Opinion: Reject the Boycott Blacklist

Posted July 27, 2016 by The Argonaut in Columns

Local lawmakers tried to keep businesses that object to Israeli settlement violence from competing for state contracts

By Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Israeli soldiers stop a Palestinian on a busy street in the West Bank during the author’s 2007 visit Photo by Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Israeli soldiers stop a Palestinian on a busy street in the West Bank during the author’s 2007 visit
Photo by Kelly Hayes-Raitt

“You’ve been served,” the stranger said with a smirk as she handed me a neat stack of papers.

It was 1996, and I was the spokesperson to defeat three ballot initiatives funded by freewheeling CEOs that would gut swindled seniors’ rights to sue them for stock fraud. Every quarter, I’d issue a press release listing which of the initiatives’ funders had been sued.

One of those CEOs then sued me. His hypocrisy made better news copy than my original press release.

Similar hypocrisy is wending through the California Legislature. Until recent changes gutted its most alarming provisions, Assembly Bill 2844 — authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom and co-authored by state Sen. Ben Allen, both Santa Monica Democrats — would have required state government to blacklist socially conscious businesses that boycott Israel for its discrimination against Palestinians.

In other words, boycott the boycotters.

The BDS Movement — boycott, divestment and sanctions — is modeled after the successful international campaign to end apartheid in South Africa. It’s been kicking around for a decade, but has more recently gathered steam following Israel’s 50-day onslaught in Gaza that killed 2,130 Palestinians, injured 11,000 and “displaced” as many as 500,000 in 2014.

BDS punishes companies that profit from Israel’s discriminatory policies and practices. Supporters include the World Council of Churches, which represents 500 million Christians in 110 countries, and the student governments of seven of the nine Universities of California, according to Jewish Voice for Peace.

Boycotts are non-violent protests that date back centuries. Aristophanes employed one in 411 BC in his play “Lysistrata,” about Greek women who withheld sex to protest the Peloponnesian War. British abolitionists boycotted slave-produced sugar in the late 1700s.

The term “boycott” was coined in Ireland in 1880 when poor farmers were evicted from their homes by a land agent named Charles Boycott. Calls to shun him were so successful that his farm, stable and house workers refused to work, local businessmen refused his business, and even the postman refused to deliver his mail!

Whether it’s grapes in the 1970s, Montgomery buses in the 1960s, English tea in 1773, or the current boycott against North Carolina for its silly bathroom law that discriminates against transgender people, Americans enjoy the right to boycott.

The U.S. Supreme Court has “unequivocally ruled that boycotts in pursuit of humanitarian and social justice goals are a form of political speech entitled to the highest protection under the First Amendment,” states the Center for Constitutional Rights in a brief opposing AB 2844. “The court has further held that government at any level must not deny economic benefits, including public contracts, in retaliation for political beliefs.”

But Bloom and Allen didn’t appear to be concerned with Gandhi, Mandela, King, Chavez or the Supreme Court with their attempt to counter the international movement to boycott Israel.

A major controversy is the Israeli government’s persistent support of settlements, the illegal outposts built high in the hills of the West Bank by ultra-conservative Jews. Many of the Jews I met in Israel and the West Bank believe the settlers undermine security and stymie peace efforts.

Infrastructure for the settlements is funded by the Israeli government and — in defiance of U.S. policy — by private American organizations.

Roads that forbid Palestinian travel, systems that siphon water from Palestinian farms and villages, and electrical grids that plunge Palestinians into darkness are built for settlements. Sewage, however, runs downhill untreated, contaminating Palestinian wells and farms.

“Violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property is directly linked to the existence and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank,” begins a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that documents a doubling of Palestinian casualties by settlers between 2009 and 2013.

During a visit in 2007, I personally witnessed settlers armed with rifles illegally occupy a Palestinian’s home in a dense neighborhood in Hebron. I saw the squatters hurl rocks and rotten food at Palestinian children.

In At-Tuwani, a rural village south of Hebron, I watched Israeli soldiers accompany Palestinian schoolchildren past settlements. Observers’ videos of settlers stoning the schoolchildren had created an international outcry that embarrassed the Israeli government into requiring this armed escort.

Palestinians told me settlers contaminate their wells with dead chickens and burn their ancient olive groves.

Every American president since LBJ has called the settlements an impediment to peace. Yet, under the Netanyahu government, the number of settlers in the West Bank has grown by 120,000 to a total of 350,000, the prime minister himself boasts. More settlers means more violence — from both Palestinians and the settlers — and less hope for negotiated peace.

