Monday, October 31, 2011

Israel and the U.S.

One of the often repeated claims of the anti-Israel camp - and our Park Slope pro-BDSers are no exception - is that American aid to Israel is: 1) used to oppress Palestinians, 2) counter to American interests, and 3) money better spent here at home. I responded here.

The Los Angeles Times has an op-ed piece, Israel: A true ally in the Middle East, detailing the many ways in which Israel advances U.S. national interests. The authors are Robert D. Blackwill, deputy national security advisor for strategic planning in the George W. Bush administration, and Walter B. Slocombe, undersecretary of defense for policy in the Clinton administration.  Guys who know what they are talking about.
Today, Israeli contributions to U.S. national interests cover a broad spectrum. Through joint training, exercises and exchanges on military doctrine, the United States has benefited in the areas of counter-terrorism, intelligence and experience in urban warfare. Increasingly, U.S. homeland security and military agencies are turning to Israeli technology to solve some of their most vexing technical and strategic problems.
Go read the whole thing for the specifics.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Plain and Simple # 3 - Judaism

Judging from the letters in the Linewaiters Gazette, identifying BDS as anti-Semitic really upsets the Food Coop's BDS supporters.   They want to deny the charge, but they are unable to show that BDS is not anti-Jewish.  Instead, they redefine anti-Jewish to fit their position.

From the Coop's pro-BDS group's website:
Is BDS anti-Semitic?

BDS is not anti-Semitic. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – the Jewish religion, like this movement, supports social justice and rejects oppression. Unfortunately, many of the Israeli government’s actions violate basic tenants (sic) of Judaism (3).

Equating Judaism with the state of Israel is inaccurate and unfair. Many Jews involved in the BDS movement feel that it’s anti-Semitic to assume that, because of their religion, they must support a national project that violates their values.
Let's translate and analyze one line at a time.

"Is BDS anti-Semitic?" - Is BDS antagonistic to Jews and/or the Jewish religion?

"BDS is not anti-Semitic." - BDS's goal is the dismantling of Israel as a Jewish State. To claim BDS is not anti-Semitic, our BDS supporters would have to show that either this is not their goal or that this goal is not antagonistic to Jews.  Their proof:

"In fact, it’s quite the opposite – the Jewish religion, like this movement, supports social justice and rejects oppression." According to them, BDS and the Jewish religion support the same thing, namely "social justice", and reject the same thing, namely "oppression." Therefore, BDS isn't antagonistic towards Jews or Judaism. This is not a logical argument; two groups sharing a value does not imply a lack of antagonism. Not only have they not established that BDS "supports social justice and rejects oppression," but they do not demonstrate that BDS and Judaism share the same definitions of "social justice" and "oppression."   Yet, what follows is even more remarkable.

"Unfortunately, many of the Israeli government’s actions violate basic tenants (sic) of Judaism (3)." - I think they meant to write "tenets," not "tenants," but never mind.   I assume here they are identifying  "supporting social justice and rejecting oppression." as a basic tenet of Judaism.  By accusing Israel of violating their definition of Judaism,  they can conclude:  "Equating Judaism with the state of Israel is inaccurate and unfair." Once they have identified Israel as un-Jewish, opposing it is not anti-Semitic. In a final twist of logic, supporting Israel becomes anti-Semitic! "Many Jews involved in the BDS movement feel that it’s anti-Semitic to assume that, because of their religion, they must support a national project that violates their values."

They betray their ignorance of both history and Judaism.

Judaism, like all religions, mediates a relationship between the individual and the Divine. In Judaism, a covenant, the Torah, demands of Jews to worship God through particular rituals and to behave towards  others in a particular manner. In return, God will protect and establish the Jews as a nation in their own land, Israel. Some commandments - such as providing for the poor and establishing courts - correspond with our notions of social justice. Other commandments - such as living in the Land of Israel, building a nation, and protecting other Jews - illustrate Judaism's less universal aspects.  There is no commandment to capitulate to those seeking the destruction of the Jews.

