The Zionist Organization of America hates boycotts — except when it doesn’t.
Yesterday the ZOA issued a release saying it is “sympathetic” to Israel’s new anti-boycott law, which many Left Wing and not-so-Left-Wing critics say is an affront to free speech. According to the ZOA release:
ZOA now sees that the enacted Law has eliminated any criminal penalties for boycotting Israeli products or institutions, and allows only civil remedies such as fines and eliminating government funding to violators; the ZOA now is more sympathetic with the Israeli Knesset’s actions even though the Law is not perfect, e.g. the wording of the Law is vague, therefore could be interpreted to apply to any boycott of an Israeli citizen or anybody for almost any violation and as such could cause a “chilling effect on all boycotts.”
That last phrase — “chilling effect on all boycotts” — is telling. The ZOA is is “firmly opposed to boycotting Israeli goods, services, cultural and sporting events anywhere in the world.” And yet it also recognizes the political and tactical usefulness of a boycott — after all, it has called for more than a few. Here’s a ZOA release from 2010:
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged donors to make no contributions to the University of California, Irvine, and has also urged students to not apply there, because the university has for years enabled bigotry, discrimination and the violation of civil rights by failing to condemn longstanding anti-Semitic and Israel-bashing speech and conduct on campus, and failing to enforce its own policies against the perpetrators.
Here’s another, from 2009:
ZOA Supports Israeli MKs’ Petition To Boycott British Goods Unless Britain Rescinds Labelling Products From Judea/Samaria & Golan
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is supporting a petition signed by 39 Members of the Knesset calling upon the Israeli public to reconsider availing themselves of British goods and services in response to a recent British government initiative to recommend to all U.K. retail chains the placing of prominent labels indicating products imported from Jewish enterprises and factories operating in Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights.
(That last one is particularly rich — the ZOA proposes a boycott of British goods because labeling products from the West Bank “simply facilitates the agenda of those who would boycott Israel.)
And one more, from 2009:
ZOA Condemns Coca-Cola and Renews
Call to Boycott Coke Products
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) condemns the Coca-Cola Company for continuing to engage in immoral behavior and refusing to rectify the wrong it has been perpetrating against a Jewish family, the Bigios. The ZOA calls on the public to boycott Coca-Cola products, and for Jewish members of the public to boycott the company’s kosher-for-Passover products during this Passover holiday.
I acgree with ZOA that “[anti-Israel] Boycott advocates are generally not simply against a specific Israeli policy but are waging a racist economic war against the entire state of Israel and against its very existence as a Jewish state.”
But boycotts in and of themselves are not immoral – and it is a very fine legal line to place limits on which targets one can legally boycott and which ones you can’t.
One of my readers warns that an Israeli who boycotts other Israelis “paves the way for enemies of Israel/Jews to say–’well, if Jews boycott Jews, why can’t we do so without being accused of either anti-semitism or being anti-Israel.’”
By the same logic, a BDS activist can ask, “If a Jewish organization can boycott Great Britain or UC-Irvine, why can’t we boycott Israel?”
The way out of this trap is not to ban boycotts, but to expose the under-handed motives and hypocritical agendas of the BDS movement — and defend the right of Israelis to express their distaste of their own government’s policies.