The BDS Movement is having an impact: Foreign direct investment in Israel dropped by 46% in 2014 compared to 2013, and by 15% in 2013 compared to 2012, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. (Investments rebounded in 2015, but fell back to 2014 levels during the first half of this year.)

AB 2844 passed the Assembly last month and is working through the Senate, with an Appropriations Committee meeting scheduled for Monday.  The amended version of the bill no longer calls for a state contract blacklist of businesses that boycott Israel, but instead punishes any business that uses a boycott as a pretext for discrimination here at home.

But the spirit of the original lingers. To boycott the boycotters is to muzzle free speech.

Santa Monica resident Kelly Hayes-Raitt blogs at LivingLargeInLimbo.com.


    Martha Larsen

    Thank you for the harsh truth of the occupation and the need for BDS. BDS is a Boston Tea Party value – basic to us as Americans. Thank you for stating that.


      Visit Israel and the successful Ethiopians, Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Chinese and many other nationals who live there and vote against a Palestinian state. Wouldn’t you if your health care, education, welfare were all free? Look at your medicine bottles, computers, cell phones–everyone invented or produced there. 0h yes in Israel. Think, woman, think !!!


      Actually, BDS is about as far from a Boston Tea Party value as you can get, since it’s goal is to deprive Israelis of their freedom and they consider the Palestinian Arab rejection of peace and their own state a small price to pay to retain their dream of oppressing the Jews.


    Long before there were Israeli settlements, there was Arab terrorism against Jews and the intent to destroy any Jewish state. The BDS movement continues the program to eliminate Israel; its leaders have not hidden that intent. Interesting that the BDS campaigners – so concerned, they say, with injustice against the Palestinians – have nothing to say when these same Palestinians are victimized by their own governments in Gaza and the West Bank. Evidently it only matters when the accused is Israel.

    Casting the anti-Israel BDS movement in the model of Ghandi and Martin Luther King perverts the vision of those real leaders seeking justice. Writing an entire commentary without a single mention of Palestinian terrorist murder – again, this predates Israeli settlements by decades – and incitement to hate Jews, is willful blindness. Boycotting Israel is the true hypocrisy. The California legislature is right to punish those who do it – the specious legal claims above, notwithstanding.


    In some ways, the BDS movement is patterned after the boycotts of apartheid South Africa, but apartheid South Africa was the racist aggressor, while the target of today’s BDS movement is the lone democracy in the Middle East, the only country in the Middle East which gives all its citizens equal legal rights, the only country in the Middle East for which the term apartheid is totally inappropriate. Israel is the target of a genocidal war and the leaders of the BDS movement have made it quite clear their goal is the extermination of the world’s only Jewish state.

    Hence, the BDS movement is immoral, to put it mildly, and it is not only justified, but a morally imperative to boycott the boycotters.


    What strikes me the most is Ms. Hayes-Raitt’s subtle dishonesty. For example, she notes the closure of roads as examples of Israeli repression of the Arabs, but does not mention the Arab violence that has led up to those closures. For example, Adele Bitton, a 2 year old Jewish girl, was hit in the head by a stone while her family car was on just such a road. The remaining two years of her life were spent primarily in a coma, and then rehab before she finally succumbed to her injuries. How many Israeli cars must be bombarded with stones and firebombs before the Israelis are allowed to defend themselves?

    Ms. Hayes-Raitt would have us believe that it is the settlements that are the obstacle to peace, and that if Israel simply removed all the settlers and returned to the “1967 lines” that there would be peace. This ignores far too many facts to be true. The Arab League was offered the possibility of making the 1949 Armistice lines into permanent borders at that time, but rejected the offer as part of their refusal to recognize Israel as a state. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol repeated the same offer in 1965, only to be rejected. Most certainly the Arab attempts to once again destroy Israel in 1967 is proof that they had no respect for the green line as an Israeli border. Even so, Israel once again offered to return the “West Bank” (minus the Old City) and Gaza to Jordan and Egypt only to be turned down, again because the Arab nations refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Time and again, despite multiple negotiations and after drawing proposed land swaps and other forms of compensation, the bottom line has always been the refusal of the Arabs to accept any final delineation of the border. Worth noting is the fact that despite having signed a letter of recognition accepting Israel’s right to exist, Yasir Arafat continued to tell Arab audiences that the two-state solution was just a stepping stone to creating a greater Arab state, a future that is still being taught to the Arab children in the West Bank and Gaza.

