Can You Live in Israel Without Contributing to the Occupation?

For the time being, those who consider their options are pounced on from the left and the right.

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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Israeli soldiers man a checkpoint in Hebron on June 15, 2014, as Israel imposed a tight closure of the town.
Israeli soldiers man a checkpoint in Hebron on June 15, 2014, as Israel imposed a tight closure of the town.Credit: AFP
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

What can we say about someone who lives in Israel but decides at some point that he doesn’t want to take part in the occupation and settlement enterprise? What do we expect from such a person? These are serious questions and I want serious answers, from both the right and the left.

This person was raised and educated in Israel, fulfilling all his obligations. Politically, he believes with every fiber of his being that the occupation and settlements corrupt the country and will lead to its destruction. Morally, he doesn’t want to take part in the folly and wrongdoing. It breaks his heart and defies logic, so he searches for ways to let him live with himself.

He doesn’t want to keep hearing about a “diplomatic process” and “diplomatic horizons,” about our hand “extended in peace,” “two states” or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech. Forty-seven years and the occupation is still with us.

Time after time he observes how ostensible leftist and centrist parties join right-wing coalitions that perpetuate the occupation. He has lost hope in the parliament and seeks a course of action. He realizes that his views are of the minority, that demographics stand in the way and that it may already be too late.

But he wants to live in peace with himself. As far as he’s concerned, you only live once, and life is too short to waste on entrenching the occupation. It seems absurd to finance it with his taxes, but tax evasion is a criminal offense. A tax revolt isn’t practical.

If he wants to boycott products from the settlements, he’s told that boycotts are terrible, and Jews of all people should remember this. If he refuses to appear or perform in the territories, he’s told that it’s wrong to shun an entire community when he is supported by state money. If he joins a human rights group he’s told he’s damaging Israel’s reputation. If he tries to mobilize support from abroad he’s accused of being an obsequious Jew, groveling before anti-Semitic gentiles.

He obviously doesn’t consider violent resistance. It’s not his way and those aren’t his values. After deliberating, he chooses the most basic and limited form of civil disobedience, declaring that he’s opting out. He states that he will no longer take part in the physical and psychological occupation of another people.

It goes something like this: I will no longer oppress them, deprive them of rights and support the thievery of their land. I will not bomb them from the air or raid their homes in the middle of the night. I will not make their lives miserable at checkpoints or disperse demonstrations with rubber-coated or sponge-tipped bullets.

I will not blackmail them so that they become collaborators; I will not collect intelligence that will let these actions go on forever. I cannot take part in all this.

Such a person is pounced on from the left and the right. He is vilified with suggestions that he be put on trial. He is told that he’s destroying democracy and that obedience is the supreme value.

He can’t understand how people can talk to him about democracy when 4 million Palestinians are under siege and occupation, lacking basic human rights. He can’t understand how blind obedience has been elevated to a sacred value in a country that supports the punishment of war criminals who were obeying orders, a country that glorifies righteous people who refused to obey orders.

Such a person considers his options. He doesn’t want to leave and doesn’t want to commit suicide. He wants to live in peace with his conscience, in Israel, without contributing to the occupation and the settlements. Please help him, dear readers. Is there a legitimate way to achieve this?

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