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Red Rag weekly column: boycott as remedy - hope for peace? Roger Waters
By: Gideon Spiro
25 July 2013

Boycott as remedy

The European Union’s announcement that it will boycott products from the settlements and all institutions that collaborate with organizations or institutions across the Green Line threw Israel into a state of panic. Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour Naftali Bennett, called it “economic terrorism”. For my part, I put a small “v” in my diary. I am one of those Israelis who for years now have been working patiently like ants to persuade opinion-shapers in various countries of the vital importance of an economic boycott of Israel.

I have met with journalists, parliamentarians, government ministers, writers and artists, from Japan and Australia to New Zealand, through Europe and finally the United States, and I have delivered a clear message that if they are serious about their opposition to the Occupation, the settlements and the apartheid regime that Israel has set up in the Occupied Territories and are not just blowing hot air, they must translate it into action. Israel and Israelis are paying no price for their crimes. I warned them about the orchestrated manipulation they could expect from Israel and its foreign servants who will hurl the abominations of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust at them, and told them that they must immunize themselves against those cynical accusations.

Israel has received and continues to receive foreign aid to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. To account for the sum accumulated over the decades we must resort to numbers in the neighbourhood of a trillion. Israel has commercial relations with most of the world, its citizens are exempt from tourist visas in a large part of the world’s tourist destinations, and all this has created over the years a mood of arrogance and contempt among Israel’s citizens, as if to say, “the goyim may talk, but they’re not really serious.” And so I see the European Union’s announcement as the fruit of the tireless activism of lovers of peace and equality in Israel and outside it, whose message has finally gotten through, in a slow process akin to producing a stalactite in a cave drop by drop (but in a shorter time), to the consciousness of decision-makers.

Bennett speaks of economic terrorism. That is exactly what is needed if Israelis are to understand that the Occupation and human rights violations will not be tolerated forever. I have written about this more than once in the past and I repeat it here: if Israeli supporters of the Occupation sense that they will be international pariahs, that decent people keep their distance from them, that there will be no more vacations in Greece or other tourist destinations, that Israel will no longer participate in international sporting events, that Israeli exports will find no markets, that their cars won’t go because there’s no gas, that the Israeli shekel will depreciate to zero in the international markets – if that happens, how long can the arrogant Israelis hold out? Not long, in my assessment. Jewish casino tycoons can finance daily newspapers that serve Netanyahu, but they cannot be a substitute for Israeli exports. The token will drop very quickly and more and more Israelis will tell the settlers and their supporters, “leave, for God’s sake! We are not willing to suffer because of you!”

There can be no avoiding a minor apocalyptic confrontation between the messianic stream and the saner Israeli public that wants to live free of friction and conflict with the entire world. The rabbis in the Territories and their mindless followers may even take up arms, in which case we will be plunged into a civil war in which we must hope the extreme Right will be defeated by those who want to live in harmony with the free world. It will be our true war of liberation from enslavement to the Occupation, as the American civil war freed the USA from slavery.

In my conversations with opinion-shapers, I have explained why the distinction between the two sides of the Green Line is artificial when it comes to boycott, and not because of little tricks like the use of fictive addresses by one factory or another in the Occupied Territories, but because the apartheid state in the Occupied territories is financed by the government of Israel that sits within the Green Line. All the oxygen for the settlements comes from the legitimate side of the Green Line. Recently a group of financial experts from the European Union visited Israel in order to look into the extent to which the banks cooperate with the Occupation. They were astonished to learn that there is not a single bank that does not cooperate with the Occupation, either by operating branches in settlements or by giving mortgages to settlers to buy apartments. Therefore there is no escaping the need to boycott the entire bank, not just one branch or another in the settlements. And it is the same with the universities; either they operate campuses in the Occupied Territories for the settlers, or they employ lecturers who also work in the apartheid college in the settlement of Ariel (I do not recognize its upgrading to a university by the military governor).

Israelis who oppose the Occupation also boycott the products of the settlements as an act of protest. Currently they are too few to cause any real economic damage. I strive to boycott the products of the settlements, I call upon others to do the same, and I sign petitions calling for boycott. With conscious premeditation I violate the stupid law the Right passed in the last Knesset that forbids calling for a boycott in public, and they have not put me on trial, because the State Attorney office knows that putting me on trial would provide me and others with a stage from which to prove that the law is unconstitutional and that the settlement enterprise is a war crime.

To sum up: for an economic boycott of Israel to be effective, it must come at the initiative of sovereign states, and it must apply to Israel on both sides of the Green Line. It is easy to imagine how effective such a boycott would be, when we consider that two days after the European Union announced its future boycott, Israel expressed its willingness to renew direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority – to drag the negotiations on and on in the hope that as long as they are in progress, no boycott will be imposed.


Is there a chance for peace?

