Foxman: Opposed to collective punishment in Israel, for it in Iran

On his blog, journalist and filmmaker Max Blumenthal alerts us to a video from David Sheen that shows the young Israeli journalist interviewing Abe Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League. The discussion is remarkable for Foxman’s unsettled reaction — to say the least — to a few tough questions from Sheen. Take the time to watch, and read Blumenthal’s comments as well.

In regards to Iran, toward the start of the discussion Sheen brought up the non-violent strategy of targeted boycotts to oppose, among other things, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian Territory. Foxman, exposing his hypocrisies, replies (with my emphasis):

I’m opposed to boycotts, period. I think boycotts hurt the wrong people, do not achieve their aims. They’re counterproductive. I’m not aware of any boycott — except for the boycott against South Africa — that has worked. And even there, it hurt innocent people…

So I’m opposed to boycotts, and I’m certainly opposed to boycotts whether against the whole state of Israel or segments of the state of Israel. We basically have a policy of being opposed to boycotts.

[Question from Sheen about whether Foxman’s opposition is moral deficiencies or tactical inefficacy of the strategy.]

Well, the moral reason is boycotts basically hurt the wrong people, and there are innocent victims of the boycotts. There’s the same question about sanctions, whether sanctions work. … On a principled stance, we are opposed to boycotts.

Watch the video, starting from 16:40:

While Foxman says he doesn’t support visiting the morally reprehensible collective punishment of boycotts on Israelis, he has no qualms about using them to attack ordinary Iranians in an effort to force the country’s leadership to change its mind. This is exactly what Foxman did when the ADL whole-heartedly backed various sanctions packages — which he admits are plagued by the same moral quandaries as boycotts — against the Islamic Republic.

Here’s an ADL statement, co-issued by Foxman on June 9, welcoming UN sanctions against Iran (my bold again):

The world can live without Iranian oil exports, but the regime can’t. Empty oil tankers bypassing Iran on their way to fill up at Saudi, Kuwaiti and Emirati ports will concentrate the minds of Iran’s leaders unlike any action we can take short of war.

Foxman again, on June 17, celebrating EU sanctions against Iran that targeted that nation’s oil and natural gas sectors as well as finance and trade. His statement  — a de facto endorsement of collective punishment of Iranians in order affect change in the Iran’s leadership — was issued despite the well-known fact that the leadership is notoriously obstinate:

While the impact on Iran’s finances will be in the future, these sanctions should impact the regime’s decision-making today.

The leadership of the Iranian opposition is unequivocally opposed to broad-based U.S. sanctions against Iran — both Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi have said as much, as have some exiles close to the Green movement like Hooman Majd. Even New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, whose writing shows that he is certainly no fan of the Islamic Republic’s leadership, is opposed to sanctions.

Foxman is always accusing critics of Israel of singling out the Jewish state. In this case, it turns out Foxman is the Israeli exceptionalist, period.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.