It’s Time for Liberal Zionists to Support Some Sticks against the Netanyahu Government

Liberal Zionists don’t like the global BDS movement, but they also think that the Obama administration should get tough with the Netanyahu government.  Josh Ruebner, the Policy Director of the US Campaign to End the Occupation, wrote a good piece in The Hill which shows some of the concrete steps the Obama administration can take if it is serious about is reassessment.

  • Report on Israel’s violations of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).  Under the AECA, countries receiving U.S. military aid can only use weapons for legitimate self-defense and internal security.  Israel killed more than 2,200 Palestinians — the vast majority of whom were civilians — last summer, oftentimes with U.S. weapons such as F-16 fighter jets and Hellfire missiles.  The Obama administration should send a report to Congress documenting these human rights abuses and suspend future deliveries of specific weapons systems as outlined in the AECA.
  • Clog the arms pipeline.  Even though Congress will appropriate more military aid for Israel in this year’s budget, there is a myriad of ways in which the Defense and State Departments can delay, if not completely suspend, the signing of contracts and the actual delivery of weapons.
  • Sanction Israel under the “Leahy Law.”  Under the Leahy Law, specific units of militaries which commit human rights abuses are ineligible to receive U.S. training and weapons.  In addition, individuals who commit human rights abuses are denied U.S. visas.  While there is some evidence that high-ranking Israeli military officials have recently been denied U.S. visas, the State Department’s reporting on the implementation of Leahy Law sanctions is opaque.  More extensive and public sanctioning of Israel under this law is warranted.
  • Declare Israeli settlements a national emergency.  Under the National Emergencies Act, the president has broad and unilateral powers to declare an emergency in response to a foreign policy crisis.  By designating Israeli settlements as an emergency, the Obama administration could regulate, or even prohibit, any transaction in foreign exchange that will directly or indirectly contribute to the expansion of Israeli settlements.
  • Shut down “charitable” funding of Israeli settlements.  Dozens of organizations currently recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as 501(c)(3) nonprofits funnel tens of millions of dollars to Israeli settlements every year.  There is nothing charitable about dispossessing Palestinians from their land.  IRS guidelines do not allow for the funding of illegal activities, which Israeli settlements are according to U.S. policy and international law.

Ruebner, adds, “after more than six years of offering Israel more and more carrots only to be repeatedly snubbed, it is long overdue for the Obama administration to brandish the proverbial stick.”

Now it seems to me that liberal Zionists who want to preserve the State of Israel as “Jewish and democratic” should be interested in supporting some of these methods, none of which would hurt Israel in the manner that  serious state sanctions would.  They would certainly be more effective  than the boutique tokenism of not buying Hebron wines from merchants on the Upper West Side.

Can some of our prominent liberal Zionists, academicians who claim to be in favor of a Third Way, who don’t like what they (wrongly) see is a one-state bias of the global BDS movement, articulate ways to pressure Israel?  Or will we be witness to even more liberal Zionist hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing, and liberal pieties about an illusionary “peace process”?

Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on March 24, 2015, on The Magnes Zionist, a website featuring commentary by Jewish studies and philosophy professor, Jerry Haber (a nom de plume).  It was reproduced here with the consent of Professor Haber.

Image Credit: gainesvillescene.com

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