Israel should read the writing on the wall

This year sees an unprecedented confluence of several movements against Israeli occupation and blockade of Palestinian territories. It coincides with growing support for a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders.

The first movement is in the form of another flotilla bound for Gaza. It was expected to reach the coast in the first week of July, but is still currently docked in Greece, unable to sail due to claims of unseaworthiness. Suspicions are rife that the cash-strapped country is being pressured to prevent the departure of over a thousand activists and journalists on board the ten ships comprising the ‘Freedom Flotilla 2.’ The movement has attracted surprising participants, such as retirement-age Jewish Americans and a Canadian Quaker.

Even as these unlikely radicals have become the face of pro-Palestinian support, the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) is steadily becoming mainstream, especially in Europe. Deutsche Bank and the Norwegian State Pension Fund, for example, divested their holdings from Elbit Systems last year for its role in building the West Bank barrier. BDS is also supported by revered Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who called on the international community to treat Israel as it did apartheid South Africa.

The pressure on Israel from the flotillas and BDS has been complemented by a third development: the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) active pursuit of UN recognition. In what many see as a desperate gamble, it plans to bid for statehood when the General Assembly convenes this September.

Though there is scepticism regarding a Security Council resolution (the United States has veto power), the ‘Uniting for Peace’ procedure may enable the Palestinians to bypass the Council and press their cause to the General Assembly. They would need a two-thirds vote. They are reportedly optimistic that further lobbying will cover the current 12-member shortfall in time.

Meanwhile, the Arab Spring that has touched countries in northern Africa and the Middle East has inevitably arrived in the Palestinian territories. The nascent March 15 youth movement counts the détente between Fatah and Hamas as one of its achievements. Unlike the factions and militancy that has marked the Palestinian struggle, it refuses to draw party lines and has concentrated on weekly, unarmed protests in border towns along the occupied territories. Following the template of recent revolutions, young Palestinians post their encounters with Israeli forces online.

These developments – the flotilla, BDS, the Palestinian state bid, and the Palestinian youth movement are coalescing into the strongest contention yet against Israel occupation.

The patterns indicate that people no longer see support for Palestine as being automatically anti-zionist, anti-Semitic or anti-Israel. If they are ‘anti’ anything, they are against human rights abuse and injustice, which the occupation and blockade represent.

This does not translate to delegitimisation of Israel nor validation of extremist objectives to destroy it. Conflating the two is a complete distortion of the principle of justice. Advocates for Palestine would argue with the same fervour as Israel that militant factions must abandon their abhorrent, self-defeating goals.

Support for Palestine merely challenges the conditions in which Israel exists, which is currently at the expense of Palestinian civilians. The illegal West Bank barrier, for instance, has destroyed the Palestinian economy according to a World Bank report.

This is how Israel lost its moral authority, when its justification for self-defence no longer sways because it is seen as the oppressor. It seems to be in denial about this reversal in public opinion. Sooner or later, it must read the writing on the wall. It is no weakness to do so. The opportunity is there to inspire, rather than continue to become a pariah.

Categories: War and Peace

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