Last Thursday, the Argus published an article by Shani Erdman entitled “Conflict Resolution: Why Boycotting Sabra is Not the Answer.” We, as members of Wesleyan’s chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, appreciate her sentiment when she writes, “I dream of the day that Israelis and Palestinians will live together in peace. The status quo is unjust, unsustainable, and painful to say the very least.” But based on the content of Erdman’s article–which reflects the pro-Israel right’s lack of practical solutions for peace–we have to question if this sentiment is sincere.
While the quote above frames this op-ed as a call to action, it would be more accurately characterized as a defense of inaction. The use of vague rhetoric to mask a defensiveness towards any criticism of Israel is illustrative of the pro-Israel right’s unwillingness to communicate productively with people working in solidarity with the BDS movement. We highlight the contradictions in this article in hope of opening up more productive dialogue surrounding the question: “What can we do to hold Israel accountable?”
As Erdman writes, “It is important to critique Israel, and Israel certainly has flaws.” But nowhere in the article is there any explicit critique of Israel or its institutions. In fact, falling prey to the right’s classic pitfall, the article only defends Israel and its institutions from critique. We can take the treatment of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) as an example. Erdman writes that “Boycotting Sabra because of its connection to the IDF demonizes the Israeli Defense Forces without acknowledging that the IDF is responsible for the survival of the Jewish State.” For the record, the IDF is an apparatus of the Israeli State that has killed 3,070 Palestinians since 2008, 711 of which were children. This can be compared to the 67 Israeli civilians, 12 of whom were children, and 87 members of Israeli security forces that have been killed by Palestinians over the same period of time. While we wish to avoid turning the violence into a numbers game, the numbers do reveal the pro-Israel right’s hypocrisy in describing the direness of “security threats.” To acknowledge that Israel has flaws–but then ignore them in favor of upholding the honor of its military–is unproductive and immoral. The IDF must be held accountable for its human rights abuses and war crimes. Before complaining that boycotting corporations that fund the IDF is “hateful,” the pro-Israel right must reckon with their support of the ongoing destruction of Palestinian lives.
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) takes a more critical stance on the IDF, and its position in relation to global systems of police brutality, state violence and colonialism. Wesleyan’s JVP chapter is currently working with a nationwide campaign not only to stand in solidarity with Palestinians by boycotting the corporations that fund their oppression, but also to stop the exchange of policing tactics between American police officers, FBI, border patrol agents, and the IDF. This campaign, called the Deadly Exchange, denounces the brutality enacted by law enforcement in both countries and challenges the idea that police violence in the name of “security” is acceptable. We aim to disrupt these inhumane exchanges by raising awareness about the practice, and by pressuring the individuals and organizations that facilitate some of these exchanges (such as the ADL and Taglit-Birthright), to end their involvement. We invite you to join us in this campaign.
The contradictions in Erdman’s article force us to ask this question: is the pro-Israel right only willing to complain about tactics that draw attention to Israel’s human rights abuses and the ongoing oppression of Palestinians, or is it willing to act on its desire for peace? This is not a rhetorical question. This is a challenge.