Steve Huntley: Anti-Israel movement based on fallacies

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The Obama administration rarely misses an opportunity to take a swipe at Israel. This week President Barack Obama signed the fast track trade bill that includes admirable language rejecting the unjust boycott-Israel movement. The very next day the State Department said not so fast.

The language aimed at the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in Europe was the work of Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.). The goal was to make opposition to such discriminatory measures a key part of future trade negotiations with the European Union.


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// ]]>State Department spokesman John Kirby issued a written statement saying the United States has “strongly opposed boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting the state of Israel, and will continue to do so.”

Then Kirby delivered the administration’s real message: “By conflating Israel and ‘Israeli-controlled territories,’ a provision of the Trade Promotion Authority legislation runs counter to longstanding U.S. policy towards the occupied territories.… The U.S. government has never defended or supported Israeli settlements and activity associated with them and, by extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize them.”

The BDS movement is based on two fallacies. First, Israel doesn’t do enough to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Second, all Israeli “settlements” in the West Bank are illegal and should be abandoned in any negotiated peace agreement.

It is the Palestinians who have been the obstacle to ending the conflict and establishing a Palestinian state. Only Israel has ever offered a comprehensive two-state proposal, first in 2000 and again in 2008. Both times Israel laid down the parameters of an agreement that every reasonable observer saw as a rational, workable deal.

In 2000 Yassir Arafat responded with a terror war that killed, maimed and traumatized thousands of Israeli civilians. Arafat was a terrorist and perhaps it was foolish to expect anything else from him.

But in 2008, the president of the Palestinian Authority was Mahmoud Abbas, labeled in the media as a “moderate.” Yet he never responded to the peace offering.

In a bid to lure Abbas to negotiations in 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an unprecedented concession, ordering a 10-month moratorium on construction in the disputed territories. In the ninth month, Abbas came to the bargaining table, only to walk away when the freeze expired.

As for the second rationale of the BDS movement, there are towns on the West Bank — the Jerusalem suburb Ma’ale Adumim and the Gush Etzion communities are just a couple of examples — that everyone acknowledges would be part of Israel under any conceivable peace deal. The new Palestinian state would in turn get Israeli territory in a land swap. President George W. Bush said exactly that in a 2004 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — a simple fact refuting Kirby’s statement about U.S. policy always being opposed to all settlements. Pursuing peace will “legitimize” some settlements.

To target these communities for an economic boycott is unreasonable, unjust and counter-productive to reaching a peace agreement.

European nations are not the only ones involved in the offensive BDS campaign. This week the general synod of the United Church of Christ voted to join the Presbyterian Church (USA) in boycotting products from West Bank companies. In another development, the Vatican signed a treaty making official its recognition of the “state of Palestine.”

Such moves not only work against peace, they also put Christians on the side of the virulent anti-Semitism so often documented by the monitoring agency the Palestinian Media Watch. For example, the official Palestinian Authority TV network in May aired a children’s program with a young girl reciting a poem calling Jews “barbaric monkeys.” An Islamic cleric who teaches at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem preached the libel that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children to make Passover matzah bread. Another cleric stated on PA TV that Jews “are usurers” who “control the media, the money, the press.”

This is what the BDS movement and the Vatican treaty in effect endorse.


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