Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Anti-Israel Bank Picket Friday

15. December 2004 • Ari Paul
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A picket against several Michigan banks has been announced to take place this Friday at 3:30 pm on the corner of Huron and Washington because of their endorsement of the Israeli Defense Forces.

“Five Southeastern Michigan area banks (Standard Federal, Bank One, Comerica, National City and Huntington Bank) were listed as “generous sponsors” of “Michigan Friends of the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces]” in a recent full-page ad in the Detroit Jewish News (10/22/04),” said William Thompson of the Ad-Hoc Committee for Responsible Charitable Giving.

“While we recognize that some of these banks, especially Comerica, have made contributions to organizations which work to mitigate the suffering in the Middle East, we believe that any donations which lead to supporting the Israeli military are egregious errors which only encourage further abuse of human rights and justice in this volatile part of the world,” he added.

Additional endorsers of this action include The Ann Arbor Coalition Against the War, the Palestine-Israel Action Group of the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, and the Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, among others.

Edit: italicized text added to list of endorsers for correctness. -Murph.

  1. Obviously, if these banks are willing to put their name on this advertisement, they couldn’t care less about picketers…And they shouldn’t, because they’re a joke.

    Thank god I’m no longer in the Ann Arbor bubble – the real world is much more sensical…
       —BJS    Dec. 15 '04 - 04:33PM    #
  2. i guess the real world for a lot of people is a red state, or anyway that lacks liberals and activism…

    ann arbor, like the san fransisco bay, chicago, nyc, madison, eugene oregan, europe, is just not carbon based, and a figmint of most of our imaginations…

    just plain weird,
    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Dec. 15 '04 - 04:56PM    #
  3. i’m guessing now, that bjs isn’t brad sugar (like i suggest before), now reading that he spelled god with a lower case g…

    piece now,
    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Dec. 15 '04 - 04:57PM    #
  4. And he didn’t put a hyphen in place of the “o”, either. (“G-d”)

    The real Sugar would have had the nachas to remember the hyphen, I’m sure. (& capital “G”)
       —David Boyle    Dec. 15 '04 - 09:42PM    #
  5. Please correct the list of endorsers. Ann Arbor Friends Meeting (Quakers) did not endorse the bank picket. It was a subcommittee within the Quaker Meeting that did so:—the Palestine-Israel Action Group of Ann Arbor Friends Meeting (Quakers).
    Other endorsers include significant Ann Arbor groups: Middle East Task Force of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, Palestine Aid Society, Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, UM Muslim Students Association, Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends, and Friends of Sabeel-Southeastern Michigan.
       —A. Remley    Dec. 15 '04 - 10:36PM    #
  6. I’m skeptical of this proposed action against MI banks and saddened by SAFE’s support for the initiative for the following reasons:

    1. Support of the Michigan chapter of the Friends of the IDF is non-military. Friends of the IDF is the equivalent of a Parent Auxiliary group of any elementary school—and no more militant than any normal Parent Auxiliary group, either. FIDF supports recreational (as in basketball and the military band that gave a concert in Ann Arbor last year) and educational (as in college scholarship) opportunities for 18-21 year olds who, like it or not, are bound to military conscription in Israel. In fact, I would argue that the IDF supports anything NOT including israeli military action. Therefore, boycotting them does nothing except prevent young Israelis otherwise forced into military service from benefitting from cultural/educational/recreational enrichment outside of their military service.

    2. A letter featured in a White Power publication, re: action against banks’ support of Michigan Friends for IDF… The letter, published 11/15/04, begins “Dear Friends” and is signed “Bill”. I came across the letter while researching FIDF. True, a friend of Bill Thompson might be inclined (or at least incredibly hopeful) to believe that the letter was simply forwarded along to this publication by a of Klan-affiliated friend of Bill’s, and others will undoubtedly question whether “Bill” is really Bill Thompson. Having heard Bill introduce this idea as his and Henry Herkovitz’s at a meeting about divestment one week later, I’m of the sincere belief that this was more than just a coincidence.

    3. Boycotting Israeli groups/events/activities is a questionable practice, at best… Lest there be any confusion, picketing against organizations, in hopes of detracting from the financial/economic business of institutions who support non-violent or non-military Israeli recipients is proposing a BOYCOTT, not “divestment,” against anything that bears the name Israel in it, including weekly picketing sessions against the synagogue, “Beth Israel”.

    4. Boycotts are counter-productive to Peace… The boycotts recently perpetrated by local groups like the Jewish Witnesses for Peace (JWP) only serve to promulgate the myth of Israel as an exclusively militaristic entity. In continually trying to paint Israel as an opressor, the JWP and its boycotts are counterproductive to efforts to bring peace to the local Arab and Jewish Commuities, and don’t do a whole lot as far as promoting peace between Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis goes.

    5. “Additional endorsers of this action include The Ann Arbor Coalition Against the War, Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, and the Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, among others.”

    This is a poor choice of an endorsement for the afforemention groups, As a student, I’m particularly disappointed with SAFE’s endorsement. Should SAFE really associate itself with the JWP, and go so far as to work with them or promote their initiatives? Consider: In the past year, the A2 City Council the “Ku Klux Klan,” have subsequently made an appeal for support from the Ku Klux Klan, and have promoted a boycott/disturbance/nuisance against anything with the name Israel in it? If not from a political perspective, than certainly for the sake of organizational integrity.

    The front page of the NY Times spoke about the Palestinian Media recently toning down rhetoric—too bad the JWP and its supporters haven’t caught that boat yet.

    1. Michigan Friends of the IDF []
    2. Letter seeking support from White Power publication & its readers (*WARNING: Offensive Content, including numerous racial/ethnic epithets against Black, Jewish, and Muslim people):
    3. Reference to A2 City Council as KKK (From AA NEWS on 1/21/2004) []
    4. SAFE’s Vice-Chair cites work with JWP (From the Michigan Daily) []
    5. NY Times Article on Palestinian Media: []
       —Adam    Dec. 15 '04 - 10:49PM    #
  7. From Today’s AA News: Local Religious Leaders Condemn JWP’s Picketing at Beth Israel
       —Adam    Dec. 16 '04 - 12:28AM    #
  8. Thanks for correcting the endorsement.
    Actually the title is a distortion. I’ve met no one in the groups participating who doesn’t support the safe and secure existence of Israel. The way to make Israel safe is to end the repression, harrassment, and inhuman acts day in and out by the IDF on behalf of the Israeli government. In other words: End the occupation. People hate being occupied. They’re bound to rebel. Israel will never be secure so long as it occupies Palestinian land.
       —A. Remley    Dec. 16 '04 - 01:31AM    #
  9. This one is far too rich not to share: In April, The JWP picketed a benefit dinner honoring of a donor to JUVENILE DIABETES because of his donations to ISRAEL: Not a military organization, the JWP even acknowleged, but ISRAEL.

    Evidently, one member of the JWP defends the JWP’s boycotts of anything Israel-related, or local org’s that donate to non-military Israeli causes by stating, “Money is fungible.”

    Money is Fungible? Are you kidding me? Tell me you didn’t steal that line from one of those anti-drug Superbowl commercials that links marijuana usage to weapons purchase by terrorists in Afghanistan?

    When I’m in Israel over the break, no alleged level of “monetary fungibility” is gonna to stop me from buying a slice of pizza.