    Prior to 1948, when the Arabs attempted to destroy the nascent Jewish state, Arabs and Jews lived in varying degrees of proximity throughout the land. This included cities such as Hebron and many places in the area now known as the West Bank (following Jordan’s illegal attempt to annex it in 1950) but historically identified as Judea and Samaria. If one goes to cities within Israel, one can see Arabs and Jews living together, working together, studying together and so on. Arab doctors treat Jewish patients and vice versa in Israeli hospitals, Arab professors teach Jewish students and vice versa in Israeli universities. Why then is it necessary for Jews to be ethnically cleansed from the areas now destined to be under Arab control?

    BDS uses words like “equality” and “justice” to describe its mission. It uses the language of civil rights, and specifically the language that was used in the campaign against South African Apartheid, so as to portray itself in a more positive and socially acceptable light. In reality it is not a civil rights group but actually an Arab nationalist (and supremacist) movement seeking to destroy the Israeli state. This is not my accusation, this is the goal of the organization as publicly declared by its founding members. It does not focus on organizations that benefit from the presence of settlements in the territories, but attacks any organization that it considers vulnerable. As Mr. Omar Barghouti has put it, any university must be presumed to be deserving of boycott until it proves otherwise. Its campaign to delegitimize and isolate Israel is not only dishonest but is quite clearly illegal.


    Business that boycott Israel are not objecting to “Israeli settlement violence.” First, “Israeli settlement” is about construction, housing, and zoning rules–one may agree or disagree with these policies, but they definitely have no connection to violence. (If you want to take a stand against violence, start with Palestinian suicide bombings, stabbings, shootings, stoning, and car-ramming attacks, or their copycats from ISIS and other jihadist organizations.) Rather, boycotting Israel–a thriving and vibrant democracy, a staunch American ally that shares our values and supports our interests, an island of stability and sanity in a chaotic region–is simply about bigotry, discrimination, and slander.

    Paul Sherman

    Slanted and anti-Semitic. What about rockets being fired daily into southern Israel by Hamas terrorists that prompted Gaza war? Conveniently forgotten item in this “balanced” reportage. I’m very surprised at Argonaut’s printing this swill… from a long time reader.

    Charles Fredricks

    No justice, no peace. The ‘war on drugs’ will never be resolved through draconian actions by militarized police unaccountable to the public or an injustice system accountable only to corporations. Neither will the ‘war on terror’ be resolved through disproportionate military reaction, in the case of Israel casting 20% of their own population as the potential enemy. The state of Israel at present finds even the appearance of democracy a hindrance as it pertains to citizens of Arab decent [as reflected in the recent law passed in the Knesset. Check out ‘The Son of My Eyes’ by Uri Avnery; http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/28/the-son-of-my-eyes/ ], let alone the inhabitants of the territories.

    The government has no intention of allowing a Palestinian state, even though that would help resolve the demographic difficulty of maintaining the tyranny of the Jewish majority over Arab and Christian minorities, in order to achieve a state that is both Jewish and democratic. Instead, the government maintains direct military control over the majority of the West Bank (areas B & C comprise 80-90% of the territory of the West Bank), while this government (as those previous) allow continued settlement expansion into the West Bank, and control all access to resources of those in Gaza; while pretending those they have thus occupied have no right to resist the disproportionate treatment they receive.

    It is no secret the Israeli government extends military protection to the settlements, siding with settlers in their conflicts with Palestinians, and are shocked—shocked, when for their own preservation, they maintain, they are forced to disproportionately retaliate, resorting regularly to killing ten or more Palestinians in the territories (referred to in military circles as “mowing the lawn”) for every Jewish citizen or IDF soldier whose life is lost to the conflict. Settlers are allowed to carry arms and receive training in their use from private contractors, while Palestinians in the territories are prevented from doing so. Knives are met with bullets, unguided rockets by laser guided bombs, tank and artillery shells— which does nothing to address the underlying issues.

    All this while, if you go to a hospital in Israel you are as likely to be treated by an Arab doctor as a Jewish one, Palestinians wait for hours to cross through checkpoints to work in Israel, or go to work on construction sites building settlements for Jews because they are the only jobs available.

