Wednesday, March 5, 2014

MJ Rosenberg's Brief Flash of Sanity

The AIPAC Policy Conference took place over the weekend, and the Huffington Post didn't churn out the articles as much as I expected that they would. Sure, they had one about Netanyahu demanding that the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state (the commentators bravely refused), but what was interesting was that unemployed blogger MJ Rosenberg had vacillated back to being reasonable again. Though I'm sure that he will eventually return to the barking mad state in which he normally resides, especially on Twitter, for now it's nice to hear that he has it somewhat together.

His first article was why he opposes BDS. At least that's what the title said, the article was slightly more confusing:
"I make it as someone who absolutely supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) as applied to the West Bank. Even if I deeply desired the seltzer machine Scarlett Johannson promotes, I would not buy one manufactured in occupied territory. I favor divestment from any company that sustains the occupation, which is both illegal and immoral."
Apparently Rosenberg didn't bother to do his research, because BDS doesn't have anything to do with the West Bank, at least outside of their press releases.  Also that Sodastream only has one factory in the West Bank, so if you buy one there's no guarantee by any measure that that device in particular was made in "occupied territory."

But Rosenberg doesn't support boycotting Israelis in general because he's a "liberal Zionist" and wants Israel to continue existing. Which is all very well and good but it doesn't explain why BDS is wrong, he waits a little bit  to get to there with what I think is a pretty good point:
"Where do Americans come by the sheer gall of demanding sanctions on all Israelis when they themselves have never been subjected to sanctions for the crimes of our government? After all, if every Israeli including old socialist kibbutzniks, school kids, and opponents of the occupation, deserve to pay a personal price for an occupation they may not support, shouldn't all Americans pay a price for American crimes that Israel could not match in a hundred years?"
This is true, but judging people is what BDS and Palestinian supporters do, so it's not likely to phase them. But it's true: America is way worse than Israel, and Americans wouldn't like being held responsible for the decisions of their government. You can also say the same of the vast majority of countries in the world, which is why BDS probably isn't going to get anywhere. But I do think it's interesting that Rosenberg can't even get through this article without taking shots at Israel's very existence such as "After all, they [Palestinian Arabs] were the overwhelming majority of the country until Israel was established in 1948." What country? The British Mandate was not a country. And what does that have to do with the subject at hand. Rosenberg finishes his first article not by attacking BDS for being genocidal, racist, or hypocritical, but rather by going after his actual favorite target:
"And, Israel, end the damn occupation because, whether I like it or not, the boycott movement against Israel itself is getting stronger every day. What kind of lunacy would jeopardize Tel Aviv to preserve the right of a bunch of religious fanatics to live in Hebron?"
Right. BDS is wrong, but it's totally winning so Israel should do what it wants. Yeah, that makes sense. Also I might add that Israel's enemies see Tel Aviv as just a legitimate target as Hebron, or anywhere else Jews live. Rosenberg's unwillingness to realize this is informs a lot of his work, which nicely leads me into the next article in which he declares "BDS isn't the issue," because he says so:
"What did offend me was Netanyahu's use of BDS as a diversion from the main issue: the occupation. It is the occupation, not BDS, that threatens to end Israel's existence as a democratic Jewish state. It is the occupation, not BDS, that has turned Israel into a pariah in most of Europe. It is the occupation, not BDS, that prevents Israel from achieving peace with the Palestinians and the entire Arab League (as offered in the Arab League initiative). It is the occupation, not BDS, that has jeopardized Israel's standing with liberal and progressive Americans, including the Democratic party at large, not BDS. In fact, if BDS disappeared tomorrow, all of Israel's problems would remain. All it would lose is a convenient scapegoat."
Ready for a shocker? On some level I actually agree. Attacking BDS doesn't solve Israel's problems per se, aside from eliminating one of the threats to its very existence. The problem is that "the occupation" is not only the main issue, it's not even an issue. It's a symptom of the real issue which is the Palestinian refusal to make peace with Israel, and BDS spawns from that as well. Rosenberg has it exactly backwards when he said that the occupation prevents Israel from achieving peace. "The occupation" doesn't do anything on its own, it's a result of the actions of both sides. Anyone with a basic history book can explain in more detail.

The trouble is that Israel can't make peace by itself, so all it has been doing is treating the symptoms and staying as stable as it can while the occupation remains. Rosenberg thinks that this is insufficient, and I don't entirely blame him for thinking that. But his argument is rather classic of a "liberal Zionist" of the kind that runs in the Huffington Post: attack attack attack Israel, but refrain from going over the edge to join BDS and the "destroy Israel" crowd. Israel cannot change the world around it just be waving its hands. Ending the occupation won't bring peace, and it's kind of amazing that Rosenberg still insists that it will. The sad part is that by Huffington Post standards he's considered a moderate.

1 comment:

  1. I'd love to know his reply to the fact that there wasn't peace in Israel BEFORE "the occupation" - a term that applies when one sovereign nation occupies another in a sheer quest for power, NOT a reaction to continued Arab aggression. Israel only has to lose 1 war and it's game over; there'd be no talk of negotiations or treaties. Lowering defense mechanisms would absolutely lead to that war. Europe and the U.S. don't consider Israel democratic? Israelis can live with that.


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