Everything you need to know about the weekend media coverage of Israel and the Mideast.
Is there a relationship between the Holocaust and culturally boycotting Israel? Is London ready for a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Olympic visit? Which veteran columnist is under suspicion for plagiarizing Electronic Intifada — among others?
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Israel and the Palestinians
• Thumbs up to the Irish Times for publishing a remarkably frank op-ed about culturally boycotting Israel.
If there’s one thing western intellectuals can’t afford to be crude about, it’s the relationship of their own cultures to Jewish history. The Holocaust doesn’t excuse Israeli abuses of human rights, but it does form the context in which collective acts like boycotts have to be set. There is a nasty history of using boycotts to isolate Jewish communities in Europe: Limerick in 1904 is a relatively minor example. In the extreme case of Nazi Germany, boycotting was a prelude to attempted elimination.
This history changes the dynamic of a boycott. In the case of South Africa, the idea was that boycotts might induce shame in white South Africans, causing them to question their support for the system. In the case of Israel, Jewish history means that this effect is impossible.
Boycotts will always be interpreted as an expression of anti-Semitism and as a prelude to worse attacks.
Critics of Israel will dismiss this as special pleading and point to the cynical way the Israeli government uses accusations of anti-Semitism to deflect legitimate questions about its policies and behaviour. But the problem is actually a double one. There are false accusations of anti-Semitism – the vast majority of those supporting a cultural boycott are not motivated by anti-Jewish prejudice. But there is also a minority strain of false concern for the Palestinians, whose sufferings are used as cover for anti-Semites.
Because anti-Semitism still exists, there is a duty to be especially careful about a boycott that suggests that Israelis as such are not fit people for cultural exchange.
• Elder of Ziyon debunks AFP’s latest Pallywood special.
• The PA’s snit with Mohammed Rashid’s getting juicier. Rashid — Yasser Arafat’s longtime moneyman — says the PA gave millions of dollars to Israeli-Arab parties during general elections. Meanwhile, Interpol denied the PA’s request to arrest Rashid. Why not? asks Maan News:
The attorney-general added that he had asked Interpol to intervene but it would not help because Palestine is not a recognized state.
• South Africa has decided that products made in Israeli settlements may not be labeled as “Made in Israel.” According to the Jerusalem Post:
In a statement published last week in the governmental gazette, Trade Minister Rob Davies declared that consumers in South Africa should not be misled into believing that products originating from the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” originate from Israel.
Ironically, those who would get harmed the most by the move are some 15,000 Palestinian workers who are employed in these factories and depend on ththe em to make a living.
• Ben Lynfield (Christian Science Monitor) interviews the lawyer pushing the legal case against Migron and Ulpana.