On May 2nd, The Olympian published a troubling op-ed entitled “Local actions target Israel – but land squarely on area Jews” by Allyson Brooks. The op-ed is full of misinformation about the struggle for Palestinian human rights. The author claims, with no evidence to substantiate, that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement has threatened the Jewish community in Olympia, that BDS in an ineffective tactic, that Americans can’t contribute to ending violence in the region, and that we should ignore issues that make others somewhat “uncomfortable.”
While a response op-ed has already been written by Gar Lipow, a member of the Jewish community in Olympia, this op-ed also needs to be quickly countered by letters to the editor of the paper. These may be submitted to The Olympian at http://www.theolympian.com/letters/. Scroll down to see suggestions for points of the editorial to address. Even though these letters may not be published, they still play an important role by informing the paper about the public’s feelings on this issue.
- There has been no “intimidation against a local Jewish business” for hosting Israeli LGBT speakers by the BDS movement in Olympia. Just listen to what Hava Aviv, the owner of the business in question, Kitzel’s Delicatessen, said in an interview: “Over the course of several days, many conversations came to my table. No organization or group approached me… People came and said, ‘Hava, we are very concerned that you are hosting StandWithUs events, and we are very concerned that if you continue to host StandWithUs events, that groups will begin to organize to boycott Kitzel’s.’… Nobody came to me and said that they will boycott.”
- The author presents no evidence of intimidation against Temple Beth Hatfiloh. In fact, in the only description she gives of an actual day at the Temple, she states that “The event was full of people happily enjoying food and buying books. No one had to knock to enter or seemed nervous about security.” The event in question, Blintzapalooza, occurred on March 25th, only ten days after “intimidation” supposedly caused the cancellation of the event at Kitzel’s.
- The BDS movement is recognized as an effective opponent by Israel. This can be seen in a variety of statements and actions of the Israeli government and representatives. For instance, on July 11th, 2011, the Israeli Knesset made it illegal for Israeli citizens to support boycott campaigns. The Israeli government has also become involved in attempts to suppress BDS in the United States. In Olympia, for instance, Akiva Tor, Israel’s Consul General for the Pacific Northwest, met with representatives of StandWithUs, the plaintiffs in the now-dismissed lawsuit against the Olympia Food Co-op, and their future lawyer, for a presentation on possible legal action.
- Americans are able to make a difference in the conflict. Contrary to the author’s assertion that “only the people who live there can change it,” a key element allowing Israel to continue to oppressing the Palestinians is the roughly $3 billion dollars in military aid the United States gives them each year in grants.
- “Uncomfortability” is not the issue. In his response to the editorial, Gar Lipow stated that “Opposition to Israeli occupation is not the only cause that makes some people feel uncomfortable. Some feel uncomfortable with marriage equality, or even with interracial marriage being legal. Alleged discomfort is a bad argument against doing the right thing.” In addition, the stakes here are much higher than the comfort of Americans. Our slight discomfort is incomparable to the hardships endured by Palestinians living under Israeli apartheid and occupation.