Of course, each individual is free to choose what to believe.  However, characterizing any religion as supporting a particular view or opposing a particular view requires a familiarity with the scope of that religion's practices, history and theology.  Any claim regarding a religion's substance must be supported by actual references. Our pro-BDS members don't do that.  Plain and simple, they don't know what they are talking about.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Plain and Simple #2 - Is BDS anti-Semitic?

In August, I published a piece in the Linewaiters' Gazette showing that the goals of the Global BDS Movement are to eliminate Israel as a Jewish State.  I published a slightly longer version of the article on this blog, in two parts. I also pointed out that the statements of the BDS leadership fulfilled a globally accepted definition of anti-Semitism.

I further wrote that presenting a proposal to hold a referendum on joining BDS to the General Meeting provides legitimacy to a movement shown to be anti-Semitic. I said such an action is unacceptable for the Park Slope Food Coop, as we are committed to diversity.

Now, our members who want to hold the referendum have posted on their website page titled "About BDS," the exact BDS platform. Further down the page they ask, "Is BDS anti-Semitic?" In order to answer that question with a "No," they would have to show:
  1. Either BDS does not oppose the existence of Israel as  a Jewish State or that opposing the right of self-determination for Jews is not anti-Semitic.
  2. BDS does not deny the unique historic connection between Jews and the Land of Israel.
  3. That the conditions demanded by BDS do not endanger the physical safety of Jews.
  4. That there is a true commitment among the Palestinian leadership to live in peace with Jews, with full recognition of their rights.
  5. That BDS demands of the Arabs an end to the conflict.
Of course, they don't do any of that. Nor do they address any of the other issues I raised in my essays. Is it because they haven't read the essays? Or is it because they don't know how to answer? Or is it because they don't know how to think about these issues because they truly don't know enough about it?

Instead, they provide a totally illogical, self-contradicting answer that reveals their ignorance. I will deconstruct their statement in the next post.

Once again, we see that plain and simple, they don't know what they are talking about.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Plain and Simple #1 - The "Israel Lobby"

This stunning statement appears on the website the Coop members who are promoting BDS: 
The “Israel Lobby” has the power to punish any U.S. politician who gives less than full-throated support to Israeli policy.
It is on a  page titled “Why Israel?”  The reference is to an article “The Israel Lobby,” by Professors John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt published 5 years ago in the London Review of Books. Never mind that the authors’ subsequent book of the same title was criticized by numerous reviewers for sloppy scholarship, faulty logic and omission of important context and information. Walter Russel Mead wrote the book will give “aid and comfort to anti-Semites wherever they are found.” And never mind that Mearsheimer recently provided a book jacket blurb and endorsement for a vicious, anti-Semitic book. Never mind all that.

Their website reasons that Israel is worthy of being singled out for boycott because it receives aid from the United States.  This aid is provided because "the Israel Lobby" has a "stranglehold" of  on our politicians.  In other words, in their advocacy for the Coop to join BDS, our fellow Park Slope Food Coop members, are suggesting that a Jewish cabal an "Israel Lobby" controls the United States Government. (Does this sound a little like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?)

It is true that American aid to Israel is generous.  It is also true that the United States has historically provided aid to countries or people who were at risk or victims of military aggression.  Interventions have included Somalia, Kuwait, Kosovo, Bosnia, and most recently, Libya.   Israel is at continuous risk from the neighboring countries, although you would never know it by reading a BDS website.  In Lebanon, to Israel's north,  Hizballah has over 40,000 rockets pointed at Israel.  Syria is still in a state of war with Israel, as is Iraq and Saudi Arabia.  To the west, Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of Israel.  Terrorist organizations still operate within the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.  Iran is developing nuclear weapons and constantly boasts an intention to destroy Israel.