    Like I said earlier, endorsing or joining the JWP or its picketing is, at the very least, a mistake. Somebody please back me on this one.
    “Picketers protest award recipient for giving to Israel” (From the Oakland Press, May 2004)

    P.S. Here’s a link to Israeli research re: diabetes, b/c maybe “fungible money” finds its way to good causes, too.
       —Adam    Dec. 16 '04 - 07:15AM    #
  10. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I wanted to make a plea with 12 hours ‘till all sandwich-board hell breaks loose:

    Please don’t afford the JWP the people-power, attention, or time of day until its members demonstrate a genuine interest in constructive, not corrugated, efforts towards peace.
       —Adam    Dec. 17 '04 - 05:24AM    #
  11. They do it to make themselves feel better, cause I really don’t see how all thier action is helping the situation over there.

    From what I saw of them on Friday when I drove by was a demographic of exclusively white, and mostly very older people, if their cause is so good why don’t all the radicals at UM join them Or any of the local arab/palestinians???
       —Just a Voice    Dec. 18 '04 - 11:38AM    #
  12. I believe that these folks have similar aspirations of doing what the anti-aparthied movement did in the 1980’s.

    And all problems about how to get more people involved are organizing problems.

    Is there a clear message? Are we inviting people to join us?

    They do it, because it is something to do. It is pretty degrading to just say they do it to make themselves feel better.

    How are you changing the world?
       —Response to JaV    Dec. 18 '04 - 07:20PM    #
  13. they aren’t changing the world, thats just living in a bubble.

    And its not comparable to South Africa. In the 1980s, the anti-apartheid movment was able to succeed becuase NO one actually morally supported the policy of the SA government. To the extent that some circles int eh US opposed the anti-appartheid measures, it wasn’t because they actually supported apartheid, but rather because they saw exogenouse dangers (USSR and Cold War Politics) in doing that.

    Israel is different. WHat is happening there is not a question of moral right wrong – not to the vast majoirty of people – it is rather a question of tactics. So to be clear: yes, some people governments find individual tactics of the Israelis to be condemnable – but no one is seriously condemnig the right of Israel to a) exist, and b) protect itself and its citizens. and that is what divestment says. It says – you do not have the right to protect yourselves.

    taking this one step further – a claim can be made that Israel does have that right, but that right is bounded by particular norms. The problem here is that NO state would accept that. Somoene can make a claim about human rights treaties – but one intersting thing about those is that NO country in Israel’s position has ever obeyed them In fact, the UK, Frances, Spain, Germany and Italy have all at differnt points thought derrogatsion from the treaty. Saying – that yes, yes, all these norms and recomendations are nice, but not in this case. Moreover, even the European Court of Human Rights has conseeded that Human Rights law takes SECOND place to the right of a state to insure its security. So, even in the narrow context – i don’t see countries being willnig to divest over what is at bottom a question of tactics – not racism.

    Another clear differnce is that South Africa did not have grass roots support. Israel does – moreover, not only in the United States but also in Europe, Latin America and Australia. This furhter, makes divestment (other then organizations liek JPW) simply unliekly.

    oh – and one more thing – if these groups want to change the world – they wont do it by demonization (of either side). The ZOA is wrong to demonize Arabs, and JWP is wrong to demonize Israelis (and the IDF). If the JWP were to take an objective view at the actions of Israel and the IDF – they would see what many human rights groups quietly acknowledge – that isarels record is far better then that of most developed countires, not to mention its neighboors. If ZOA was to be honest, it would see and conceede that many in the arab world would gladly agree to live in peace with a Jewish Israel (meaning they would be willing to give up boht the “righ” of return and the recourse to force”) while many others see in israel a model of what their state would become.

    The tragedy of this conflict (other then the shear number of deatsh) is that the activists on both sides (ZOA/SAFE/JWP) are unwilling to pay their opponent an earned compliment – they prefer the quicker, easier, and more emotionally rewarding option of demonization. And its that strategy that has fueled this for 50 years.
       —David LIvshiz    Dec. 18 '04 - 08:14PM    #
  14. Re “South Africa did not have grass roots support”, did old-time South Africa have grass-roots support from Israel?

