A review of Boycotting Israel is wrong: the progressive path to peace between Palestinians and Israelis by Philip Mendes and Nick Dyrenfurth (Newsouth: 2015)
Two Monash academics, ‘progressive Jewish opponents of the “Israel-always-right” lobby’, enunciate a moral objection to solidarity with the Palestinian call to boycott Israel and ‘the progressive path to peace’ through ethnic partition.
There was a time, at least in my fevered imagination, when no academic worth their salt would be caught dead knocking down straw men or deploying other fallacious forms of 'argument'. That time, if there ever was such a time, has clearly come to an end.
With howlers on virtually every page, it's hard to know where to start, so I'll begin with the cover, because sometimes you can tell a book by its cover. Titles may reveal something about the content. With Philip Mendes and Nick Dyrenfurth's (M&D) Boycotting Israel is wrong, it is clear from the outset that what's in the tin is their opinion. But with the authors decked out in academic garb and the book festooned with the trappings of an academic monograph, you could be forgiven for expecting some kind of evidence based argument demonstrating either that boycotts are wrong in general, or that Israel is somehow a special case. They claim to ‘critically analyse the key arguments for and against the BDS’ (p. 13), but never get around to the arguments for BDS in any recognisable form. The word arguably is arguably one of their favourites, but they are disinclined to construct actual arguments.
The subtitle, The progressive path to peace between Palestinians and Israelis, is much more deceptive. It strongly suggests that the authors have identified the one and only path to peace that is also progressive. In reality, when they get around to revealing 'The progressive alternative to BDS' in the final five pages, it transpires that they 'do not pretend to have all the answers to solving this bitter and complex conflict', after all (p. 146). Their favoured progressive path to peace, moreover, is neither progressive nor just, nor do they identify a viable path to it.
The bee in their bonnet is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign (BDS) launched in 2005 by a large coalition of Palestinian unions and other groups. In reality, most BDS activity relates specifically to boycotts, particularly the academic and cultural boycott. Some divestment initiatives have appeared, while formal sanctions imposed by other states remain at the aspirational stage. M&D gloat unbecomingly that in its first ten years, BDS has failed to secure its stated objectives, having forgotten that the analogous campaign against apartheid South Africa, launched in 1959, required a full 35 years to overthrow the apartheid regime.
They take particular pleasure in 'the continuing inability of BDS activities to secure union support' (p. 130), but must have submitted their manuscript before Eric Lee's December 2014 talk on 'Why Israel is losing the battle in the world’s trade unions'. Lee was explicitly speaking on behalf of TULIP – Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine, about which more later. Meanwhile, rank and file unionists are increasingly challenging their leaders’ anti BDS stances.
'No democratic government', they crow, 'has endorsed any form of boycott…' (p. 6) 'Arguably, the greatest achievement of the BDS campaign thus far has been the inflammatory contribution of its activists to the tone of an already heated debate' (p. 7), or as I would put it, BDS’s principal contribution so far has been to raise the level of discussion by increasing awareness of the issues beyond what I expected in 2005.
If BDS were really as ineffective and irrelevant as they make out, it's curious that the Israeli government and others need to convene conferences on it. And to crack down on BDS activity; and to lift BDS founder Omar Barghouti's travel documents. And to orchestrate Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on BDS websites. And to seek ‘left’ cover from the liberal Zionist lobby group, J Street. One US state after another is pushing through patently unconstitutional legislation penalising BDS activity. The Governor of New York rammed through an executive decree to this effect when the bill failed in the state legislature. Great resources and effort have been poured into attempting to portray BDS as inherently antisemitic, to redefine antisemitism accordingly, and to see this enshrined in university policies and legislation at every level of government, including the US State Department. US presidential candidates vow ‘to make countering BDS a priority’. And indeed, the authors, themselves, felt the need to write this book about it. In fairness to M&D, I note that some of these developments have occurred since they submitted their manuscript.
For reference, the call for BDS enunciates these aims:
These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
For the record, I have reservations of my own about this formulation, mainly because it is couched in terms of International Law™. Without belabouring the subject at length, any law is subject to revision and interpretation. Israeli apologists assert, for instance, 'Since Israel withdrew from 91% of the territories [conquered in June 1967] when it gave up the Sinai, it has already partially, if not wholly, fulfilled its obligation under [UN Security Council resolution] 242.' And in a casuistic reading of the text of 242 and discussions in framing the phrase ‘from territories occupied’, they have a point, although ‘the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war’ militates against such an interpretation.
Meanwhile, Israeli academics and ethicists are exerting themselves to rewrite the laws of war. Shurat HaDin, which is a front for Israeli intelligence service Mossad, ‘is utilizing court systems around the world to go on the legal offensive against Israel’s enemies’. Their June 2016 conference on the law of war ‘is to influence the direction of legal discourse concerning issues critical to Israel and her ability to defend herself. The law of war is mainly unwritten and develops on the basis of state practice.’ So relevant areas of International Law™ are currently in flux and their interpretation may not end up favouring a just outcome. Furthermore, insofar as International Law™ is enforceable, the Security Council resolution necessary to authorise enforcement action requires US agreement. So the UN can impose sanctions on countries that comply with their treaty obligations, like Iran's compliance with the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but the US and its friends are never susceptible to sanction, however egregious their violations. The BDS call, itself, explicitly recognises that ‘all forms of international intervention and peace-making have until now failed to convince or force Israel to comply with humanitarian law’.
Returning to M&D’s concerns, the expression 'all Arab lands' is susceptible to interpretation as including Israel Proper™, and not just the West Bank and Gaza. Indeed, that is the most plausible parsing. Or would be, if the BDS National Committee had not clarified the first demand [my emphasis], 'Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall'. Many activists who support the Palestinian struggle, including the majority of BDS supporters, would reject M&D’s interpretation. For them, as for M&D, 'the acquisition of territory by war' was 'inadmissable' in 1967, but not in 1948, when Israel annexed more than half the territory left to the Arab state in the UN General Assembly's bizarre 1947 partition plan (UNGA Resolution 181), which had already allocated about 55% of the land for the ‘Jewish state’. There is a plausible argument that the UN Charter does not empower the General Assembly to partition League of Nations mandates, as it did Palestine in 1947, in the first place.
Presumably, this inconsistency arises from the view that Israel, uniquely among countries, possesses a sacred and inalienable 'right to exist', unlike, say, Yugoslavia. After all, Israel within the 3 April 1949 armistice line ('the Green Line') with Jordan, commonly referred to as Israel’s ‘border’, is the entity the UN General Assembly Resolution 273 (III) cynically admitted to membership in 1949. And that makes everything alright.
