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Photo: AP
BDS, perhaps the mot famous anti-Israel boycott initiative
Photo: AP
Yoaz Hendel
An open letter to the boycotting professors
Op-ed: Yoaz Hendel responds to Jewish-American Professors Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl, who wrote an editorial for the Washington Post about why they now support a boycott of Israel.
To Professors Steven Levitsky of Harvard and Glen Weyl of the University of Chicago,

 

Hello,

 

I write to you after reading an article you published in the Washington Post under the headline “We are lifelong Zionists. Here’s why we’ve chosen to boycott Israel.” Millions have read it, and it made its way to me as well. I assume it’s due to the fact that this time a man bit a dog.

 

 

Supporters of boycotts are sadly plentiful in the world, including a strange small group inside Israel itself. We’ve learned to live with them, combat them. We’ve learned to ignore the lack of logic that brings liberals to walk hand-in-hand with radical Muslims. And after saying that – to this day I haven’t met Jewish professors who claim they support Israel and so try to hurt it so powerfully to this day.

 

Maybe it’s fate which brought you to me in print. Or more accurately, fate that made my father-in-law walk around my house agitated and troubled after reading your article. He, like you, was born to a Zionist family in the United States. He, like you, sometimes rants in English about the state, but he’s here and you’re over there. Allow me to explain why that’s important.

 

Let’s start with the bottom line – you are calling for a stop to military aid and diplomatic support by the US because your opinions on diplomacy weren’t accepted. You want a peace treaty in which settlements are evicted and a Palestinian state established, and there isn’t one – so you apparently need to boycott Israel until your demands are met. Be democratic, you say, accept our opinions as we’ve decided or you won’t exist.

 

Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak. Bothe were willing to make peace with compromises, both failed (Photo: Gil Yohanan, Yaron Brener)
Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak. Bothe were willing to make peace with compromises, both failed (Photo: Gil Yohanan, Yaron Brener)
  

 

Here’s a suggestion: Look up interviews with Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, and Tzipi Livni on Google. All three of them ran negotiations, all three believe in territorial compromise. All three wanted peace with the Palestinians at least as much as you do – and failed.

 

Yes, in a theoretical world, Israelis and Palestinians would sit at the negotiation table. Compromise here, compromise there. The Palestinians would establish a democratic state next to the Jewish state. The economy would flourish and you would run your hands together in satisfaction. However, all that can only happen in theory.

 

The occupation and the settlements which you see as the reason there isn't peace were created after 1967. This is a long-standing religious and national conflict. A conflict between societies – one free, the other not. The PLO was established in 1964 - three years before the occupation – in order to enact terrorism. The Palestinian attacks on Zionist Jews who came here started long before that. It’s a sad fact that there’s no clear geographic line that marks the conflict, but it's a real fact nonetheless.

 

I’m not mocking your desire for a utopia in the heart of the Middle East. The problem lies in what you do with your disappointment once you find out reality is different. Your Israel is an unrealized Jewish-Liberal dream.

 

Blessed are the dreamers who sit far away from the range of Palestinian knives, away from the rockets gathered by Hamas after Israel backed out of Gaza, far away from disintegrating countries and Muslims who slaughter their co-religionists.

 

Blessed are those who insist on being wrong.

 

David Ben-Gurion (right). He did not found the Jewish state in order to prevent future disasters (Photo: Courtesy of the IDF archives, Bamahane)
David Ben-Gurion (right). He did not found the Jewish state in order to prevent future disasters (Photo: Courtesy of the IDF archives, Bamahane)

 

Your mistake begins with confusing the role of the Jewish state. You wrote that Israel was established to prevent a future disaster and to create a democracy based on humane values. Those two reasons sound good, but are fabrications. Zionism started in the 19th century as part of a wide-scoped national awakening. The will to be a free people in our nation, as Naftali Herz Imber wrote in 1878, has nothing to do with any disaster, not even the pogroms that erupted three years afterwards in Russia.

 

All the Zionist movement wanted was to bring about a national home for the Jewish people. Jews wanted air to breathe, a land and rule of their own. Not to prevent disasters. The Holocaust came afterward.

 

And what about democracy? You’re right about it being an important basis for this country, you can’t survive without it. But the state wasn’t established for it. Open up the Israeli Declaration of Independence: There are liberal values there, but democracy is absent. If you want to prevent disasters you can become a firefighter and if you want democracy you can live in the US. Life here in Israel is a life of national and democratic independence.

 

And finally, regarding your declaration that Israel is an apartheid state: The reality here is the opposite of that. Come visit – you’re invited even if you’re boycotting us. Come see what goes on in hospitals, where crews and patients are a mix of Arabs and Jews, come to the Israeli Parliament, look at the police and even the military, ride buses and eat in restaurants.

 

See with your own eyes if there’s a separation based on religion and race in Israel. The democracy here gives rights to minorities in times of war as well. There aren’t many countries where a public discussion is had regarding who to treat first – the victim of a terrorist attack or the terrorist. There is a Supreme Court here that acts (sometimes against my opinion) in order to preserve those rights you say don’t exist. There’s a coexistence even with the national struggle. A complex country, not a theoretical one.

 

Settlements. In the end, Israel might have to annex some of the territories and give their Palestinian residents full rights and citizenships (Photo: Reuters)
Settlements. In the end, Israel might have to annex some of the territories and give their Palestinian residents full rights and citizenships (Photo: Reuters)

 

Israel isn’t perfect. We have quite a few problems, mostly a lack of stately resolve. I estimate that the day will come when we have to annex part of the territories and give full rights to the Palestinians who live there. There are those who want to annex 60 percent, and those who want to annex half of that. There is even a right-wing minority that wants to annex all of it.

 

In my opinions, the Zionist interest is to have as much land with as few Arabs in it – to create a separation of peoples. Israel still hasn’t decided how many and why, or how to define those who will not be annexed. The peace you speak of doesn’t exist – mid-range steps do. It seems simple from your window view. From over here, it looks very complicated.

 

If your conclusion is to boycott us, do it. We’ve known tougher enemies. Just don’t call it Zionism.

 

Yours truly,

 

-Me.

 

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