But as Jonathan Tobin points out, that exquisite distinction might be lost on others. Such as British actress and writer Emma Thompson, who recently along with thirty-six other leading lights of the English theater demanded that Israel’s Habima Theater Company be excluded from a dramatic festival in London next month. The reason? Habima—Tel Aviv-based and, like most of Israel’s artistic community, not exactly right-wing—has refused to boycott the Samarian town of Ariel (pop. 18,000). As Tobin puts it, “The slippery slope from Beinart’s version of Zionism to Thompson’s anti-Zionism couldn’t be clearer.”
Indeed, once boycott Zionism is in the air, who knows where it might lead? It turns out that “Israel’s embassy in Cairo has been operating out of a temporary residence for the past seven months because …every time the Israeli embassy finds a new embassy building, the owners then refuse to sell or rent the property after finding out who the buyer is.” When such, let’s say, nonfriends of Israel find out that even Zionists (sorry, but there are people out there who call all Jews Zionists) are now boycotting Israel—oh yes, only part of it, not all of it—it doesn’t exactly dampen their ardor.
And there are other ironies here. Egypt is a country toward which Israel acted as the sage Beinart would approve: it signed a peace treaty with it and tore down all the settlements it had built in the Sinai, the territory that Israel captured from Egypt in the 1967 Six-Day War. Three decades later, with the Muslim Brotherhood a few inches from taking power, Egypt is not exactly a friendly country toward Israel. And then there’s Gaza, another place where Israel acted according to the precepts of boycott Zionism, tearing down all its settlements and leaving it in 2005—since which time it has become a virulent jihadist enclave firing over eight thousand rockets at Israel, already necessitating one full-scale war of a kind that never had to be fought in Gaza while Israel was “occupying” it.
But Beinart is impressed by none of this, and prescribes the same medicine for Judea and Samaria. And if the large majority of Israelis now regard such medicine as a suicide pill, Beinart—in the name, of course, of democracy—wants to force them to take it; he wants to boycott Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria out of existence. It would, at least, make Peter Beinart’s life even easier—no more “settlement” products on shelves to even expend the mental effort to boycott, no more embarrassment about his distant brethren who, squeezed inside indefensible borders and likely in a crossfire of rockets, would at least have a Beinart-approved democracy.
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