The delusion that a Jewish state, unlike a Christian state, an Islamic state, a White state…, is fundamentally legitimate, underlies all of M&D's concerns. So they are also perturbed that, even if the first aim of BDS is interpreted narrowly as referring to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, withdrawing to the Green Line could give rise to 'potential military threats following an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank' (pp. 46-47). As if security concerns, paranoid or not, somehow justify acquisition of territory by war. Regarding 'the West Bank security barrier', as they are pleased to call the wall, eschewing the Israeli 'separation wall (or fence)' (Hebrew: חומת orגדר ההפרדה (khomat (or geder) hahafradah), presumably lest anyone think hafradah 'separation' means 'apartheid'. 'Undeniably,’ they claim, ‘the barrier has stopped suicide bombings and terror attacks launched against Israel' (p. 47). With thousands of West Bank Palestinians trapped in the ‘seam’ between the Green Line and the wall, and many more crossing into Israel daily to find work, there may be grounds for doubting its efficacy, and some have, indeed, denied that it was the principal factor in the observed reduction in attacks. According to Amos Harel, writing in Ha'aretz in 2006, '...[t]he security fence is no longer mentioned as the major factor in preventing suicide bombings, mainly because the terrorists have found ways to bypass it'.
M&D reject the second demand on the grounds that they harbour a suspicion that 'the true agenda may not be civil equality for all citizens of Israel, but rather collective national rights for Arabs requiring the transformation of Israel into a binational state, or worse...BDS supporters are prone to suggest that Jews are not a bona fide nation deserving of national rights of their own' (p. 47). They acknowledge that the 20% of Israelis who are Palestinian comprise an oppressed minority, steering well clear of issues relating to land use and restrictions on residence. They cite with approval a list of measures that Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman propose in their Israel's Palestinians: the conflict within (CUP: 2011), ironically, even though they recommend 'recognising the Palestinians as a national minority group’, which sounds suspiciously like the national rights for Arabs that they explicitly reject. They decline, moreover, to address how to prompt the Israeli government to commit to ‘facilitating increased cultural autonomy, introducing laws to protect Arabs from official or popular prejudice and establishing affirmative action programs to enhance their socio-economic status' (p, 51), again ignoring the land issue. Such measures may indeed 'appear to address the concerns raised by the BDS movement', some of them, anyway, but there is no suggestion of how to get from here to there.
Finally (pp. 51, 53),
The third and most controversial demand is for a Palestinian Right of Return...thus BDS is justly regarded by many as a war against Israel by other means...The mass return of potentially six million Palestinians...would change the demographic composition of Israel profoundly and almost certainly turn the Jewish population into a disempowered minority. It is inherently inconsistent with a two-state solution. ...The only sane and dignified solution to the refugee tragedy is the resettlement of all Palestinian refugees with compensation as either full citizens in the neighbouring Arab countries in which most have lived for over 65 years, or alternatively as citizens of a new Palestinian state…
It's not for nothing that hasbarah ('propaganda') establishment insist that Israel's acceptance of a "right of return" would amount to national suicide. The expression 'national suicide' is transparently intended to evoke images of hordes of scimitar wielding Arabs driving the defenceless Jews into the Mediterranean. But if a significant proportion of the refugees decided to exercise their right of return, it would indeed alter the demographic balance. And if the returned refugees were enfranchised, as they must be, it is certainly plausible that they would vote to remove the reality and trappings of the Jewish ethnocracy. Jews would be as empowered or disempowered as any citizen of any bourgeois democracy.
The BDS movement is actually agnostic on the question of one state or two, and as I mentioned, many BDS supporters favour the Two State Solution™ (TSS). Ali Abunimah argues that the right of return is consistent with the establishment of two states, provided both are democratic and secular. The BDS call is only 'incompatible with a two-state solution that protects Israel’s “Jewish character” by keeping out Palestinian refugees just because they are not Jews'. But this strikes me as disingenuous, as the whole point of the TSS is precisely to preserve Jewish privilege in the Jewish state, so for those demanding partition, it is a distinction without a difference.
It is worth noting that the refugees originate as the victims of the Zionists' ambition for a Jewish majority. The idea of 'transfer', or what we call 'ethnic cleansing' nowadays, has been integral to Zionist thought virtually from its inception, as documented in Nur Masalha's Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of Transfer in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948. When, after three waves of aliyah (‘ascent’, i.e. Jewish immigration) and the influx of refugees from Europe after the Holocaust, Jews still only comprised about a third of the population of Mandatory Palestine in 1947, it became necessary to reduce the number of Arabs. Accordingly, in March 1948 pre state Zionist militias began the process of 'transfer'.
It is frequently alleged that there were no expulsions or massacres. Mistakes were made and Palestinians fled in 'the fog of war'. In reality, '...months before the entry of Arab forces into Palestine...namely before 15 May [when Israel declared independence] – the Jewish forces had already succeeded in forcibly expelling almost a quarter of a million Palestinians'. (Ilan Pappé, 2006, The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, p. xv). By the end of Israel's 'War of Independence' in 1949, about 750,000 Palestinians, 75% or more of the population, had been expelled and were permanently refused reentry.
Others aver that since the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan at the end of 1947, they deserved expulsion. Still others that they left voluntarily, as enjoined by 'Arab leaders' in radio broadcasts now known never to have taken place, with a view to returning in the wake of the victorious Arab armies.
Whatever the reasons for their departure, there is no conceivable pretext to bar their return, and shoot those who tried as 'infiltrators', save that they could dilute the nascent Jewish state's Jewish character. That remains the pretext and it is hard to fathom how anyone who calls themselves 'progressive' could characterise the cruelty of condemning three quarters of a million people and their descendants to permanent exile as 'sane and dignified'.
Among opponents of BDS, a popular trope is (p. 8),
BDS singles out only Israel for boycott, ignoring far worse human rights abuses and bitter ethnic-religious conflicts. If anything, Israeli actions are far less brutal than the behaviour of China in Tibet, Indonesia in Aceh and formerly East Timor and Russia in Chechnya. This is to say nothing of the persecution of minority racial or religious groups within Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iran, Rwanda and elsewhere.
There are three problems with this. First, the reason that BDS targets Israel and not Indonesia is that it is Palestinians who have requested our solidarity in this form. The Tibetans, the West Papuans, the Puerto Ricans, and other colonised peoples have not. It is worth pointing out that many, probably most, activists who support Palestinian liberation are also active in other antiracist, antiwar, environmental, and other movements. Each movement 'singles out' the issues that concern it. Curiously, M&D and the rest of the hasbarah ('propaganda') industry have not criticised the gay rights movement for its silence on Tibet, or on Palestine, and for some reason single out BDS supporters for criticism.
