The Argonaut has been catching a lot of flak for printing columnist Kelly Hayes-Raitt’s July 28 opinion piece “Reject the Boycott Black-
list,” which criticized local lawmakers for proposing state legislation that would ban companies that boycott Israel from competing for public contracts.

Hayes-Raitt, a Santa Monica resident who witnessed human strife in the West Bank during a 2007 visit, argued that the law would muzzle free speech at home by cracking down on those linked to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions)movement.

Letters to the editor by locals and others around the country — nearly 4,000 words of them — say the column is supporting anti-Semites with an agenda to alienate Israel and, ultimately, wipe it off the map.

It was not immediately obvious to us how one idea led to the other, so we asked Rabbi Abraham Cooper at the Museum of Tolerance to clarify. Cooper explained that the BDS movement has many critics, himself included, who believe that some of its leaders are less concerned with peace in the Middle East than undermining Israel’s right to exist.

The current BDS movement takes inspiration from 1980s divestment strategy that pressured South Africa to end apartheid. Equating Israel to apartheid South Africa is just the beginning of Cooper’s problems with BDS, which also include overt demonization, a failure to demonstrate intent to aid Palestinians (he cites high-profile layoffs of Palestinian workers due to BDS pressures), and a barrier to the kind of dialogue and cooperation that can ultimately build peace.

“Anyone talking about separating people to punish crimes both real and imaginary — that isn’t going to bring peace closer,” Cooper said.

Due to the volume and length of the letters we’ve received, we’ve included key excerpts in this issue and are publishing the letters in full at

— Joe Piasecki,
managing editor

Boycott the Boycotters

This opinion piece is nothing more than an attempt to support the terrorist state of Palestine. We reject that notion and call for all those who support the only true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, to boycott companies that support the boycott of Israel and to divest their portfolios of their stock.

Arnold Lipschultz

‘Anti-Israeli Venom’

How shocking and upsetting that Kelly Hayes-Raitt garnered more than three quarters of a page for her hate-spewing piece, which was chockfull of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli venom. Perhaps it’s time for residents to consider #boycottTheArgonaut.

Karen Karlitz
Santa Monica

Divestment Bigotry

Boycott companies if they support policies of Israel … but don’t boycott any business that supports the exclusion of Jews?

Ivan Smason
Santa Monica

BDS Doesn’t Care about Palestinians

BDS is not meant to help Palestinian Arabs; it’s meant to destroy Israel through lies. Every U.S. state has the legal and moral right to reject such a biased movement — one that does not care how many thousands of good jobs Palestinians have to lose as long as Israel suffers.

Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East, comprising an Arab minority of more than 20%, who are free to worship, study and work as they choose and whose language is one of the official languages of Israel. Palestinian Arabs are not Israeli citizens and are ruled by corrupt, violent regimes that refuse to accept the Jewish state and continue to encourage terrorism and pay terrorists, who are treated as heroes. Israel, like
any other country, has the right to self-defense.

Israel haters like Hayes-Raitt, who somehow don’t have a word of complaint against Hamas or the PA, don’t believe that Israel has the right to defend itself in any way. Settlements — always the favorite target of Israel haters — are merely an excuse, as the Arab world violently rejected Israel long before any settlements in disputed areas existed, and Israel has given up disputed territory before only to be met with more attacks.

Sara Miller, Queens, New York

One-Sided Misrepresentation

An article with this many one-sided misrepresentations should be countered with an argument showing the other side. As a simple example, the Jewish presence in Palestine was challenged by numerous massacres led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who went to Europe to contribute to the massacre of Jews in WWII Europe.

Charles S. Berdiansky, West Hollywood

‘Destroying Israel Through Slander’

This article is filled with misconceptions, errors and falsehoods. The boycott movement against Israel has nothing to do with improving the lives of the Palestinians but everything to do with destroying Israel through slander. It is one of several tools used to delegitimize the Jewish state.

The demonization of Israel by ordinary people like Ms. Hayes-Raitt makes Jews targets in Israel and abroad. Slandering Israel is a first step in demonizing the country and legitimizing the actions of terrorists.

Even though the boycotters are hypocrites, their right to free speech will not be muzzled by the pending legislation in the California Legislature. However, California has rights as well. Boycotts of Israel are not in the interest of the people of California, let alone the Palestinians.  It is the boycotters who should be boycotted and called out for the hypocrisy and lies they spread.

Elinor Weiss, East Amherst, New York

‘BDS Punishes Everyone’

Ms. Hayes-Raitt writes that “BDS punishes companies that profit from Israel’s discriminatory policies and practices.” This implies that BDS differentiates between those companies that do and those that do not. 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 full citizen’s rights.

Arthur Toporovsky,
Flushing, New York

‘Loathing and Contempt’

Boycotting is shunning, and shunning is a way to express loathing and contempt. It says, “You are not fit to live among normal people; I will treat you as if you didn’t exist, as though you were dead.”

That this is the purpose of BDS and the “socially conscious” organizations (There’s a euphemism for you!) that support it, is obvious. It can’t be about the occupation of the West Bank, because Israel has offered the Palestinians their own state on the West Bank and Gaza and been turned down three times. Why? Because the Palestinians in turn would have to recognize the Jewish state as well.

How does the boycott destroy Israel? Not economically, of course. Rather, telling lies about Israeli “apartheid” is an effective way to get generally uninformed Americans to believe that Israel is, like South Africa was, an international criminal. The old Nazi boycott of Jews had exactly the same purpose —defamation and exclusion.

This is the war being fought in the press and on campuses.

Fred Baumann
Professor of Political Science, Kenyon College Gambier, Ohio


This regrettable piece is blind in the extreme. To the tunnel-vision boycott advocates, injustice only matters when it involves accusing Israel.

Barry Salwen
Wilmington, North Carolina