ANALYSIS: Boycotting the boycotters (Israeli exceptionalism and banality)

While the international boycott against apartheid South Africa is credited with leading to the regime’s downfall, here it is considered irrelevant and unworthy of comparison.

By Gideon Levy

Most people here are appalled at the notion that anybody beyond Israel’s borders would think to boycott their country, products or universities. Boycotts, after all, are viewed in Israel as illegitimate. Anyone who calls for such a step is perceived as an anti-Semite and Israel-hater who is undermining the state’s very right to exist. In Israel itself, those who call for a boycott are branded as traitors and heretics. The notion that a boycott, limited as it may be, is likely to convince Israel to change its ways – and for its own benefit – is not tolerated here.

Even an obvious, logical step – like the Palestinian Authority’s boycott of products made in the settlements – is viewed by hypocritical Israeli eyes as provocative. Moreover, while the international boycott against apartheid South Africa is credited with leading to the regime’s downfall, here it is considered irrelevant and unworthy of comparison.

It would be possible to identify with these intolerant reactions were it not for the fact that Israel itself is one of the world’s prolific boycotters. Not only does it boycott, it preaches to others, at times even forces others, to follow in tow. Israel has imposed a cultural, academic, political, economic and military boycott on the territories. At the same time, almost no one here utters a dissenting word questioning the legitimacy of these boycotts. Yet the thought of boycotting the boycotter? Now that’s inconceivable.

The most brutal, naked boycott is, of course, the siege on Gaza and the boycott of Hamas. At Israel’s behest, nearly all Western countries signed onto the boycott with inexplicable alacrity. This is not just a siege that has left Gaza in a state of shortage for three years. Nor is it just a complete (and foolish ) boycott of Hamas, save for the discussions over abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. It’s a series of cultural, academic, humanitarian and economic boycotts. Israel threatens nearly every diplomat who seeks to enter Gaza to see firsthand the unbearable sights.

In addition, Israel bars entry to anyone who wishes to lend humanitarian aid. We should note that the boycott isn’t just against Hamas, but against all Gaza, everyone who lives there. The convoy of ships that will soon sail from Europe to try to break the siege will carry thousands of tons of construction material, prefab houses and medicine. Israel has announced that it plans to stop the vessels. A boycott is a boycott.

Doctors, professors, artists, jurists, intellectuals, economists, engineers – none of them are permitted to enter Gaza. This is a complete boycott that bears the tag “Made in Israel.” Those who speak about immoral and ineffective boycotts do so without batting an eye when it comes to Gaza.

Israel is also urging the world to boycott Iran. But it’s not just Gaza and Iran that are at issue here, because entry into Israel and the West Bank is being affected by the recent frenzy of boycotts. Anyone who is suspected of supporting the Palestinians or expressing concern for their lot is boycotted and expelled. This group includes a clown who came to organize a conference; a peace activist who was due to appear at a symposium; and scientists, artists and intellectuals who arouse suspicions that they back the Palestinian cause. This is a cultural and academic boycott on all counts, the type of boycott that we reject when it is used against us.

Yet the anti-boycott country’s list of boycotted parties does not end there. Even a Jewish-American organization like J Street, which defines itself as pro-Israel, has felt the long arm of the Israeli boycott. It is permissible to boycott J Street because it champions peace, but we can’t tolerate a boycott of products made in settlements that were built on usurped land. Denying a visiting professor entry into Gaza for an appearance at a university does not qualify as a boycott, but cutting off ties with Israeli institutions that provide fast-track degree programs for army officers and interrogators in the Shin Bet security service – people who are often viewed around the world as complicit in war crimes – is viewed as verboten.

Yes, an Israeli who lives in Israel will have a hard time preaching to others about the virtues of a boycott when that person does not boycott his or her own country or university. But it is his right to believe that a boycott could compel his government to end the occupation. As long as the Israelis don’t pay any price, there won’t be a change.

This is a legitimate, moral position. It is no less legitimate or moral than those who claim that a boycott is an immoral, ineffective tool while exercising that same option against others. So you oppose a boycott against Israel? Then let’s first do away with all the boycotts we have imposed ourselves.

REF: haaretz

ANALYS: The Dubai Hit

THE TWO classic intelligence disasters occurred during World War II. In both, the intelligence agencies either provided their political bosses with faulty assessments, or the leaders ignored their accurate assessments. As far as the results are concerned, both amount to the same.

Comrade Stalin was totally surprised by the German invasion of the Soviet Union, even though the Germans needed months to assemble their huge invasion force. President Roosevelt was totally surprised by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, even though the bulk of the Japanese Navy took part in it. The failures were so fantastic, that spy aficionados had to resort to conspiracy theories to explain them. One such theory says that Stalin deliberately ignored the warnings because he intended to surprise Hitler with an attack of his own. Another theory asserts that Roosevelt practically “invited” the Japanese to attack because he was in need of a pretext to push the US into an unpopular war.

But since then, failures continued to follow each other. All Western spy agencies were totally surprised by the Khomeini revolution in Iran, the results of which are still hitting the headlines today. All of them were totally surprised by the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the defining events of the 20th century.  They were totally surprised by the fall of the Berlin wall. And all of them provided wrong information about Saddam Hussein’s imaginary nuclear bomb, which served as a pretext for the American invasion of Iraq.

* * *

AH, OUR people say, that’s what’s happening among the Goyim. Not here. Our intelligence community is like no other. The Jewish brain has invented the Mossad, which knows everything and is capable of everything. (Mossad – “institute” – is short for the “Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations”.)

Really? At the outbreak of the 1948 war, all the chiefs of our intelligence community unanimously advised David Ben-Gurion that the armies of the Arab states would not intervene. (Fortunately, Ben-Gurion rejected their assessment.) In May 1967, our entire intelligence community was totally surprised by the concentration of the Egyptian army in Sinai, the step that led to the Six-Day war. (Our intelligence chiefs were convinced that the bulk of the Egyptian army was busy in Yemen, where a civil war was raging.) The Egyptian-Syrian attack on Yom Kippur, 1973, completely surprised our intelligence services, even though heaps of advance warnings were available.

The intelligence agencies were totally surprised by the first intifada, and then again by the second. They were totally surprised by the Khomeini revolution, even though (or because) they were deeply imbedded in the Shah’s regime. They were totally surprised by the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections.

The list is long and inglorious. But in one field, so they say, our Mossad performs like no other: assassinations. (Sorry, “eliminations”.)

* * *

STEVEN SPIELBERG’S movie “Munich” describes the assassination (“elimination”) of PLO officials after the massacre of the athletes at the Olympic Games. As a masterpiece of kitsch it can be compared only to the movie “Exodus”, based on Leon Uris’ kitschy book.

After the massacre (the main responsibility for which falls on the incompetent and irresponsible Bavarian police), the Mossad, on the orders of Golda Meir, killed seven PLO officials, much to the joy of the revenge-thirsty Israeli public. Almost all the victims were PLO diplomats, the civilian representatives of the organization in European capitals, who had no direct connection with violent operations. Their activities were public, they worked in regular offices and lived with their families in residential buildings. They were static targets – like the ducks in a shooting gallery.

In one of the actions – which resembled the latest affair – a Moroccan waiter was assassinated by mistake in the Norwegian town of Lillehammer. The Mossad mistook him for Ali Hassan Salameh, a senior Fatah officer who served as contact with the CIA. The Mossad agents, including a glamorous blonde (there is always a glamorous blonde) were identified, arrested and sentenced to long prison terms (but released very soon). The real Salameh was “eliminated” later on.

In 1988, five years before the Oslo agreement, Abu Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir), the No. 2 in Fatah, was assassinated in Tunis before the eyes of his wife and children. Had he not been killed, he would probably be serving today as the President of the Palestinian Authority instead of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas). He would have enjoyed the same kind of standing among his people as did Yasser Arafat – who was, most likely, killed by a poison that leaves no traces.

The fiasco that most resembles the latest action was the Mossad’s attempt on the life of Khalid Mishal, a senior Hamas leader, on orders of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The Mossad agents ambushed him on a main street of Amman and sprayed a nerve toxin in his ear – that was about to kill him without leaving traces. They were caught on the spot. King Hussein, the Israeli government’s main ally in the Arab world, was livid and delivered a furious ultimatum: either Israel would immediately provide the antidote to the poison and save Mishal’s life, or the Mossad agents would be hanged. Netanyahu, as usual, caved in, Mishal was saved and the Israeli government, as a bonus, released Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the main Hamas leader, from prison. He was “eliminated” by a hellfire missile later on.

