Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Boycott

Useful idiots.

That is a cynical and derogatory term once used by officials of the former Soviet Union (FSU) about Americans leftists who bent over backwards sympathizing with the Soviets and/or Communism. These people undermined American foreign policy. They were quite useful for Soviet propaganda purposes back in the cold war days. But those American leftists were pretty much privately ridiculed as fools by the Soviets.

There has been a petition floating around advocating an artistic boycott of the Israeli settlements – refusing to perform in them. It has been signed by some very high profile Jewish entertainers. I understand their motivations. They are not Jewish anti Semites. Some have been very identified with support for Israel. And wear their Judaism very proudly – at least culturally. Two of the signers to that petition -Theodore Bikel (pictured above in his role as Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof) and Mandy Patinkin - are such people.

I am not here to discuss the propriety of the entertainment these entertainers provide. It varies and can be debated. That isn’t the point here. The point is that high profile Jews - popular cultural figures - are doing something unheard of until now. They are using their celebrity to try and force change in the policies of the Israeli government. And if enough of them do it, it could have an impact – a negative one.

It isn’t that I am a supporter of the settlements. As I have said many times - in theory I have no problem with land for peace. If giving up the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) would truly end the hostilities I would be for it. As would many of the greatest rabbinic leaders of my lifetime. Such as the Rav, Rav Shach and Rav Amital when they were alive… and today Rav Lichtenstein and at one time Rav Yosef.

But as I have also said many times – having given up land (Gaza) for peace has so far proven to be disastrous. And like Rav Yosef, I have changed my mind. Until it can be shown that any further land turned over to the Palestinians will result in a real and sustainable peace, Israel cannot afford to give up anything. Doing so now increases the possibility of death and destruction. The Islamists of Hamas, Hezbollah and like minded Islamist/terrorist groups - and their Iranian sponsors - will make sure of that.

That said - as an aside - I trust the Israeli government to do what’s in their best interests in current negotiations with Palestinians.

I have no clue what that is. But I trust that Prime Minster Netanyahu will stand by his principles and at the same time respect the American position on this issue. A very difficult tightrope to walk. But I have confidence in the military and intelligence communities in Israel of which no one has better knowledge than the sitting prime minister. And I also have confidence in his political skills.

Which brings me back to these entertainers. Yes they are idealistic. But they are naïve in my view. They have bought into the notion that settlements are the biggest obstacle to peace.

Funny. I have heard that phrase before. Hmmm… Where have I heard it? Oh yeah…

It is the catch phrase of every single Arab - whether monarch, or other head of state; politician, or political commentator. And it is the policy position of every Arabist in the State Department. That is all they see. They do not see Hamas et al at all. It is as though they didn’t exist. All we have to in order to make peace with the moderate Arabs is to give them the West Bank. Poof! Hamas will disappear.

It is mind boggling that these rather intelligent Jews actually buy into this argument. (No - most entertainers are not stupid even though some might have that reputation.) Don’t they see what happened in Gaza? Do they really think it will be all that different in the West Bank once that is given up? Today Ahskelon is a target. Tomorrow Jerusalem!

Such boycotts undermine the government. It is one thing to express disagreement and dissent. It is another to try and force the government to change its policies in the kind of life threatening situations that exist in Israel. Are they so sure of themselves? Do they have better ‘intel’ than Netanyahu? Do they have a better sense of history? Or better insight to the Palestinian mindset? Or Islamist mindset?

Or are they blinded by their own liberalism? It seems that this is an idol that must be worshipped these days regardless of the cost. Or else you could God forbid lose your status as a liberal.

What’s the matter with these people?!

But they are making at least some people happy. The Palestinians and all the Arabists! It would not surprise me if there was an Arab term for the expression ‘useful idiots’. And I’ll bet it is being used a lot these days.