culminated with hundreds injured and 128 murdered in March 2002. In April, 2002, Israel re-entered Areas A, including Jenin, and since then the number of successful attacks has dropped dramatically.

    The lesson of Gaza is that the Palestinians will keep attacking even when there are no IDF soldiers or Jewish settlers in sight. Transposed to the West Bank, however, these rocket attacks would be far more harmful to Israel because the border communities (and don’t forget Israel is only about 9 miles wide near the belly of the West Bank) are much larger in size, population and number than the Israeli communities of the western Negev.

    Add to this mix what Hizbullah demonstrated in the last war, which is that given time to prepare, a well-backed militia can build serious infratructure and defenses that at the very least will cause numerous Israeli casualties in any potential war. Transposed to the West Bank, where, again, proximity to the country’s center is awfully close, any such defense systems could actually be used not only to stop Israeli soldiers but as launching points for attacks against Israeli communities.

    In other words, even though Israelis on the whole mean well, the lessons the Palestinians and Hizbullah have taught them is that unilateral end to “occupation” is not going to achieve anything except more -and more dangerous – attacks against Israel.

    You could say, Well, what about a settled solution? Fair question and one that troubles me greatly. In 2000 and 2001, Israel made offers to the Palestinians that changed the paradigm of what had been on the table previously. The Palestinians were offered a state, Jerusalem was to be divided, holy sites were to be divided, reparations were to be given, etc. Forget for a minute all of the people who say that Israel didn’t give enough. The fact is that an offer was on the table. The Palestinians didn’t budge on their positions regarding “return of refugees” or on division of the Temple Mount. Not only that, but they launched a war which they are still fighting.

    If an offer of peace and a state begets a war, and if their current leadership refuses to recognize Israel as a matter of principle (as opposed to negotiating tactics), then who can you talk to about coming to a political solution? It’s not as if there’s this massive groundswell among average Palestinians to settle the war with Israel and compromise. On the contrary, the two leading Palestinian parties either advocate destruction of Israel outright, or destruction of Israel through demographics (via UNGAR 194).

    Therefore, my feeling is, Tom, that Israel is in a very tough situation where ending its military presence in the West Bank or on Gaza’s eastern border is virtually untenable. If nothing else, at a minimum that’s what these boycotters are demanding. It is not only difficult from a pragmatic standpoint, but it is actually dangerous to Israel to take such steps, even with the best of intentions.

    I write the above with a heavy heart because I don’t approve of most settlements and I don’t wish to see Israeli military presence among Palestinians at all. I was elated by the Disengagement from Gaza and believed it was the beginning of the solution to this conflict. However, I also viewed Gaza as a test because the risks and costs of leaving it were far smaller than leaving most of the West Bank. The takers of the test have failed miserably and in so doing, have provided all of us with a lesson that makes resolution of the situation at least very challenging and perhaps even impossible. You’d basically need somebody with the strength and authority of Arafat consenting to and then implementing a peace agreement. Maybe Marwan Barghouti in Israeli prison would have the potential to achieve this, I don’t know. Otherwise, I don’t think there is anybody to talk to at this time and Israel’s unilateral options have been severely curtailed by its current experience in Gaza.

  • “The question is, what can be done? Well, believe it or not, Israel cannot “end the occupation” to satisfy the nebulous demands of these groups, because the “occupation” is what keeps Israel safe from guaranteed Palestinian attacks.”

    It’s deeper than this even. “Occupation” is a Jewish presence in the region, occupation is Tel Aviv, occupation is Israel. For the radical anti-Zionists—and make no mistake, that’s who is pushing these measures—Jews are “white, imperialist, settlers” in the Middle East, “Zionism is racism,” etc. etc. etc.

    But I’m not willing to write off England at this point. There are lots of principled unionists who are against these boycott measures as well as a large segment of the rank-and-file that is more concerned about wages and working conditions than international affairs. But the situation is indeed grim:

    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1064

    As far as your suggestion “to study whether similar movements are afoot in other countries, particularly the US and large European countries, and engage leaders in dialogue as well as some form of interaction with Israel,” a good place to start for this sort of information is Engage in the U.K.

