Dear Cornel West …

I suspect that you and I share some — but clearly not all — of the same beliefs about the situation in the Middle East.

I have long been an admirer of yours as a result of hearing you many times over the years on television, mainly with Bill Maher. I was upset recently to learn that you are an ardent supporter (indeed I heard that you were one of the founders) of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
I suspect that you and I share some — but clearly not all — of the same beliefs about the situation in the Middle East.
I, too, believe that Israel should not continue to build new settlements in the West Bank territories that it captured during the Six-Day War in 1967. I, too, believe that Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank, as well as its treatment of its own Israeli Arab citizens should be improved. I, too, am distressed by the growing anti-Arab animus among Israel’s right wing. I, too, am not a fan of Benjamin Netanyahu.
My objection to the BDS movement is not based on its short-term goal of pressuring Israel to cease its settlement activities in the West Bank. Rather, my primary objection is based on the BDS movement’s long-term objective of a one-state solution.
In an ideal world, Jews and Arabs could and would live in peace and harmony in the pluralistic society of a single democratic country encompassing all of pre-1948 Palestine. But you know as well as I do that we do not live in an ideal world.
What we do live in is an imperfect world in which too many Muslim Arabs are unwilling to extend equality to even non-Muslim Arabs, let alone to Jews. Never mind non-Muslims, what about the discrimination against Sunnis by Shias in Shiite-majority countries, and vice versa? Can you name a country with a Muslim Arab majority that could be fairly characterized as being democratic and pluralistic?
I know (from listening to you argue with my fellow atheist Bill Maher) that you are a Christian. Surely, you know about the current mistreatment — and impending disastrous fate — of Christian and other non-Muslim Arabs in many countries with Muslim Arab majorities. (I am curious about your involvement in a BDS movement against Egypt for its treatment of Christian Arab Copts and your involvement in a BDS movement against Saudi Arabia for its treatment of Shiite Muslims, let alone every other non-Muslim sect within its borders. Tell me about your involvement in BDS movements against Iranian persecution of Baha’is and the Bangladeshi slaughter of secular journalists and bloggers.)
It is no coincidence that, after centuries of living in Arab countries throughout the Middle East, there are virtually no Jews living there anymore. And that is not the result of all of the Jews in those Arab countries choosing voluntarily to emigrate to Israel and elsewhere.
I am sure that there are many well-meaning, sincere and benevolent Palestinian Arabs who could and would live in peace and harmony with Jews in a “one-state solution.” I suspect that some of them are friends of yours. Sadly, you know as well as I do that there are too many others who would not.
How and why is it that more than 1 million Arabs choose to live as citizens in Israel, while Israel had to physically remove 8,000 Jews when it unilaterally withdrew from Gaza? (I won’t quibble too much if you argue that Israel’s — and Egypt’s — ongoing blockade of Gaza means that it really didn’t “withdraw.”) It is because those 8,000 Jews would have been slaughtered had they been left “behind.” Why would you think that the fate of more than 6 million Jews would be any different in a one-state solution? Is it because the world would not allow that to happen … again?
I also won’t quibble with you too much if you argue that the idea of a Jewish state is anathema, but only if you argue as vociferously that the ideas of more than 20 Muslim states and a few Christian states are also anathema.
Another objection I have with the BDS movement is that it singles out Israel for special treatment, when, objectively, there are many, many countries that are far worse offenders of human rights, many of which are Muslim Arab regimes.
Again, there is no reason to believe that the Muslim Arab majority in a one-state solution would behave any differently from the worst of the other Muslim Arab majorities in the Middle East. You may think that I am racist for saying that, but you would be naive to deny it.
Please tell me what I am missing.
Steve Mendelsohn is an attorney living in suburban Philadelphia.


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