Shame on the entertainers boycotting Israel this summer.

The thinking behind the news.
July 23 2010 4:35 PM

Et Tu, Elvis?

Shame on the entertainers boycotting Israel this summer.

(Continued from Page 1)

The stronger case against the cultural boycott of Israel is based on principles of consistency and proportionality—and on history. Supporters of boycotting Israel seldom focus on China, or Syria, or Zimbabwe, or other genuinely illegitimate regimes that violate human rights not in deviation from their own principles but systematically. This underscores their bad faith. Boycotters are not trying to send a specific message, such as "We object to your settlement policy in the West Bank" or "We think you need to be willing to give up more for peace." What they're saying instead is: "We consider your country so intrinsically reprehensible that we are gong to treat all of your citizens as pariahs." Instead of warning that Israel risks becoming an apartheid society if it fails to make peace, boycotters have concluded that Israel already is an irredeemable apartheid society. Like the older Arab economic boycott of Israel, which dates back to the 1940s, the cultural boycott is a weapon designed not to bring peace but to undermine the country.

Because Israel is a refuge for persecuted Jews, this kind of existential challenge is hard to disassociate from anti-Semitism—even if people like Meg Ryan and Elvis Costello intend nothing of the kind. It is for this reason that unlike in South Africa, where the internal opposition supported sanctions, none but the most extreme voices in Israel are likely to come around to the idea that their country deserves to be boycotted, divested from, or punished with sanctions. When people are trying to murder you because of your religion, it is difficult to credit the bona fides of those who merely want to shun you because of your nationality.


That leaves the question of what opponents of Israeli policies can legitimately do. Given the unlikelihood of the U.S. Congress ever using military aid as leverage to pressure Israel—or allowing President Obama to do so—it makes sense to look for more discriminate ways to challenge the most objectionable Israeli policies. For instance, the high court of the European Union ruled earlier this year that goods manufactured in the West Bank don't qualify for preferential treatment given to Israeli exports. In a similar vein, the New York Times recently delineated the way in which American supporters of the settlements claim hundreds of millions of dollars in tax deductions. When Elvis Costello takes on that scam, I'll be right behind him.

A version of this article appears in this week's Newsweek.

Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.