Letter to the editor, Baltimore Sun:
In his ill-founded criticism of UMBC's response to the American Studies Association academic boycott of Israel ("UMBC response to Israel boycott is inadequate", Jan. 2), Jay Bernstein gets one thing right. But that one thing is the line he steals from Edmund Burke, and he badly misapplies it.
In truth, the "boycott, divestment, and sanctions" (BDS) movement's attempt to pressure the Israeli government to end its oppressive policies, is driven by Burke's principle that evil flourishes when good men to do nothing.
It's remarkable that Bernstein doesn't even try to justify Israel's actions or challenge the comparison to apartheid, but just repeats the same story that its apologists always use: criticizing the policies of the Israeli government means wanting Israel to be destroyed. But that's no more true of critics of Israel than it was of critics of South Africa decades ago, or of critics of U.S. policy.
Evil is not boycotts to put mild pressure on a rogue government, evil is the human rights violations taking place every day in the occupied territories. UMBC, and all who respect human rights, should accept and join the BDS movement until Israel changes its behavior.
I fired this letter off to the Baltimore Sun a few days ago. I figured they wouldn't publish it, so didn't bother putting it up here at the time. But they surprised me both by printing it on January 5, and by not contacting me for verification first. It's already expired from their site so I can't link to it there, or even read it. So I don't know how it may have been edited. (I only know the title under which they printed it, and when they did so, because it prompted a reply which is still up.)