    Not trying to be snide here, I just don’t know or remember all of the facts or alleged facts involved.
       —David Boyle    Dec. 19 '04 - 12:58AM    #
  15. the government of Israel maintained political/legal ties with the government of South Africa throughout. As statements by various Israeli leaders at the time (Begin, Peres, and Sharon among them) indicated this was not becuase of their support of the apartheid policy but rather out of a practical need to find way to ensure that the state did not starve. Its worthwile to remmber that at the time the state of Israel was under boycott by all states in the arab league (but egypt towards the end) and many other states who felt compelled to do so under the threat of an oil embargo after 1973.

    Moreover, by grass roots support i didn’t mean support by another state, but rather on the ground support in the capitals of major developed countires. THere were no pro aparthied demonstrations in Paris/London/New York – there are however annual pro-Israel celebrations in all of those cities. Not to mention the lobying organizations that advocate on behalf of Israel in Congres, and in Brussels, Paris, and London.
       —David LIvshiz    Dec. 19 '04 - 03:00AM    #
  16. about what I said “They do it to make themselves feel better”

    Regardless of what I think of their politics, I think that their tactics and strategy is way off and not doing any good. If it is not doing any good, then why do they do it? There are ways to make a difference, but if what you are doing isn’t effecting positive change, then its time to change your tactics.
       —Just a Voice    Dec. 19 '04 - 04:50PM    #
  17. “Re ‘South Africa did not have grass roots support’, did old-time South Africa have grass-roots support from Israel?” – David Boyle

    Like Livshiz said, the support (which was minimal) was almost certainly non-ideological. You also have to remember that those who put forth apartheid in the late 40’s and early 50’s in South Africa were the same fuckers who were supporting the Nazis in the 30’s and early 40’s.

    It wasn’t right to sell them things; no one will argue that. But to suggest that Zionists and the apartheid conjurists were ideological bedfellows is a VERY BIG stretch.

    What makes JWP so bad is that their policy of protesting in front of synagogues is more about image and antagonism against the Jewish community.

    Look at it from a practical point of view: how is peace any closer with people protesting in front of synagogues that have no say in Israeli policy?
       —Jared Goldberg    Dec. 19 '04 - 10:22PM    #
  18. Okie doke. ...tho it seems Bishop Tutu likes the divest-from-Israel idea, so maybe he sees some parallels we don’t :D . (Then again, he’s good at divestment stuff, so maybe he thinks that’s the solution to everything :O .
    And nooo, I’m not endorsing divestment.)

    What is interesting is the article “Likud goes to South Africa” at the SomethingJewish web site, URL . One doesn’t have to believe Israel practices “apartheid” to note that they could nonetheless maybe learn some valuable lessons from Mandela and friends, and according to article, looks like they’ve been tryin to do just dat…
       —David Boyle    Dec. 20 '04 - 12:38AM    #
  19. It’s about time the banks and others who support the bloody occupation were held to account for their appalling lack of humanity.
       —Laurel Federbush    Dec. 23 '04 - 03:06AM    #
  20. Without going further into any analogies between this situation and any other situation that has ever been protested, and the respective merits thereof, I will say that I had a long conversation with Henry Herskovits one afternoon that gave me concern (which I shared with him at that time) about the tactics of this group.

    The JWP folks who have been picketing synagogues have no specific “ask.” There is no action the synagogue members can take that will definitely prevent further picketing. Henry said “It’s up to them to decide what they’re going to do.” This is either an unbelievably dumb way to run a demonstration, or it is actually calculated to fail. Henry Herskovits didn’t seem like an anti-Semite in our conversation, so I’m leaning towards the former. Henry and anyone else reading this who is part of JWP: you’ve got to do something to convince people you’re not anti-Semites, and the way these demonstrations have been going ain’t it.

