Now these are ”progressive Zionists” who boycott Israel

Two self-styled ”life long Progressive Zionist” professors, Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl, published in the Washington Post a call for a complete boycott of Israel, specifically emphasizing, that it is not enough to punish only the settlements, it is time and necessity to punish all the Jews of Israel. Israel, as they wrote, is not North Korea or Syria, where it is enough to punish the rulers in order to achieve results. Israel, according to them, is very successful economically, so its people have no incentive to change their government due to the prosperity they enjoy, hence the need to beat them in the pocket.

Not such an original idea , as it is an old anti-Semitic line, ”beat the Jews in the pocket”, and this is coming from self-styled ”Progressive Zionists”. I , for one, am convinced more than before, why I am not a Progressive person . I also understand why I am not a ”PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRAT”, because I happen to agree to the weird notion that election results need to be respected, and people who vote freely for the government of their choosing, should not be punished for that, by imposing sanctions on their standard of living. But then what do I know, as I am not a Progressive.

Then , there is so much more in this article of the two good professors, which really renders it into a defining document. It is so easy to dismiss two professors, by simply telling them , ”who cares ”?, or ”Really?, You boycott Israel, oy gevalt” and then move on, but somehow I feel, that it may not be proper in this case. So, let us start with the timing of their call for boycott, in the midst of ” the wave of recent attacks in Jerusalem”, as they put it.

Attacks by whom? against whom?, not clear, but If the call for boycott comes exactly at this time, it is not too far-fetched to assume , that the ”Progressive Zionists” blame Israel for what is happening. Maybe not, but then they keep it vague in their article, and at any rate, not one word by them of human solidarity with the Jewish victims of the knife warfare. Are knives a legitimate, Progressive weapon? Maybe in Jerusalem, but clearly not in the respective universities in the US, where the ”Progressive Zionist” professors teach.

Beyond that, another question arises. Where are the Palestinians?. The entire document is about Israel, what it does and does not do[Israel is always wrong, of course], and all this is described without any reference to what can explain Israeli actions and policies. It is so, from their perspective, because their history of the conflict starts in 1967. All of a sudden, out of the blue, came the dreadful occupation. Any background? not in their article . No reminder of the very justified war of self-defense of June 1967, at a time when there were no settlements, no occupation .

The occupation is the beginning of it all , the occupation is the conflict, the occupation is Israel. Gaza is part of the occupation, although it was evacuated lock, stock and barrel just 10 years ago, only to have three bloody confrontations with its rulers from Hamas afterwards. Apparently a complete Israeli withdrawal according to ”Progressive Zionists” , as well as Liberal Zionists, such as Peter Beinart, is still an occupation. The latter wrote, that Israel has never left Gaza. No explanation however, how 20,000 missiles were fired from there against Israeli civilians since then. These Israelis must be strange occupiers…

Part of the problem with these ‘Progressive Zionists” is that they reflect a typical American disregard to History . History is a burden for them So, an unnecessary impediment for a solution, so it is 1967 which is the key year, not anything beforehand. Progressive and Liberal Zionists can have all kinds of grievances about the direction of Israel. The debate with them is not about their right to express these grievances, as it is the obvious democratic right which they have. It is also the obvious right of the people of Israel to elect whomever they want, EVEN a non-Progressive government, rather a government based , as it is, on the vast majority of working-class Israelis, mostly the descendants of those Jews who were deported from Arab countries as part of the conflict, which the ‘Progressive Zionists” trace back only to 1967.

Under normal circumstances, Progressives, whether Zionist or not, should welcome working-class people , those who were disenfranchised for decades, by the Labor Progressive Governments of Israel, those who are the poorer elements of society. But not in this case. Why? A complicated question, not to be answered in full in this piece, but maybe two possible explanations will do.

One is that the American model of progressivism does not comply with what is happening in Israel’s society, therefore, the Israelis should adapt themselves to the American model, regardless of how irrelevant it is to the Israeli conditions. The other has to do with the very nature of the Jewish state. Many Progressive and Liberal American Jews, including self-styled Zionists, believe that Zionism, an ideology which they are not feeling SO comfortable with, has a right to exist, ONLY if the state of the Jews, which is the culmination of the Zionist ideology, is to be something other than states all over the world. A Jewish state should justify its very existence by being an example to the rest of the world, a fantasy land , which may exist in the text books of progressivism, but not in the reality of the Middle East with its long history of conflict.

Surely, and this blogger expressed it very specifically on many occasions, Israel is to make huge concessions in order to achieve peace, but this is a tango for two, and it is not only Israel which bears responsibility for a peace solution. Those who think so live in a dream land, and it is also a dream on their part, which will not be fulfilled to believe that boycotting Israel will make any difference. Good bye to our ”Progressive Zionists”, it is YOU who left willingly the big Zionist tent. Somehow we shall survive your defection.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina