Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to block Germany’s foreign minister from hearing some facts about the occupation from B’Tselem this week. This failure followed Netanyahu’s failure to prevent Belgium’s prime minister from hearing these facts a few weeks ago, nor could he prevent their presentation to the United Nations Security Council a few months ago. The world has heard, is hearing and will continue to hear about the occupation, and there’s only one thing the Israeli government can do about it: to end the occupation.
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The facts have been known for a long time. Less than two months before the 50th anniversary of the occupation, the whole world knows that Israel controls the entire territory and all the people between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. They know that this violent control of millions of people in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and in the Gaza Strip manifests in a cruel daily routine of dispossession, destruction, killing and subjugation of the Palestinians, every minute of every day for half a century, at their Israeli masters’ whim.
For the majority of its history, and each day anew, the state has chosen to maintain its control of the Palestinians. All of our administrative, legal, planning and military institutions are partners to this. But there is no ethical or legal cloak that can conceal the profound implications of this daily violence. Decent people will do everything that is in their power to end this injustice.
So if the facts are known, what is Netanyahu afraid of?
The prime minister and his coalition colleagues, along with most of the “opposition” parties, have no intention of ending the occupation. They have grown accustomed to the prevailing situation of the past half a century, in which Israel gradually advances its interests on the backs of the Palestinians without paying an international price for this. It is an “Israbluff” of historic proportions; Israel does not meet the most elementary preconditions of democracy, yet benefits from membership in the club of democratic nations. This makes it possible for us to continue ruling over another people, while defying fundamental moral principles and international law.
As Israelis, we cannot reconcile ourselves to the continuation of the 50-year-old occupation and the resultant violations of human rights. But as long as the world remains indifferent to the situation and refrains from taking action, the Israbluff will continue to thrive. For that reason, the international community must be firm in spelling out to Israel that its actions beyond the Green Line cross red lines.
The possibility that this will eventually happen: That is what frightened Netanyahu and all the other supporters of the status quo.
Israelis who oppose the occupation should be very encouraged by this. International officials who are weighing their policies must pay careful attention to these events. After all, B’Tselem is a small organization, its annual budget barely a tenth of what is spent on guarding the settlers who live in the heart of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods. The state, on the other hand, has for 50 years spent billions to preserve and maintain the moral atrocity of the occupation. An entire army of politicians and judges, PR flacks and diplomats, prison guards and Shin Bet security service agents, police officers and soldiers, bureaucrats and clerks is invested in the occupation. And still, Netanyahu is afraid.
The anxiety of the status-quo supporters should be our work plan. The nonviolent path to ending the occupation depends on being able to persuade the world, and especially Israel’s friends, that they must clarify to Israel that what was is not what will be, and that the occupation’s continuation will lead to international action.
We don’t take orders from Netanyahu. Nor does the world. Above all, one cannot order the facts to disappear, nor can one instruct evil to masquerade as justice. Today, just weeks before the 50th anniversary of the occupation, there is a hope that by resolutely pursuing the struggle here and in every important international arena, it can be brought to an end.
Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of B’Tselem.