Salute to Israel

I am a Jew and I love that my historically vilified people finally have a state where they can live, for the most part, without fear of abuse or death by government policy.    I don’t exclude myself from my people by referring to a state where “they” can live, I just don’t live there.  I speak Hebrew and have many fond memories of my stays in Israel.   Anti-Semitism is real, and on the rise, here and all over the world.   Anti-Semitism is alive and well in the United Nations, including in its Human Rights Council.  

That said, some of the practices of the current government of Israel are not morally defensible.  They rest solely on Israel’s ability to exert force.   They are not all that far from certain ethnic policies of the German government of the mid-1930s.  These policies, if presented dispassionately, would be opposed by most people anywhere.  There is a vast, depressed group of Israeli citizens who recognize this too, but they are, like fair-minded Americans of every political stripe, unable to effect meaningful change in their democracy.  

Collective punishment, such as the current restriction of electricity to Gaza, which receives only four hours a day now, was a hallmark of the government, led by Mr. Hitler, that persecuted, dehumanized and went on to kill millions of my people and many millions more who were not Jews.   I’m not calling the current government of Israel Nazis, though it’s hard to deny that in certain ways they are acting like them.  

There is only the basest rationale for these inhuman policies, tactics to combat hated enemies, not a strategy toward solving a shared humanitarian crisis going back now several generations.  Nobody could reasonably argue that the mutual tragedy is not immensely complicated, emotionally and historically tangled, seemingly intractable, though courageous people of good will on both sides (I’m thinking of a group of Palestinian and Israeli women I read about) continue to make small inroads toward peace.  I am pointing out that the pro-Israel lobby’s proposed answer to this gnarly moral question of how long-time enemies reconcile and live side by side is to punish those who speak out against Israel’s policies, no matter what those policies are.

Check out what American Jews, on my behalf, and the right wing Christians who say they support Israel, are proposing, the bipartisan Israel Anti-Boycott Act,  to curtail, in one specific setting, the First Amendment right to peacefully protest.  The bill, seeking to criminalize support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel and imposing huge monetary fines (minimum $250,000 civil fine up to a million) and up to twenty years in prison as punishments, already has a lot of bipartisan support in Congress.  

Was it covered much in the corporate media?  I have no idea, I rarely touch that stuff these days.  A google search found nothing recent in the New York Times.  Here’s the NY Times, an op-ed piece, from a year and a half ago, with an essay that puts the issue of Israel’s lucrative and controversial settlement policy into perspective.   Here’s a summary of what the Israel Anti-Boycott Act proposes.  Really?

The bill amends the Export Administration Act of 1979 to declare that it shall be U.S. policy to oppose:

  • requests by foreign countries to impose restrictive practices or boycotts against other countries friendly to the United States or against U.S. persons; and
  • restrictive trade practices or boycotts fostered or imposed by an international governmental organization, or requests to impose such practices or boycotts, against Israel.

The bill prohibits U.S. persons engaged in interstate or foreign commerce from:

  • requesting the imposition of any boycott by a foreign country against a country which is friendly to the United States; or
  • supporting any boycott fostered or imposed by an international organization, or requesting imposition of any such boycott, against Israel.

Presumably, under this Act, touted by defenders as combatting anti-Semitism, it would be illegal for any business (“U.S. persons” in this context likely means corporations, not folks like ones we tortured some of — though how one puts a corporate “person” in jail for twenty years is a legally absurd question) to call for another country to join any economic boycott against, for example, Saudi Arabia, a country very friendly to the United States.  

The ACLU recently raised a public fuss over this proposed law, in an open letter to legislators, and now many of the bill’s sponsors are actually beginning to read its text.  You can read a summary of the proposed bill on-line, at congress.gov, in a couple of minutes, yet the bill’s sponsors tap-dance when journalists confront them about the bill’s unconstitutional proposals.  

“Haven’t had a two minute break to read the on-line summary of the bill I’m co-sponsoring, neither have any of my aids, sorry, got to call some donors now, got to jet, bro.”

From the ACLU’s letter:

The ACLU has long supported laws prohibiting discrimination, but this bill cannot fairly be characterized as an anti-discrimination measure, as some would argue. For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already prevents businesses from discriminating against customers based on race, color, religion, and national origin. This bill, on the other hand, aims to punish people who support international boycotts that are meant to protest Israeli government policies, while leaving those who agree with Israeli government policies free from the threat of sanctions for engaging in the exact same behavior. Whatever their merits, such boycotts rightly enjoy First Amendment protection.   By penalizing those who support international boycotts of Israel, S.720 seeks only to punish the exercise of constitutional rights.

One shouldn’t be that surprised, sniffing the political winds here, that this unconstitutional law is being enthusiastically entertained by so-called friends of Israel in the U.S. Congress.  The right is presented a golden opportunity to advance its agenda with this group in power now, in Israel and here.  Just recall that our current president’s first foreign trip was to an oil-funded monarchy that executes people,  like the fourteen that the Saudi justice system, under Sharia law, is prepared to decapitate (if they haven’t been beheaded in the last day or two) for the capital crime of attending pro-democracy protests in Saudi Arabia.  They will have their heads cut off for exercising a right in an oligarchic tyranny that tyrannical types in America would be happy to outlaw here as well.  

No point mentioning that Saudi weapons, purchased from America, are currently being used to destroy hospitals and water filtration plants in Yemen, the poorest country in the region, as a plague of cholera spreads.  Americans are understandably much more interested in the resignation of the president’s beleaguered press secretary (and who among us wouldn’t love to know the comically named Scaramucci’s “particularly crude nickname” for the comically named Reince Priebus?).  Why talk about war crimes being committed by our mega-rich Wahabist allies when we can propose laws to harshly punish speech we don’t like, speech that makes our friends look bad?

Bravo, you fucking psychos.

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