The Berkeley students senate has decided to divest from two American companies (General Electric and United Technologies) that profit from the ongoing Israeli occupation and from war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. This decision draws a clear distinction between the inherently criminal occupation, on the one hand, and the state of Israel as a sovereign state, on the other hand– a resolution which members of the Zionist left should have embraced with open arms. However, Israeli authors Amos Oz and A.B Yehoshua, instead of doing so, have weighed in with their prestige to undermine it. And writer Zvia Greenfeld, in a Haaretz article, delivered an erroneous, outrageous report about “a vote on the boycotting of the State of Israel”, which was clearly not the case.
In a letter opposing the proposed divestment, placed by our pair of national authors on the desk of the Berkeley senate, the two present a particularly selective historical narrative. They completely ignore the fact that Palestinian land theft by the Israeli government has been going on for 62 years, as an ideological pillar of the State of Israel. For them, the history of the conflict and its solution begins in 1967, and they deliberately ignore the consistently racist policy of their state towards the Palestinian citizens and civilians since the founding of Israel / the Nakba (and this policy is intensifying). The two distinguished gentlemen have also failed to disclose, in their letter to the students, their recurring betrayal of the peace camp and their consistent support of all the wars of choice which Israel has embarked on. Their view is the view of a prophet looking upward, but their deeds are the deeds of sycophant priests (Kohanim). Sometimes it seems as if the designated role of the leftist author is to perform a verbal whitewashing of Israeli racism. This time too, Oz and Yehoshua have chosen to attack those who act to end the occupation in non-violent ways, instead of joining hands with them.
Pivotal questions about contemporary Jewish thought arise from the debate on divestment from companies that profit from the occupation. The first question regards the ideological conflict between Jews who define their Jewish identity without resorting to the “Israel as the Jewish center” thesis, to Zionists living in Israel. Must this debate always include the scorning of the former, some of the finest people among us, by the latter? Are those Jews who do not see Israel as the center of their existence not allowed to strive to help Israel become a moral state for all its citizens?
One could also ask whether the time has not come for every Israeli Jew with democratic aspirations to realize once and for all that the future of the land between the river and the sea cannot be dictated by negotiation between right wing Jews and left wing Jews. It should be determined through full inclusion of the Palestinians, whether we support a one state solution or a two state solution.
A non-violent Palestinian campaign, through a call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), can lead to real cooperation between the entire Jewish peace movement and the Palestinian organizers of the campaign. It is no wonder that Jewish Voice for Peace, a group with 100,000 supporters, has fully endorsed the senate resolution and participated in the campaign, prior to the voting. This was an exemplary display of solidarity, acceptance and cooperation. The Berkeley resolution, one must remember, was adopted by Palestinians, Jews and Israelis acting and voting together not as enemies, not even as the “other ones” (to one another), but as brothers and sisters sharing a future.
Unfortunately, but not to our surprise, Oz and Yehoshua have opted once more for a tribal policy, and have sided with occupiers, abusers and land grabbers, just because these people are Jewish.
Some people are constantly asking “Why [pick on] us?” After all, Hamas too committed war crimes according to the Goldstone report. Well, the Berkeley students did support American divestment from Hamas because of this report, but such investments – are not to be found…America invests only in Israel’s war crimes, not in the occupied people’s war crimes.
Out of an honest attempt to broaden the circles of the peace camp, the Berkeley students have adopted only a part of the Palestinian call for BDS, opting for a moderate resolution which should easily be supported by conscientious US Jews and other citizens. Oz and Yehoshua should have welcomed this resolution. Instead, they rejected it disgracefully. Thus, for the zillionth time, our intellectuals have proven that when the moment comes, their actions contradict their words. When “duty calls”, they respond obsequiously, functioning as an integral part of the Israeli occupation apparatus.