Politics & Policy

A Wicked Act

The world’s organized hostility to Israel would be kind of funny if it didn’t have such serious consequences, or potential consequences. There are some 200 nations in the world. Many of them are very bad actors: dictatorships, terror states. And it is tiny, democratic Israel that is the focus of the world’s hostility.

The latest is that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — not to be confused with the Presbyterian Church in America — has voted to divest from Israel. Thus does a major American church join the worldwide BDS movement. (“BDS” stands for “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” — against one country, Israel.)

If Israel did not exist, the United Nations might not have much to do. Last year the General Assembly adopted 25 resolutions against particular countries. Twenty-one of those resolutions were against Israel; the other four were against Syria, Iran, North Korea, and Burma. Not since the apartheid regime in South Africa has a country been so stigmatized by the world. And foes of Israel, of course, promote the lie that Israel is an “apartheid state.”

Consider a few steps in the effort to delegitimize Israel. Stephen Hawking, one of the most famous scientists in the world, joined the academic boycott of that country. He has been happy, however, to go to Iran and China. The American Studies Association voted to boycott Israel. In Scotland, the West Dunbartonshire Council forbade local libraries to carry books printed in Israel. Israeli athletes are often harassed, and prevented from playing; same with Israeli musicians.

It used to be that, when a performer refused to perform in Israel, it made news. Now it makes news when a performer has the nerve to show up in Israel. A few years ago, Elton John shouted from an Israeli stage, “Shalom! We are so happy to be back here! Ain’t nothin’ gonna stop us from comin’, baby!”

One consequence of anti-Israel boycotts is that they harm Arabs. They do so by perpetuating two myths, related. The first is that the Arab–Israeli conflict is Israel’s fault, instead of the fault of people who refuse to coexist. The second is that the Arabs’ lamentable condition is Israel’s fault, instead of the fault of people who refuse to reform, liberalize, or democratize.

By the way, one opponent of anti-Israel boycotts is Yasser Arafat’s successor as the PLO chairman, Mahmoud Abbas. Maybe he could have a word with the Presbyterians?

Mainly, the boycotts serve the delegitimization of Israel, and the dehumanization of Israelis. They call into question Israel’s right to exist. They make Israel a pariah state. They soften Israel up for . . .

Well, Iran and other enemies of Israel have pledged to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. It is true that Israel is backed by U.S. military might. It is further true that it has military might of its own: nuclear weapons. But its survival is no sure thing. These boycotts and other protests are not “freebies” — rebukes of a nation that is going to be fine no matter what. They are not mere acts of political correctness. They undermine a country whose very existence is threatened every day. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has now joined a nasty and growing mob.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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