Should Israel Be Boycotted?

When Apartheid South Africa faced boycotts in the 1980s, it often argued that some black African governments treated their black citizens worse. Now Israel is making the same case regarding its oppression of Palestinians, that Arabs are worse off in, say, Syria, an argument that Lawrence Davidson assesses.

By Lawrence Davidson

Ido Aharoni, Israel’s Consul General for New York and also “the founding head of Israel’s brand-management team and the originator of the Brand Israel movement,” recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Post (June 19, 2013). In it he took to task the famous American novelist Alice Walker for her promotion of a cultural boycott of Israel.

Aharoni explains that, just like most countries in the world, Israel tries to promote “an attractive image” of itself a sort of Israeli version of “I love New York.” He asks, since, “no other country has ever been criticized for engaging in this common practice of courting tourists and businesses” why does Walker try to interfere with Israel’s branding campaign?

Israel’s Consul General for New York, Ido Aharoni.

Aharoni knows full well why Walker does so. However, for him the racism and oppression Walker sees institutionalized in Israeli society is not a good reason for a boycott. Aharoni asserts that “Israel, like many places on Earth, experiences a variety of issues and challenges. . . . Israel should not be viewed through the prism of its problems, nor should any other country.” On the other hand, Aharoni wants to know why Walker is not boycotting Syria?

The question of why Americans should boycott Israel, in particular, when so many other governments and societies in the world are oppressive and brutal, is an important one. And there is indeed a good answer to it:

The fact that Zionist influence spreads far beyond Israel’s area of dominion and now influences many of the policy-making institutions of western governments, and particularly that of the United States, makes it imperative that Israel’s oppressive behavior be singled out as a high priority case for boycott.

In other words, unlike other oppressive and brutal governments, the Israelis and their supporters directly influence (one might say corrupt) the policymakers of many Western nations and this often makes their governments (most specifically the U.S.) accomplices in Israel’s abusive policies. This being so, prioritizing Israel for boycott is not hypocrisy but rather necessity.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

14 comments for “Should Israel Be Boycotted?

  1. N Berro
    June 27, 2013 at 21:00

    Why boycott a liberal democracy? Israel on both its merits and in relative terms is a brilliant success as a people and a nation. The very small prof from the very small college should learn rather than lecture.

    • lastcamp2
      June 27, 2013 at 21:31

      Israel is not liberal. It is reactionary, and has been since at least the Begin administration and the onset of the Likud party. If success is being racist and apartheid, and oppressing a defenseless people, then perhaps it is a success. But if that is the measure of success, then it is not a democracy, either.

      As far as economic success, if Israel is such, then why does it need the influx of billions of US dollars every year?

      Perhaps it is you who needs some learning, instead of simply accepting US and Israeli propaganda.

    • Frances in California
      July 1, 2013 at 17:56

      Yes, you boycott a liberal democracy when it strays; Israel is a success as a people; as a Nation? Not even close. It’s another symptom of collapse of Empire.

  2. John Reagan
    June 27, 2013 at 15:27

    I believe Israel is acting in a completely brutal fashion, which is contrary to what we Americans are supposed to support. My question is simply, why does my government block Palestine’s attempts to join the UN (the only other country we’ve blocked is Taiwan, so Nixon could sell Coca Cola to the Chinese..) and why are my tax dollars going to a foreign country that does nothing but stir up the Middle East and cause us trouble? We give Israel (one of the wealthier per-capita nations in the world) $3.8 Billion per year, another $2 Billion in loan guarantees (which we waive) and whatever the Pentagon and the CIA can slip them under the table? $6 Billion per year while we argue about cutting aid to our own people?

    Nobody can convince me that the US really wants an end to the Palestine/Israel issue.. The government of the USA is solidly on board with Israel’s extermination of the Arabs in Palestine and a massive land grab of the territory that we haven’t seen since Germany stole the Saar basin.

