I respect others with different opinions and listen to their arguments. I even invited a J Street member to try convincing me that my views are wrong.
But I know I am right on the subject of the anti-boycott and Nakba laws recently passed by the Israeli Knesset and labeled undemocratic by J Street.
There are two central conflicting positions in Israel between the left and right camps over the issues of land and borders. The first is on territorial concessions to the Palestinians and the other is on a two-state solution. Labeling these camps as left and right is misleading. Both groups include religious sectors and secularists. Both have pro-union and anti-union advocates, those who fight for state control of the economy and those who work to minimize it, those who support stem cell research and those who consider it unethical. Left-wing and right-wing thinkers are active in both groups.
It would be more accurate to define the two groups as hawks and doves. The difference between them is not that one desires peace and the other prefers war. Both doves and hawks work to achieve peace. Doves believe that conceding land will bring peace while hawks believe in rejecting any appeasement policy that has failed in the past. In other words, both groups are working to achieve peace, but they disagree on how to achieve it.
I don’t know the composition of J Street members, but on Israeli security issues, J Street is an extremely dovish organization. It is advocating policies of appeasement to meet the demands of the Palestinians, including the division of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, there is no such divide among the Palestinians. Arab pro-peace advocates are often murdered or shot in the knee to cripple them.
The divide between hawks and doves in Israel can only be resolved by considering the evidence of past actions. Two decades ago, at the start of the Oslo peace process, doves promised that concessions were the only way to achieve peace, while hawks warned that they would result in new dangers. The reality is that the hawks were right. Every warning of potential dangers was proven right. Appeasing an enemy was proven to be detrimental to Israel’s security. The doves pushed for leaving the Gaza strip. In return, Israel has absorbed more than 10,000 rockets facing Hamas, which is sworn to its destruction.
Historically, The Jewish Chronicle has acquired a reputation of presenting political opinions on Israel in a balanced way. It must continue to convey the message that it serves all sectors of the Pittsburgh Jewish Community — spanning from Orthodox to Reform congregations, from left to right policies and from super hawks to extreme doves. If it fails, its credibility would be greatly diminished. It is encouraging that I was invited to submit my point of view.
What is the anti-boycott law?
This new law is not undemocratic; it enhances civil liberties. It allows for civil lawsuits against individuals and groups who publicly call to boycott businesses, educational institutions and individuals in Israel or areas under its control. Those damaged by boycotts are entitled to claim monetary restitutions for economic losses caused by boycott advocates. The law allows the government to stop doing business with companies that comply with such boycotts.
Every true democratic society with freedom of speech laws has instituted conditions and limitations. Public calls for incitements and for aiding enemies in times of war are punishable in many countries. Libel laws are strictly enforced in all Western countries. Economic boycott, like terrorism, is a form of warfare. The United States has anti-boycott laws to protect Israel from Arab boycotts. They are much stronger than the one passed by the Knesset.
The Palestinians advocate boycott of all businesses in Jewish settlements of Judea and Samaria. None have been punished. Boycott victims under attack should have the legal right to sue for damages in court, just as they have in libel cases. Israeli citizens and its supporters should reject the call of J Street to participate in damaging the livelihood of Jewish residents anywhere. They should not support this economic warfare. On the contrary, they should fight it.
“Boycotts are wrong,” said Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli minister of finance. “Boycotting a certain sector of the economy with which you disagree will harm its livelihood. It is an aggressive move to force members of a specific sector to think in a different way. That is not democracy.”
Ever since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been under attack and continues to face existential threats from its neighbors who are supported by Iran. Jewish organizations that defame the anti-boycott and Nakba laws are providing ammunition to Israel’s enemies in their attempts to delegitimize Israel. Unfortunately, J Street, instead of acting to support the oppressed Palestinians who live under the control of Hamas, are providing material to support the publicly stated goal of destroying the Jewish state.
What is the Nakba law?
The Nakba law is named after the Arabic word Nakba, which means disaster. The word, chosen by Palestinian Arabs, marks the loss of their war against Israel from 1948 to ’49 in which Israel lost 6,000 soldiers. The law allows any ministry in Israel to withdraw state funds from institutions that would mark the Nakba day on the anniversary of Israel’s establishment. It is limited only to “public” or “state supported” institutions organizing events to mourn at the time when the rest of the country celebrates its Independence Day. J Street advocates the repeal of the Nakba law.
I wonder how the American public would have reacted after 1945 if a sector of its citizens had established institutional events to mourn the collapse of the Third Reich on the Fourth of July. The Nakba law was passed to block mass demonstrations supporting Israel’s enemies. Such events are only meant to cause unrest and incitements against the Jewish majority in a country at war.
The Pittsburgh Jewish community should not take part in any activity to defame Israel’s Knesset and its right to pass laws in a democratic process. Supporters of Israel’s security should not interfere with the anti-boycott and Nakba laws. Knesset members are doing the job they were chosen for.
(Avraham Anouchi, an author, engineer and inventor, lives in Squirrel Hill and can be reached at anouchi.org.)