Secondly, Israel is the only coloniser routinely defended in politics, diplomacy, and the media from its own victims. And finally, the argument 'I don't deserve punishment because someone else did something worse', is no more cogent coming from the hasbarah establishment than it is from the mouth of a four year old child.
'BDS advocates', they assert, '...construct superficial and false race-based analogies between Israeli policies and earlier South African apartheid, rather than acknowledging the real complexity of two peoples with equally legitimate national aspirations struggling over one piece of land' (p. 2). ‘The Israel-apartheid analogy is seriously flawed on political, historical and factual grounds’ (pp. 53-54).
This is another popular hasbarah trope. When Palestine solidarity activists, and others, characterise Israel as an apartheid state, they are not asserting that Israel is exactly the same as apartheid South Africa. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in contrast, says, 'I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed'.
'The crucial difference', writes Moshe Machover, 'is whether the indigenous population is harnessed as a labour force to be exploited, a source of surplus product; or excluded from the settlers’ economy – marginalized, exterminated or expelled, ethnically cleansed'. Apartheid South Africa exemplified the first ‘species’ of settler colonialism; Israel, like the US and Australia, the second. Furthermore, White South Africans comprised only about 10% of the population, while Jews in the area of Mandatory Palestine are a small majority.
But it should go without saying that nothing is exactly the same as anything else. Without grouping together things we perceive as similar, we couldn't even speak. As it happens, the Rome statute defines the concept.
"The crime of apartheid" means inhumane acts...committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.
Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as within the Green Line, comfortably meets the definition. Coincidentally, Israel is party to neither the Rome Statute nor the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, which defines the crime in similar terms.
It’s not in dispute that ‘Arabs experience systematic disadvantage’ (p. 48), but there are doubtless those who would claim that these definitions do not apply because Palestinians, or Arabs, are not a ‘racial group’, or that Jews and Arabs belong to the same ‘racial group’. They betray a misunderstanding of race. To do so suggests that they think race is a useful biological category for describing human populations. In the latter case, they are also deriving putative biological categories from biblical narrative or linguistic classification. The fundamental thing about racial categories is that although they rely in some measure on the perception of descent, they are basically social categories constructed by racism. The markers that racists use to identify a race are arbitrary and may be as varied as skin pigmentation, nose or eye shape, hair colour or texture, religious observance, language, or surname.
Since it is racists who construct racial identities, their definitions are the most relevant. In the case of Jews, some of the racial markers have actually been formally codified in such documents as the 1935 Nazi Nuremburg Laws, which defined Jews in terms of descent from ‘Full-blooded Jewish grandparents’, who ‘are those who belonged to the Jewish religious community,’ and the Israeli Law of Return, for whose purposes, ‘"Jew" means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion’. ‘The rights of a Jew’ are vested in a Jew’s spouse, descendants, and their spouses.
The evidence that racists perceive the 'cultural' or 'ideological' traits ascribed to Muslims, for example, as biological in origin is precisely that they treat the assimilated as if there were no possibility of assimilation, as if the traits were inherent in all those who 'look Muslim', have Muslim names, live in Muslim neighbourhoods, or whatever markers they may prefer. If they weren't lying about it being 'just cultural', assimilation would in fact protect the assimilated.
That’s why Israeli police can shoot, and a crowd of Jewish lynchers beat, an Eritrean man during a stabbing incident in Beersheva last October ‘only because of the color of his skin’. That’s why an anti Muslim fanatic could open fire in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012.
'BDS also', M&D assert, defeating scarecrows on all sides,
collectively punishes all Israelis for the actions of their state; it demonises Jews who oppose it; it educates followers that the Jewish state is at the centre of all that is wrong in the world; it puts a campaign against the Jewish state at the top of the agenda of progressive activists; it pushes many Jews out of progressive movements and strengthens the hand of hardliners in Israel allowing them to perpetuate a 'bunker mentality' among sections of the population. In both Western and Arab worlds, BDS recycles images of Jews as bloodthirsty oppressors exercising disproportionate influence; and popularises the specious idea that people who raise the issue of anti-Semitism are doing so in bad faith in order to silence any criticism of the Israeli State. (p. 8)
It's true that a boycott is a blunt instrument. 'And the evidence increasingly points to one set of victims: the Palestinians', weeps Alex Margolin, shedding crocodile tears. Yet it is the Palestinians themselves who have called for the boycott, in full cognisance that the effects would flow on to them, just as were the Black South Africans before them. Well meaning Israelis impacted by boycotts understand that it is a price they have to pay if they hope to budge their government from the status quo.
The recently lifted sanctions against Iran were in full force when M&D were drafting their book. It punished all Iranians for the alleged actions of their state. Similarly, the sanctions imposed on Iraq in the 1990s claimed up to half a million children's lives. Unlike in Israel, there is little pretence that Saddam Hussein or the Ayatollahs actually represented the views of the people they ruled. And indeed, if opinion polls are any guide, the Israeli government's intransigence really does represent the will of the majority of Israeli Jews. As far as I can ascertain, M&D have not spoken out against the genocidal sanctions against Iraq. They certainly have not even mentioned Iran or Iraq in Boycotting Israel is wrong, as if they themselves were singling Israel out for special treatment.
BDS, per se, does not demonise anyone. BDS activists are doubtless critical of Israeli policy and of BDS opponents whether they are Jewish or not. It's dubious that any of this amounts to demonisation, but to whatever extent that it may, it is individual activists rather than the movement that is doing it. M&D themselves, however, are no strangers to demonisation. They insist on denigrating principled antiracist activists as 'anti-Zionist fundamentalists' (p. 36 et passim) without defining fundamentalism or engaging the views they dismiss as ‘beyond rational debate and unconnected to contemporary or historical reality’ (p. 36).
'Today’, they write, ‘there are arguably three principal Left positions on Zionism and Israel that largely inform progressive attitudes to the BDS movement’. The first is ‘balanced...favouring a two-state solution’, ‘both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian’, and exemplified by such rusted on neoliberal ideologues and war criminals as ‘the former New Labour leader Tony Blair…' (p. 32). And presumably the authors, themselves. Progressive, remember.
