One Democratic Secular State for all its citizens in Israel and Palestine


Posted August 19, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Q: Why is Israel singled out for punishment? What about China’s repression of Tibet, or Russia in Chechnya, Darfur, or other abuses? Surely this singling out of Israel is because of hatred of Jews?

♦  This is an appeal to fairness that even a child would recognise, in fact especially a child: it’s what every child says to deflect attention from an irrefutable mis-deed it has been caught out committing. And as any parent knows, it’s completely beside the point, which is all about establishing Right and Wrong. So the question should be, are the demands of the BDS movement a valid reason for taking such action? But this is a question that Israel will neither ask nor answer: if it did, that would shift the whole matter into issues of rights and wrongs, away from Israel’s stock line of defence that this is all SO unfair.

♦ Any child, too, knows that the cry of “that’s not fair” does tend to turn the spotlight on the claimant. Has Israel been fair to its minority Palestinian population? Does it uphold legal rights to land and property fairly? Have its 24,000 (and counting) house demolitions been fair? Did all the 70,000+ Palestinians prisoners, including children, get a fair (or even an unfair) trial? Was it fair to kill 1400 people in Gaza because 14 Israelis had died? Is it fair for its police and army to support settlers who steal people’s houses, stone their children, burn their crops and take their water? Etc etc

♦ Yes, Israel has indeed been singled out: for help, money, weapons, for overlooking of its contraventions of international law and UN resolutions, singled out to expect and get a US veto of any criticism or demands of it brought to the Security Council, singled out for a wink and nod to its unauthorised nuclear weapons.

♦  Singling out is what campaigning is about. Maybe if there were as many Tibetans and Chechens living in Europe and America as there are Palestinians and critical Jews, and if they had also issued a boycott call (which they have not) their campaigns would be just as as prominent. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about the other wrongs, just that we have to make a choice, and for one reason or another this one is closer to our hearts.

♦  Perhaps we also feel an urgency, watching Israel relentlessly put into place every piece of its plan right under our noses.

♦  In fact BDS is not so much a campaign as a counter-campaign, finally seeking to challenge and reverse Israel’s 60-year campaign for unconditional approval, indeed applause, for all its deeds, right or wrong. Every time we hear the twisted facts and upside down version of events, every time we see on our news media the absurd assumption that Israel is the vulnerable victim, we feel driven to get up and insist on the truth. Much of the energy of the Palestine solidarity campaign is generated, like the force of a ricochet, by Israel itself, as was evident in the own-goal of its handling of the Mavi Marmara event.

♦  Israel has grown fat and successful and powerful on foreign support, arms, tax-free dollars and preferential trade, and then used this power to subdue the Palestinian claims. It’s hardly unfair to place some conditions on this relationship: we will buy your goods, supply your bulldozers, sing at your gigs  -  when you end the occupation, let the refugees return and become a state with equal rights for all its citizens.

♦  They say what goes around comes around. Israel was never content to keep its head down and quietly enjoy its ill-gotten gains, but stepped out to trumpet its “unbreakable friendships” with powerful world players. So those of us living in those countries (US, Britain, Europe) feel especially complicit. Our taxes have financed Israel’s wars. Our media and our leaders echo Israel’s myths. Jews among us probably went for a subsidised holiday in Israel as youngsters. We feel responsible: we cannot sit on the fence, or put our energies into other campaigns.

♦  Speaking of boycotts and sanctions, Israel singled itself out when all the world stood against Apartheid era South Africa and Israel defied the UN arms embargo to do business with a regime whose leaders had form for  supporting Nazi Germany.

♦  Israel singles itself out by insisting that anyone not for it is against it, and that we must all buy its message. Little wonder we refuse to buy its goods.

♦  Double standard? Yes indeed. Zionists may organise worldwide to disseminate anti-Arab lies and stereotypes, but once anyone organises in support of the people they have maligned and expelled, they cry foul. If Hamas say they want to kill Jews (if indeed they did) that’s genocide. But when talk of killing “Arabs” is utterly commonplace in Israel, in its grotesque jokes, graffiti, T-shirts and cartoons, that’s just laughed off as bad taste.

♦  BDS is not punishment, it’s non-violent political pressure. Without such pressure there is little doubt that the programme of Israel’s fascist parties, which openly advocate ethnic cleansing on a massive scale, could be put into practice.

♦ After it was singled out to be given a country in 1948, Israel reneged on all the conditions placed on it. That the international community agreed a national homeland in an already inhabited territory for an ethnic group that mostly didn’t even live there was an extraordinary “singling out” of Zionism for special favour. But, as Adam Keller points out in The Other Israel, neither Balfour nor the UN in 1948 provided an unrestricted license to dispossess and displace the people that Zionism found in the land, who would become known as Palestinians. Balfour declared that it be clearly understood “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. And when the UN resolved to permit a Jewish state, it was as part of a deal that was to give Palestine a similar amount of land (albeit for many more people).

As Keller asks, could even the most brilliant lawyer “seriously assert that the leaders of Zionism and of the State of Israel had kept their part of the deal made with the International Community?” And he concludes that far from being unfair and biased, the BDS campaign “is but a quite fair demand upon Israel to pay at least part of a long-overdue debt, and keep their part of a contract which Israel’s Founding Fathers solemnly signed. … Israel is singled out because it, and it alone, is in obvious default of a fundamental obligation, an obligation which was the condition for Israel coming into being in the first place.”

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