January 30, 2014

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Boycotts Won’t Work

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To the Editor:

Community organizing –– the art of bringing people together to bring about real, substantive change –– rests on a central principle: You judge an action by its reaction. If what you care about is a certain result, you don’t bother with actions that feel suitable, but rather actions that will work.

When it comes to Palestinian statehood –– a cause I fight for everyday as an active member of J Street U, a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization –– boycotts, as Rebecca John advocates for in her column, are hardly a useful tactic. While you can certainly debate their validity, there’s no question that boycotts do little more than alienate Israelis and drive a wedge between a growing community fighting for peace.

Equally unproductive is John’s assertion that Israel is engaged in a “genocidal state apparatus.” Statements like these –– which, by the way, are factually absurd –– only hand the opposition more opportunities to dodge the real issues. Why welcome debates about anti-Semitism and historical accuracy when the plain truth is a sufficient cause for critique?

There is no shortage of Americans eager for Middle Eastern peace, but it is crucial that we remain united in our message. Promoting tactics like boycotts while delivering inaccurate remarks is hardly the way to influence our adversaries.

Jess Coleman ’16