The second blames Israel and ignores alleged ‘Palestinian rejection of Israeli offers of statehood..., the 2005 election victory of Hamas, and the near universal Palestinian demand for the return of 1948 refugees...' (p. 35) Of course they mean the January 2006 election, about which that bastion of democracy promotion, former US Secretary of State and disappointed contender for leadership of The Free World™, Hillary Clinton is reported to have said, ‘…we should have made sure we did something to determine who was going to win …’ So while Israel goes on building settlements, hogging water, demolishing homes and villages, wells, rainwater cisterns, solar panels, and playgrounds; uprooting olive orchards; bombing and shelling schools, hospitals, and residential buildings; arresting and torturing children; imprisoning dissenters indefinitely without charge...the Palestinians are really equally to blame for Israel’s refusal to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, because they voted for the wrong party 10 years ago and – what is most unforgivable of all – demand justice for the refugees. The ‘offers of statehood’ they mention would have left the refugees and the Israeli Palestinians in the lurch, among other things, which no credible Palestinian negotiator could ever accept.
As for 'The third left perspective’, which they ‘term anti-Zionist fundamentalism’, they accuse us of regarding ‘Israel as a racist, colonialist state’! ‘Active support’, they allege, ‘is provided to groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah’, as if to insinuate we were donning keffiyehs and going off to fight with the al Qassam Brigades. What they are probably referring to is our defence of the occupied people’s right to resist occupation, a no brainer for anyone who purports to endorse human rights, much less anyone on the actual left.
One of their most bizarre assertions is that ‘This form of anti-Zionism is substantively different to the earlier pre-1948 Left tradition of anti-Zionism. That tradition opposed Zionism as a political movement on theoretical grounds. Anti-Zionist fundamentalists today wish to eliminate the existing nation State of Israel.’ By eliminate, they mean ‘transform from the ethnocratic “state of the Jewish People” to a state of its citizens’. But eliminate sounds so much more dramatic and threatening. Seriously. Who do they think they’re going to hoodwink with these transparent rhetorical ploys? Anyway, their view seems to be that it was ok to oppose establishing a Jewish ethnocracy when it was but a glint in the eye of the most retrograde elements of European Jewry. After all, ‘anti-Zionism was also influential within mainstream Jewish establishment groups...Many Jews appear to have regarded Zionism as an extremist movement...’ (p. 18). But now that Israel is a fait accompli, actively oppressing actual Palestinians as the pre-1948 antiZionists feared, or worse, it’s off limits.
Furthermore, ‘anti-Zionist fundamentalists portray Israel as a mere political construct’ (p. 37), as if any country was anything else.
Returning to their objections to BDS, per se, their allegation that BDS 'educates followers that the Jewish state is at the centre of all that is wrong in the world' is constructed from whole cloth.
But they are right to say 'it puts a campaign against the Jewish state at the top of the agenda of progressive activists'. They clearly intend this as a criticism, but surely anyone who opposes racism is obliged to make the defeat of ethnocracy a priority. Furthermore, it is clear from the very existence of their book that M&D want Israel and the defence of Israel precisely 'at the top of the agenda of progressive activists', as it apparently is of their own.
Jews may leave progressive movements because the movements are sympathetic to BDS, which is probably what M&D mean when they write, 'it pushes many Jews out of progressive movements'. This is likely because they feel uneasy, offended, even threatened when Israel comes under criticism. Such feelings can only arise when they strongly identify with the Jewish state and feel personally responsible for its actions and safety, which is not in dispute, as M&D imply the ‘centrality of the State of Israel to contemporary Jewish identity’ (p. 37). If the BDS movement articulated the view that Australian Jews were personally responsible for the terrorism and ethnic cleansing that brought Israel into existence, or Israeli home demolitions and extrajudicial executions in the here and now, M&D would likely be apoplectic in condemning the blatant antisemitism. But if Jewish 'progressives' pack up their principles and flee progressive movements on that basis, M&D construe them as the victims.
A 'bunker mentality' is hardwired into Israel's DNA - ‘a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism’, as Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, wrote in The Jewish state in 1896, 'Zionist colonisation...can proceed and develop only...behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach'. It will be perpetuated by 'hardliners' and more than just a few 'sections of the population', with or without BDS.
The 'images of Jews as bloodthirsty oppressors' probably include cartoons like this. The soldier is depicted with the Israeli flag on his helmet, so it should be plain that it is Israel, and not 'The Jews' who are the oppressors. But the Magen David that dominates the Israeli flag is also a widely recognised symbol of Judaism and Jewry, so the cartoonist must really mean 'The Jews'. It's no coincidence that Israel chose the Jewish symbol for its own, and one of the reasons was precisely to create ambiguity and confusion.
If there is no distinction between Zionism and Jewishness, and the prime minister of Israel claims to speak as “a representative of the entire Jewish people,” then ignorant or malicious people have a free pass to consider all Jews responsible for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.
Whether individual Jews wield ‘disproportionate influence’ is an empirical question, assuming there is some agreed measure of ‘influence’. But it is not the BDS movement that is putting it about that ‘The Jews’ are influential. It is the Zionists. ‘We have influence; we have great power, we have tremendous resources…’, as Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, put it in March 2016.
It is indeed a ‘specious idea that people who raise the issue of anti-Semitism are doing so in bad faith in order to silence any criticism of the Israeli State’, although again, the BDS movement doesn't say this. Manifestations of antisemitism do occur, although they are very rare in Europe, North America, and The Antipodes. Gangs of antisemitic thugs do sometimes roam the streets, but their targets these days are principally Muslims. There are occasional antisemitic remarks overheard, and some graffiti. Still, the antisemitism industry sensationalises its extent and severity, and in a sense this does serve to stifle criticism – after all, if Jews are in so much danger in the US, surely they must do what it takes to protect their escape pod. And American Jews are convinced that antisemitism is a problem. But it is patently not the kind of problem that would result in discrimination against Jews in access to housing, employment, education, or any other resources or services, much less to racial profiling by the police.
But while not every mention of antisemitism is in bad faith, it is transparently the case that BDS opponents frequently accuse BDS and BDS activists of antisemitism. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has raised US$50 million to combat BDS on US campuses. There is a campaign across the US, Canada, and Great Britain to enact legislation infringing or prohibiting BDS activity that explicitly identifies BDS as antisemitic in and of itself. The Amcha Initiative recently published a report that not only explicitly identifies antiZionism as antisemitic, but also counts BDS activity as both a cause and an indicator of antisemitism!
Gamely fending off stuffed effigies, M&D courageously append a list of 'BDS myths and facts' (pp. 150-151).
MYTH: The BDS is a non-violent political strategy that rejects the suicide bombings and other forms of terror previously utilised by Palestinians against Israeli civilians.
