Settlement Boycott Statement

Houses are seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ofra, north of Ramallah

Anyone interested in the settlement-boycott statement recently published at the New York Review of books can read it here. I’m of mixed mind. On the one hand, I support the statement. As a “liberal Zionist,” I think the most important part is not so much the boycott itself and the call for political non-recognition of the West Bank settlement project. Technically, this is not “BDS” if one assumes that the settlements are not a part of Israel. On the other hand, it is based on the old occupation and two-state paradigm. If the territories have been de-facto annexed into an effective one-state bi-national entity, then this train has already moved on. That would mean that BDS is effectively pointless, assuming that the settlement project will be that political reality which secures a one-state bi-national future in historcal Palestine. Peronally, I think more, not less attention should be going to supporters of the Israeli and Jewish right promoting the annexation of the West Bank. To sign the letter, here’s the email address:

Houses are seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ofra, north of Ramallah


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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4 Responses to Settlement Boycott Statement

  1. Such a dilemma. Will “progressive” Jews support Women of the Wall or boycott the Kotel? If the Jordanians failed to clear the Jewish Quarter of Jews Michael Walzer will take a crack at it.

    • I was just in contact with Michael Walzer. He explained that, actually, he would not boycott the Jewish Quarter (he would be willing to buy a mezuzah there) and that he signed the letter as it was written due to the exigencies of political life. So – what about Gush Etzion? What about the established Jerusalem neighborhoods over the green line? Who are the Jews who think that those would not remain under Israeli jurisdiction in a final settlement? See how darned complicated it is to boycott your own people?

      • zjb says:

        not sure what it would mean to boycott those neighborhoods in Jerusalem. truth is, i don’t go to the Jewish Quarter because I don’t like the vibe, and I have no real reason to go to Gush Etzion or cross the Green Line. All my people (relatives and friends) are on the other side. As i said elsewhere, when the status of these areas are included into Israel as part of a negotiated settlement with land swaps, then they won’t be “occupied territories.” As for neighbordhoods like French Hill, it was the more recent aggressive settlement of Palestinian neighbordhoods in East Jerusalem that have put all of those neighborhoods into critical spotlight. It’s complicated (darned complicated) to establish political legitimacy in the absence of internationally recognized borders.

  2. From my correspondence with Walzer:
    Dear Prof. Walzer
    Thank you for getting back to me. I’m afraid that your concessions to political expediency in having signed the letter may be more profound than you realize. You mention “settlement products” but the letter refers to “a targeted boycott of all goods and services from all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, and any investments that promote the Occupation”. It would be natural to interpret “investments that promote the Occupation” as including branches of banks, stores, and medical services, communications and utility grids, construction projects, etc. taking place over the green line. In other words, a very large slice of Israeli financial institutions and other large corporations and organizations seem to be subject to the boycott. And. of course, basically all security and IDF activity over the green line could be interpreted as “promoting the occupation”. I’ve also got to wonder where the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion (which basically no one who is seriously interested in peace believes would be abandoned by Israel in any imaginable final settlement) fit into all of this.
    So here’s the thing: I can appreciate your surrender to the exigencies of political life; but here we are not talking about any old letter. It is a call to action, and, let’s face it, a call for economic warfare against the settlements, worded with the appropriate military rhetoric of “targeting”. But surely you are the last person who has to be reminded that when attacking a target, due care must be taken to avoid “collateral damage”. The victims of that potential damage will not be ciphers, but rather our brothers and sisters whose livelihood is at stake. And so, I am distraught by (what I hope are merely) the careless formulations found in the letter.

    Best regards,

    Berel Dov Lerner

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