    I also suggested that if the group’s objection is to spiritual support of Israel, they might consider broadening their pickets to evangelical churches whose memebers support Israel’s current policies because they think the ingathering of Jews in the Middle East will help hasten Christ’s return to Earth. Henry said he didn’t think it was Jews’ “place” to picket non-Jewish houses of worship. But surely there are Christians who are affiliated with his group and could do this? It would also help to defuse the charges of anti-Semitism quite a bit.

    I guess the bank pickets are an effort in both directions, though I have to say that the “ask” of the banks was not terribly clear to me as I drove by the pickets. Are the banks specifically supporting Israel’s bad policies with finances for the army, etc, or are they just lending money in Israel (which is different)?

    I don’t support the Hiller’s boycott because of just this last question. Henry told me that the problem is that Jim Hiller sends the profits from the Israeli goods he sells “back to Israel,” and that this indirectly supports the government there, because any financial inflow is helpful to the state. You could say the same thing about every single tax dollar I’ve ever paid in the US (and some days I do). But that’s not enough for me to stop paying taxes which also support schools, public works, etc.

    But I am hazy on the details of the divestment campaign that overthrew apartheid. Maybe someone who knows the history better can convince me that cutting off all financial inflow to a country has been effective. Anyone?
       —AP    Dec. 23 '04 - 03:50PM    #
  21. Ari

    Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends did in fact produce an “ask” for Beth Israel to contemplate at the request of one of the congregants. What we received for this was published letters to the editor villifying us for making “demands” on the beleagered Rabbi Dobrusin, and telling him how to run his synagogue.

    Here’s a short chronology of events: I asked Beth Israel to hear my stories of my trip to Palestine. They said no. We created JWPF and started our vigils.

    If they don’t like to be reminded of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, then the ball clearly is in their court, and it would appear to be in their interest to initiate contact.

    Another fact: The highly paid facilitator of the June 6 “Jewish Community Conversation”, Mark Gerzon, challenged the Organized Jewish Community to reach out JWPF and initiate contact.

    If you want to view our lack of response to their chosen silence as “unbelievably dumb”, that certainly is your right, though it cannot be supported by a logic as demonstrated here.

    Henry Herskovitz
       —Henry Herskovitz    Dec. 24 '04 - 02:29PM    #
  22. Henry-

    I think you might feel better about yourself at the end of the day if you actually embraced your Judaism, instead of villifying it.
       —BJS    Dec. 24 '04 - 04:36PM    #
  23. Dear Henry,

    AP isn’t Ari—it’s me, Alyssa. We talked on the street outside of Seva a few months ago. Very rainy day. Big model of the wall next to us. Do you recall it?

    I’m sorry to be discussing this with you again here, but I am glad to have a chance to correspond. Better here than in the editorial pages.

    My guess is that the fact that the request you made of the congregation was developed only after pressure may be raising some suspicions among congregants about your commitment to stand down once that request is satisfied. (Justifiably so, by the way-given the acts for which you perceive the congregation to be partly responsible, I wouldn’t stop once they had merely heard a presentation from me either.)

    It’s great that the facilitator asked the congregation to reach out. But they haven’t done it. And possibly-I’m not speaking as someone with personal knowledge of the congregation, just as someone who negotiates as part of my living-part of the reason they haven’t done it is because there is no opportunity for them to do so and save face.

    Merely hearing your stories is not much of an exchange. These folks may be imagining a humiliating confrontation, and it’s no surprise that they wish to avoid it.

    Possibly, like most people accused, they would also like a chance to talk back. It will be a frustrating conversation, I have no doubt, but it seems clear that the way to peace activism that includes all of us-which is your stated aim-does not run around that conversation.

    It wouldn’t cost JWP anything to allow these folks to save face-unless the perception that you have “won” is part of what you’re looking for. If it’s not, I challenge you to keep your eye on the larger purpose, and find a way to ask for this conversation that will be better-received.

