Boycotts of Israel - Criticism and Objections

Criticism and Objections

The Anti-Defamation League have claimed that singling out Israel is "outrageous and biased" as well as "deplorable and offensive." and heads of several major U.S. Jewish organizations have referred to them as "lop-sided" and "unbalanced".

Boycott calls have also been called "profoundly unjust" and relying on a "false" analogy with the previous apartheid regime of South Africa. One critical statement has alleged that the boycotters apply "different standards" to Israel than other countries, that the boycott is "counterproductive and retrograde" yet has no comparability to Nazi boycotts of Jewish shops in the 1930s.

The Economist contends that the boycott is "flimsy" and ineffective, that "blaming Israel alone for the impasse in the occupied territories will continue to strike many outsiders as unfair," and points out that the Palestinian leadership does not support the boycott.

In an op-ed published in the Jerusalem Post in November 2010, Gerald Steinberg and Jason Edelstein contend that while "the need to refute their allegations is clear, students and community groups must also adopt a proactive strategy to undermine the credibility and influence of these groups. This strategy will marginalize many of the BDS movement’s central actors, and expose the lie that BDS is a grassroots protest against Israeli policy. Exposing their abuses and funding sources, and forcing their campaign leaders and participants to respond to us will change the dynamic in this battle." In an effort to combat BDS, in March 2011, NGO Monitor produced "the “BDS Sewer System” intended to provide detailed information about boycott campaigns against Israel.

After the post-punk group PiL went to Tel Aviv to headline the Heineken Music Conference 2010 Festival in August 2010, British musician John Lydon responded to criticism by saying: "If Elvis-fucking-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he's suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won't understand how anyone can have a problem with how they're treated."

Martin Raffel, who oversees the Israel Action Network, argued in March 2011 that Israel's supporters can respectfully debate artists who choose to boycott the West Bank town of Ariel, but that "not recognizing Israel as a Jewish democratic state is a completely different story."

In October 2010, the Cape Town Opera (CTO) declined an appeal by Desmond Tutu to cancel a tour of Israel. The CTO stated that the company was "reluctant to adopt the essentially political position of disengagement from cultural ties with Israel or with Palestine" and that they had been in negotiations for four years and would respect the contract.

Gene Simmons, lead singer of Kiss, said that artists who avoid Israel - such as Elvis Costello, the Pixies and Roger Waters - would be better served directing their anger at Arab dictators. "The countries they should be boycotting are the same countries that the populations are rebelling," he said.

Other artists who have voiced opposition to the campaign include writers Umberto Eco and film makers Joel and Ethan Coen. Many musicians such as Elton John, Leonard Cohen, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Metallica, Editors, Placebo, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT, Justin Bieber, Madonna, Paul McCartney, and Ziggy Marley have chosen to perform in Israel in recent years. Novelist Ian McEwan, upon being awarded the Jerusalem Prize, was urged to turn it down, but said that "If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed...It's not great if everyone stops talking."

The Irish Dance production Riverdance is scheduled to perform in Israel in September 2011, and despite requests that it boycott Israel, Riverdance posted this statement on their website: Riverdance supports the policy of the Irish Government and indeed the policy of every other EU state that cultural interaction is preferable to isolation.

Reverend Jim Barr, president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, while supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, disagreed with the protest action at Israeli-owned Max Brenner chocolate stores in Australia, saying, "that stuff just discredits the whole movement."

In 2010, Noam Chomsky, the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize recipient and a prominent pro-Palestinian activist was interviewed regarding the boycott movement against Israel. Chomsky said that while he supported correctly targeted boycott calls, he called inaccurately targeted boycott calls hypocritical. According to Chomsky, boycotting Israeli settlements or arms sales made sense but calling for a boycott of anything Israeli, or demanding for the Right of Return, would be hypocritical and play into the hands of hardliners in the United States and Israel.

In October 2011, Izzat Abdulhadi, head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia said that he is against the "full-scale" BDS campaign, and in particular expressed his anger over the occasionally violent protests at the Max Brenner stores in Australia, saying, "BDS is a non-violent process and I don't think it's the right of anybody to use BDS as a violent action or to prevent people from buying from any place."

In February 2012, Norman Finkelstein, a harsh critic of Israel, "launched a blistering attack" of the BDS movement, saying it was a "hypocritical, dishonest cult" that tries to cleverly pose as human rights activists while in reality their goal is to destroy Israel. In addition, he said: "I'm getting a little bit exasperated with what I think is a whole lot of nonsense. I'm not going to tolerate silliness, childishness and a lot of leftist posturing. I loathe the disingenuousness. We will never hear the solidarity movement two-state solution." Furthermore, Finkelstein stated that the BDS movement has had very few successes, and that just like a cult, the leaders pretend that they are hugely successful when in reality the general public rejects their extreme views.

Madonna's The MDNA Tour began in May 2012 in Tel Aviv, Israel. She said that the concert in Tel Aviv was a "peace concert," and offered about 600 tickets to the show to various Israeli and Palestinian groups, but this offer was rejected by Anarchists Against the Wall and the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity group. One activist said "no one is talking about dismantling the privileged regime or of ending the occupation. They talk of peace as a philosophical thing, without connecting to things happening on the ground and that concert is going in that direction." The offer was accepted by the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum. Madonna's performance was criticised by a group called "Boycott from Within" as "a blatant attempt at whitewashing Israeli crimes" and Omar Barghouti said that "by performing in Israel, Madonna has consciously and shamefully lent her name to fig-leafing Israel's occupation and apartheid and showed her obliviousness to human rights"

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