    To think of this conflict in terms of two sides is a mistake. Better to think of it in terms of human nature. To allow oneself to be cowed into submission by superior force is a temporary solution only, against which loss of dignity human nature dictates one must constantly rebel until one is afforded parity of respect.

    In this light, Israel’s policies have no answer for resolving the issues of those they have displaced and continue to control and displace, and so must continually resort to disproportionate military response, which becomes harder and harder to justify.

    Taking the demographics of the territories and the state of Israel together, roughly the same number of people face each other, 7 million or so on each side. Neither side will be successful at permanently displacing the other. Hard-line elements on both sides feel complete righteousness in pursuing this course of action however, with the resulting constant conflict and deaths on both sides. While the destruction falls more disproportionately on the Palestinian side, their birth rate far outstrips that of the Jews and what the government can make up through subsidizing immigration and conversion. In addition, as the conditions of the Palestinians become more widely perceived, the government’s policies become more and more transparent and indefensible in the court of public opinion.

    The BDS movement is a natural consequence of this. Suppressing it will not change the dynamics of the relations between Israelis and Palestinians. There would be no need for such a reaction if the policies of the Israeli government toward Palestinians were more widely perceived as just. The Israeli government is losing the propaganda war, much to their chagrin. But BDS is a reaction, not a solution.

    What is needed is a solution, a path for both Israelis and Palestinians to walk back from the precipice, afford each other mutual respect while maintaining their own, and begin to work together on resolving their long-term issues.

    Charles Fredricks is the co-director of ‘Surviving Peace,’ a film that explores the possibility of
    Israeli-Palestinian confederation.


      Given that it’s impossible to undo the injustice of nearly seven decades of genocidal Arab warfare and terrorism against Israel just since the re-establishment of that tiny democracy, not to mention the violence and terrorism even before, by saying “no justice, no peace,” Fredricks is essentially saying no peace, period.

      Of course, that’s the Palestinian Arab agenda. It’s a much different agenda than that of Israel, which yearns for peace and is willing to make enormous, one-sided concessions if it will induce the Palestinians to give up on their dream of destroying Israel.


      Given that it is the Palestinian Authority which has walked away from negotiations time and again, and prior to that the Arab League which rejected accepting an Israeli state within any borders, how can anyone claim that it is Israel which will not allow an Arab state?
BDS is not about creating dignity or even about rights, but is openly (in the words of its founders) intended to dissolve the Israeli state and turn the region into a single Arab state. At least one would hope that its supporters would have the integrity to admit that much.

      This year, after his term of office expired 7 years ago, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is allowing there to be elections. But for you it is Israel that has been refusing to allow any form of democracy.

      The Oslo Accords, accepted by the United Nations, Israel and (supposedly) the Palestinian Arab people, established Gaza and the West Bank as being the Palestinian State, with the border of the West Bank to be defined between the P.A. and Israel. While Arab negotiators have been willing to work on proposed borders, to discuss which areas would be ceded to Israel and which Israeli communities would be removed, and to discuss land swaps, the fact is that they have consistently balked at the opportunity to sign any such agreement and bring an end to the conflict. Instead the P.A. has repeatedly tried to get the international community to define the borders (in violation of the Oslo Accords) even as Abbas claims that he is open for peace. Sadly, even if Israel were to remove to the so-called Green Line (which the Arabs rejected in 1949, 1965 and 1967), there is no reason to believe that it will bring an end to the conflict. Abbas has refused to make that commitment, and Hamas, which is the other significant Palestinian Arab political party, has openly declared that it will never accept any Israeli state.

      Until such time as Palestinian Arab schools stop teaching its children that the entire region is a single Arab state, and stop representing the Jews as usurpers who have no history in the region or right to exist there, there will be no peace and no dignity. Because the Palestinian Arabs are the weaker party, they may lose more dignity, but both sides are paying the price for Arab intransigence.

      BDS is not a natural consequence of anything. It is a resumption of the pre-state Arab boycott that was determined to prevent Israel from coming into existence. It may use the language of civil rights, but it is more truly Arab nationalism and supremacism.

    Linda Piera-Avila

    Thank you for a great article, Kelly. I do not want my tax dollars going toward oppression and that’s what the state of Israel (not the Jewish religion) is doing to the Palestinians. I also do not want free speech/free association to be violated by the state of Calif telling businesses that they cannot choose with whom to do business.


      You’re correct that the Palestinian Arabs are oppressed, but since more than 95 percent of them have lived under the Palestinian Authority for more than two decades, it’s their own government, not Israel, which is the oppressor.