    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/home/

  • Well, well, well.

    I don’t want to say “I told you so”, Middle, but, well, I told you so.

    Reality’s a bitch.

    Barghouti? You’re joking, right?

    The Stategy of Stages, Middle. Things are unfolding exactly the way the Paslestinians wanted them to. Until the Palestinians are pounded into submission the way the Nazis were, every Israeli “confidence-building gesture” will be met with a barrage of Qassams.

    It’s time for the Israelis to do what the Lebanese Army is doing at the Nahr El Barad camp.

    Funny how Arabs can get away with killing Palestinians wholesale without the UN interfering, isn’t it?

  • Ephraim, let’s not be simplistic about this. I supported the Disengagement and continue to support the Disengagement.

    If you will revisit some of the conversations we had on Jewlicious back then, my reasons were similar to those I list above: not wishing to have Israel impose itself on Palestinian civilians, and establishing the possibility for peace. I also felt and wrote that leaving Gaza will also make any future Israeli responses to attacks emanating from Gaza far easier from operational and even ethical standpoints. I believe this holds true today.

    To remind you, the Qassems were falling before Israel left Gaza. The Disengagement didn’t bring about the Qassem problem, and it also didn’t bring much greater numbers of Qassems. Without the rocket attacks on Israel, Israel would indeed be entirely disengaged and no worse off as a result.

    The problem of the rockets can be solved either politically or with a technological solution. Being inside Gaza, however, doesn’t help with either. My support for staying in the West Bank at this time is that the IDF has been successful in preventing rocket launching from there thus far. This, of course, has nothing to do with the settlers who live there since, if anything, they just require IDF resources to protect them.

    However, there are a million more Palestinians who are now on their own, without Israel bearing responsibility toward them. That is a significant step forward for Israel in my view.

  • Funny how Arabs can get away with killing Palestinians wholesale without the UN interfering, isn’t it?

    yeah, real funny. Muffti is in stitches. Muffti can’t help but every once in a while being thankful that the IDF is precisely NOT like the Lebanese Army in this respect.

  • If you still support the disengagement, why are you whining about the Qassems, Middle?

    How will the Qassem problem be solved politically? We have seen that compromise and withdrawal don’t work. And what is your proposed technological solution?

    Yes, it is all very nice and moral that the IDF is not like the Lebanese army. That is why Qassems are still killing Jews. I don’t understand this delicate concern for Palestinian lives over Israeli and Jewish lives.

    Yes, civilians caught in the crossfire is not a nice thing. It would be nice to be able to avoid it. But I still see no possible political solution to this so long as Hamas is not hunted down and destroyed.

    And if you say that the Palestinians ARE Hamas, what then do you propose to do?

  • Palestinian terrorism (the kind directed at Israel) signals a lack of consensus on the P side for a negotiated solution. Ergo, Israel’s occupation is justified. The occupied territories are a bargaining chip, to be traded at some point in the future for peace, foregoing of the ‘right of return’, and the rest of it. That’s one justification for the occupation; ahother, that, as we’ve seen in Lebanon, outside powers– not the Ps– will be emboldened by a precipitous withdrawal.

    But to argue that the occupation keeps Israel safe confuses causes and effects, and seems manifestly untrue. It’s as if Putin were to argue that continued terrorism justifies Russian occupation of Chechnya.

    It’s tempting to go along with Ephraim on this, but they can’t all be killed, and likely can’t be deterred. Try transposing Ephraim’s approach to Iraq: would a program of in terroram revenge killings, wiping out Ramadi etc., keep al-Quaeda and Sunni militants quiet? Or result in the opposite?

    You may respond, maybe, if coupled with firm political and military control over the country. But Israel has no intention of annexing the West Bank, does it? The Israeli right has never advanced– make that, never seriously attempted– to fulfill the rhetoric of Eretz Israel. And can Isreal survive for the long term with the West Bank and Gaza as its toilet? With the background of a nuclear Iran, P nationalism morphing into jihadist nihilism, etc.

    The occupied territories are retained to be given away.

