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Ron Radosh

Writing in the June 28th issue of The Nation,  Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz present a lengthy article investigating the debate within the American Jewish community over supporting  the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel (BDS). While most Jewish groups, including liberal ones, recoil from the movement’s effect of delegitimizing Israel, the authors seem to gleam hope for its inroads on college campuses, where there is pressure, especially on Jewish students, to support BDS resolutions.

At Berkeley, where such a resolution was ultimately defeated, Jewish students spoke out against it. Speaking for many of them, one said: “We feel marginalized, we feel scared, we feel intimidated, we feel alienated” by the legislation.  But not to worry, claim Weiss and Horowitz, such worries surely “accompany any transformative social movement.”  To address their anxieties, Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouthi told the Berkeley students that they should not “stand in the way like those angry Alabama students 50 years ago blocking integration.”

In their article, Weiss and Horowitz make another specious historical claim about Arab Palestinian boycotts in the past:

Boycotts are not a new tactic for Palestinians. As far back as the 1936–39 revolt against the British Mandate, Palestinians incorporated general strikes and boycotts into their struggle.

Anyone who knows about the 1936-1939 “Arab revolt” knows that its main thrust was against British support of Jewish immigration to Palestine. In his classic book A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, Howard Sachar writes that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, demanded that “the British terminate Jewish immigration immediately.” The  Mufti’s strong-arm men then saw to it that an Arab general strike was enforced — a step that primarily hurt Arab business and agriculture, and that ironically stimulated the Jewish economy. The cost of the strike, Sachar points out, “to the Arabs themselves became increasingly punitive.”

Local supporters of the Mufti were joined by hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi forces who sought an armed Palestine rebellion, as Axis weapons were smuggled in for them to use. They engaged “in night assaults on Jewish farms, the destruction of cattle and crops,” and “the murder of civilians.” The final result of their long “struggle,” as Weiss and Horowitz call it, was 1300 casualties — 197 Arabs, 80 Jews and 28 British personnel killed. The cost to taxpayers in Palestine was over 6 million pounds.

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