    Perhaps I have misunderstood your goals. If the aim of JWP isn’t really to enlist the congregants in peace activism, but to highlight their moral errors (and produce some larger popular response-and though it’s unclear to me what that would be, I suspect that it’s concern about this possible aim of your pickets that is animating the charges that you are fomenting anti-Semitism), then what you are doing is probably fine. However, I concur with the point you have made about the potential influence of American Jews on the policies of the Israeli government. And for that reason alone, I would push for a loftier goal.

    Holding an opportunity to work for peace hostage until our internecine struggles are resolved is disatrous and immoral. And-I stand by my position-dumb.


    PS Out of curiosity, do you have a response to the questions I have raised about sending money “back to Israel”? I would very much like to understand your position on this, if I have misunderstood it so far.
       —AP    Dec. 24 '04 - 09:03PM    #
  24. “Money is fungible.”

    I recently purchased a pastry from a bakery outlet in Holon, Israel, from a presumably Arab fellow. Spending money in Israel or on Israeli-made goods DOES NOT prolong military presence in the West Bank and Gaza. No reasonable causality can be established here.

    In response to the question raised by AP:

    The JWP’s boycott of Hiller’s is founded upon the idea of “monetary fungibility,” a perverse argument that argues that fundamentally believes all ‘shekels’ or dollars converted to shekels to be rotten. argument(and the AACAW’s support for the argument) that Israel’s sales tax renders ALL goods purchased therein as ‘supporting the occupation’ is no more valid than stating that the purchase of coffee at Amer’s or Espresso Royale supports the U.S. occupation of Iraq to such an extent that no purchases should be made there or in any other American establishement.

    Until the JWP ends this argument, the JWP’s fight is not against the occupation. It is against any businesses and goods in Israel.

    ***Refer to posts 6,7, 9, and 10 for arguments and links related to this issue.

    Happy Holidays
       —Adam    Dec. 25 '04 - 02:48PM    #
  25. i am not AP…i always sign ari p.

    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Dec. 25 '04 - 06:31PM    #
  26. Adam, I am already familiar with the “money is fungible” argument, and, as I have said, do not instantaneously see its merits. What I am asking is whether the divestment campaign for the end to South African apartheid followed a similar logic.

    Was the argument that US businesses, governmental units, etc. ought not invest in any South African enterprise? Or merely that they ought not do things that helped prop up the South African apartheid government proper?

    Anyone know?
       —AP    Dec. 25 '04 - 08:33PM    #
  27. See, e.g., :

    “PUBLIC INVESTMENT AND SOUTH AFRICA—February 1987: Divestment Actions Must Target Franchise and Licensing Agreements As Well As Direct Investment”.
       —David Boyle    Dec. 26 '04 - 02:41AM    #
  28. David, thanks for the info. Something to think about.

    I realize you’re under no obligation to do my research on this, but do you have anything on how the campaign was received at its origins (i.e., were questions with moral weight similar to the weight of anti-Semitism being raised about it)?

    Thanks much. AP
       —AP    Dec. 26 '04 - 02:04PM    #
  29. My research fee is $200 an hour :D .

    “at its origins”? U mean in S. Africa? See, e.g., this excerpt from “Apartheid: A Series of Statements of The American Lutheran Church 1980-1985”, at :
    – - –

    III. Apartheid in Southern Africa— Is It Any of Our Business? (1981)


    6. Communist Influence

    The South African government regularly labels any challenge to the apartheid system “Communist-inspired.” On the other hand, the White supremacy government of South Africa is sometimes referred to as “a bastion of the Free World at the tip of Africa.”

    The latter designation strikes the non-Whites of South Africa and Namibia as particularly inappropriate. About the “Communist-inspired” label, several points can be made:

    – - -
       —David Boyle    Dec. 26 '04 - 11:51PM    #
  30. David, I guess I could have meant in South Africa. I’m not really sure what I meant.

