Democracy in Israel: Confronting BDS from Home

July 19, 2011 by Isi Leibler
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I am somewhat unhappy with the anti-boycott law – and not because the hysterical far left screams that it undermines Israel democracy. I am concerned that if it is not adequately comprehended, it enables Israeli post Zionists and demonizers of the Jewish state to pose as bogus martyrs in the cause of freedom of expression.

Isi Leibler

The legislation has already created anxiety and confusion amongst many of our genuine friends. Particularly so in the United States where the concept of freedom of expression without limits is a fetish based – in my opinion – on the false belief that public debate neutralizes hatemongers and ensures that truth prevails. It finds American Jewish civil libertarians even going to the bizarre length of defending the right of Nazis to incite hatred.

Yet, the United States, ironically under the Carter administration, introduced far more draconian laws against boycotting Israel than the fairly tame legislation with civil rather than criminal penalties passed by the Knesset. It is noteworthy that Will Maslow, a prominent liberal from the American Jewish Congress, who proudly produced a regular newsletter documenting actions taken against the Arab boycott, was never accused of supporting fascist legislation.

Much of the press coverage has focused  on the  civil remedies provided by the legislation for victims of boycott campaigns of Israel or Israeli communities. If the actions of those promoting boycotts, damage segments of Israeli society, they should be obliged to bear the cost. Former Israeli Supreme Court Judge Yaakov Turkel pointed out that even in the absence of legislation, those suffering economic loss as a result of a boycott campaign may already have a cause of action against the instigators.

But we should be absolutely clear. The new legislation has no bearing on freedom of speech and in no way infringes on the right to debate the merits of settlements. However, it is unconscionable to deliberately target a community with the express purpose of causing economic hardship because one is opposed to them ideologically. If extremists called for a boycott of products produced by Arab Israelis in order to promote the goal of transfer, opponents of the current legislation would rightly demand that those inciting such boycotts face not merely civil, but criminal sanctions. We should therefore dismiss the hypocritical calls for freedom of expression from those whose primary raison d’être is to undermine the Jewish State.

The principal – and totally justified – motivation of the legislation is to discourage Israelis from engaging in efforts to promote the international boycott (BDS) which today represents an important component of the intense global war being waged against us. .

In this context it is disconcerting that many mainstream American Jewish organizations exclude from their ranks Jews calling for BDS, whilst tolerating those who call for boycotts of settlements. They do not appreciate that those boycotting settlements are consciously or unconsciously paving the way for the broader BDS.

It is also obscene to witness the histrionic statements flowing from the Israeli far left alleging that Israel is being transformed into a fascist dictatorship.

It is surely not fascist to legislate that organizations which encourage or promote BDS activities against the State of Israel may forfeit their tax-exempt status for charitable donations.  This is the principal operative element of the legislation which has distressed the far left. Their hypocrisy and chutzpa know no boundaries. They want to maintain the insane scenario whereby Israeli taxpayers subsidize activities which undermine their own country. (This parallels academics demanding they be accorded full benefits from their employers whilst simultaneously calling for an international boycott of their own university.)

The Jewish state remains the only country in the world which since its inception, has been obliged to defend itself from neighbors committed to its destruction and whose civilians are still subject to ongoing rocket attacks from Palestinian territory. In a recent poll, the vast majority of Palestinians reaffirmed their desire to kill every single Jewish man, woman and child.

Yet Israel remains one of the most robust democracies in the world. It boasts the highest level of free press. Its leaders, including the President and Prime Minister are held to stricter accountability than an ordinary citizen. And Israel provides its Arabs citizens (who amount to 20% of the population), the right to elect radical MKs who freely express the views of those seeking our destruction. It is thus utter nonsense to allege that by introducing legislation to curb BDS activities, Israel is on the verge of becoming a fascist dictatorship.

In recent years, much of the Israeli left seems to have lost the plot. Not so long ago, the dominant Israel Labor party prided itself on representing the essence of the Zionist establishment. Their role models were pioneers and farmers creating settlements and transforming deserts into gardens.

In contrast, today the Israeli far left has been hijacked by urban post Zionists.  Many left wing academics seem to have absorbed the cosmopolitan and assimilatory characteristics of diaspora Jewish assimilationists. Some, like the19th-century Russian Jewish Social Revolutionaries who regarded pogroms as vehicles necessary to create to create revolutionary consciousness amongst the masses, today even identify with the Palestinian jihadists and pay tribute to their culture of death and criminal society.

They share the outlook of European post-modernists and classify Israel with European post-colonial guilt. They spew hatred against their own people, demonizing the IDF and  paving the way for the Goldstone Report. In so doing they are assured instant recognition and standing amongst their European counterparts.

In these troubling times, we must consider how to deal with citizens engaging in activities which undermine the very existence of the State or provide aid to those seeking our destruction. This is not fascism. It is self-preservation. The German Weimar Republic is testimony to the potentially tragic outcome when a democratic state fails to take the necessary action to protect itself against forces seeking to undermine it.

We can achieve this whilst retaining our unique Jewish democratic character. But it will only be accomplished if the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are both willing to set aside their ambitions and petty politics and unite in order to promote the national interest.


