Back in 1995, while studying abroad in Jerusalem, an American Jewish friend and myself were invited by a Palestinian friend to go to a pop music concert at Bethlehem University in its outdoor arena. The female Arab singer was fabulously talented and charismatic, and of course she sang all the songs in Arabic. At one point, she led a song with her fist high in the air, repeating a rhythmic chant, with the impassioned audience repeating the chant, fists high in the air. Again, all in Arabic. Because it was so rhythmic, my Jewish friend and I joined in. When there was a break in the music, I turned to a Palestinian next to me who spoke English and said to him, “That was really great! Oh, and by the way, what were we chanting that whole time?”
He said, “Kick the Jews out!” Of course, that meant all of the land, not only the 67′ lines.
Memories of that Bethlehem episode came flooding back after reading Omar Barghouti’s op-ed in The New York Times today titled, “Why Israel Fears the Boycott.” It seems that at least some of those who reject Israel as a Jewish state for the Jewish people – a people who have endured milennia of persecution that culminated in the Holocaust – have finally seen the limited public relations range of fist-pumping exhortations of ethnic cleansing, and have instead gone all Madison Avenue on us. In fact, tobacco companies still holding out hope that they can get 5th graders addicted to cigarettes through all manner of subliminal messaging ought to read Barghouti’s op-ed. They could use some new pointers.
As Barghouti himself spells out in his New York Times piece, his policy prescriptions, including a right of return for Palestinian refugees throughout what is now Israel, all amount to an end to self-determination of the Jewish people: the end of Israel. And yet, he craftily spells this out by tugging at the heartstrings of those who deeply sympathize with the right of Palestinian national self-determination, and broader Arab human rights and dignity. Move over Joe Camel, you’ve got a challenger in the Subliminal Messaging Heavyweight Competion.
From invoking the language of “full equality,” to a handily-placed reminder about Israel’s undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal, to a swipe at Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record, to a recollection of leftist Jewish writer and intellectual I.F. Stone, Barghouti is effectively telling every young idealist in America, including young Jewish idealists, the following: “I, and the goals of this BDS movement that I push, are nothing more than the miror reflection of your very own dear idealistic hearts that pine for love and peace for everyone.”
Going at this clip, one can expect Barghouti to call for the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, to immediately and without delay institute same-sex marriage rights in all the West Bank and Gaza – and with Elton John and Lady Gaga providing the entertainment for the first newlywed couple. Of course, since Barbara Streisand is Jewish, under Barghouti’s vision, Babs might only be able to sing “Evergreen” for the gay newlyweds via satellite from L.A.
If one is politically aware enought to see that the phrases “Kick the Jews Out” and “End Israel as a Jewish State through BDS” have all the difference and distinction that can be said of linguine and fettucinne, you should be seriously worried about the one true fact that Barghouti writes about in his piece, and that is this: “B.D.S. is no longer taboo in the United States.”
True liberals, as opposed to indoctrination-prone ideologues on the left and the right who are not well-grounded in the values of liberalism, have got to do a better job of creating awareness of the values of classical liberalism; values under heavy attack both domestically and internationally, precisely from people who, in this age of state-of-the-art PR machines, can tweak what is, in and of itself, a justified moral outrage in the broader human saga, and spin it into an engine of perpetual rage; rage that breathes new life into all manner of anti-liberal thought and politics.
Barghouti and the BDS movement – which, shamefully, Secretary Kerry subtly or not-so-subtly validated this weeked in his remarks, depending on one’s interpretation – epitomize the latter: taking a justified moral outrage – the denial of Palestinian human rights and their right of national self-determination – and spinning that justified moral outrage into a de facto, and indeed de jure, denial of the human rights and the right of self-determination for the Jewish people.
Activists, academics, writers, etc. who support the B.D.S. movement – or who assert that this movement shares the same human spirit as the broader nonviolent tradition – are not only wasting time, they are doing something far, far worse: throwing gasoline onto the fires at home and abroad that are already consuming classical liberalism.