    One of the things I mean to say is that I take anti-Semitism seriously. I am not someone who thinks that it is on the wane, or that there isn’t a very active strain of it in some critiques of Zionism. So one of the things that worries me about the divestment campaign is the concerns that have been raised by people I know-who are people of conscience-about what’s behind the idea of divestment. (See my comments to Henry Herskovits about the JWP approach to advocating for it.) On the other hand, I know lots of people of conscience (some Jewish) who back the idea of divestment.

    I would not personally regard claims that divestment from apartheid South Africa was “communist-backed” as being of any moral weight whatsoever (and I did not to the extent that I was able to form opinions in the 1980s. I topped out at 15 in that decade.). But I do stop and think carefully about claims about anti-Semitism.

    I guess I was more wondering whether there was a strain of argument inside the anti-apartheid movement that went something like: divesting will only worsen conditions for the worst-off among us; we have to come up with something else. Or that divesting confuses individual South Africans, some of whom take reprehensible positions, with the reprehensible position of the South African government as a whole. I don’t know that these would be positions that I would, in the end, find myself supporting. I’m just wondering.

    Thanks for the info and the rate quote. You UM law grads…so expensive.

       —AP    Dec. 27 '04 - 02:13AM    #
  31. Without going into details, there were plenty of folks who thought what you mentioned, that South African divestment might make conditions worse etc.

    They were wrong (heh). At least Mandela thought they were wrong, and he would know…..

    Am waiving consulting fee just this once :O .
       —David Boyle    Dec. 27 '04 - 03:30AM    #
  32. Apologies to Ari for confusing him with Alyssa.


    Thanks for responding. I note – as I always note with responses questioning the effectiveness of JWPF – that the word “occupation” is rarely, if ever, mentioned. In your 490 words, it appears not once (yes I count, I was an engineer for too long…)

    I cannot compete with your ability to type words, so I will offer a cup of coffee over which we can discuss issues you raise.

    I’m in the book.

    Henry Herskovitz
       —Henry Herskovitz    Dec. 27 '04 - 10:58AM    #
  33. Henry, just to clarify, if I weren’t interested in how to bring an end to the occupation, I wouldn’t be raising these issues at all.

    I would like to talk to you face to face, and will call you when I have a chance.

    But if anyone else is still reading this conversation, let me just point out that-as Henry is no doubt aware-there has been, in this country, a venerable tradition of government sending plants into leftist organizations, sometimes with the purpose of proposing and executing ideas that are so odious that they actually diminish public sympathy for the cause being organized about. Because I care about ending the occupation, and because I know that concerns about ongoing anti-Semitism are not unfounded, I fear that the plan you’re now executing could have the same effect.

    I realize that there’s also a long tradition of liberals telling leftists to “slow down” or to ask for less. That’s not me—in fact, as you can see above, I actually suggested an expansion of a much-reviled tactic you are already using as a means of defusing the charges of anti-Semitism that have been leveled at you.

    Maybe it will help if I say “occupation” a lot when we have coffee.

       —AP    Dec. 27 '04 - 05:43PM    #
  34. Just a note on the sales tax equals support argument: Paying US taxes does support the occupation in Iraq. See also Thoreau and the Spanish-American War.
       —js    Dec. 28 '04 - 03:25PM    #
  35. David Alyssa, et all –
    the strain of argument dealing wtih South Africa (SA) was rather different then here. The argument in this case is that Israelis, already heavily influenced by events of the last 150 years (the holocaust, the pogroms, the inability of various western countries to condemn terrorism) are likely to see it as just another example of antisemitism – and if anything strengthen the right. In South Africa, teh argument was that divestment would hurt the poor, b/c goods would not be available to them. In this case – the palestinians are likley to be hurt, becasue any serious move to divest is likely to strengthen the Israeli right. Moreover, unlike South Africa, Israel is actually in a decent position to hold up under economic pressure – becuase they will expend their economic development into countries like China/India – where it will be welcome. South Africa had a much smaller economy – and therefore was more sussceptible.

