Sally Rooney Embraces BDS

Big Week for BDS

The Irish writer Sally Rooney has rejected an Israeli publisher’s request to translate her newest novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You. When this was first announced, a number of outlets rushed to frame this as Rooney boycotting the Hebrew language, but she has now put out a statement making it clear that this isn’t the case:

“I was very proud to have my previous two novels translated into Hebrew… Likewise, it would be an honor for me to have my latest novel translated into Hebrew and available to Hebrew-language readers,” it reads. “But for the moment, I have chosen not to sell these translation rights to an Israeli-based publishing house.”

“Israel’s system of racial domination and segregation against Palestinians meets the definition of apartheid under international law,” it continues. “The (BDS) movement is a Palestinian-led, anti-racist, and nonviolent grassroots campaign calling for an economic and cultural boycott of complicit Israeli companies and institutions in response to the apartheid system and other grave human rights violations… I am responding to the call from Palestinian civil society, including all major Palestinian trade unions and writers’ unions.”

The company that put in the bid, Modan Publishing House, publishes books put out by Israel’s Ministry of Defense.

The same day that Rooney put out this statement, hundreds of workers at Google and Amazon published a joint letter at The Guardian calling on both companies to stop providing cloud services to Israel through their Project Nimbus contract:

We cannot look the other way, as the products we build are used to deny Palestinians their basic rights, force Palestinians out of their homes and attack Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – actions that have prompted war crime investigations by the international criminal court.

We envision a future where technology brings people together and makes life better for everyone. To build that brighter future, the companies we work for need to stop contracting with any and all militarized organizations in the US and beyond. These contracts harm the communities of technology workers and users alike. While we publicly promise to uplift and assist our users, contracts such as these secretly facilitate the surveillance and targeting of those same users.

We condemn Amazon and Google’s decision to sign the Project Nimbus contract with the Israeli military and government, and ask them to reject this contract and future contracts that will harm our users. We call on global technology workers and the international community to join with us in building a world where technology promotes safety and dignity for all.

Since the letter was published, hundreds of additional workers have signed on and over 40 human rights organizations have launched a campaign in solidarity. “Following in the footsteps of those who fought to divest from apartheid South Africa and won, it’s our responsibility to rise up in support of Palestinian freedom,” reads the coalition’s website. “The Amazon and Google execs who signed this contract can still choose to be on the right side of history.”

Still Screaming

If you spend any time perusing Congress’s website, you quickly realize how many asinine bills get introduced. Allow me to direct your attention to a recent effort from Marco Rubio: the Mind Your Own Business Act. That’s really what the legislation is called. It allegedly aims to “fight back against woke corporations.” In case you’re wondering: yes, the word “woke” is actually used in the bill’s text.

Rubio announced the legislation in a Fox Business op-ed, as one does. The article claims that the internet and Hollywood are dominated by Marxist mobs (inshallah!) and that it’s time to fight back against “woke elites.” How does one do that? The bill’s concise name suggests a stand against censorship and government intrusion. However, a cursory look at its text reveals that it’s designed to do the exact opposite. Its aim is actually to stifle speech, with specific animus directed towards anyone who dares to stand up to Israel.

The legislation specifically mentions the BDS movement and declares that companies boycotting the apartheid state should be kicked out of the stock market. Their shareholders should also be allowed to sue them.

However, the bill only works in one direction. Lara Friedman breaks this down in her latest newsletter:

The bill would on the one hand open up companies to shareholder lawsuits if they take business decisions that reflect their progressive political views/ideologies/conscience, while on the other hand, it would explicitly exempt from this same shareholder accountability companies that act to punish other companies for boycotting Israel/settlements. In practice, what this would mean is that a company could be sued by shareholders for refusing to operate in settlements, but it could not be sued by shareholders for boycotting a bank over that bank’s refuses to operate in settlements.

