Double Standard: In a Good Way!

Let me say at the outset that despite my various criticisms of Israeli policy and of US policy toward Israel, I think efforts by professional associations to organize boycotts of comparable Israeli professional associations or products are essentially wrongheaded and counterproductive. That said, I’ve been very uncomfortable with some of the Anti-Defamation League’s advertising on this point, especially one ad that’s run on this site and says “400,000 murdered in DARFUR and British journalists are boycotting ISRAEL?” Now I see via Brian Beutler that Thomas Friedman’s on the same kick:

So to single out Israeli universities alone for a punitive boycott is rank anti-Semitism. Let’s see, Syria is being investigated by the United Nations for murdering Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Syrian agents are suspected of killing the finest freedom-loving Lebanese journalists, Gibran Tueni and Samir Kassir. But none of that moves the far left to call for a boycott of Syrian universities. Why? Sudan is engaged in genocide in Darfur. Why no boycott of Sudan? Why?

Brian points out that many of these countries already are sanctioned, but I see a much larger kind of problem here. One issue is that it’s really sad to see American Jews’ longstanding interest in human rights issues turned here into a crude tool to deflect away criticism from Israel. The American Jewish World Service Darfur campaign is about trying to help people in Darfur. ADL’s interest in the atrocities there seems limited to the argument that as long as conditions in the Palestinian territories don’t devolve to that level, then things must all be on the up-and-up.

More broadly, though, people complaining about double-standards seem to me to be straightforwardly misreading a kind of compliment as a sign of anti-semitism. To me it’s reasonably clear that you get this sort of agitation about Israeli actions precisely because people believe the Israeli government and electorate may be amenable to efforts at moral and political suasion. That Ehud Olmert is no Bashar Asad or Kim Jong Il is precisely the point.