    • Hillary
      June 27, 2013 at 16:33

      ” massive land grab of the territory that we haven’t seen since Germany stole the Saar basin.”
      What a comparison ?
      Most of the Saar’s population was German and a plebiscite was held in the territory on 13 January 1935.With a voter participation of 98%, the result of the plebiscite was that 90.8%, voted to re-join the German Reich.
      A referendum was also held on 23 October 1955 which ended French rule and influence. Shortly thereafter, the Saarland once again re-joined Germany.

  3. Hillary
    June 27, 2013 at 14:05

    Yes — although it will not damage Israel economically it will acknolage Israel as an Aparthied state.
    Professor Israel Shahak, former President of the Israeli League For Human Rights, confirmed in his book: OPEN SECRETS: ISRAELI NUCLEAR AND FOREIGN POLICIES (1997) that “Israeli strategies are aimed at establishing a hegemony over the entire Middle East, conceived as extending from India to Mauritania. Of course, the first victim of Israeli expansionism …is the Palestinian nation…Israel clearly prepares itself to seek overtly a hegemony over the entire Middle East which it has always sought covertly, without hesitating to use for the purpose all means available, including nuclear ones…Israel aims at reducing all other Middle Eastern states to the status of its vassals.” (pp 32, 45, 153).

  4. Alex Kagan
    June 27, 2013 at 10:30

    United States influences policies of different countries on daily bases, you don’t see anything wrong with that? Do You? You are nothing but a filthy hypocrite.

    • lastcamp2
      June 27, 2013 at 16:30

      The US does influence policies of different countries on daily bases. You are correct in that. In fact, the US has been on a long standing program of attempting to establish hegemony over much of the world using many tactics, from bribery to aggressive, imperialist warfare (e.g. the invasion of Iraq, among dozens of others). I, for one, see a lot wrong with that. I suspect Dr. Davidson does as well.

      I have been boycotting Israel for decades. I intend to continue, and intend to encourage others to do the same. I hope it works, like it did with South Africa. I wish I could make it work against the US.

      By the way, your ad hominem attack is, shall we say, ungentlemanly and unbecoming?

    • Khalil Al-Shanti
      June 27, 2013 at 16:49

      Mr. Kagan:

      I think if you read Mr. Davidson’s articles rather than making assumptions about his opinions when it comes to US foreign policy, you’ll see that his ideology is consistent and free of bias. While it may be easier for you to simply call him a filthy hypocrite than challenge your own beliefs and biases, I question how far such an approach will take you in expanding your understanding of politics and the world. I can assure you that Mr. Davidson’s writings are far more objective and stem from a sounder knowledge base than your own. It should be your aim to learn from his ideas and perspective.


    • rosemerry
      June 29, 2013 at 03:50

      I think you will find that the author agrees with you about the USA’s influence….
      btw any relation to Robert or Frederick???

  5. Arthur Werner
    June 27, 2013 at 10:19

    Thank you for posting this article. By reading it, I have confirmed that I used great judgment in not letting my daughter attend West Chester University. By allowing you to be a tenured member of the West Chester University faculty, West Chester University has shown that it does not take academic excellence seriously.

    • Hoai Quoc
      June 28, 2013 at 09:41

      West Chester University should be proud of itself for having on its faculty the learned and courageous Dr. Lawrence Davidson. It may like to consider recruiting the equally brilliant and courageous Norman Finkelstein, who has suffered at the hands of the likes of Alan Dershowitz (whom Noam Chomsky has bluntly called “a liar”) who have intimidated many universities into not granting Dr. Finkelstein a tenured position.

      Arthur Werner’s “great judgment in not letting [his] daughter attend West Chester University”, if based on Dr. Davidson’s writings, is not a great judgment but merely reflects Werner’s poor understanding of academic excellence.

    • rosemerry
      June 29, 2013 at 03:48

      Look at this name of an objective observer. Most other “universities” would welcome your offspring, but the biased learning would harm her. Try places with Condi Rice, John Yoo or other such academics.

      • Frances in California
        July 1, 2013 at 17:52

        rosemerry . . . you’re being sarcastic, right?

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