Rubio’s bill has exactly zero cosponsors so it’s not really something worth getting alarmed about. He’s been trying to introduce various anti-BDS bills in the Senate for years. In June he and Joe Manchin reintroduced The Combating BDS Act, which would allow states to go after BDS efforts more aggressively. However this new one isn’t vague or symbolic, the way anti-BDS legislation often is. It’s also being introduced amid the continued fallout from the Ben & Jerry’s decision and, as Friedman mentions, the legislation makes no distinction between embracing BDS and specifically boycotting illegal settlements.

Speaking of Ben & Jerry’s, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were recently interviewed on HBO’s Axios series about the company pulling its business out of illegal settlements. It’s worth noting that they sold the company they founded over twenty years ago, but they’re still involved in some of its decision-making and they’ve embraced the decision.

They once again asserted that what the company was doing was not a boycott of Israel, but action taken against a specific policy. When asked about people calling them antisemitic Cohen laughed and said he didn’t care. “Totally fine because it’s absurd!,” he said. “OK, I mean, What? I’m anti-Jewish! I mean, I’m a Jew, all my family is Jewish, my friends are Jewish.”

At one point Axios’ Alexi McCammond asked them why the company was pulling its ice cream out of settlements, but not out of places like Georgia and Texas to protest assaults on voting rights and abortion access. This isn’t an especially original question, but it seemed like they hadn’t contemplated this pro-Israel narrative at all. Their response was a big swing and a miss.

After a pause Cohen said he wasn’t really sure why they were selling ice cream in those places. “It’s an interesting question,” he said. “I don’t know what that would accomplish. We’re working on those issues, of voting rights. … I think you ask a really good question. And I think I’d have to sit down and think about it for a bit.”

When McCammond pressed them about the impact of the terrible Texas law, Cohen said he disagreed with policies in every state and that Ben & Jerry’s wouldn’t be selling ice cream anywhere if they responded this way to every issue. Greenfield implied that Israel being in violation of international law pushed the situation over the edge.

There are a number of concise ways to shut down such inquiries. “Imagine a journo asking a Dem senator if their vote to sanction Russia is hypocritical because they also are not boycotting Georgia where there is voter suppression they oppose,” tweeted Yousef Munayyer. “Then imagine people actually thinking it is a good question. Lol.”

Here’s Laila Al-Arian on Twitter: “This question isn’t as smart as you think it is and is in fact a well-worn Israel lobby talking point. Texans and Georgians haven’t called for an international boycott of their states as Palestinians under decades-long occupation have. Maybe a better example is… South Africa.”

A few newsletters ago I mentioned that New Jersey is one of the state’s divesting from Ben & Jerry’s over its decision. At Electronic Intifada, Michael F. Brown points out that the group pushing for that move, the New Jersey-Israel Commission, includes DMFI board member Archie Gottesman. Gottesman advocated for a genocide against the Palestinians in a social media post back in 2018.

“Gaza is full of monsters,” she wrote. “Time to burn the whole place.” Gottesman was not removed from the board after the posts surfaced.

Brown wrote a letter to the New York Times taking them to task for not mentioning this in a recent article about the situation:

Patrick McGeehan’s article on New Jersey becoming “the latest state to announce plans to divest from the company that owns Ben & Jerry’s over its decision to stop selling ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories” is highly misleading.

He buries the lede.

One has to read to the final two paragraphs to see anyone recognizing that New Jersey is not standing against anti-Semitism but shielding anti-Palestinian racism. Palestinians live under a system of dual law akin to Jim Crow and apartheid. Claiming anti-Semitism when Palestinians and their allies are nonviolently pushing back through boycott and divestment to promote equal rights is a sickening reversal of reality and a failure to grapple with the facts.

Notably unmentioned by McGeehan is that Archie Gottesman is on the New Jersey-Israel Commission. The commission has promoted the work of the NJ Department of Treasury in rejecting Ben & Jerry’s.

The letter was not published.

Odds & Ends

🇮🇱 Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is in DC this week. He called VP Kamala Harris “one of the best friends Israel has in Washington” and praised Nancy Pelosi for pushing additional Iron Dome funding through the House. He also declared that Israel “reserves the right to act at any given moment, in any way” against Iran.

