Shayna Abramson

Of Boycotts and Che Guevara T-Shirts


In the wake of the most recent Gaza war, the international community has adhered to a double-standard that condemns Israel, and sometimes even advocates for boycotting it, while failing to properly condemn (or often, even acknowledge) Hamas terrorism, or to call for the boycott of Gaza. This is because the international community is much better at distinguishing between Palestinian civilians and Hamas terrorism than it is at distinguishing between the Israeli people and the Israeli government’s policies.

In adhering to this double-standard, the world empowers the Israeli right-wing, by giving credence to its argument that there is no point in taking human rights or international law into account, because the world will condemn Israel regardless. It also causes the Israeli population to feel isolated and internationally besieged, prompting them to seek the stability and security offered by the right-wing, over the risks-for-peace advocated by the left. When you feel alone and weak, you can’t focus on a long-term solution – you’re too busy focusing on your immediate survival. By contrast, international support provides the feeling of empowerment that promotes a willingness to take risks for long-term peace, and to reach out to the other side.

Furthermore, in showing itself to be biased, the international community severely discredits the peace process, which is built on the premise that the international community has the authority and the responsibility to mediate and enforce a lasting peace deal, including the elements of the deal that would guarantee Israeli security. By showing itself to be biased, the international community proves itself as incapable of properly carrying out those tasks.

In a democracy, public opinion decides who wins elections, which decides which policies will be enacted: By driving Israelis to vote for right-wing politicians, the boycott campaigns are helping to create policies that oppress Palestinians, thus helping to enact the very policies that they claim to be fighting against.

Of course, double standards must be built in to the boycott movement, because if Western countries started boycotting all major human rights violators (and I personally do not consider Israel to be among that list) then international trade, as well as many cultural and intellectual exchanges, would have to stop. The globalized world as we know it would come to an end, and protestors would no longer be able to wear Che Guevara  t-shirts that were made by child labor in Bangladesh.

But that’s not what’s important. What’s important, is that you know that Che Guevara t-shirts went out of fashion, and wearing one at a protest will only get you seen as a poser. It is, however, ok to wear Ronald Reagan t-shirts ironically, as long as they’re made of organic cotton.

You’re welcome.



About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.