Israel boycotts herself

It was not entirely a surprise when Israel decided that it would prohibit entry to 20 leading organizations which are calling for BDS as a tool of bringing justice to Palestinians. This follows a Knesset bill approved last year that forbid entry to “foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the settlements.”

It is as many things that the occupation does – outlandish, and anti-democratic. These are bizarre decisions made by Israeli rulers who run an detestable system. Israel may believe that it can actually preempt the BDS Movement from meeting with success. This is foolhardy because the more they try to weaken BDS, the stronger it grows and the wider it spreads.

The move will have some drastic humanitarian implications. A prominent Jewish leader in the BDS/anti-occupation Movement will now find herself disallowed entry into Israel. She remarked somewhat despondently “Despite the fact that my grandparents are buried there, that my aging in-laws still live there, and my extensive ties of friendship and family, my support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) for Palestinian rights now excludes me from Israel”.

BDS is a widespread non-violent justice movement born out of a call from Palestinian civil society to build a global movement to pressure Israel to end the occupation, offer full equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and allow Palestinian refugees the right to return. It calls for economic divestment, boycott of Israeli goods and services, and pressure on tactical arenas such as culture and academia. In plain terms, it seeks to assign Israel as recluse because of its own political actions that treat Palestinians as worse than subhuman.

Israel has shivers moving up its spine when the term BDS is heard. From the experience of what happened in apartheid South Africa nearly 25+ years ago, it is clear that civil disobedience augmented by a global campaign to detach Israel from the international community will change the status quo of Palestinian dispossession that Israel has made the mainstay of its existence.

In their paranoia, Israel last year even deported WCC Deputy General Secretary, Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, when she attempted to enter Israel for a conference. The irony of that deportation is that the WCC is itself an anti-BDS outfit whose intent and policy reeks of soft-Zionism.

With this move, Israel has flaunted its fascist leanings and discredited its stated democratic credentials. If, until now, Israel’s had used closures to certain categories of people, mainly on racial lines, it has now declared a policy which argues that there can be no opposition to Israel’s political eccentricities. ‘If you cannot think like us, you are against us and, hence, unwelcome’. So much so for the burial of democratic traditions!

This is not a standalone decision. It is clear that Israel has been scheming for a considerable amount of time to invent legislation and policies that equip it to push Palestinians outside the margins of all legitimately acceptable boundaries. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Israeli parliament proceeded to approve legislation that appropriate Israeli law to settlements in the West Bank. This will now make possible Israeli annexation of Palestinian land. Clearly, Israel is embarking on a pathway of ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem because its own absurd system rules that Israel need not return any land to the Palestinians. With a supermajority in the Knesset to transfer sovereign control of land in Jerusalem, the chances of reversing any decision are remote. With just a simple majority, Israel can unilaterally change the boundaries of Jerusalem just as long as designated areas are under Israeli control. According to Israel’s incongruous sense of logic, Israel has license to rule over Palestinian territories and legalize its apartheid stranglehold. This is now new and such practices have been imposed since 1967. The difference now is that Israel’s defiance of international law will is more brazen and there will be absolute impunity under the protection of the Trump administration prompted his political masters- the Christian Zionists. .

What the world must now be certain of is that the USA cannot be trusted to be an interlocutor. It is prejudiced against the Palestinian claim and this stems from the vice-like grip the Jewish lobbies, notably the Christian Zionists, have over Trump. This is not Trump ruling the USA. It is the Christian Zionists who now rule the USA with Trump as the frontage. He is the puppet who can be maneuvered in any awkward way by the racist combine from behind which, in turn; support the racist-colonialist combine in Israel.

Immoral politics sow seeds of chaos. Trump threatened to cut off all aid to Palestine as his reaction to protests against his Jerusalem announcement. But there is cause even for him to worry. Has the Empire miscalculated too? What if Palestine abrogates the Oslo accords? It would leave Israel in a bind even worse than that of the Palestinians. It would seriously curtail US influence over Palestinian political decision making. And then they could be displaced from the negotiating table. This may be too extreme as a projection. But things have got out of hand. Moreover, USAID amounts to mere crumbs and the Palestinians may feel greater relief than pain with the US shut out.   The little US aid that does go to Palestine was mainly sent to sustain the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank with the express purpose of undermining Hamas. It turned out to be mere opium against the occupation but never intentioned to end it.

