Special Report

What Those Who Boycott Israel Really Want

For starters, to set back human progress.

By 5.14.13

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You would think the Left would love a country that has universal health care, prosperous trade unions, and same sex marriage.

All of these things can be found in Israel. Yet where Israel is concerned, none of these count with the Left.

In fact, many on the Left believe the establishment of Israel 65 years ago today was a mistake and, to paraphrase Marx, wish it would wither away.

During Israel’s dual war with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon in July 2006, Richard Cohen of the Washington Post wrote:

The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself.

Cohen went on to argue that it was pointless to condemn Hezbollah and Hamas and concluded, “It is best for Israel to hunker down.”

A few years later, Howard Zinn would echo Cohen’s sentiments. In his final interview before his death in January 2010, the author of A People’s History of the United States said:

I think the Jewish State was a mistake, yes. Obviously, it’s too late to go back. It was a mistake to drive the Indians off the American continent, but it’s too late to give it back. At the time, I thought creating Israel was a good thing, but in retrospect, it was probably the worst thing that the Jews could have done. What they did was join the nationalistic frenzy, they became privy to all of the evils that nationalism creates and became very much like the United States—very aggressive, violent and bigoted. When Jews were without a state they were internationalists and they contributed to whatever culture they were part of and produced great things. Jews were known as kindly, talented people. Now, I think, Israel is contributing to anti-Semitism. So I think it was a big mistake.

With attitudes like these amongst the ranks of the Left in the media and academia (and in many instances amongst Jews themselves), it has become possible to delegitimize the legitimacy of Israel in the family of nations. This has manifested itself in the support of the Palestinian led Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Movement (BDS). The BDS movement beseeches “international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.”

The BDS Movement received a big boost last week when renowned scientist Stephen Hawking announced he was withdrawing from participating in a conference in Israel next month that will be hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

After the University of Cambridge initially denied that Hawking was boycotting the conference, the author of A Brief History of Time released a letter left little doubt as to where he stood:

I accepted the invitation to the Presidential Conference with the intention that this would not only allow me to express my opinion on the prospects for a peace settlement but also because it would allow me to lecture on the West Bank. However, I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster.

It was later revealed that Noam Chomsky urged Hawking to lend his support to the BDS campaign. An editorial in the Boston Globe naively stated, “The movement that Hawking has signed on to aims to place pressure on Israel through peaceful means. In the context of a Mideast conflict that has caused so much destruction and cost so many lives, nonviolence is something to be encouraged.” The objectives of the BDS Movement are the same as those of Hamas and Hezbollah: to bring the State of Israel to an end.

Meanwhile, an editorial in the Guardian praised Hawking’s decision touting its own poll which said its readers supported him by a two-to-one margin, stridently claiming that it “shows just how far public opinion has turned against Israel's relentless land-grabbing and oppression.” But here’s the thrust of the Guardian editorial:

But what winds Israel up is the fact that this rejection is by a famous scientist and that science and technology drive its economy. Hawking's decision threatens to open a floodgate with more and more scientists coming to regard Israel as a pariah state. Its research ties with European and American scientists must be protected.

Well, if not for Israeli science and technology, Stephen Hawking could not communicate with the world. As Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an Israeli attorney, stated, “His whole computer-based communications system runs on a chip designed by Israel’s Intel team. I suggest if he truly wants to pull out of Israel he should also pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet.” 

Left-wing media and academic figures who want to boycott Israel must take everything that doing so entails. Those who truly support BDS must not swallow PillCams, use solar windows, place GPS devices in their automobiles or write their anti-Israeli diatribes on intel processors.

Those who support a boycott of Israel would prefer to see people poorer and sicker. Those who wish to see Israel regarded as a pariah state will succeed only in impeding the progress of science, technology, and, indeed, humanity.

Photo: UPI  ("Photographers surround British scientist Professor Stephen Hawking at the Bloomfield Museum of Science in Jerusalem, December 10, 2006. Professor Hawkings is on an eight day visit to Israel and the West Bank.")

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About the Author
Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.