On Monday, the Trump administration was said to have “fired back” at Democrats “amid reports that they may be planning retaliatory moves in Congress” (our emphasis). These would be against the U.S. ambassador to Israel and the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., after Israel blocked a planned visit by two members of Congress who support a boycott of that state. This, in turn, came after Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he would allow the visit despite a law in Israel that says people who support a boycott of it can be barred – whereupon President Trump tweeted that Netanyahu was making a mistake, and Netanyahu canceled the visit.
There is more – there is always more – but you get the gist. There is a lot of chicken-and-egg firing and firing-back going on, and a lot of calls for boycotts, usually in lieu of any meaningful boycotting.
On Friday, Bill Maher, on his HBO program “Real Time,” briefly considered what he thought underlay the latest eruption of boycott-itis, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction, or BDS, movement that targets Israel, to protest its treatment of Palestinians on the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River, and in and around the Gaza Strip, by Israel’s border with Egypt.
That movement, which is supported by the two Congresswomen who wanted to visit Israel, is, Maher said, “predicated on this notion, I think – it’s very shallow thinking – that the Jews in Israel (are) mostly white, and the Palestinians are browner, so they must be innocent and correct, and the Jews must be wrong – as if the occupation came right out of the blue, that this completely peaceful people found themselves occupied.”
Maher added that he understood why Israel banned the two House members, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, given their past statements:
“Congresswoman Omar has said things like, ‘It’s all about the Benjamins,’ ‘Israel has hypnotized the world,’ ‘May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.’ She apologized for it, but it’s out there: Jews control the world, control the money.”
Naturally, Rep. Tlaib took to Twitter about this – to say, “I am tired of folks discrediting a form of speech” – a boycott, or a call for a boycott – “that is centered on equality and freedom.”
And the grace note: “Maybe folks should boycott (Maher’s) show.”
And that is how we arrived at a headline on the news site Deadline Hollywood that read, “Bill Maher Boycott Urged By Rep. Rashida Tlaib For His HBO Slam On Her Israel Boycott.”
Boycott, boycott, boycott, boycott.
We do not suppose it has occurred to anyone yet to start a movement to ban boycotts – to boycott them – but if anyone has, we would like to hear from her.
It will have been a long time coming.
The term and practice are taken from Charles Boycott, an English land agent on an English lord’s estate in Ireland in 1880.
When Lord Erne and Captain Boycott proposed to evict tenant farmers from Erne’s estate for their failure to pay rents, activists began a campaign of isolation against Boycott, including getting shops to refuse to serve him. Some shopkeepers were threatened with violence if they did. Boycott left Ireland for good that same year, but not before the British press took up his cause, in outrage that Irish nationalists were victimizing Boycott, a servant of an earl of the realm.
When Ireland’s independence finally came 42 years later – surely a just cause – you could not say the boycott of Boycott hastened or delayed it.
It has always been an ugly tactic that is supposed to be employed in a worthy cause.
It is just a wonder the name stuck.