May 19 2016

What is an accepted mode of resisting Israeli occupation?

Published by at 10:06 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

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By Daoud Kuttab

A Palestinian supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement debated online a European official in Israel who insisted that the EU is opposed to boycotts of Israel and rejects BDS.

At the end of the twitter debate, the Palestinian posed the following simple question: “Could you tell us what forms of resistance to Israeli occupation Palestinians can use that are approved by European values?”

The EU, which is active in the boycott of Russia over the latter’s military actions in the Ukraine, and also boycotted Iran, cannot easily explain its opposition to the non-violent BDS, which is becoming the most potent anti-occupation threat.

The British, the EU like the Americans and other Western countries whose policies have led us to where we are today cannot simply shrug off their responsibilities and, worse, preach to Palestinians and their supporters what they need to do to end this scourge that has transcended the 20th and 21st centuries.

Western ideas for a solution through multilateral engagement are fine except that without any cost for failure of these engagements there is no guarantee that the debacle of the last 20 years of useless and counterproductive talks will not continue for a further 20 years.

The talks since the 1993 Oslo agreements have failed because Israel succeeded in relieving itself of the worst part of the occupation, namely patrolling populated Palestinian areas.

This last part was subcontracted to US-trained Palestinian security.

The counterproductive part of the last 20 years has been Israel’s ability to continue stealing Palestinian lands and building illegal settlements for the exclusive use of the population of the occupying country, a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Palestinians resisted, and continue to attempt to resist, this occupation. The resistance has not been generally effective, and at times it was even counterproductive, in that it further entrenched the Israeli occupiers and settlers, while providing Israeli hasbara (propaganda) with a public relations bonanza.

When the Palestine Liberation Organisation leadership turned away from the armed struggle and engaged in peace talks, it was handicapped and thus unable to force the other side to any meaningful compromise.

Non-violent resistance has regularly been suggested as the most effective form of resistance. Efforts to begin a non-violent movement in Palestine were administratively brutally put down.

The first Intifada, long before any weapons were involved in Palestinian resistance, was met with Yitzhak Rabin’s iron fist and bone-breaking policies. Non-violent leaders like Mubarak Awad were quickly deported without much of a protest by the same international community that had encouraged non-violent resistance.

The international community has thrown money at this problem, but even some of the international funded projects, including solar panels in south Hebron, makeshift housing in the Jordan Valley and other such projects, were destroyed by the Israeli army without any effective response from the very same donors that are also investing in various Israeli research projects, including drones and other not so innocent undertakings.

The postponement of the French  conference that was due to take place on May 30 because of scheduling problems with US Secretary of State John Kerry is an indication of the low priority the international community gives to finding an end to the Israeli occupation.

While the world community has failed Palestinians at various international forums, especially in the UN Security Council, and while it keeps investing and supporting the Israeli occupiers through funding the rather wealthy state of Israel, it is time that a mechanism be found that will make the Israelis pay for their human rights violations, the most visible of which is the occupation and theft of Palestinian land.

If the international community is unable to help Palestinians’ efforts to become free and independent, it makes little sense that it should oppose a most nonviolent act such as BDS.

Over the past weeks it was revealed how Israel was imposing travel restrictions on an Israeli resident, Omar Barghouthi, because of his efforts in the non-violent BDS movement.

The defenders of human rights around the world who are willing to go to great extent for similar sanctions by other countries have been totally quiet about the efforts to punish an avowed defender of a purely non-violent act of resistance.

This brings us back to the question posed by Ali Abu Nimeh in his twitter exchange with the EU official in Israel: What form of resistance to the occupation will be accepted by the international community?

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