On July 11, the Israeli Knesset passed an anti-boycott law that drew immediate criticism from many quarters.
In Israel, a Jerusalem Post editorial entitled “The Bad Boycott Bill” stated that, “Civil society has an unalienable right to organize peacefully and to use its buying power or freedom of association to further political objectives.”
In the United States, a broad spectrum of American Jewish organizations from J Street to the ADL opposed the bill. Here in Pittsburgh, 80 people signed an ad in the Chronicle opposing the law.
I was proud to be among the signatories of the ad and to help organize a community program on July 31 at the Squirrel Hill Library. The event featured Gili Re’i, the associate deputy director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). Re’i spoke knowledgeably about the threat the law poses to the rights of all Israelis. In covering this event, I believe the Chronicle wrongly highlighted a brief exchange in the discussion period between some of the participants. This detracted from the message of the speaker and the seriousness of the subject of the meeting: protecting free speech in Israel.
U.S. and Pittsburgh supporters of Israel must be able to engage in respectful dialogue in order that we may better understand the issues facing Israel and better support a democratic Israel and Middle East peace.
Ronnie Cook Zuhlke
I accessed your article [about Tisha B’Av] through the URJ Weekly Briefing (“Reform Jews embrace Tisha B’Av despite historic reticence,” Aug. 11). This is the first time I have read an article that talks about why we Reform Jews chose this kind of response to a holiday/practice.
I will have to study what you wrote further, but wanted to express my appreciation for your insight. I usually read AISH.com, and while I’m a Reform Jew, it was the only site that gave explanations. I welcome learning about my own movement’s view on why we do what we do.
Anouchi, J Street rapped
In reply to Avraham Anouchi’s Aug. 11 column, “Anti-boycott law is democratic and fair,” a commercial boycott is the flip side of price fixing. When manufacturers band together to fix prices they hurt the consumer. When consumers band together to boycott products they hurt the manufacturers. To protect its citizens, a government will legislate anti-cartel or anti- boycott laws. The injured party has to be a legal citizen of the country writing these laws.
If, indeed, the anti-boycott law passed by the Knesset was designed to protect the citizens of Israel, then why now? Israel has been subjected to commercial boycotts for the past 50 years. Where was the government for all these years? One should also note that the settlements are not a legal entity of Israel and the law does not apply to them.
The conclusion that I draw is that the boycott law was conceived to make a political statement, rather than to provide economic protection. In fact, the law is anti-democratic because it empowers noncitizens to engage in legal action against its own citizens and prevents its own citizens from boycotting, and speaking out against noncitizen entities.
Mr. Anouchi supports the Nakba law because Nakba Day demonstrations could mar the joyous celebrations of Independence Day. This is a lame argument. Demonstrations require permits, and the police will have the authority to ban such demonstrations. Imagine if Italy forbade the celebration of Tisha B’Av because it mourns the Roman victory in the first century C.E.
Mr. Anouchi has an issue with J Street. So do I, but for different reasons. J Street flies the banner of “pro two-states solution, pro Israel.” Can anybody argue with that? But J Street does not practice what it advertises. J Street could not be truly “pro Israel” and allow its university affiliates to drop the line “pro Israel” from their banners. To attract members it is willing to openly deny its advertised core mission.
J Street should have an issue with the government of Israel, not with the country and not with the Zionist dream of a “Jewish homeland.” We all watched the demonstrations in Cairo. The crowds of mostly young people demanded a change in the government, while waving with pride the flag of Egypt. Could one imagine a J Street campus rally with Israeli flags?