In July 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak began peace talks with President Yasser Arafat at Camp David under the aegis of US President Bill Clinton. Upon his departure the Peace Now organization staged a demonstration in support of the prime minister under the slogan, “Go in peace and return with a peace agreement”. I too was there, in the hope that my skepticism about Barak would turn out to have been mistaken. In an interview with Australian television during the demonstration, I expressed pessimism that Barak would return with a peace agreement. I assessed that Barak was a prisoner of his military background and was unwilling to “really really” (as the children say) pay the price for peace. With the passage of time we learned that Barak’s only objective was to set up a façade of Palestinian refusal in the face of Israeli “generosity”. Barak then said there was “no partner”, and those two words penetrated deep into the Israeli consciousness. The Left sustained a blow from which it has not really recovered to this very day.

The truth of the matter, however, is that there was no Israeli generosity. Barak gave no offer in writing and supported by maps, but only made offers orally, according to which he was willing to return 87% of the West Bank (not 97% as stated in the official propaganda), the 13% that would remain in Israel’s hands being composed of strategic points that would ensure Israeli control over the Palestinian state and convert that 87% into a kind of bantustan. It can be compared to a prison in which the guards are present in only 10% of its area, but that guarantees control over the 90% of the area where the prisoners live.

Thirteen years have passed since then, and the reality on the ground has not changed. Once again the US is involved in bringing the two sides together for direct negotiations, this time in Washington. I do not know why the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, is investing so much energy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, when it is clear that we are headed for another failure. Kerry, using all kinds of tricks and shticks, tells the Palestinians one thing and the opposite to the Israelis, and with the application of moderate pressure he has managed to bring the sides together for negotiations. The Israeli objective under Netanyahu is the same as it was under Barak: to drag out the negotiations as long as possible, to bypass the essential issues, to present no Israeli map of the borders of the Palestinian state, for if such a map were presented it would be rejected by the international community as manifestly unacceptable, and to conclude the negotiations at a moment suitable to represent the Palestinians as “no partner”, with the support of the US.

Whoever seeks a concrete example of this Israeli political slalom should occasionally read and listen to the journalist from the newspaper Haaretz, Ari Shavit. Once a leftist, he has been converted to the centre, to which he adheres with excessive meticulousness. If one week he writes an article critical of Netanyahu, he will balance it the next week with an article praising him. If he writes an article in praise of the Left, the next week he will balance it with words in praise of the Right. One time he is against the Occupation and another time he favours keeping the oozing wound of the settlements in place. Now that Kerry has managed to bring the sides to the negotiating-table, he advises him to go slowly on a bicycle, and not zoom on a Harley-Davidson. In other words, Shavit proposes a long-term interim agreement, the settlements will remain in place, and construction will be permitted in what is called the “settlement blocs” – Shavit has already annexed them to the State of Israel. That long-term agreement is nothing but a continuation of the Occupation, but from Shavit’s lips it is “giving the Palestinians time for a nation-building process”. Orwellian language. And if that’s what Shavit – a leading journalist of renown in Israel – thinks, well then, Netanyahu certainly will not bypass him on the left.

The next round of war is only a matter of time.


Encouraging news

The large annual enlistment into the army is currently taking place in Israel. The August enlistment, which sometimes starts in July, is considered to be the cohort of quality because it includes the recent high-school graduates. A survey conducted among the enlistees shows that for the second year in a row there is less willingness to enlist in combat units. True, it is a moderate decline, so it is hard at this stage to consider it a revolutionary development, such as mass refusal to serve in the Occupied Territories. But still, if this is the beginning of an ongoing process, then we are witnessing a kind of covert Occupation refusal, since many of the combat units are deployed for long periods in the Occupied Territories.


Profiteering from their children’s blood

The moment the subject of freeing Palestinian prisoners who had taken part in resistance to the Occupation came up, it was clear that certain bereaved parents would appear and use their bereavement as ammunition against freeing prisoners “with blood on their hands”. This is a revolting concept, because they are putting it to racist use exclusively against Palestinians. I have written about this more than once, and it is my duty to repeat it whenever the matter comes up, that if blood on the hands of those who are fighting against the Occupation justifies imprisonment for life, then what does that say about oppressors with blood on their hands? After all, here in Israel there are thousands, actually tens of thousands of soldiers, officers, chiefs of staff and ministers with a lot of blood on their hands, tubs full of blood, who should be sent to prison for the rest of their lives. Israel doesn’t have enough prisons to hold all the Israelis with blood on their hands, so maybe we should adopt the Israeli government’s method of exporting the surplus to Africa instead of arresting and detaining without trial refugees and asylum-seekers without a drop of blood on their hands, and deporting them there.


The Wall

The British musician Roger Waters, a founder of the group Pink Floyd, is also known as a human-rights activist. He campaigns against oppressive regimes and multinational corporations that exploit workers in the Third World and pollute the planet. It is only natural that he should be counted among those who oppose the Israeli Occupation. At a recent concert in Belgium, he inflated a balloon in the shape of a wild boar, on which were painted symbols of multinational corporations and dictatorial regimes. One of those symbols was the Star of David. He was immediately accused of antisemitism. But is it his fault that the Star of David has become the symbol of a swinish and racist state that operates a military dictatorship against another people? Israel has sullied the Star of David, and Roger is giving Israel a small reminder. I congratulate him.


Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent.

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