FACT: The BDS does not involve a principled rejection of terrorism. Rather, it promotes boycott as a more effective means of waging political war against Israel.
It's true that the BDS Movement website is silent on the issue of terrorism. There's no particular reason advocates of one set of tactics need to take a position on any other. The function of this sentence is to insinuate the idea that Palestinian terrorism always targets innocent noncombatants. In reality, much of the Palestinian violence reported as terrorism targets the occupation forces. While violence against an occupying army is entirely legitimate, it invites repression and may not be particularly effective.
This is actually part of the initiative to rewrite the laws of war I mentioned earlier. Among the principles ethicists like Asa Kasher promote is that an Israeli 'combatant is a citizen in uniform...If it's between the soldier and the terrorist's neighbor, the priority is the soldier', handily justifying deliberate harm to noncombatants. In a classic example of ends justifying means, the concept of ‘proportionality’, so often invoked in relation to Israel’s biennial attacks on Gaza, is defined explicitly with respect to military objectives in the first place, not, as commonly believed, to the severity of the purported provocation.
Israel, itself, is of course immune from accusations of terrorism, which is conveniently defined to exclude state violence, regardless of the methods used, the target, and the intent to sow fear. But those who demand that the BDS movement explicitly distance itself from terrorist attacks on civilians might want to express a view on how, exercising the greatest care to avoid hitting noncombatants with their sophisticated, precision weapons, Israeli forces hit civilians 71.6% of the time in their November 2012 attack on Gaza. As Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, head spokeswoman to foreign media for the Israel Defense Forces, wrote at the time,
Such terrorists, who hold cameras and notebooks in their hands, are no different from their colleagues who fire rockets aimed at Israeli cities and cannot enjoy the rights and protection afforded to legitimate journalists.
It might also behove them to distance themselves from the terrorism of the Haganah and other pre-state Zionist militias that made Israel possible.
It's not sufficient that BDS promotes nonviolent tactics, because the objective, like that of the terrorists themselves, is war against Israel. The reason M&D know it is war against Israel is that in their view, achievement of BDS's stated aims would erode the Jewish majority, leading to the end of Israel as a Jewish state, which they are pleased to characterise as 'the elimination of the Jewish state'.
MYTH: The BDS is designed to protect the human rights of Palestinians. It is not intended to harm the rights of Israelis.
FACT: If successful, the BDS would almost certainly produce the ethnic cleansing of most Israeli Jews from their homeland.
Executing an impressive cognitive leap, the end of Israel's Jewish majority and Jewish character leads directly to ethnic cleansing of Jews, and not from just anywhere, but their homeland, no less. M&D must have missed the memo alerting them that 'would almost certainly' does not comprise a persuasive argument. And again, their reticence on the matter of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948, again in 1967, and ongoing forced relocation, deprivation of residency rights, and so forth from their homeland, suggests that they are again singling Israel out for special dispensation.
MYTH: Opponents of BDS are right-wing Zionists who oppose Palestinian national rights.
FACT: Many of the leading critics of BDS are two-staters who support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Many of those who oppose BDS are in fact Zionists and some of them oppose national rights for Palestinians, while others are, as M&D's 'Fact' avers, prepared to extend them to Palestinian residents of parts of the West Bank that Israel doesn't want.
Rightwing Zionists and leftwing Zionists are virtually unanimous in opposing BDS. What they have in common is adherence to the ideology that a particular ethnic group is entitled to a state that privileges its members as such. In any other context, there would be no possibility of mistaking such an ideology as in any way left or 'progressive'. As indeed there is not in this context.
MYTH: BDS supporters are moderates who merely wish to promote the same human rights for Palestinians that exist for Israelis.
FACT: Most of the leading BDS advocates are long-time extremists who support the destruction of Israel and its replacement by an Arab majority state of Greater Palestine.
Nobody is claiming that all BDS activists are moderates – moderates are rarely activists of any stripe. The significant point is that the BDS movement does promote equal rights – specifically, the right not to be occupied by a hostile military force; the right to a nationality and to vote; and the right of reunion with exiles.
M&D like to characterise those who oppose partition of Palestine in favour of a unified, democratic, secular state, or a binational state, as extremists. Equal rights, regardless of religion and ancestry; one person one vote; and the right of refugees to go home are not generally regarded as extremist positions. On the contrary, partition on ethnic grounds is the extreme position. Indeed, as Ilan Pappé pointed out last year,
You have to come back to any historical case studies you remember of an anti-colonialist movement fighting a colonialist power and ask yourself, at any given moment was the idea of partitioning the land between the colonizer and the colonized portrayed as a reasonable solution? Especially by people who were on the left or saw themselves as conscientious members of the society? And the answer is a resounding no, of course you would not support the division of Algeria between the French settlers and the native Algerians. And even in places where you had settler colonialism, namely where you had white people who had nowhere to go in a way, like in South Africa, if you would suggest today as a progressive person that you should divide South Africa between the white population and the African population, you would be regarded at best as insane, and at worst as someone who is insincere and a fascist….
‘Greater Palestine’ is apparently an expression of Mendes’s own coinage, subsequently adopted by Henry Siegman in The Huffington Post, and no one else. The intention is to create the illusion of ‘balance’ between the most extreme Zionists, who call for the annexation of ‘Judea and Samaria’ and the expulsion of the remaining Palestinians to create a ‘Greater Israel’ on the one hand, and those who advocate democracy on the other. The implication is that creation of a democratic ‘Greater Palestine’ would necessarily entail expulsion or oppression of the Jewish population of present day Israel, consistent with their ‘almost certainty’ about ethnic cleansing.
MYTH: The BDS movement eschews all forms of racism including anti-Semitism.
FACT: The BDS movement is based on the ethnic stereotyping of all Israelis and Jewish supporters of Israel as evil, and has produced numerous manifestations of anti-Semitism.
Among those who support BDS, there are probably some who harbour antisemitic attitudes and even express them. Their presence in the movement doesn't make BDS fundamentally antisemitic, as M&D insinuate, any more than the occasional antisemitic remark makes all Zionists antisemitic. There are other reasons that Zionism is inherently antisemitic.
Boycotting Israel has nothing to do with stereotyping anybody as anything. The objective is to pressure the Israeli government to comply with specific provisions of International Law™. The boycott targets Israeli businesses and institutions and effects can flow on to individuals, usually insofar as they act or are perceived as representative of those institutions. Jewish and non Jewish supporters of Israel are not ‘evil’. But neither are they political allies of left and progressive forces that reject racism, colonialism, and ethnocracy on principle, pace M&D.