      Meanwhile, the state of California is not trying to tell business which whom they may do business. However, California does not have an obligation to do business with businesses that are supporting terrorism against the lone true democracy in the Middle East, a tiny state which also happens to be our only enduring friend.


    I am fully in support of Ms. Hayes-Raitt’s views about the Israel/Palestine conflict. Israel’s continuous flouting of international law and suppression of the Palestinian people constitutes apartheid. This is an occupation and our (US) support of it is unconscionable. Our recent “donation” of $3 BILLION allows Israel to continue increasing its occupied territory with impunity. As to their “self-defense”, it is akin to using an AK47 against a flyswatter. Rocks against rockets. Just compare the death tolls. Look at the changing borders. The Palestinians are being slowly eliminated and perhaps that’s been the plan all along. I am ashamed of our participation in this genocide. Thank you, Ms. Hayes-Raitt, for being one of the few brave and truthful voices to stand for justice.


      It appears you believe the world’s only Jewish state is also the only state in the world which doesn’t have the right to protect its people against attack. I have yet to find any critic of Israel come up with any reasonable suggestion about how it could respond to the incessant terror attacks from the Palestinian Arabs other than just letting its people get slaughtered and doing nothing.

    Jim rambo

    Some of the dissenters really believe that some rockets justify the overwhelmingly disproportionate response that killed over a thousand and wounded untold others. US Companies undoubtedly sold Israel the weapons. Thank you, Kelly, for your fearless reporting of the truth.


      Hamas clearly disagrees with your opinion that Israel’s defensive response to the thousands of rockets launched by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza at Israeli cities and towns was disproportionate, as shown by the fact that it’s simply redoubling efforts at building more rockets and terror tunnels for its next assault on ordinary Israelis who just want to live their lives in peace.


    This editorial does a significant disservice to your readers in its failure to accurately depict what BDS stands for.

Ms. Hayes Raitt writes, “BDS punishes companies that profit from Israel’s discriminatory policies and practices.” This implies that BDS differentiates between those companies which are guilty and those which are not. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, who is ironically working towards his Ph.D. at Tel Aviv University, states, “All Israeli academic institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights….”  What this means is that BDS “punishes” everyone and leaves it up to them to somehow prove their innocence. 

BDS claims to be a civil rights organization. In reality BDS is a nationalist organization, with the primary goal of challenging Israel’s right to exist. It specifically chooses to wrap itself in language from the campaign against South Africa to demonize Israel despite the fact that the Arabs living within the Israeli state have had full citizen’s rights from the day that the state declared its independence from the British Mandatory Government.  The Arabs who do not have those rights are the Arabs from Gaza and the West Bank, which are governed by Hamas and Fatah (via the Palestinian Authority set up by the Oslo Accords).

The BDS campaign against SodaStream is a clear example of this duplicity.  SodaStream’s factory was built in an area of the West Bank that has consistently been identified as being ceded to Israel in negotiations. Although wages in the West Bank are lower, the company paid its Arab employees on the same scale as its Israeli employees and even created an insurance fund so that they would be able to have health benefits that matched up to the Israeli national healthcare program.  Nonetheless BDS “punished” Sodastream for being built on Arab land. However, even after it moved to within the “Green Line” BDS has continued to promote its campaign against the company because, in their estimation, it is still occupying Arab land.  The fact is that BDS considers the entirety of Israel as being Arab land, so it does not matter where SodaStream operates, nor what rights, benefits or opportunities it gives to the Arab people working there. It is an Israeli company and, for BDS, it has no right to exist anywhere.

The hypocrisy of BDS and its supporters, like Ms. Hayes Raitt, is that they  condemn Israel for having settlements in the West Bank while also condemning Israel for not giving citizen’s rights to the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza.  If one says that Israelis cannot live east of the Green Line, then they are recognizing that line as a border between two independent entities each with its own national identity.  If one says that Israel is supposed to grant the rights of Israeli citizenship to the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza, then one is denying that border and depicting the entire region as a single state.  These are clearly mutually exclusive positions.  Whatever her position on the Arab-Israeli conflict, at least Ms. Hayes Raitt should have the integrity to admit what she is proposing.
 Claiming to be fighting for Arab civil rights when you are actually fighting to deprive the Jews of the Middle East of the right to self govern as a state in their ancestral land is the ultimate hypocrisy.

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