FOREWARD:this was written as an attempt at response to recently circulated letter by two Amazon employees, calling on both that company and Google to walk away from recent contracts with Israeli government, and emailed to op-ed section of NBC website. As there's no reaction to this point from NBC, i'll meanwhile try to make it known in other ways and places
I was dismayed to read on your site a letter by two Amazon employees, calling on their and other US hi tech companies to break off a recent deal with Israeli government and military. And the reasons I was dismayed, are the following:
First of, this letter, while supposedly well meaning and appealing to humanistic values and principles, professed formally even by these companies, in reality uncritically rehashes never ending stream of unjust accusations against the Jewish state. The very Jewish state that actually has recently seen a great political breakthrough in shape of an Arab party, and a religious one at that, joining its government for the first time ever. Kinda takes away from the claims of Israeli "apartheid' and such (though admittedly, that claim was not made in this letter, though it might simply be because for its authors it was simply beside the point). After all, in what Arab or Muslim nation does any ethnic or religious community enjoy a level of political and other liberty and acceptance, even slightly similar to Israel's?
But the ages old claims laid out in that piece, that Israel deliberately oppresses Palestinians and even strikes civilian targets such as schools, hospitals, media establishments and so on, is just as false. For once, it fails to take into account what and who start just about each conflict that leads to these unfortunate events and casualties on Palestinian side. Namely, it fails to acknowledge that Hamas and other terror groups, who time after time attack Israel even after it makes a painful concession after a painful concession, use those establishments as bases of operations from which they strike their 'enemy', provoking retaliatory strikes.
Even during most recent round of hostilities, which one indeed might partly blame on Israeli side, the conduct of the other side was outright atrocious, both in Gaza strip and inside Israel proper. Instead of allowing court proceedings and investigation into possible terror cell inside the Al Aqsa prayers' community to play out their course, the Arab populace rioted in many cities, putting in danger their neighbors of Jewish and other origins, while Hamas indiscriminately shot at Israeli targets, mainly civilian ones, committing that very crime the letter's authors accuse Israel of. And when authors of such letters call on public and their employers to take pity on populace of one, supposedly 'weaker' side of the conflict, forced to live in often strict controlling regime, disconnected from each other and so on, they cynically and hypocritically refuse to accord same compassion to the other side, whose civilians are permanently forced to run and hide in bomb shelters. All of this being the fault of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other destructive forces on Palestinian rather than Jewish side. Forces that have been proven to even appropriate UN and other international aid for their criminal goals, forces that have forever vowed to throw the other side into ocean, instead of agreeing to its right to exist.
Mind you, the very fact that under 'Israeli occupation' Arab and Muslim populace is allowed to pray on Temple mount, the two religions' holiest site, while Jewish one is not, having been relegated to only the 'Wailing Wall', shows how much 'Arab/Muslim oppression' or 'apartheid' there is in Israel. That is, if there is apartheid and discrimination, it's rather against Jews, nominally the country's 'dominant' community. Also, contrary to oft repeated libels, Israel takes in and treats scores of wounded Palestinians during these conflict, even as some of those people keep hating on it.
Also, it ought to be noted that not only do Palestinian casualties in civilian places happen mainly due to retaliation for unprovoked attacks, which is a justified action defended in his time even by the most liberal of all US presidents Barack Obama, whom many beolieve to be generally hostile to Israel, but on many occasions Palestinian and other Arab casualties(such as in Syria and Lebanon, from where Israel is often also attacked by the likes of Hezbollah, Iranian operatives, Assad forces and others) are actually results of misfiring and malfunctioning ammo on the terrorists' side. That is, not only Hamas and Co bring upon their people death from Israeli retaliation, but they also cause their death with their own actions and evil intents. Not to mention the atmosphere of permanent enemy hunting and repression established by Hamas in Gaza strip proper, since taking over that territory in mid-2000s.
At this time when we're seeing a string of normalizations of relations between Jewish and many Arab states, including religious ones, thus showing realization by many on 'Arab street' proper that Israel is not an enemy but a very promising partner, to call on Western companies to boycott or abandone cooperation with Israel is untimely, unfactual and outright foolish. But the authors' letter also lays out another rather worrying concept.
It essentially colaims a 'workers' power' to muzzle their employing company into decisions they consider correct. On one hand, the idea that people who make products for their employers with either their hands, heads or any other way, may seem reasonable. Especially people of fairly high intellectual and professional standing, may sure have the right to speak out on issues they consider important.
However, it also ought to be remembered that we live in a free democratic society, that economically is based, with however serious government and public participation these days, on free enterprise, market economy and private property. As private, market oriented entities with decades of established record of success, Amazon, Google and others, and in particular their management, are fully entitled to decide what projects and contracts to take up. Disgruntled and critical employees in our extra competitive and booming high tech segment of economy, may find dozens of other entities to switch to, if they disagree with ownership, management's or some other 'authority' figures' positions. This is not Soviet Union, Maoist China or Castro's Cuba where you can use the guise of 'workers' committees' or other similar pretenses, outwardly appealing to working people but in reality simply using this theme as a cover for certain political agenda, more often than not destructive one.
I would agree with the letters' authors and anybody else when they point to the companies in question's cooperation with truly dubious entities such as Chinese regime on its people's surveillance, or Russian one in stamping out opposition activities in the run-up to recent parliamentary election there. Curiously, no such letters were written, or at least i don't have knowledge of it, by anybody working for Google. Israel, however, is millions of miles and light years away from the levels of human rights violations, be it toward its own or 'occupied' population, that would put it in same list as China or Russia. The letter's pathos is misguided, unfair and superficial. i sincerely hope its authors revise their positions, while their employer companies do not heal their populist-served-as-moralist appeal.
Aleks Yakubson, independent journalist, analyst, blogger, and artist