    Oh – the other problem is that unlike South Africa, where Mandela’s supporters engaged in terrorism, but went OUT of their way not to target civilians, terrorists in Israel purposely target them creating a rhather confused moral picture. Divestment may be a worthwhile option if the opponents of occupation were engaged in civil disobediance – but as they are engaged in cold blooded murder of children (Discos, pizza parlers, etc) it becomes very differnt.

    back from vacation,

       —David LIvshiz    Dec. 28 '04 - 11:03PM    #
  36. Never mind the rest, where do you get “South Africa had a much smaller economy” than Israel? Maybe you’re right, but the figures I see on Internet don’t seem to indicate that. Maybe one country having 6 million people and the other over 40 million might have something to do with it.
       —David Boyle    Dec. 29 '04 - 04:34AM    #
  37. David – I don’t mean in GDP terms, but rahter in the breadths of the economy terms. South Africa’s primary economic output is: gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment (from the CIA Factbook). Israel on the other hand has: machinery and equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles and apparel. Factor in that Israel’s machinery and equipment are high electronics weaponry, and that software is really a proxy for computer R&D – it creates a differnt economy. Its much easier to forgego buying gold or diamonds (espeiclaly given the cartel) then it it is to forego using a computer.

    i.e. Backin the 1980s – those countires that diveted from South Africa did not have to make substantial modification to their portfolios, here they would. Divestment (even if only limited to corporations dealing directly with the Israeli military would mean divesting from: Oracle, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Boeing, Sun. I’ll stop here – but I can do this for a while.

    Moreover, unlike South Africa – where it was easy for F500 to rotate out and buy gold/minerals elsewhere – here it is more difficult. Israeli compnaies enjoy a technological edge over India/China (partially b/c of free human capital training – done by the old USSR) and partially b/c of the de-facto subsedies recieved from the Israeli military) and the costs of a shiftover would be huge – at a time when American companies are facing increasing competition from abroad (with Indian and Chinesse companies often relying on Israeli tech markets themselves).

    The bottom line is that the economies are differnt – in structure, scope and sector – and that that makes divestment here less feaseble then in South Africa.

    If you want – there is a report out there by a socially concious investing firm who flat out said taht to divest from Israel would equal abandoning a “sound investment strategy.” I don’t have time to find it for you now, but if you are intersted, it is out there in cyberland. dave
       —David LIvshiz    Dec. 29 '04 - 10:52AM    #
  38. I’ll admit I haven’t read the thread very far up, but I think there’s a clarification that needs to be made here. There is divestment from Israel, which no one I know of is forwarding, and divestment from the Israeli military, which groups like SAFE are forwarding.
    I agree that divesting from Israel as a whole is the wrong tactic, and just wrong. Substantial portions of the Israeli population are against the occupation, and it does no good to target them economically.

    Chomsky points out that the leaders of siginificant portions of the south african population actually asked for divestment, and this not so in the Israeli case. Sanctions, as a rule, do not work very well. The ruling regimes are more able to weather their effects, the population is hurt more than the elites, and the ruling regime is, in general, strengthened.

    I’ll put my two cents in for divesting from certain high-profile companies that are making bank on the occupation. Caterpillar for instance. Arms manufacterers. Many of those companies are actually American.

    Though the comparison between SA and Israel is often made to describe the political situation, and it is often apt, I do not believe that it holds once one begins to talk about divestment. For one thing, there was no organized group calling for the end of South Africa, as there is in the case of Israel. This complicates the matter, as divesting from Israel on the grounds of the occupation can easily be conflated with the idea that Israel should not exist at all. So we’re back to anti-Semitism.

    Let’s work on ending the occupation as effectively as we can for right now, which will take cooperation from across the spectrum, and then confront the structural racism embedded in the idea of a “Jewish State” later.

    shalom and salam in the new year,

       —Bates    Dec. 30 '04 - 11:13PM    #