  • I’d be interested in Middle’s take on the substantial ink that’s been spilled over the Six-Day War anniversary. I have to say, it’s shifted my thinking a little.

    While I admire your fidelity to the factual record, I wonder if it somehow misses the point. Sure, Clinton made Arafat a viable offer. But wasn’t the Oslo process largely vitiated by the actions of both sides by then– continued P violence, unceasing settlement activity, etc.? Somehow, the facts miss the point. And while I’m ordinarily not a fan of counterfactual history of the Niall Ferguson variety, it may be apposite here.

    Palestianian missed opportunities are well-documented. How about Israeli ones? In retrospect, Israeli leaders may simply have been unable to shift overnight from the mentality of ‘Auschwitz borders’ to the extraordinary, utterly dominant posture of the state following the war. At that point, a victor’s peace could have been imposed. Instead, Israel assumed the oddly defensive posture of waiting until the Palestinians called (to use David Remnick’s metaphor in last week’s New Yorker). Rather as if the Allies had waited for the Germans to accept the loss of Alsace-Lorraine before convening the Versailles Conference.

    The Israeli secular, Western left and religious/nationalist right haven’t sorted out what Israel should be, and where its borders lie. Hence, settlements, an oddly passive approach of waiting on the Palestinians to change the maps in their textbooks, and the rest of it. A set of policies and a mentality that, in the end, ignores the need for peace. Because the default position seems to be, if we have to stay in the territories indefinitely, that’s OK. That’s a very, very dangerous roll of the dice.

  • (Oh, off-topic: check out Gunter Grass’s memoir of the Waffen-SS in the current New Yorker. Grass’s politics, aside, as a writer– to quote Robert Schumann on Chopin– ‘Hat’s off, gentlemen, a genius’.)

  • I am disgusted. Tom, I wrote you a very lengthy response and it refreshed on me in the middle and I lost half of it. I’m going to go and weep in a corner now.

  • That has happened to me many times, but usually for the best, because I was usually saying something I shouldn’t. How do you lenghten the refresh time?

  • I don’t know why it does that now and ck is busy with Birthright, even if he could fix it.

    Usually I protect myself by highlighting everything and hitting CNTL C every time I complete a paragraph. Then if it refreshes, I CTRL V and it pastes it back. I seem to have missed about 4 paragraphs this time and simply don’t have the heart to rewrite right now.

  • Tom’s right. Israel didn’t have the belief in itself to impose a victor’s peace in ’67 as they should have done. They were weak and were still hoping to get the Arabs to like them somehow. The fear they had about asserting Jewish rights on the Har ha Bait showed the Arabs that they were unsure of their victory.

    The decision of Moshe Dayan to allow the Waqf to retain control of the Har ha Bait is coming home to roost in a big way.

    Trust a gentile to see what the Jews don’t want to look at.

    Chutzpah:

    CNRTL C: copy

    CNTRL V: paste.

  • So many posts that perhaps miss the point. Which is that somehow Israel and it’s friends have not gotten their/our point across. There are over twenty officially Muslim nations. And some Catholic, Protestant, etc. And only Israel is Jewish and not “officially” or even exclusively. Yet some people think there is a plucky Palestinian group opposing the little Satan. Even more amazing is that little Trotskyite sects manage to believe in “internationalism” and “homelands” and “self determination”–except for Jews in Israel. Do Trotskyite fools speak for the left? At this moment, apparently so. Do Jews control the media? Apparently not.The Israeli story seems persuasive enough, even minus the Torah and the Holocaust. Why is it not better known? The long term survival of Israel depends as much on diplomacy and public relations as on military might.

  • Got in a hurry and left out paragraph breaks.

    Anyway, simply put, concerning The Economist, no Karl and/or Ulyanov on masthead, no “left”. Overstated, but that is where the end of the scale has to be.

    History shows “right” will hurt Jews, and everybody else, more than the “left”.

    And a question: What would a “victor’s peace” have looked like? In 1967?

    Finally, the discussion on site, (engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1064), mentioned by WEVS1 is very sharp,

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