Sep 30, 2010

#BDS: Some lives more valued

Some letters opposing the Olympia Co-op’s boycott of Israeli products denounce the polarization of our community. They don’t acknowledge Olympia has been divided for many years. As an ex-member of Temple Beth Hatfiloh, it was never easy to criticize Israel or voice support for Palestinian rights. Attempts to address the question of Palestine have been met with chilly silence or overt opposition. So while boycott opponents find the boycott polarizing, they ignore local history and their role in it.

In 2007, Olympians brought a proposal to the City Council to create a sister city relationship with Rafah, in Palestine.
Opponents called the proposal divisive. In a public hearing, opponents claimed Palestinians were incapable of democracy and didn’t “share our values.” They characterized all residents of Rafah as terrorists. They argued the proposal lacked balance because it didn’t include an Israeli city. Forty-three U.S. cities have relationships with Israeli cities, including Seattle and Tacoma.

Three Palestinian cities have U.S. relationships.Years of work were derailed as the council voted the proposal down.
Jewish philosopher Richard Bernstein wrote, “Evil consists in making people superfluous.” At the hearing, Palestinians were found superfluous, unworthy of a sister city connection and relationship.
Jewish philosopher Judith Butler wrote, “Certain lives will be protected ... other lives ... will not even qualify as grievable.”
Silencing the boycott movement will not restore unity to Olympia, because the argument is not about us, but about Palestinian and Israeli lives, and the fact that some of those lives are valued more than others.

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