People are saying the Prawer plan would be the biggest mass population clearance within Israel since 1948. In one move, Israel’s establishment has placed the issue of apartheid Israel at the top of the agenda alongside the military rule over the West Bank and the plight of the 1948 exiles. If there was anything at all left of the twostate solution (which would have rubber-stamped and legitimised a “Jewish Israel” alongside a Palestinian state), Prawer has blown it out of the water.
Where, up to now, the mainstream government-level criticisms of Israel (and their threatened consequences, such as the EU guidelines against Settlement-related funding) were focused against the illegal settlement of the lands conquered in 1967, the calls now are against Israel itself. A letter published in The Guardian (reproduced in our Newsletter No.6) and signed by dozens of top-flight names from politics, media, trade unions, the arts and sciences and public life, calls on the UK government “to make its relationship with Israel conditional on respect for human rights and international law and take concrete action to hold Israel to account”.
Israel has taken care in the past to create little divisions and distinctions among its 20% Palestinian minority, with differing conditions, regulations and arrangements for sections such Druze and Bedouin: a sort of zoning policy organised by tribal and ethnic divisions rather than location. Harassment and discrimination and creeping Judaisation have always been imposed in a piecemeal fashion, avoiding dramatic lurches that might set feelings alight and unite the different groups. Simmering discontent on the “home front” has been tempered with the knowledge that it’s better than military rule and exile. Hence Israel’s frequent boast that “our Arabs are better off and happier” than their cousins beyond the 1967 borders: of course they are, it’s their own home!
It can take the time of a generation for patient, resigned quiescence, a knowing caution, the habit of a cynical shrug, to change, and for seething but suppressed anger to be held in check no longer and finally boil over. Or it can break out and be switched in a matter of days or weeks if pushed too far, too fast. Whatever Israel’s long-term establishment achieved to keep things stable on the home front, the headlong racist and far-right political shock-troops now in government are overturning with a “bring-it-on” carelessness. The brutal crackdowns at Haifa and Hura may be the first shots in a major showdown.
This could change the whole equation and lay bare the historic alien invasion and racist occupation of the whole land. Far from progress and stability in the 65 years since the Nakba, Israel has imposed deepening oppression of even those who escaped expulsion. The Bedouin may be different tribes with a different lifestyle, but their forced removal will be easily recognised by the 200,000 or so “internal displaced” citizens forbidden from reclaiming and rebuilding on the lands they lost in 1948: denied Right of Return even to as near as just down the road or over the next hill.
The third demand of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, for equal treatment “within Israel”, is being activated and coming into the spotlight, and will add wings to the BDS movement. That is the only possible answer to the Prawer Plan and the violent repression of the opposition to it.
Now more than ever this will challenge those in Israel who profess their support for “social justice” just so long as such justice doesn’t include the “Palestinian issue”. The struggle against Prawer goes to the heart of Israel’s systemic injustice: the injustice to Palestinians is not “over there” beyond a long-ago erased Green Line, but runs through everything and everywhere that Israel is.
If these movements stay apart, they will both suffer and may face defeat or serious setbacks. If they can unite and join up their struggles (why not tent encampments at every threatened village instead of central Tel Aviv?), and if those in the global movement can step up their actions to isolate Israel, we might see the balance of forces shift.
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