MYTH: Jewish anti-Zionists who support BDS are a growing force in Jewish life internationally.
FACT: Jewish anti-Zionists are a tiny group in Jewish communities, and would constitute well below one per cent of the Jewish population. They are even a small minority amongst left-wing Jews.
There is no contradiction between the assertion that ‘Jewish anti-Zionists are a tiny group in Jewish communities’ and that we are a growing force, and as it happens, both are true.
It is tempting to deconstruct every fallacy and every caricature, but I think I’ve established that, in a nutshell, their objection to the BDS campaign is that they see it as ‘a thinly veiled campaign to resuscitate the so-called one-state solution…’, which challenges Israel’s ineradicable ‘right to exist as a Jewish state’. (p. 4) but at this stage, I will move on to ‘The progressive path to peace between Palestinians and Israelis’.
Mendes and Dyrenfurth persistently claim that the views they espouse are ‘progressive’. Quite apart from the appearance of protesting too much, how likely is it that a progressive, as commonly understood, would cite the likes of Julia Gillard and Tony Blair (p. 32) as allies?
On page 13, they remark parenthetically that they ‘do not propose to explore these issues’, but ‘the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can be understood as one facet of the conflict between elements of Islam and the West and with modernity more generally’. As indeed it can, if you ignore inconvenient facts and dispense with Occam’s razor. Since this ‘understanding’ must inform their perception of the conflict, it’s unsurprising that they come to some strange conclusions.
They are absolutely explicit that the ‘genuinely progressive view’ is ‘based on support for Israel's existence’ specifically as a Jewish state ‘and recognition of Palestinian rights to a homeland’, but not all of it, and hedged around with non negotiable preconditions.
'A progressive path to peace', they write, 'will ultimately be based upon three principles: empathy, dialogue and compromise' (p. 146). While they decline to expand on the nature of these principles as they understand them and how they each apply in determining 'the progressive path', it is possible to surmise their views from the initiatives they favour. They support
a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict through a two-state plan that fosters dialogue and urges mutual compromise and concessions from both sides who are prepared to accept a form of partial justice rather than a zero-sum solution, ultimately key to the establishment of two states for both peoples. (p. 14)
As Desmond Tutu says of evenhanded progressives,
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
The principle of compromise sounds like a nice, fair, balanced basis for negotiation. But it kind of matters what your starting point is. M&D write
...the Geneva Peace Accord...remains the benchmark for Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution. The Accord...proposed the establishment of a demilitarised Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza Strip alongside Israel accompanied by minor land swaps… (p. 147)
The bald assumption that the Palestinian state on the horizon is to join Grenada and Nauru as a demilitarised state without a word of explanation suggests that Mendes and Dyrenfurth, in their moderate, balanced position, are privileging some perception of Israeli security above Palestinian security, as if Palestinians had no reason to fear their nuclear armed neighbour. Anyone who believes that an independent Palestinian state bordering Israel will be able to develop free of Israeli interference might consider how free of Israeli interference the independent country to the north has been over the last three decades, notwithstanding the UN forces stationed there.
Nobody, least of all the Geneva Initiative, is seriously suggesting going back to square one and negotiating to repartition Mandatory Palestine fairly into a Jewish State and a Palestinian State with equitable access to land, resources, and amenity. On the contrary, every proposal for a TSS I've come across proceeds from the assumption that Israel Proper™ is not up for grabs. That means that Israel gets to keep the 55% inequitably allocated to them by the UN General Assembly in 1947 (Resolution 181), as well as the additional 6500km2 or so, about 23%, they acquired by force of arms in 1948-49, no questions asked. You'd think that was a significant compromise on the part of the Palestinians to begin with. But no, it is only the 22% that Israel occupied in June 1967 that anyone is talking about compromising over.
Among the compromises is 'mutually agreed land swaps'. And again, it is not as if anyone's offering the Palestinians Tel Aviv in exchange for Ramallah. It's always taken as read that Israel will keep the 'settlement blocs', otherwise known as 'facts on the ground', whether the Palestinians like it or not. After all, 'many Israelis legitimately fear that any political or territorial concessions on the West Bank will only be used by the Palestinians to initiate further violence' (p. 7) and the Palestinians must empathise with their fear. Most TSSs also assume continued Israeli control of the Jordan Valley, completely surrounding any conceivable Palestinian state in the West Bank, as well as crucial aquifers. (The Geneva Accord only provides for 'a small military presence' in the Jordan Valley for 66 months after signing.) The other side of the coin is what parts of Israel Proper the Palestinians might want in exchange; or rather, that Israel would be willing to part with as a painful compromise; or rather, which areas with concentrations of Palestinians ('Israeli Arabs') are adjacent to the West Bank that Israel can unload on the Palestinian State, in the spirit of hafradah 'segregation'.
In this context, the old refrain of ‘land for peace’ inevitably arises. When you think about it, though, what’s it really about?
The only land that has ever been on offer, if it really was on offer at all, is land acquired by military conquest in June 1967. The principal import of the famous UNSC Resolution 242 is not creation of a Palestinian state, a matter that it never even mentions, but to emphasise ‘the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war’. So the land that Israel would be relinquishing is land that was never rightfully Israel’s in the first place. It was territory acquired by war. Not really very much of a sacrifice.
Beyond one side of the equation of ‘land for peace’ being a bit bogus, as the land doesn’t really belong to Israel, is the other subtext. The suggestion is that since the Israelis are offering to give land, it’s the Palestinians who have to deliver the peace. That, in turn relies on the presumption that it’s the Palestinians who insist on violence and that Israel is the passive victim. Israel is willing to make painful sacrifices of its land if only those vicious Palestinians would leave them in peace. In reality, of course, it is the Palestinians who are the colonised people and on the receiving end of most of the violence. Palestinian violence, while demonstrably counterproductive, is wholly reactive. Amazing how they can pack all that into an innocuous little phrase, but then the Israeli hasbara (‘propaganda’) machine are no amateurs.
As we've seen, M&D are particularly concerned about the 1948 refugees and their right of return, because it could erode the Jewish majority, or, as M&D prefer to sensationalise it, ‘eliminate the Jewish state’…‘almost certain’ ethnic cleansing...‘Greater Palestine’. The principle of empathy would seem to suggest that 69 years languishing in a refugee camp would be long enough and that the actual victims of the actual historic ethnic cleansing were entitled to priority consideration. Under the Geneva Accord, in its beneficence, resettlement of refugees in Israel ‘shall be at the sovereign discretion of Israel’. So it transpires that after generations of exile and statelessness, it’s the refugees who need to extend empathy to Israel’s desire for a Jewish majority, if not ethnic purity.
