Jul 23 2015

Israel’s small but genuine peace camp

Published by at 10:09 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

Their numbers might be small but their presence is, and should be, publicly acknowledged and encouraged. They are the small group of dedicated Israelis who make it their goal to be present physically to express solidarity with Palestinians in the occupied territories.

They are regularly sharing with the people of Bilin, Nabi Saleh or Nilin their Friday protests against the separation wall and settlements.

Now they are present in the south Hebron village of Suisia, supporting Palestinians whose presence is being threatened by oppressive Israeli measures. The culprit this time is the Israeli army itself which is eager to use the lightly populated area as military target practice. They probably prefer Suisia to locations in the Negev because it is close to their homes and more comfortable than the hot desert!

Israelis who show solidarity with Palestinians often face dual discrimination. By taking a strong and public stand with Palestinians they are automatically in the minority in a country that was built on military power and is focused on the love and adoration of its army. While it is true that many Israelis don’t very much like the radical settlers that the army is protecting, nevertheless, these peace activists are on the fringe because they are courageous enough to confront their own soldiers and provide protection for Palestinians by their mere presence.

At the same time, some of these solidarity groups face direct or indirect attacks by Palestinians who are wary of any action that might give the appearance that the occupation is normal and that such superficial Israel protests actually strengthen the Israeli occupiers. Their argument, which is not accepted by local demonstrators and hence their presence, is that unless the peace groups’ actions can genuinely change the status on the ground they can provide cover for the Israeli narrative that claims Israel is a democracy and minority opinion is tolerated while the majority makes the final decision.

Naturally, it would be great if this small group can grow to become a game-changing force in Israel but to many this is a dream that is unlikely to happen unless Israel itself starts paying a political and economic cost for its occupation.

This small but genuine Israeli solidarity group can at times make a difference, especially in terms of embarrassing and highlighting the extent of some of the more egregious Israeli violations in the occupied territories.

One of the areas that this outspoken position of genuine Israeli peace groups has been effective is in the fight to save Suisia. Not only is the Israeli involvement and support helpful regarding internal Israeli politics and legal actions, but it has recently caught the attention of international players.

Both Brussels and Washington are now on record as being opposed to what Israel is doing in Suisia and are placing political pressure to put a halt to these acts that are in violation of international law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention which was created to regulate the powers of an occupying power makes it illegal for an army that has extensively occupied territory to change the basic features and status of the occupied areas. This naturally includes the illegality of all Israel settlement activities, a position that was reconfirmed by the International Criminal Court in The Hague in its landmark 14-1 advisory opinion regarding the case of the Israeli wall built deep in Palestinian territory. It has been 11 years since this decision was made in July 2004, but Israel still continues to act with impunity in the occupied territories.

It is high time that the international community stops giving lip service to these Israeli violations. The role of the genuine Israeli peace groups can’t be minimised in this effort.

The change on the ground obviously requires commitment by Palestinians to the nonviolent strategy. But at the same time, external support is crucial to make this effort successful.

Supporting and strengthening Israeli solidarity is a key element in any nonviolent Palestinian resistance strategy. Israeli and international solidarity that is not a cover to occupation must be acknowledged, welcomed and encouraged.

At a time when the international community is busy with Iran and other major regional issues, it is important not to lose sight of the need to keep the Palestinian struggle for independence and freedom alive on all fronts. This down time can be perfect to help solidify true solidarity with genuine Israeli peace activists on the basis of a shared strategy and goals for liberation and working to end this unacceptable decades old occupation.

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