Only when all of us, men and women, Israelis who are partners in and responsible for the continuation of the occupation, begin to pay a real price for it will Israel receive a chance to be a sane and civilized country with diplomatically recognized and moral borders based on international law. Without that we will not have security or peace.
If the new bill is passed imposing a seven-year sentence on activists in the BDS movement against Israel and its products for harming the country and its foreign relations, it will mark a giant step in the constitutional revolution the right-wing nationalist government has been making in recent years.
This revolution is progressing at a terrifying pace under the patronage of a fraud that’s second to none. It’s as if the struggle for human rights (and not the attacks on them) could be considered harming the country; as if a country and its policies, citizenship and ideology were one. As if ideologies hadn’t yet brought about the destruction of countries in which power was awarded to the ideologues.
Ed note: On Nov 19, 2017, the American Academy of Religion cancelled a panel discussion on the ethical and theological motivations of BDS after several anti-BDS speakers withdrew from participation at the last moment. The Academy subsequently allowed several papers to be presented “informally,” but without discussion. One of those papers is presented here. Read details of the cancellation here →
Beyond the fears of BDS articulated by so many in the Jewish communal establishment, I think there’s an even deeper fear for many of us in the Jewish community: the prospect of facing the honest truth of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. . . .
[With BDS], however, a nonviolent call for popular resistance has been placed before us. Thus, for those of us that believe God hears the cry of the oppressed and demands that we do the same, the BDS call represents a direct challenge to our faith. Will we be like God, and hearken to their cries, or will we be like Pharaoh and ignore them?
In my remarks to you today, I’d like to address one of the questions originally presented to the panelists of our session: “What, from your perspective, stands out as a particularly important element of religious ethics and theology that motivates those inspired to take up the cause of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions?”
For me, this question is profoundly connected to one of the most important theological teachings of Jewish tradition: namely that God hears and hearkens to the cry of the oppressed. This teaching is needless to say, deeply imbedded in the Torah; in Genesis 18:20-21, God says to Abraham:
The outrage of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave! I will go down to see whether they have acted altogether according to the outcry that has reached Me. . . .” Later, at the outset of the Exodus story, God says to Moses, “Now the cry of the Israelites has reached Me; moreover I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them.” (Exodus 3:9)
It should be noted that Godly attributes in Jewish tradition are not mere academic concepts — they are nothing short of divine imperatives. God’s ways must be our ways as well.