With the Palestinians doing the lion’s share of the compromise and empathy, it’s worth enquiring which Palestinians Israel is supposed to negotiate with. The ‘Palestinian Authority clearly supports two states and...is still recognised by the international community as the official representative of the Palestinian people’ (pp. 59-60). In reality, of course, it is the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and not the Palestinian National Authority (PA) that over 100 countries and the UN recognise as the 'sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people'. But the PLO is moribund and even the UN General Assembly seems to be confused about which is which.
I think this suggests that M&D envision negotiations between Israel and the PA, although their aspirations may be even more modest than that. The PA is an instrumentality established under the Oslo Accords to absorb certain administrative and security functions from the occupation authorities in certain areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Its mandate to do so expired in 1999. While the PLO could lay a legitimate claim to represent the Palestinian people as a whole, including those resident in Israel and the diaspora, the PA can only pretend to represent residents of the West Bank. But that is a gross exaggeration. In reality, when the PA last held elections in January 2006, it was immediately subjected to suffocating sanctions, about which M&D are strangely silent, because the Palestinians had elected the wrong party. Israel subsequently arrested many of those elected, 17 of whom remain in Israeli prisons to this day. The sanctions persisted until June 2007, when PA President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term expired in 2009, overthrew the unity government in an administrative coup, in the West Bank, but not in Gaza, where Hamas successfully resisted violent takeover and has been subject to a lethal siege ever since, also unremarked by M&D. Since there really isn't any entity that can credibly represent the Palestinians, the dialogue that they expect to resolve the ‘intractable conflict’ turns out to be mainly between bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families, discussed below.
Another thorny issue is the discrepancy in power between the dispersed and stateless Palestinians, whoever may represent them, and an aggressive military powerhouse. Even if you were prepared to accept the fiction of ‘two peoples with equally legitimate national aspirations struggling over one piece of land’ (p. 2), it’s preposterous to suggest that the parties are evenly matched, particularly with the US’s weighty thumb on the scales in Israel’s favour.
One of the ironies of the notoriously ‘complex conflict’ is that proponents of the TSS still believe that after 49 years pouring treasure, and even some Jewish blood, into assiduously creating ‘facts on the ground’ with the explicit intent of retaining the strategic hilltops and essential aquifers, Israel will ever agree to relinquish them. As Ilan Pappé puts it,
‘This is all temporary, of course when peace comes, all these measures will be removed’...you can understand why...after five years of occupation...one could still be hopeful that the Israelis mean it... But after almost fifty years, to still stick to this idea which is an Israeli ploy to deepen the colonization of the areas they have occupied in 1967, and to wipe out any possibility of negotiating the areas they occupied in 1948, or the return of the refugees, to do that is really to be very stagnant and dogmatic in one’s perception of the reality.
In 1983, Prof. Yuval Ne'eman, acting head of the Ministerial Committee on Settlement of the Israeli Cabinet, comments, ‘Our effort in colonizing Judea and Samaria (biblical names for the West Bank)...is to create as soon as possible the fact that there is no place for a Palestinian Arab state.’
The only Palestinian state actually on offer is, as Jeff Halper describes it,
no end to settlement construction, land expropriation, house demolitions (28,000 Palestinian homes demolished since 1967, and counting) or displacement; recognition of Israel as a “Jewish” state; the imposition of the Clinton Parameters on East Jerusalem (“what is Jewish is Israeli, what is Arab is Palestinian,” thus eliminating completely any kind of coherent urban entity that might serve as the Palestinians’ capital); Israel’s retention of at least six major settlement “blocs,” strategically placed to fragment the West Bank into disconnected and impoverished cantons while isolating what remains of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; long-term or permanent Israeli military control over the Jordan Valley and Palestine’s borders with Egypt and Jordan – well, the list goes on: Israeli control over Palestinian airspace, over their electromagnetic sphere (communications), etc. etc. etc.
A popular misconception among advocates of the TSS is that ongoing encroachment by Israeli settlements, bypass roads, and the rest of the 'matrix of control' will reduce the eventual rump Palestinian state to a series of discontiguous bantustans. While not actually false, this view misses the point that a Palestinian state was never going to be anything other than a bantustan, or more likely two or more discontiguous bantustans, even if it comprised the full 22% of Mandatory Palestine in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, because their function is to isolate a population in an ethnically homogeneous enclave adorned with some of the trappings of political autonomy with a view to preventing their exercise of citizens’ or residence rights in the metropole, exactly analogous to Bophuthatswana.
Another widely held misconception is that Israel's creation of ‘facts on the ground’ since 1967 have rendered The Two State Solution™ impossible, as intended, or soon will.
In February 2009, Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said, ‘The window is rapidly closing on the two-state solution’. The following month, former US National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and other luminaries warned that ‘the next six to twelve months may well represent the last chance for a fair, viable and lasting solution’, using fair and viable in a sense M&D would understand. In November 2010, long after the Scowcroft window had slammed decisively shut, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, ‘I am very worried that the window of opportunity is closing. There is real urgency to that’. ‘The window of opportunity is not only closing on the two-state solution, but on the U.S.’s central involvement in the peace process’, wrote Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in December 2012. In April 2013, US Secretary of State John Kerry said, ‘I believe the window for a two-state solution is shutting. I think we have some period of time – a year to year-and-a-half to two years, or it's over’. Three months later, ‘Even Netanyahu appears to have recognized that the window for a two-state solution is rapidly closing and has recently begun speaking of his determination to avoid a one-state reality.’ In March 2014, Obama himself announced that ‘the window is closing for a peace deal that both the Israelis can accept and the Palestinians can accept…’ And in April 2016, the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) wrote, ‘The viability of a two-state solution...is in danger…’
In reality, whether there is a Two State 'Solution' depends entirely on the problem it is to solve. If the problem is that millions of Palestinians are stateless and have been subject to Israeli military occupation for 50 years; that millions more have lived in exile for 69 years; and that over a million more live as twelfth class citizens, principally in isolated enclaves always facing the threat of relocation or house demolition; then the TSS solves little for the first group and nothing for the others.
If, on the other hand, the problem is, as liberal zionist lobby group J Street enunciates it, ‘With the Jewish and Arab populations between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea at near-parity, demographic trends preclude Israel from maintaining control over all of Greater Israel while remaining a democratic state and a homeland for the Jewish people’, then the TSS really is a solution and will remain a solution, unless, of course, in former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's immortal words, ‘we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished’.