After the impulsive celebrations in Israel over US funding cuts, reality dawned in Israel. The Palestinians were not intimidated to return to the negotiating table. The PA recognized what the political fallout of such a slip-up will be. The Israeli Foreign Ministry is retrospectively calculating the political risks to Israel of the US decision to cut funds to Palestine. Trump is already under pressure to back down.  The fears are varied. What, Israel asks, if, there is a resultant humanitarian calamity in Gaza? Will that result in a show of aggression? What if the arrangement for security cooperation is dismantled between Israel and the Palestinian Authority? Israel cannot possibly impoverish the Palestinians and expect the resistance to blow away into thin air. It would only solidify. In its arrogance Israel may kill and steal more land, demolish more homes, and imprison more youth, children, mothers, and young men. In the ranks of the Palestinian youth are thousands of Tamimi’s who will fight the US-Israel nexus and their attempts to annex more and more of Arab land.

Meanwhile, Palestinians are actually snubbing USAID in large numbers. US-funded projects face a hostile response, amid calls for an organized boycott. The people reject programmes, ranging from clean water deliveries, refusals to interact with US project managers, seeking waivers to remove US-linked branding – including the US flag – from their promotional materials. An NGO spokesperson said:  “We distribute clean bottled water that has the US flag on it. There’s never been any problem with that with the public. But after Trump’s decision there has been a lot of sensitivity. Events have been cancelled and offers of assistance rejected, including the decision by Palestinian law schools that pulled out of an international event for which the US consulate had planned to provide plane tickets”.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) national committee is now mulling the issue of whether to widen the boycott. People want dignity and justice not bland aid which the US also supplies to Israel to fortify their military capacities with which they strengthen the structures of apartheid. They are embarrassed at having even remote links to anything US-branded.  Amid growing pressure for a wider boycott, NGOs would be obliged to comply with any Palestinian national decision over rejecting funding. As Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS Movement notes: “The overwhelming majority of Palestinians has always recognized successive US administrations as not just patrons of but also partners in crime with Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid”. Trump’s decision on Jerusalem has cemented all the resentment.

Under Trump, Zionist lobbies in the US, the Christian Zionists, in particular, are pouring tons of money to enable what is ostensibly Trump’s new path for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Saeb Erekat, PLO General Secretary observes how “the US administration is actually embarking on to a new path, which includes dictating solutions on the Palestinian people and dropping the Jerusalem and refugee files while keeping the situation as it is so that the upper hand will be for the Israeli occupation.” But, he asserts, this is unworkable: “It is something our people, who will remain steadfast in their country, will never accept.” He added: “We will have nothing left as Arabs without Jerusalem,” calling on the Arab countries to put into effect their summit resolutions, including the Amman summit (1980), Algeria (1990) and Cairo (2000) that called for cutting relations with countries that move their embassy to Jerusalem.

The narrative of Tamimi’s arrest and indictment is just not going away. Israelis wonder how on earth a young girl (Tamimi) could abuse and humiliate the IDF openly. Palestinians know that Tamimi was not a once-in-a-life time happenstance. They are hundreds upon hundreds of Palestinian youth whose audacity and daring grows every time Israeli soldiers act cruelly and in uncouth ways.

Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich, of the Jewish Home party, called on the IDF Chief of Staff “to order that every encounter or friction between the enemy and our troops end with a painful and decisive outcome.” Lara friedman, a Jewish activist, currently President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace observes: “All of these reactions gloss over the key question: How did Israeli soldiers come to be grappling with this Palestinian teenager in the first place? Were they minding their own business, taking care of the security of Israel or Israelis, when Ahed and her relatives suddenly turned up to “provoke” them?

Israel is on the wrong side of history. There is very little that separates them from those who were once their tormentors. Zionists resent being compared with their tormenters and it may not actually be quite the same. Zionism is too narrow and fragile an ideology to sustain a long future. It is racist in its fundamental formulations and is built on the ‘otherness of the other’. In so long as it rejects inclusion, it will collapse. Europe still bears the scars of the Zazi atrocities. Israel will take multiple decades to recover. Or, worse, may be consumed by the havoc that it wreaks on the Palestinians.

Nelson Mandela famously said: “A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity”.