3 Responses to “Democracy in Israel: Confronting BDS from Home”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    There is a strange quality in some to object to certain notions regradless of the absurdities with which they “enhance” their reflex reactions.
    The mere word “settler” seems to ellicit reactions from certain Jews, reactions which, at a second reading by the “authors” chances are that they may conclude that it would serve their reputation much better if they stayed stumm.

    To pitch the sincerity of care for the settlers and the risks they are exposed to to the “legitimacy” of the palestinians to “provide” the reasons for concern, expose the settlers to the risks assumed, and, at the same time intimate that the same risk providing palestinians have a……MORAL right to expose the settlers to the palestinian perrils, and conclude a MORAL ascenfance of the “oppreessed” palestinians, is not just the height of incongruity, but the lowest level of rational demand for ethical values.
    To cliam to be the protector of an intollerant mob as a virtue of no less than “democratic” sets of value, to protect the worst purveyors of boycotts against Jews, whwrever they are, in the name of…. justice against BOYCOTTS which target the boycotters themselves,is not just absurd or disingenious is tantamount to being part of the greater campaign of hate of Jews, REGARDLESS whether they are NIF supporters or not.
    want the same medicine as your own ??!! I am fighting those Jew haters who, in actual fact, include in their indiscriminate hatred also the Jewish supporters of NIF !
    Nathan Czerny, on the other hand, lends his support to the criminal indiscriminate mob. If I were a cynical bastard I’d support the palestinians as well, in the same manner Nathan does, because I DOKNOW TOO WELL that the same palestinians will get Nathan by the beitzim before they’d come after me, simply because I’d be prepared for them, whereas Nathan is still wallowing in his pro-palestinian selfdestructive haloymes. At least, while you can still can,give the visiting Laceys my best…

  2. Nathan Cherny says:

    I appreciate Mr Leibler may prefer not to recognize the difference between the State of Israel and the Administered Territories, but Israeli and international law does.

    There is a material difference between divestment from The State of Israel and divestment from projects that promote the development of the settlement infrastructure and occupation in the administered West Bank and the annexed area of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

    Israelis who chose to live outside the borders of the State in the administered territories (this is the legal tem used by the Government), do so at there own risk.. and there are risks involved besides the security issues. These are disputed territories the fate of which is yet to be determined in the ongoing dialogue between The State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

    In any future arrangement some, and possibly many towns and outposts will ether need to be evacuated or the residents may be given the opportunity to choose between Palestinan citizenship or relocating to the State of Israel.

    Living in a politically disputed territory has economic risks as well, among those are the risks of facing economic hardship of the political action of people who see oppose the ongoing occupation/administration for various reasons. some hostile others absolutely patriotic.

    Though I don’t personally advocate this approach, I recognize that it is not an unreasonable form of political expression. Last week, we , and millions of other Israeli citizens boycotted the manufacturers and distributors of cottage cheese for substantial and legitimate reasons.
    The future of a demographically viable and just State of Israel is no less of a compelling reason

    Indeed, there are many absolutely loyal Zionists, me included, who think that the settlement movement is a poison to the whole Zionist enterprise and that, other than our external enemies, it is the single most dangerous threat to the future of the state. This is not an opinion of the radial left, this is a centrist approach that is supported by the major opposition parties.

    Nathan Cherny
    Norman Levan Chair of Humanistic Medicine
    Director, Cancer Pain and Palliative Medicine Service
    Shaare Zedek Medical Center

  3. Otto Waldmann says:


    What a clear and comprehensive presentation. Most inspiring !

    In complete agrement,I would add that the variables of democracies are open for comparissons.In consideration of history, geopolitics and even fiscal culations, not to mention security concerns, all known democracies contain exclusive traits.
    An unrealistic demand for a certain unrealistic quality of democrcay within Israel cannot be an argumentative pretext for the denial of geopolitical and security specifics defining the EXISTENTIAL necessities for Israel !!! Yet, this is precisely what we find time and again at the farcical, vociferous platform of these professional idiots endowed with tireless and strident mouths in lieu of brains.
    The reality of boycots against Israel must be seen as being a fundamental feature of the larger strategy for the deligitisation of Israel. All boycots against Israeli realities,and that INCLUDES the Jewish settlements, are organically a component of the greater WAR waged against Israel on ALL FRONTS.
    Only tonite I encountered a complete cretin who argued that it is ACCEPTABLE to boycot the settlers, accepting that palestinians not only agree with it but that would be their only target of boycot….
    Isi is right that we would find Jews, who in appearance and general behaviour seem normal, to fall victims of misguided,but most certainly vicious anti Israel ideologies. In the case of the current legislation, the most concerning reality is that we have arrived at the juncture of facing seriously twisted minds within the conventionally termed Jewish community. This so called post Zionist era is the result of drastic departures by a number of Israelis and also Jews outside Israel, from reliable Judaic ethics.This is the crux of the problems. Jews concocting highly deleterious “logical”constructs which replace the very fundamentals of Zionism,Judaism in general,the very existence of Israel in particular. But they do have the seriously ill hutzpa to call themselves…Zionists.

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