Rabbi Waskow might also have argued that, in targeting all of Israel, the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement wrongly asserts that it's only Israel that is at fault for the ongoing conflict. Most Israelis--while consistently responding to polls as wanting an end to the occupation and a two-state solution--have been alienated from the peace camp by the terrible violence of the Second Intifada, which followed the Oslo peace process, and the years of rocket fire and other attacks from Gaza, despite Israel's total withdrawal from that territory in 2005. There is much more that can be said about the fault of all sides in these events, but there is plenty of blame to go around.
The latest high-profile effort to enforce a boycott of Israeli goods--at the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn, NY--was featured in Democracy Now's set-piece introduction to the debate between Waskow and Barghouti. Yesterday evening, this boycott motion was soundly defeated at an overflow meeting of members, by a vote of 1,005 to 653.
This is most of Waskow's argument, as drawn from two passages in the program's transcript:
... I think the BDS movement, as it is presently shaped and framed, is a mistake. It targets all of Israeli society, which is not a way of enacting, in the present, a future in which, as I know you have said you believe, there should be a two-state solution. You mentioned Dr. King. Even when Dr. King clearly, publicly, vigorously opposed the Vietnam War, he did not call for a boycott of all American products and producers. He didn’t do that in Europe or in the United States. He targeted where he was aiming. And I think BDS, as presently framed, doesn’t target. I, myself, don’t buy products made by, produced by Israeli settlers on the West Bank, and I encourage others not to do that. But that’s a laser-beam boycott. That’s a boycott of the oppressive acts of the Israeli government and of settlers on the West Bank. It is not a demonization of Israeli society as a whole. And it seems to me that the present framing of BDS, that it aims at all Israeli institutions and processes and products, and that it talks about not only ending the occupation, but, for example, it seems to be talking about the return of millions of descendants, families, of refugees to within the legitimate boundaries of Israel. I think that is—adds up to an attack on the legitimacy of Israel as a whole. You may not intend that, but I—and I know that you have called for a two-state solution, but the result of the way BDS is framed, on almost everyone I have talked to who feels attracted to it, is that the society, as well as the government, of Israel is wrong, and it must be attacked. That, I think, even using methods that are not outright violence, is not a nonviolent approach.
.... In the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government’s policies are disgusting and probably analogous to apartheid. But I want to point out that the two hunger strikes were pointed like laser beams at very particular disgusting and vile behavior of the Israeli government. They were not directed at all of Israeli society. I think the hunger strikes, aimed as they were, as I say, like a laser beam, at the illegitimate detention and the illegitimate occupation, they are laudable, praiseworthy, and they were not directed against all of Israeli society.Here is a video of this entire broadcast segment:
As for effectiveness, I’m sorry to say that I think, no matter whether the boycotts would be directed like laser beams or broader, none of them are going to be effective. There is only one center of power capable of changing the Israeli government’s behavior by appealing to the desires of the Israeli people, and that’s the government of the United States, which has utterly failed for the last three-and-a-half years to do what many of us hoped, to have said, "This is not acceptable." The Arab League’s proposal for a full peace treaty, a region-wide peace treaty with Israel, with a Palestinian state on the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, that is a policy of decent peace. And the United States government has not insisted to the Israeli government that it will bring this about, that it will insist on this happening. I understand why a president of the United States might be so frightened of domestic politics as not to do that. Perhaps after the next election, it will be possible for the next president of the United States to say, "It’s pass nisht! This doesn’t go," to use Yiddish. "This doesn’t go." And the occupation has to end. There has to be an independent Palestinian state at peace with and alongside Israel, in exchange for which Israel gets peace and security with all its neighbors. That probably has to be expanded to include Iran, as well as the Arab states. But that is what effectiveness would be.