Jacob Weisberg throws his weight behind the boycott

“Don’t boycott Israel,” says the headline in Newsweek.

Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief at Slate and author of the piece calls a boycott a “repellent idea” with consequences that are “intrinsically vile.” But pointing out the “sheeplike, liberal opinion” of celebrities like Meg Ryan is unlikely to break up the flock. Indeed, Weisberg must vastly overestimate his own degree of influence in Hollywood if he imagines that his protestations will have more effect than do celebrities influence each other.

His appeal is perhaps not an effort to shepherd celebrity opinion but a reflex expression of alarm as he witnesses the boycott movement rapidly acquiring critical mass. Support from politically uninformed but socially influential celebrities is important because it signals the point at which the Palestinian cause rises above its regional, ethnic, religious and historical boundaries, and is being adopted as a humanitarian cause.

Weisberg, in a chaotic effort to marshall his arguments claims:

The stronger case against a cultural boycott of Israel is based on consistency, proportionality, and history. That supporters of this boycott seldom focus on China or Syria or Zimbabwe — or other genuinely illegitimate regimes that systematically violate human rights — underscores their bad faith.

The bad faith that proponents of an Israel boycott are supposedly exhibiting is that they are singling Israel out; that Israel as a target of a boycott is a target of victimization. Any fair-minded person would see how much Israel, China, Syria and Zimbabwe have in common and treat them similarly… Oh, but maybe that isn’t exactly what Weisberg’s trying to say.

As a good liberal, Weisberg isn’t eager to play the anti-Semitic card and he doesn’t see an anti-Semitic trend in Hollywood, but he goes ahead and makes the accusation anyway by saying that the boycott movement “is hard to disassociate from anti-Semitism — even if Ryan and Costello intend nothing of the kind.”

There is an issue here that I suspect touches a raw nerve for Weisberg and many others and it’s not thinly disguised anti-Semiticism; it’s the power of social exclusion.

The boycott — at least a particularly ugly form of boycott — is the Israel lobby’s favorite weapon. Attacks on critics of Israel are invariably ad hominem attacks — the campaign against Judge Richard Goldstone being among the most vociferous of such denunciations. This isn’t about vigorous opposition to ideas; it’s about the effort to destroy people — their reputations, their careers, and their social standing.

Weisberg sees the same spirit in the boycott movement:

What they’re saying is, “We consider your country so intrinsically reprehensible that we are going to treat all of your citizens as pariahs.”

The subtext: It’s not about what we do; it’s about who we are.

This is how Israel washes away its sins — and it’s a way of refusing to face the charge upon which the boycott movement rests: that Israel continues to deny the Palestinians their fundamental rights for freedom, equality and self-determination. If this denial of human rights leads to Israel’s increasing isolation, this is a path that Israelis have chosen. Israel is not a victim of an unjust world or an ill-conceived boycott movement.

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6 thoughts on “Jacob Weisberg throws his weight behind the boycott

  1. Vicente V. Jungstedt

    Sounds like desperation. Bibi this week call the boycott of israel as a form o ‘economic terrorism’.
    You bet it is!!!! To counter balance the ‘state sponsored terrorism’ of israel: BOYCOTT ISRAELI PRODUCTS!
    For that matter, it would be nice to boycott the US too. For its state sponsored terrorism around the globe.

  2. Ian Arbuckle

    “We consider your country so intrinsically reprehensible that we are going to treat all of your citizens as pariahs.”

    Yes Mr. Weisberg , that is right. Israel has laws and rights for some people and other laws and rights that only apply to Jews. It is called apartheid and it is so reprehensible and anti-democratic, racist, tribal, and inhuman or whatever you want to call it, that the whole nation that inculcates such laws and accepts to live with them and where their people pay their taxes without question and use their armed forces or their srgrigated freedom of those empowered to use arms themselves to enforce these unjust laws, killing those that rebel and disproportionately punishing their families, friends and the whole group that they see as “those that must leave” or those who are apposed to their way of thinking; as a whole nation, it is “so intrinsically reprehensible” that it should be treated by all those who recognise it entirely as a pariah to descent human society.

    Unfortunately BDS deprives them only of interaction with those civilized societies that see the fault. By the way I buy nothing from Zimbabwe and I avoid products manufactured by certain number of companies related to the USA too. Who the hell is Mr. Weisberg to tell me where and to whom I should spend my money or give my support or what I should or should not accept as ethical? Boycott, divest, and sanction is my and everybody else’s “individual” right. I do it with pride.

    Yes, when a number of us use our self determination and our small individual economic power in unison it hurts, and if enough of us do so that changes some one’s position as they get uncomfortable, that is when the pigs squeal and they call us stupid sheep. Welcome to animal farm.

  3. delia ruhe

    Neither China or Syria or Zimbabwe misidentifies itself with the values of the West, thus besmirching those values — MY values. But if China or Syria or Zimbabwe is the company Weisberg wants to keep, so be it.

    Why anybody in the West would be insulted by the epithet “antisemitism” is beyond me. Indeed, if you haven’t been called an antisemite by now, you’re not doing enough for the cause of justice and the rule of international law in the Middle East.

  4. Christopher Hoare

    The last sentence of Weisberg’s piece is a monumental statement of exceptionalism; “When people are trying to murder you because of your religion, it is difficult to credit the bona fides of those who merely want to shun you because of your government.”

    It seems that those Arabs Israel murders in Gaza, (and Dubai) because they’re not Jews; or harass, humiliate, and displace in the West Bank, because they’re not Jews, are held to have no equal claim to their bona fides as injured parties in the Weisberg world. The Gazan’s apparently have no bona fides as victims shunned and blockaded because of their Hamas government in Weisberg’s alleged liberal view. His liberalism is full of such holes of exceptionalism – perhaps one should question the bona fides of those who give him a voice.

  5. Norman

    I for one, am tired of hearing the word “antisemitism” coming from the M.S.M. in this country, along with the world feed out of Israel, Washington, the Entertainment establishment that have Jewish CEO’s, directors, the right wingnuts, etc. What really galls MOI, is the Republican Party embracing the Tea Party movement as their own. Yet, all one has to do is view video clips of gatherings they [Tea party”s] held, and what do you see? Signs with Hitler, Nazi, Swastika, along with the racial epitaphs to go along with them. Now, I would call that “Racism”, but we don’t hear from the J.D.L. or any other of the many groups championing the Israeli cause. Our own Government even backs up what’s going on in Israel today, while also giving lip service to Peace over there. Boycott Israel, even the U.S.A. for those that support them, before we pass the Rubicon and it’s too late, though perhaps it already is. This madness can’t continue. Now, which one will drop the bomb first?

  6. Geir Aaslid

    The Boycott worked just fine last time it was applied to an apartheid state.

    It should work fine this time too, just apply it to all economic, cultural and social contact with the state of Israel. And wait for a decade or two for the message to filter through, and the pressure to accumulate.

    The end will be a democratic Israel or the self-destruction of Israel.

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