When it comes to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, I usually divide people into three categories. Supporters of Israel are my political opponents. Supporters of the Palestinians are my political allies. Yet — and for the moment let’s put aside progressives except for Palestine like Alan Grayson and Elizabeth Warren — I also have a third category, antisemites, people who support the Palestinians for all the wrong reasons. You can usually pick them out of a crowd by asking a simple question. “Do you believe that Israel controls the United States government?”
Alas, I feel that I may have to revise my litmus test. The recently introduced S.720, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, sponsored by Ben Cardin of Maryland and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a progressive except for Palestine if there ever was one, would make it a felony for “U.S. persons engaged in interstate or foreign commerce” to support the BDS, Boycott, Divestiture, Sanctions, movement. Say what you want about Ronald Reagan, for all his nonsense about “constructive engagement” with South Africa, he never tried to out and out criminalize the anti-Apartheid movement in America.
The usual, neoconservative suspects were quick to weigh in. The Daily Beast, for example, denies that S.720, criminalizes the BDS movement. The bill is vaguely worded and has a lot of room for plausible deniability, and seems to target the The United Nations Human Rights Council more than individual Americans. Also, let’s face it. The typical American couldn’t care less about what happens to the Palestinians. We all know who Cardin and Gillibrand, under the tutelage of AIPAC, are really going after, Arab immigrant and Muslim organizations.
Nevertheless, I can’t help but suspect that this ham handed bill is really about the ever diminishing effectiveness of Zionist propaganda in America. Just because most Americans couldn’t care less about the Palestinians doesn’t mean they care anymore about the Israelis. Baby Boomers did. I never cease to wonder how brilliant, spiritually liberating artists like Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen fail to wrap their brains around the inescapable reality that Israel is a white supremacist state with a intricate, yet harsh system of ethnic and religious apartheid. I suppose it’s generational. For Baby Boomers, the memory of the Holocaust has always been fresh in their minds. Anything, even support for an oppressed people like the Palestinians, that smacks of being anti-Jewish, is suspect. Millennials are different. Young people simply don’t buy the idea that Israel represents the Jewish people against the ever present danger of antisemitism. They don’t accept the argument that because Hitler locked Polish Jews behind a wall that also gives the Israelis the right to lock the Palestinians behind their own wall. The Israel Lobby’s recent attack against the Chicago Dyke March, for example, largely fell flat. The ongoing campaign against Linda Sarsour seems to be going nowhere.
In other words, when persuasion no longer works, the state always turns to brute force. Make no mistake, as soon as Americans no longer believe in capitalism, in upward mobility, and in the meritocracy, they will see storm troopers at their doors and tanks in the streets. I can’t help but think that S.720 represents the end of Zionist propaganda and the beginning of Zionist repression, right here in the United States.