So the Two State Solution™ is really nothing more than a strategem to defuse the fabled ‘demographic time bomb’, which is one of the reasons soi disant ‘progressive’ partitionists like M&D cannot countenance the right of return, however sincere their empathy for the refugees. The ‘genuinely progressive view, based on support for Israel’s existence’ turns out to demand more compromise and empathy from the Palestinians than from the Israelis and isn't at all clear on who the parties to dialogue are to be.
Furthermore, as I've argued elsewhere, the TSS requires its adherents to execute a number of cognitive convolutions. Support for partition – pace Ali Abunimah – entails that one of those states should be a Jewish state with a robust Jewish majority, which implies embracing such odious principles as ethnocracy, terrorist attacks on civilian targets, colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and permanent exile and expropriation of refugees.
Most progressives consider these principles directly antithetical to the kind that support class solidarity, or even bourgeois liberalism. ‘Liberal Zionists’ who claim to reject these principles have to exempt Israel and brand themselves as hypocrites.
In my view, a just partition of Palestine has never been possible. Even if we accepted the contention that Zionism is ‘at its core the Jewish people’s aspiration for national self-determination in their historic homeland’ and that Jews constitute a ‘people’ of the kind that can exercise the right to self determination (p. 5), it is patently unjust to do so at the expense of another people’s rights. In other words, however well founded the Jewish people's claim to self determination, it can’t extinguish the Palestinian people’s. Nor does the right to self determination guarantee ethnic homogeneity or countenance the expulsion or oppression of other peoples.
Mendes and Dyrenfurth purport to advocate a ‘genuinely progressive view, based on support for Israel’s existence and recognition of Palestinian rights to a homeland’ (p. 14). They criticise Netanyahu for failing ‘to promote a two-state solution’ (p. 7). They apparently reject ‘suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians’ (they clearly mean ‘against Israelis’, civilian or otherwise, and not, say, shelling residential buildings in Gaza), and of course the entire book is a rejection of BDS as a tactic to exert pressure on Israel. So what potent force do they propose will achieve their stated objectives?
Parents Circle – Families Forum, which includes about 600 families who have lost relatives to violence associated with the conflict
This organisation maintains an up to date website and an active Facebook page boasting nearly 7000 ‘Likes’. Unlike a concerted global campaign initiated by Palestinian civil society groups, 1200 bereaved parents can clearly bring The Middle East Conflict™ to a swift conclusion.
...the OneVoice Movement, which hosts a number of public forums and activities aimed at jointly promoting Israeli and Palestinian support for peace
OneVoice turns out to be a much more signficant organisation, whose website claims over 750,000 people ‘support’ it. The most recent ‘News’ is dated December 2015. About 21,000 ‘Like’ their Facebook page. Their mission is ‘providing the centrist mainstream on both sides with the opportunities and tools to build momentum for a peace agreement and #2StatesNOW.’ They claim, ‘While a majority of Israelis and Palestinians support the two-state solution, an emphasis on the risks of an agreement and the compromises it entails has led many to lose sight of the transformative change that peace can bring.’
This is the same mob that carried out a comprehensive, if flawed, survey in Israel (including Israeli Palestinians) and the Palestinian territories in February 2009, which is now only accessible via the site’s ‘History’ page, and concluded, ‘The analysis of the substantive issues covered in...this poll suggests that the shape of an agreement for a two state solution may not be very different to the various solutions proposed in the past.’ My analysis differs radically from OneVoice pollster Colin Irwin’s, at least if the opinions reported have any influence on ‘the shape of an agreement’. While ‘74% of West Bank & Gaza Palestinians and 78% of Israelis are willing to accept a two state solution’, their views on the nuts and bolts are diametrically opposed. For instance, 98% of the respondents in the Palestinian Territories said it was ‘Essential’ that ‘All the settlers should leave the occupied territories/West Bank and settlements demolished’, but 53% of those in Israel said it was ‘Unacceptable’. Similarly, it was ‘Essential’ to 91% of those in the Palestinian Territories for Jerusalem to be in ‘Palestine’, and to 45% of those in Israel for Israel to retain control of Jerusalem.
Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP) is an international organisation that promotes co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian trade unions, with the overarching aim of promoting the viability of a two-state solution
For the record, the TULIP page on Facebook has attracted 2858 likes, the most recent post is dated 3 December 2015, and posts appear not to inspire comments. There is no list of affiliates on the TULIP website, strongly suggesting either that this vast network of workers’ organisations has attracted support from none, or that those that have affiliated don’t want that information published. It is worth noting that in their commitment to equality for Palestinians, TULIP’s website provides translations of its founding statement into Hebrew and German, but not Arabic. In contrast, over 145,000 ‘Like’ the BDS Movement page, with current, daily posts and comments.
the Peres Center for Peace, a non-political organisation that promotes partnerships between Israelis and Palestinians in a range of health, cultural and sporting areas
The Peres Center website states, ‘Our mission is to promote lasting peace and advancement in the Middle East by fostering tolerance, economic and technological development, innovation, cooperation and well-being – all in the spirit of President Peres’ vision.’ This appears to be a real organisation that provides medical services and training with an active website, updated recently, and a Facebook page, with over 21,000 ‘Likes’.
M&D report that ‘the Third Narrative Academic Advisory Council (TTN) rejects black-and-white interpretations of the conflict’. According to their ‘About’ page, ‘We feel a deep connection to the Jewish state and the Jewish people. We are also committed to social justice and human rights for everyone. Some say those commitments are contradictory’. Well, yes, we do. And it has nothing to do with ‘belonging to a people’. Among the issues they don’t seem to feel any need to address are how an avowedly Jewish state can deliver justice for everyone, and how the deep connection to the Jewish state promotes a nuanced, balanced understanding, when they don’t even pretend a similar connection to the Palestinian people?
Organising forums, training doctors, promoting dialogue are doubtless worthy activities. But if Mendes and Dyrenfurth imagine that such initiatives will budge the settlements, achieve security and self determination, or anything significant, in our lifetimes or our grandchildren’s, they are wilfully deluded. While it's true that BDS has not achieved its stated objectives in its first ten years, Parents’ Circle has been at it for 20, the Peres Center for 19, and OneVoice for 14, and their stated aims, too, remain unmet.
But then, as I hope I’ve shown, if Philip Mendes and Nick Dyrenfurth think themselves ‘two progressive Jewish opponents of the “Israel-always-right” lobby’, (p. 12) delusion is their milieu.