Response to: Keys to Countering BDS, published Nov. 9, 2018
Many excellent points were made at the event covered by this article. But I would like to focus on the remark that SodaStream’s relocation, favored by BDS activists, “ironically hurt Palestinians” who lost their jobs because of the move. The irony comes from the mistaken belief that those labeled “pro-Palestinian” work to improve the lives of Palestinians. Unfortunately, BDS proponents, and many other “pro-Palestinian” advocates, are actually just anti-Israel. They don’t seek a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Arab conflict and are quite happy to use the suffering of the Palestinians – much of it imposed by Palestinian and other Muslim leaders – as a propaganda point in efforts to delegitimize Israel. Thus, Palestinian leaders accuse Palestinians who work for Israeli businesses of “normalizing the occupation.”
Instead of preparing their people to live in a Palestinian state co-existing peacefully with the nation-state of the Jews, the Palestinian leaders insist that all Jews would be excluded from the Palestinian state while also attempting to convert Israel into a Muslim-majority state, demanding that millions of Arabs (descendants of Arabs who fled the Arab-initiated 1948 war aimed at preventing Israel’s rebirth) be rehabilitated by Israel, rather than becoming citizens in the new Palestinian state.
Toby F. Block, Atlanta
Georgia’s Next Secretary of State Must Safeguard Voting Rights
A basic right in any democracy is the right to participate in that democracy. The key method of participation is by voting. The right and ability to vote are exceedingly important. Georgia has an important election run-off on Dec. 4 for secretary of state, the person who oversees elections.
The Founding Fathers started an experiment in democracy, not a pure democracy, but a representative democracy, which means that people are elected to represent the larger society and guide and implement policies for that society. The experiment started with the vote given to land-owning white men. Over the last 150 years, we have seen the vote expand to all citizens – to non-landed white men, to women, to African-Americans and other people of color, and to younger people.
We now live in the time of the real promise of America with everyone at least 18 years of age having the right to vote. But now we must improve the ability of everyone to vote.
Over the past half-dozen years, we have seen relentless attacks on the ability to vote. Chief among those who fought against the idea of universal suffrage was Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who just ran for governor. His efforts have extended to many other states by reducing the number of early voting days, taking away the availability of the vote on Sundays, reducing the number of polling places, instituting voter ID laws that prevent citizens from using certain forms of ID. For example, some states refuse the use of student ID cards as identification or the use of other methods of showing ID.
But sometimes karma has a way of rearing its head. The result of the Kansas election for governor was the defeat of Kobach. A female Democratic state legislator, Laura Kelly, defeated Kobach by six points. As [The New Yorker’s] Jane Mayer stated, “In the name of cracking down on voter fraud, a phenomenon that nonpartisan experts say is virtually nonexistent, Kobach, as secretary of state, blocked some 35,000 Kansans from registering to vote between 2013 and 2016. Ultimately, nine people were convicted as a result of his voter fraud dragnet, mostly older folks who were confused by the voting rules. Kobach went to court four times to defend the draconian voter-identification rules he tried to impose and lost each time.”
The result of Kobach’s court losses should be a cautionary tale for Brad Raffensperger (R) and John Barrow (D), the candidates who are in the runoff for Georgia secretary of state.
Under the previous Georgia secretary of state, there was a serious effort to stop many Georgians from voting. During 2017 alone, 668,000 names were purged from the voting rolls. However, only 200,000 left the state, died, or moved out of their district. At least 340,000 were removed for the apparent sin of not having voted in the last one or two elections. They were wrongly purged, and that effort disproportionately affected minority and low-income voters, some of whom vote less frequently.
The next secretary of state must fight for the ability of every citizen to vote. It is imperative to our democracy. Without an easy ability to vote, we are unable to measure the true intent of the population.
This is necessarily a Jewish issue. How many of our ancestors never had a right to vote? How many of our ancestors suffered greatly at having no say in who ruled over them? How many of our ancestors had no ability to change a ruling class that often allowed, advocated, or instigated harassment, anti-Semitism, pogroms and genocide?
I urge ever reader to contact the candidate whom you support and insist that, if he wins, he must ensure and actively fight to enhance the ability of every Georgian to vote.
Harold Kirtz, Atlanta
President of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta