There is an episode of The West Wing in which President Josiah Bartlet gets into trouble over green beans. Word gets out that he is not a fan of the legume, and soon the White House is fielding calls from aggrieved bean producers.
His press secretary, CJ, spends hours wrangling with the problem. How can she get around it? He just doesn’t like them, she says. He’s speaking on his own behalf, not America’s.
The suspension of four London Philharmonic musicians for signing a letter of protest about the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra at the Proms brought the beans to mind.
Scarcely a day goes by without somebody, somewhere, calling for a boycott of Israel. Sometimes they want the rest of the world to take a stand on buying Israeli goods or to stop co-operating with Israeli academics and trade unionists. At other times, they simply want to say no to Israel itself.
Their default position – that Israel is such a lost cause that no good can come from working with any of its parts – makes me feel depressed, as does its reverse: when supporters of Israel say there is no hope for a two-state solution. It’s like a builder turning up at a construction site without any tools; how can you change something if you won’t engage with it?
This comment piece was first published in the Telegraph. Read the rest of it here.