Boycott the Knesset

I am hastening to call for this boycott because I want to earn a footnote in Jewish history: He tried, Canute-like, to stand against the wave of fascism that engulfed the Zionist project.

Friday, 16 July, 2010 - 16:26
Jerusalem, Israel

I hereby call for a boycott of the Knesset.

A bill proposed by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud ) and the chairwoman of the Kadima faction, Dalia Itzik, together with MK Aryeh Eldad of the National Union, would punish any Israeli calling for a boycott of any Israeli individual or institution, whether in Israel or in the territories. The fine is NIS 30,000, plus any damages that can be proven. The bill passed its preliminary reading on Wednesday.

I therefore call for a boycott of Ze’ev Elkin and Dalia Itzik as individuals (no point in boycotting Dr. Eldad; he would thrive on it ), and of the Knesset as an institution. I call on parliaments throughout the democratic world, and interparliamentary associations, to boycott Israel’s parliament, once the pride of the Jewish people, until it buries the bill and recovers its democratic heritage.

That would also, of course, require revoking the infamous vote, also taken on Wednesday, in which MK Hanin Zuabi was deprived of parliamentary privileges because she took part in May’s flotilla to Gaza (believing it would be nonviolent ).

I am hastening to call for this boycott because I want to be the first person prosecuted under the new bill when it becomes law. This article will still be out there on the Internet, and I ought therefore to qualify. I want to earn a footnote in Jewish history: He tried, Canute-like, to stand against the wave of fascism that engulfed the Zionist project. I’m ready to pay NIS 30,000 for that.

Beyond that little vanity, perhaps a call to boycott the Knesset, if it gained any traction, could puncture that most smug and pernicious piece of propaganda: that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Israel is a democracy for Jews. “We’ll deal with your presence in the Knesset later,” MK Ofir Akunis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s longtime aide, informed Arab MK Ahmed Tibi ominously, unashamedly. True, he was admonished by the Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin. But Rivlin the democrat is a mere fig leaf now, a holdover from another age.

Meanwhile, at any rate, Tibi’s still there. But four million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation have no political rights at all. Plainly, as was predicted decades ago by the peace camp, it is the occupation that is eroding democracy inside Israel.

The settlers got it right, too. “Yesha zeh kaan” - “Judea and Samaria are right here.”

This article would not be complete without the ritual, required - and actually completely true - addendum: I deprecate and despise the people calling for boycotts of Israeli universities. I most especially disdain them if they themselves remain faculty members of those same universities. Israeli universities do not deserve to be boycotted.

I know that “deserve to be boycotted” opens up a whole other can of worms. Do settler wines, for instance, deserve to be boycotted? I was in a restaurant recently where a salesperson from Barkan Winery was promoting her products. When someone muttered something about “boycott,” she smoothly replied that the winery had long ago moved to inside the Green Line. It was not a settler business, and there was no reason, therefore, for anyone to boycott it. So boycotts work, apparently.

But things are not always all that simple, given the complicated lives we lead here, in the fifth decade of the occupation. My darling grandchildren live in a settlement (albeit within one of the “blocs” ). Do I call for a boycott of them? I had better not, or they’ll call for a boycott of me.

David Landau is a London-born Israeli journalist and newspaper editor. He was editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz from 2004-2008 and remains a member of its editorial staff. He was the founder and editor-in-chief of the paper’s English edition from 1997 to 2004. Before joining Haaretz in 1997, Landau was the diplomatic correspondent of The Jerusalem Post for 12 years, and its managing editor for four years.

This article was originally published by Haaretz on…

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