The most profound analysis about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that I ever read was written by the English-Polish-Jewish historian Isaac Deutscher. The entire analysis is based on a single image – of a man living on the top story of a building that catches fire. To save his own life, he jumps out of the window and lands on a passer-by. The victim is badly hurt and becomes crippled, and the two become embroiled in a never-ending conflict.
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Naturally, no image, not even Deutschers, can be completely accurate. Zionists didnt land in Israel by happenstance but because of the Bible. The founder of the Zionist movement, Benjamin Zeev Herzl, actually preferred Argentina as a site for the homeland. But the image is essentially a good metaphor, at least regarding developments until 1967. From there, the settlers went on beyond the Green Line, the border until that time – although the building wasnt on fire any longer.
There is nothing sacred about the Green Line. Its no different from any other border in the world, whatever its metaphoric color may be. Most borders are created by geography or the happenstance of war. Two people fight over one territory until at some point, they have had enough and make peace. That is how a boundary is born.
Israels terrestrial boundary, that Green Line, was also set by happenstance, following war. Part of the line was demarcated in the agreement between the then-new Israeli government and the first King Abdullah of Jordan, who gave us the towns in the triangle as baksheesh in exchange for Israels acquiescence to Jordan's annexation of the West Bank. Whats so sacred about that boundary? Nothing, beyond its mere existence.
True, the United Nations, in its historic resolution in November 29, 1947, determined that two nations would arise in this land, a Jewish one and an Arab one, and it also laid down the border between them. The Arabs embarked on war against this resolution, and Israel took advantage of situation to expand its territory. The War of Independence in 1948 ended without a peace agreement. The cease-fire lines determined at the wars end were accepted by the world as the border of the new state. In the 68 years since, that has not changed.
This is the situation, in theory and in practice. Israeli law only applies within the Green Line. All the rest is occupied territories, which is governed by military law. Two small areas, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, were unilaterally annexed to Israel – a status that remains unrecognized by the other nations of the world.
I am taking the trouble to present this history because the settlers in the occupied territories have lately begun to mock their critics in Israel: Hey, whats the big difference between you and us? Youre also living on Arab land. Who are you to sniff at us? You did the same thing were doing. The only difference is that you did it before 1967 and were doing it now.
Here is the difference: We live in a country recognized by most of the rest of the world. The settlers live on land that the rest of the world sees as occupied Palestinian territories.
Take Texas: The United States wrested it from Mexico by war. But if Donald Trump invades Mexico today and seizes another chunk of land, annexing it to the U.S., the status of that land would be completely different from Texas.
Benjamin Netanyahu, whom some are already calling Trumpiyahu, supports the settlements with all his heart. Earlier this month he caved in under the pressure of the High Court of Justice and put on a show of evicting the settlers inhabiting one tiny illegal outpost, Amona, featuring much heartbreak and sobbing. The prime minister then immediately vowed to build thousands more housing units in the occupied territories.
The settlers are trying hard to conceal the differences between them and us, and not for the sake of justifying themselves. Their purpose is to eradicate the Green Line and have Israel annex all the occupied territories so Israel stretches from the sea to the Jordan River.
In recent years a global movement has arisen, calling for a boycott of all Israel. I have a problem with that movement. Gush Shalom, the movement to which I belong, is proud of the fact that years ago, we were first to boycott products made in the settlements. We still maintain that boycott, though now its against Israeli law. But we never declared a boycott of the State of Israel, only, and always, against the settlements.
The main goal of our boycott is to teach Israelis what the difference is between themselves and the settlers. We published and distributed a detailed list of all the companies and products manufactured beyond the Green Line.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement achieves the exact opposite: When BDS says there is no difference between Israeli citizens inside the Green Line and the ones in the territories – it pushes innocent Israelis into the arms of the settlers. The settlers would doubtless love to get help from BDS in getting rid of that Green Line.
Israel isnt going to disappear. Neither are the Palestinians. If we agree on those two facts, then we can also agree to boycott products made in the settlements, and the settlements alone.