* * *

DURING THE last weeks, a deluge of words has been poured on the assassination in Dubai of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, another senior Hamas officer.

Israelis agreed from the first moment that this was a job of the Mossad. What capabilities! What talent! How did they know, long in advance, when the man would go to Dubai, what flight he would take, in what hotel he would stay! What precise planning!

The “military correspondents” and “Arab affairs correspondents” on screen were radiant. Their faces said: oh, oh, oh, if the material were not embargoed…If I could only tell you what I know…I can tell you only that the Mossad has proved again that its long arm can reach anywhere! Live in fear, oh enemies of Israel!

When the problems started to become apparent, and the photos of the assassins appeared on TV all over the world, the enthusiasm cooled, but only slightly. An old and proven Israeli method was brought into play: to take some marginal detail and discuss it passionately, ignoring the main issue. Concentrate on one particular tree and divert attention from the forest.

Really, why did the agents use the names of actual people who live in Israel and have dual nationality? Why, of all possible passports, did they use those of friendly countries? How could they be sure that the owners of these passports would not travel abroad at the critical time?

Moreover, were they not aware that Dubai was full of cameras that record every movement? Did they not foresee that the local police would produce films of the assassination in almost all its details?

But this did not arouse too much excitement in Israel. Everybody understood that the British and the Irish were obliged, pro forma, to protest, but that this was nothing but going through the motions. Behind the scenes, there are intimate connections between the Mossad and the other intelligence agencies. After some weeks, everything will be forgotten. That’s how it worked in Norway after Lillehammer, that’s how it worked in Jordan after the Mishal affair. They will protest, rebuke, and that’s that. So what is the problem?

* * *

THE PROBLEM is that the Mossad in Israel acts like an independent fiefdom that ignores the vital long-term political and strategic interests of Israel, enjoying the automatic backing of an irresponsible prime minister. It is, as the English expression goes, a “loose cannon” – the cannon of a ship of yore which has broken free of its mountings and is rolling around the deck, crushing to death any unfortunate sailor who happens to get in its way.

From the strategic point of view, the Dubai operation causes heavy damage to the government’s policy, which defines Iran’s putative nuclear bomb as an existential threat to Israel. The campaign against Iran helps it to divert the world’s attention from the ongoing occupation and settlement, and induces the US, Europe and other countries to dance to its tune.

Barack Obama is in the process of trying to set up a world-wide coalition for imposing “debilitating sanctions” on Iran. The Israeli government serves him – willingly – as a growling dog. He tells the Iranians: The Israelis are crazy. They may attack you at any moment. I am restraining them with great difficulty. But if you don’t do what I tell you, I shall let go of the leash and may Allah have mercy on your soul!

Dubai, a Gulf country facing Iran, is an important component of this coalition. It is an ally of Israel, much like Egypt and Jordan. And here comes the same Israeli government and embarrasses it, humiliates it, arousing among the Arab masses the suspicion that Dubai is collaborating with the Mossad.

In the past we have embarrassed Norway, then we infuriated Jordan, now we humiliate Dubai. Is that wise?  Ask Meir Dagan, who Netanyahu has just granted an almost unprecedented eighth year in office as chief of the Mossad.

* * *

PERHAPS THE impact of the operation on Israel standing in the world is even more significant.

Once upon a time it was possible to belittle this aspect. Let the Goyim say what they want. But since the Molten Lead operation, Israel has become more conscious of its far-reaching implications. The verdict of Judge Goldstone, the echoes of the antics of Avigdor Lieberman, the growing world-wide campaign for boycotting Israel – all these tend to suggest that Thomas Jefferson was not talking through his hat when he said that no nation can afford to ignore the opinion of mankind.

The Dubai affair is reinforcing the image of Israel as a bully state, a rogue nation that treats world public opinion with contempt, a country that conducts gang warfare, that sends mafia-like death squads abroad, a pariah nation to be avoided by right-minded people.

Was this worthwhile?

REF: Counterpunch

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.