Tipping points – Israel, Palestine, and peace

Later this month US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to put a two-state peace plan on the table for Israel and Palestine.

There is plenty of debate as to what he will recommend, and what of that will or will not be possible.

It is clear though, that it will be difficult for Palestinians to agree to any deal while Israel continues to act with aggression and disdain towards Palestinians.

Equally, it will be difficult for Israel to agree to soften its approach while rockets are being fired from Gaza.

Israel continues to build new settlements on occupied land, and Palestinian civilians are still harassed, abused, arrested, and even killed at border crossings.  There are reports of Palestinian football players being shot in the feet to stop them from playing and being able to represent Palestine internationally.

Meanwhile, reported today is a rocket attack on Southern Israel from Gaza, and the obligatory retaliatory airstrike from Israel with the promise that “we will continue to thwart those that wan to harm us, and we will act against them with great force.” Hamas responds “we hold the occupation responsible, we warn of the consequences of any escalation, and we reiterate that resistance is the right of the Palestinian people to defend itself.”

This is not the space from which to enter into mutually-respectful peace talks.  But change can still occur if conditions are right, and the international community can do a lot to help those conditions along.

It was said of apartheid South Africa that the ‘tipping point’ came after increasingly robust and unified international expressions of outrage at the treatment of black South Africans, and increasingly effective economic, political, and cultural sanctions.

The campaign for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel (BDS) is getting legs. European funds are being drawn out of Israeli business interests. The PGGM, a Dutch Pension Fund, has liquidated its holdings in five Israeli banks. Hollywood stars (Scarlett Johansson) are being forced to choose between humanitarian organisations (Oxfam), and lucrative contracts with Israeli business with West Bank interests (SodaStream). Johansson chose SodaStream, but her controversial decision has sparked interest worldwide in the implications of supporting business that makes a profit by using occupied land, and cheap labour from Palestinians who are desperate for work. If we keep progressing this way, the next star might find it in their best interests to make a different decision.

This increasing shift towards unity of international condemnation is affecting Israel. Israel’s Finance Minister apparently said recently “Let’s not kid ourselves…the world listens to us less and less.”

With perseverance it is possible that Israel will feel the pressure, enough to truly become a peaceful part of the regional and international community, rather than be known for its aggression against its neighbours and ill treatment of Palestinians.

This is not to refute the legitimate rights of Israel to exist as a state and of Israeli citizens – Jews, Arabs, others – to live securely within the pre-’67 borders.

It is simply to identify where and when Israel is flouting international law, and to acknowledge that there can be no lasting peace for Israel itself while its neighbouring people are being oppressed by its own hands.

The status quo is simply unsustainable.

6 thoughts on “Tipping points – Israel, Palestine, and peace

  1. Well said! It is good to see this from many different points of view. I find it heartening to know that there are Jewish people from Israel and other countries who really, really want peace and don’t agree with the occupation.

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  2. Like most neighbourhood bullies Israel can do what it likes, and does(I’ll build exactly where I want) – especially when it has powerful friends(the American Jewish lobby) to back it. Of course, that pesky little squirt (Palestine)is going to try to fight back sometimes, and some of their puny blows might even hurt a bit. That just prompts more self-righteous retaliation from Israel. Because behind it all lies the international guilt and horror over the Holocaust, and the fear of being called anti-Semetic. And Israel’s unspoken but powerful justification is “Well, we are special! The world has always been against us,and so we have to fight on alone.” Every individual and every nation acts out of their self-perceived story.

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  3. philip, governments have no fear of being called anti-Semitic – though that line might influence debate on the topic.

    The USA backing for Israel is a complex matter – the Jewish lobby role is overstated. The American Christians strongly support Israel and this is the more influential lobby. And the American establishment (across both parties) supports collective security for members of the UN (eg Kuwait). For Israel that means enabling its self defence and use of a UNSC veto as the UN is not seen as reliable in this nation’s security.

    Israel is not really that special, or exceptional, it is the personification of the ambition for each people on earth to be free and sovereign in its own homeland. It is more unique in tying that hope to faith in God (something that enabled the survival of their identity as a people and thus the return migration).

    Of late the Kurds aspiration for a national homeland and the Crimean Tartars returning from Central Asia demonstrate how commonplace their exceptionalism really is.

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  4. SPC – Of course each nation state wants “to be free and sovereign in its own homeland”. What about Palestine’s desire to be free and sovereign. Gaza is virtually a prison and the West Bank is gradually being taken over by Jewish settlements. Does anyone say anything about this? Any opposition voice is very muted. As I said, Israel can do whatever it likes and little is said about it. It is the most powerful Middle Eastern state(backed heavily by the most powerful state in the world) and could be an enormous force for good in the region, including the suffering of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. I understand that it has to take care of its own security, but it has the power to ensure that Palestinians are taken care of as well. That is far from what is happening,and it remains, in my view (and that of many others), the major reason for Middle East tensions and conflicts. And the longer Israel pleads “but they (Arab nations) are threatening us” and keeps acting accordingly the longer the issue will remain a dangerous flashpoint.

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  5. philip, yes – Israeli nationalism has led to the emergence of a Palestinian nationalism. And once Palestinians are united in supporting a two state solution building worldwide pressure on Israel will go to a whole new level.

    I would disagree that little is said. There is global criticism of the continued occupation of the West Bank (let alone the checkpoints/fences and settlement building) and this has increased since Arab nations and the Palestine representative organisations recognised Israel. Kennedy Graham’s post is about the building global pressure since Palestine received enhanced status at the UN.

    The current impasse is because the two states have been left to negotiate a peace settlement, and in talks each makes demands the other refuses to meet. Israel responds to this by on the one hand ensuring its security while establishing the result of peace on its own terms in expanding settlements (and imagining it can land swap to keep them) while Palestine plays the victim card and awaits a new geo-political order in which Israel’s position is transformed.

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  6. Amnesty International has recently released a Trigger Happy report on how the IDF is becoming ever more violent, shooting youths in the back. Defence of Children International reports of children being abused..tortured even . .The UN has reported that over 90% of Gaza’s water is undrinkable and that by 2020 the Strip will be uninhabitable. ie, Gaza is facing as the Israeli Uri Avnery has said, “Genocide in slow motion.”
    NZ should be openly unashamedly taking part in the international nonviolent campaign to Boycott, Divest and Sanction, at least, by divesting NZSuperfund from G4S and Caterpillar, corporations that profit from oppression

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