🇦🇫 Investigative journalist and Iraq War veteran Jack Murphy talked to Responsible Statecraft about the U.S. drone war in Afghanistan:

“You’re going back to Vietnam-era body counts…the metric for success is the number of strikes you’re doing, the number of people you are killing every day. And if commanders on the ground know that, they’re going to do things to make themselves look as good as possible. That means, at least in this case, striking people whether they are armed combatants or not.”

“It’s a very Orwellian, dystopian kind of way to think about it,” he continues. “You have this sort of unblinking eye, this surveillance eye hovering over [the] population in Afghanistan, waiting for them to ‘f— up.’ I think that a lot of the animosity that the people had for us.”

🇮🇱 At Jewish Currents Abby Seitz and Alex Kane report that in 2018 philanthropist Michael Leven donated $50,000 to Canary Mission, the shadowy website that targets Palestinians and Palestine supporters for online harassment:

Leven confirmed in an interview with Jewish Currents that he sent money to Canary Mission, saying he hoped the grant would help “identify significant antisemites” and “bring the knowledge of their antisemitism to the surface.”

🇮🇷 Former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr died last weekend. At The Intercept, Jon Schwarz looks at what’s missing from most of the obituaries: his claim that Reagan’s ’80 campaign colluded with Iran’s post-revolution government to keep U.S. hostages in the country until after the election.

🇾🇪 The U.N. Human Rights Council voted to shut down the body’s war crimes investigation in Yemen.

🇺🇸 Democratic Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria has an unhinged op-ed in the Washington Post declaring that Biden (and any president after him) should be given the authority to attack China so that Taiwan can be protected.

Win Without War’s Kate Kizer on Twitter: “Nothing to see here just Elaine Luria advocating for a preventative AUMF to defend Taiwan, claiming such falsehoods as such an act by the United States would not undo strategic ambiguity or risk escalating the situation vis-a-vis China uncontrollably.”

🇮🇱 Democratic Majority for Israel had a tweet celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day. Insert your own joke here.

🌴 There are 11 Democratic candidates running to represent Florida’s 20th district, where Rep. Alcee Hastings died last April. Matthew Kassel has an article at Jewish Insider on candidate Barbara Sharief, a commissioner in Broward County. “For me, I am a Muslim-born woman, and I have a completely different opinion,” Sharief told him. “BDS, you see, is never going to be successful, number one, because Hitler tried that on the Jews in 1933 and it didn’t work very well. So why is that concept, when we know how horrible it is, still being proffered today? I think it’s wrong.”

Kassel also interviewed Omari Hardy this week, the only candidate who said he would have opposed additional Iron Dome funding if he was a House member. “I would have voted no,” said Hardy. “Some folks have argued that voting against the billion dollars is taking the position that Israel doesn’t have a right to defend itself or that America should not help Israel defend itself. I think that’s disingenuous given that we’re still providing $3.8 billion of military aid to Israel this year.”

“The funding is leverage that we have to ensure that Palestinians are not mistreated, and to the extent that we have leverage to generate an outcome that is in comportment with our values, we should use that leverage.”

🇮🇱 For the last three decades Todd Gitlin has used his youthful SDS years as a justification to police the left. Who knows how many thousands of words the man has typed about perceived infractions at this point? His latest target is Sally Rooney, who has made the mistake of being consistent about her political principles.

Gitlin’s new Forward op-ed follows the usual formula. He spends a big chunk of it explaining his connection to the fight against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, which is supposed make his denunciations of the BDS movement more valid for some reason.

Gitlin asserts that “the freedom of literature is the enemy of the locked-up mind.” It’s a phrase that might look nice on a tea bag, but means absolutely nothing in this context. The funniest sentence of the piece: “Did Karl Marx object to the publication of his work by capitalist publishers wherever they were based?”

Really makes you think.

🏈 In the last newsletter I mentioned that former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman recently created something called the Friedman Center for Peace Through Strength. There was a recent gala dinner in Jerusalem celebrating the launch where a 5-hour (?!) Trinity Broadcasting Network series celebrating the Abraham Accords was premiered. For some reason Peyton Manning attended.

Stay safe out there,

Michael

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