No, we are not all Gazans now. Never were.
Samson that great city, his anatomy on fire
Grasping with gnarled hands at the mad wasps
Yet while his bearded rage survives contriving
An entelechy of clouds and trumpets.
There have been interpolations, false syndromes
Like a rivet through the hand
Such deliberate suppressions of crisis ...
- Ern Malley, 'Documentary Film'
My sympathies are with the Israelis. They've been shelled hard and often by Hamas, and now they've struck back. The idea that Israel is bound by international law while Hamas (and the Iranians) aren't, that dead Palestinians is more of a human tragedy than dead Israelis, is sheer bullshit and indicative of the sort of thinking that can only make the carnage worse.
Gaza is a dump because the people there have elected a Hamas government. Resources that should have been going toward schools, hospitals and other public utilities have actually gone to lobbing missiles into Israel. Now, inevitably, Israel has struck back hard, and have hopefully decapitated Hamas (it is too much to expect that Palestinians should be cowed by this show of force, any more than Israelis are). The always impressive Martin van Creveld has given grounds for hope that the Israelis have a plan and are working to it.
The Palestinian imam who said that Israeli children are 'now' a legitimate target is being disingenuous, because he and his mob have clearly always believed that. However, the Canadian commentator who claims that Israel is the new South Africa is being silly.
The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.
No, the best strategy is for the Palestinians to stop voting for the Hamas platform of Heartbreak and Squalor. The parallel here is not South Africa 20 years ago but Northern Ireland in the last decade.
Toward the end of the twentieth century, when the people of Northern Ireland realised that Sinn Fein promised only Heartbreak and Squalor, they began to turn on them. The IRA had two choices: it could repress the people, or it could renounce the violent policies that led the people to Heartbreak and Squalor and adopt a statesmanlike approach that put people's lives ahead of tribal allegiances. The trouble Sinn Fein faced was that they lacked the resources of a state, so Gerry Adams took the only option open to him other than suicide.
Hamas don't appear to be afraid of suicide, or as afraid as one should be if one truly believes in Allah and that he is just. But let's set aside the protagonists for the moment and return to the font of silly proffered us by Klein:
In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors in Israel. It calls for "the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions" and draws a clear parallel with the anti-apartheid struggle. "The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves ... This international backing must stop." ... Economic sanctions are the most effective tool in the non-violent arsenal: surrendering them verges on active complicity.
The key to the effectiveness of an arsenal is not how big it is, but how well it is aimed. It is aimed at the wrong people. You can't launch economic sanctions against a community that produces nothing, nor target the sponsors (Iran) whose main export (oil) is easily disguised as to its origin. Thus, productive Israel can be and is targeted; while a community that can't get out of its way is neither hindered from doing harm nor helped to do something positive.
Since 2006 Israel has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon, and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade. Despite this escalation, Israel has not faced punitive measures - quite the opposite.
Being shelled all day every day from Gaza is 'punitive measures' enough. Yeah, I think the settlements are needlessly provocative but that's not a death sentence. Anyone in Gaza who allows a mortar to be launched from their home because their pissed off about Lebanon deserves what they get. If Hamas had thrown themselves on the mercy if international law in 2006, they'd be entitled to its defences now.
For instance, in 2007 Israel became the first country outside Latin America to sign a free-trade deal with the Mercosur bloc. In the first nine months of 2008, Israeli exports to Canada went up 45%.
Canada is not a signatory to Mercosur, which covers countries in South America.
Of course [Israel is not South Africa]. The relevance of the South African model is that it proves BDS tactics can be effective when weaker measures (protests, petitions, backroom lobbying) fail.
Shit, if BullDustStrategies don't work with Zimbabwe (another state that protects itself from economic sanctions by gutting its economy), what makes anyone think they are any sort of all-purpose protest vehicle?
Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic.
But it relies on dogma in order to be applied in this particular instance - including the dogmatic insistence that while Palestinians have suffered at the hands of Israelis, the reverse is either not true or not important.
The reason the strategy should be tried is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.
Work towards what? How is this bullying different from ... oh, never mind.
This one [Boycotts sever communication; we need more dialogue, not less] I'll answer with a personal story. For eight years, my books have been published in Israel by a commercial house called Babel. But when I published The Shock Doctrine, I wanted to respect the boycott. On the advice of BDS activists, including the wonderful writer John Berger, I contacted a small publisher called Andalus. Andalus is an activist press, deeply involved in the anti-occupation movement and the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew. We drafted a contract that guarantees that all proceeds go to Andalus's work, and none to me. I am boycotting the Israeli economy but not Israelis.
Our modest publishing plan required dozens of phone calls, emails and instant messages, stretching between Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Paris, Toronto and Gaza City. My point is this: as soon as you start a boycott strategy, dialogue grows dramatically. The argument that boycotts will cut us off from one another is particularly specious given the array of cheap information technologies at our fingertips. We are drowning in ways to rant at each other across national boundaries. No boycott can stop us.
In Klein's previous works, she has demonstrated this boomerang logic: seeking to prove one point she actually proves its opposite, ta dahh!! She didn't tell us what ends Andalus is activating towards, but she has demonstrated that all her activity in changing publishers does is create activity without necessarily creating progress - an accusation she levies against capitalism generally. Given how porous borders are, and given that Klein's offerings aren't exactly Lady Chatterley's Lover, she needn't have bothered.
Several days into Israel's Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, managing director of a British telecom specialising in voice-over-internet services, sent an email to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax: "As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company."
Ramsey says his decision wasn't political; he just didn't want to lose customers. "We can't afford to lose any of our clients," he explains, "so it was purely commercially defensive."
Political, kind of - but gutless, definitely. Ramsey could have cancelled all of his Palestinian suppliers, as I said earlier, because there aren't any. And his Zimbabwean and Burmese ones, too.
While the Israelis could have managed this better, the idea that they are uniquely culpable in the Palestinian conflict is garbage. So is the idea (or tactic, dogma, call it what you will) that Israel should be subject to legal and economic sanctions which are irrelevant to their tormentors. Even if you accept that there are faults on both sides, as I do, the break in the cycle can only come with Palestinians recognising that Hamas make their lives nastier, more brutish and shorter than a loving god would have them be.
I can usually take BHL with a grain of salt but here he is excellent, on the moral dissymetry of Hamas and Israel and the fact that, well, the Palestinians have only themselves to blame.
Update: JM this one is for you:
Now stop commenting as I'm sick of you.