For years I have been rather ambivalent about the wisdom of boycotting Israel. While a boycott of anything related to the illegal settlements in the West Bank, which are a clear derivative of a brutal occupation, is an absolute necessity, and which I have fully supported, I have always been reserved about the boycotting of Israel proper. Today I feel that there is no choice but to call for a full and total boycott directed against Israel ‚Äì Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS). For the good of Israel and in the hope that blatant pressure from abroad directed primarily at the Israeli economy is the only way to wean Israel from what Thomas Friedman in a recent editorial called ‚ÄúIsrael‚Äôs crack addiction‚Äù. It is the only way to wake Israelis up from their (crack) pipe dream of ‚Äúbusiness as usual‚Äù or the feasibility of maintaining a disastrous status quo that will only lead to more land grabs, violence and war, ultimately jeopardizing Israel itself. It is the only way to convince present and future governments that the current situation is untenable and unviable. It is the only way to save us from ourselves. At this point in time, Israelis are unable to affect change from within. The atmosphere has become so poisoned that attempts at the grassroots level to affect political change are insignificant at best, particularly in light of attempts at the legislative level to delegitimise grassroots initiatives and make local NGOs seeking to advance political change illegal.
The current Israeli government (as well as past governments, whether led by Labour, Likud or the catch all Kadima party) has zero intention of moving forward with negotiations with the Palestinians. They would much rather ‚Äúmanage‚Äù the conflict than seek a truly just solution. The continued occupation is having a disastrous effect on Israeli society as a whole. Human life has become cheap, a form of Judeo-Fascism is developing here, led by rabbis, far right politicians in the Knesset and leaders in the occupied Palestinian territory. Jim Crow legislation has been tabled at the Knesset, rabbis have signed calls not to lease or sell property to Arab Israelis, hundreds demonstrate against Arab Israeli neighbors, and recently a group of minors were arrested for conducting what can only be called pogroms against innocent Arab citizens in the center of Jerusalem. The poison of the occupation has infected Israeli society as a whole at a level that can only be diagnosed as gangrenous. The only way to convince Israelis that the current status quo cannot be continued is to attach a real and significant price to the continued occupation, and yes, to force local political leaders to take responsibility, to lead rather than manage, to commit, rather than hide behind spin doctors or the outright lies of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Anyone who yet rationalises non-action against Israel is actively contributing to the inevitable use of the only other tool world history has provided for social and political change: violence! Please boycott my country today, you are our only hope!
- The author chooses to withhold his name for fear of repercussions against his family. The threat is real. Suffice to say that the author is an Israeli academic in the field of the social sciences. While the author is fully prepared to pay the price for his opinions, there is no reason for his family to suffer. The author can be reached at: pleaseboycottus@...
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Quietly moving through the Anselm Kiefer show at the Gagosian gallery on its final afternoon were eight people wearing black T-shirts that bore the show's portentous title—“Next Year in Jerusalem”—in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. They didn't speak unless spoken to; they took pictures of themselves standing before some equally portentous works of Holocaust-evoking art. (Everyone was taking pictures; the catalogue cost a hundred dollars.) Only if approached did one of the group explain that they were part of an organization called U.S. Boat to Gaza, which plans to sponsor a ship in the next flotilla to sail against the Israeli blockade. Half of the group had left, and they were reduced to four by the time that gallery representatives asked them to leave, unimpressed by their claims to be extending the discussion that Kiefer had begun. Morality. Guilt. Jewish tragedy, past and present. (“This is private property,” a gallerista in towering heels shot back. “We're here to sell art.”) A call to the police was threatened. In response, the activists put on their jackets—covering the offending Passover phrase, even while complaining that it had not, to their knowledge, been copyrighted—and asked if they might stay. Without reply, the representatives walked away.
Ingrid Homberg had gone to Gagosian that day to lift her spirits. A delicate blonde woman in her late fifties, she grew up in Germany—she is roughly of Kiefer's generation—but never felt that she belonged there; she moved to New York with her young daughter in 1980, and the city has proved a much happier fit. In recent years, however, she has been ill (fibromyalgia, arthritis) and suffers frequent pain. Still, she was immediately buoyed by Kiefer's magisterial landscapes, in which massive wings overhead suggest the judgment of God. The gallery was filled with such disturbing images. She had earlier noticed the people in the T-shirts, and now she approached them, hoping to discuss the feelings that the artist's work provoked.
But there was no discussion. Two police officers arrived just a moment after Homberg did, and ordered the group out. Including Homberg. She said that she had no reason to leave. She asked one of the officers—“Young man,” she addressed him, and he did look very young—why they did not allow the group to speak. And that was it. His partner grabbed her by the arm and began to pull her out. The force of the motion caused her to lose her balance; she fell. And the Gagosian's chamber of artful horrors came to appalling life, as crowds of gallery goers, on a busy Saturday afternoon, watched a police officer drag a frail and terrified woman, howling with pain, across the floor of two long rooms to the doorway.
Many people might have assumed that her cries were part of a staged scene, since the protesters were shepherded out behind her, loudly bemoaning their deprivation of freedom of speech. But on the street, Homberg pulled off her coat and rolled up her sleeve to reveal an arm thickly blotched black and blue. The officer, she explained, had not merely grabbed her arm—thin enough, and easy to grab—but had strongly pressed his fingers into the upper inner muscle as he dragged her. The result, she said, was agony.
A sympathetic bystander informed the officers that they had made a mistake: the sobbing woman was not with the group and no one had ordered her out of the gallery. They replied that they had ordered her out, and she had not complied; therefore, no mistake was made. Homberg asked to speak to someone from the gallery, but her request, when relayed, was met with conspicuous disinterest. A Gagosian representative has since expressed regret that anyone was hurt during the “unfortunate disturbance.” The New York Police Department, however, insists that Homberg was merely “escorted” from the gallery, and denies that she was dragged or mistreated in any way.
As she was bundled off for medical attention following the incident, Homberg continued to cry. She was upset, she said, because of the terrible pain, because of the shock, and because she had not been able to finish looking at the exhibition. The service of a car was offered by one of the protestors, who had somehow found time to change into a T-shirt that read “Greed Kills.”