Furthermore, the United States reaps many, many benefits from Israel.  The US Sixth Fleet is serviced there. Israel hosts a US radar station and provides storage for US weapons.  Israel provides our country with intelligence, shared weapons development and tactical training.  World civilization has benefited from Israel in technology, medicine, science and the arts.  Israel provides rescue and humanitarian relief around the world, notably the rapid deployment of a field hospital in Haiti following the earthquake.

Polls consistently show that Americans support Israel.  In a May CNN poll, 67% responded their sympathies are more with Israel than with the Palestinians.  In an April Pew Center poll, 76% considered it important for the US to help protect Israel.  US Aid to Israel appears to be consistent with public opinion.

Pro-Israel groups have been very effective in presenting Israel's cause to the American public and to Congress. Special interests groups of all natures are part of the American political landscape. Compared to the insurance industry, pharmaceuticals, banks and lawyers, the so-called "Israel Lobby" is not nearly as well funded nor effective. If it were as powerful as our BDS friends would have us believe then all of the following would be true:
  • Jerusalem would be recognized as Israel's capital.
  • There would be no arms sales to Arab countries.
  • Congressmen who vote against Israel would not be re-elected.
  • There would never be any question of loan guarantees.
None of this is of any interest to the folks who want the Coop to join BDS.  They only know what they hear from their sources.  Plain and simple, they don't know what they are talking about.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Plain and Simple - Introduction

    The Park Slope Food Coop members who want us to hold a referendum on joining the BDS movement have recently updated their website. (No, I am not linking. You can find it on you own.) The content is filled with internal contradictions, historical distortions and easily refuted accusations. There is so much material it is hard to choose where to start. Plain and simple, the Coop’s BDS supporters don’t know what they are talking about.

    As I previously wrote, context is important. They ignore the history of continuous Arab racism, terrorism, rejectionism. You will not find a word admitting any Arab culpability or wrong-doing on their website. All their sources agree with their narrow perspective. I don’t believe they could substantiate the claims they make. Can they show what the factual basis of each claim? Can they anticipate counter-claims or alternative explanations and demonstrate why they’re not acceptable? Could they say what sort of facts, were they to exist, would disprove their claims? Could they show that the non-existence of such facts bolster their positions?

    Probably not. But I can disprove them, and I will. Because I have an army of minds out there who have been doing it for 100 years to turn to. And I have the facts.

    So, I am writing a series of posts, entitled “Plain and Simple,” refuting the claims of their website. Of course, it's going to take a little time. They have a lot of material. I invite any you to help in this project. And I invite the pro-BDS Coop members to respond and ask questions.

    Monday, October 3, 2011


    Imagine this horrific story.

    A man is asleep in his bed with his wife. A band of masked, armed intruders break into his home. They kill members of his household staff and burst into his bedroom. In front of his terrified wife, they shoot him. They steal his electronic equipment and make their getaway.

    What do you think about this grisly crime? Do you feel sympathy for the victim? Are you angry at the perpetrators of the murder?

    I just described the assassination of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs. Now how do you feel about the intruders and the victim?

    I wrote this not to comment on the death of Bin Laden*. Rather, I wanted to show how the context of a story matters. By leaving out some crucial pieces of information, I have manipulated you into feeling sympathy for Bin Laden.

    If you listen to any pro-BDS speakers or read any pro-BDS materials you will never find any admission of the Arab violence against Jews, Arab agression, Arab terrorism, Arab rejectionism. All you will hear or read is victimhood. You have to wonder why. That is a discussion for another day.

    * For the record on Bin Laden: Bin Laden had to be killed, for both strategic and symbolic reasons. The United States carried out this mission in a way that minimized injury to his family members who were in the compound with him. The US got all of our guys home safe, and we should all be grateful for that. The US violated Pakistan's sovereignty to carry out the mission and killed a man. Decision taken in an armed conflict have a complex moral calculus.