Opinion

Israel’s Last Chance to End the Occupation

Paradoxically, the anti-BDS bill could very well hasten the end of the repression and subjugation of the Palestinian people

BDS supporters protest in Paris, October 31, 2012.
Jacques Brinon / AP

If the new bill is passed imposing a seven-year sentence on activists in the BDS movement against Israel and its products for harming the country and its foreign relations, it will mark a giant step in the constitutional revolution the right-wing nationalist government has been making in recent years.

This revolution is progressing at a terrifying pace under the patronage of a fraud that’s second to none. It’s as if the struggle for human rights (and not the attacks on them) could be considered harming the country; as if a country and its policies, citizenship and ideology were one. As if ideologies hadn’t yet brought about the destruction of countries in which power was awarded to the ideologues.

Yet maybe a glimmer of hope is hiding here. This bill to protect the occupation could very well bring nearer the end of the repression and subjugation of the Palestinian people at the hands of Israel, and along with it the chance – maybe the last – of both peoples to live in peace.

The trials of the activists for boycotting an occupying and settling Israel will quickly turn into show trials. This will tear open the remnant of the worn-out mask of democracy that Israel still manages to take pride in both at home and abroad despite its military and civil rule over millions of people for 50 years.

When this happens, the similarity will grow between Israel and the final period of the Soviet Union and a few post-Stalinist communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe that persecuted and imprisoned opponents of the regime for the crime of “harming the state.”

As a result of the persecution of such dissidents, international pressure on the Soviet Union increased and in the end bore fruit. So there’s a chance that the more Israelis boycott the occupation and occupier – the more they grow weary and are jailed – the more this process will occur concerning the Israeli occupation regime, too.

Are the sponsors of the expanded boycott bill so politically unwise that they’re unaware of the boomerang in their proposal? Don’t they understand that the more they persecute Israelis who fight their country’s assault on human rights – even to the point of imprisoning them – the closer the day when the international community will throw Israel out of the family of democratic nations? Don’t they understand that this will hasten the end of the era of occupation and settlements?

It seems that the people promoting the bill against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement aren’t afraid of this boomerang because they rely on the weakness of the opponents of the occupation and the settlement enterprise. The legal sanctions, they think, will deter activists from using a call for a boycott of the occupation as part of their struggle.

We, the authors, basing ourselves on our experience, say to them: You are mistaken. Two and a half years ago we initiated a petition of Israelis calling on the international community to impose an economic and cultural boycott on the settlement enterprise in the territories captured in 1967. In less than a month, over 1,500 Israeli citizens signed it. They were willing to violate the law.

Now, in light of the sharpening of swords by the coalition of national suicide against the opponents of the occupation and the settlements, we must make that same call with even more determination. We must create an Israeli civic movement that will persistently call on the international community to give teeth to UN Security Council Resolution 2334 from December 2016 against the settlements.

We must put diplomatic, economic and cultural pressure on Israel, including a boycott of the settlement enterprise and its collaborators, to force it to remove its citizens from the West Bank. No nonviolent civil struggle is worthier and more practical.

Only when all of us, men and women, Israelis who are partners in and responsible for the continuation of the occupation, begin to pay a real price for it will Israel receive a chance to be a sane and civilized country with diplomatically recognized and moral borders based on international law. Without that we will not have security or peace.