Boycott Israel

Israeli newspapers this summer are filled with angry articles about the push
for an international boycott of Israel. Films have been withdrawn from Israeli
film festivals, Leonard Cohen is under fire around the world for his decision
to perform in Tel Aviv, and Oxfam has severed ties with a celebrity
spokesperson, a British actress who also endorses cosmetics produced in the
occupied territories. Clearly, the campaign to use the kind of tactics that
helped put an end to the practice of apartheid in South Africa is gaining many
followers around the world.

Not surprisingly, many Israelis -- even peaceniks -- aren't signing on. A
global boycott can't help but contain echoes of anti-Semitism. It also brings
up questions of a double standard (why not boycott China for its egregious
violations of human rights?) and the seemingly contradictory position of
approving a boycott of one's own nation.

It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on
foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements,
faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with
Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced
that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.

I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of
crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise
his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for
almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country's future.

The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For
more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley
and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to
5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians
and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and
yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally
different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the
most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews -- whether they live in the
occupied territories or in Israel -- are citizens of the state of Israel.

The question that keeps me up at night, both as a parent and as a citizen, is
how to ensure that my two children as well as the children of my Palestinian
neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime.

There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.

The first is the one-state solution: offering citizenship to all Palestinians
and thus establishing a bi-national democracy within the entire area controlled
by Israel. Given the demographics, this would amount to the demise of Israel as
a Jewish state; for most Israeli Jews, it is anathema.

The second means of ending our apartheid is through the two-state solution,
which entails Israel's withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (with possible
one-for-one land swaps), the division of Jerusalem, and a recognition of the
Palestinian right of return with the stipulation that only a limited number of
the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel,
while the rest can return to the new Palestinian state.

Geographically, the one-state solution appears much more feasible because Jews
and Palestinians are already totally enmeshed; indeed, "on the
ground," the one-state solution (in an apartheid manifestation) is a

Ideologically, the two-state solution is more realistic because fewer than 1%
of Jews and only a minority of Palestinians support binationalism.

For now, despite the concrete difficulties, it makes more sense to alter the
geographic realities than the ideological ones. If at some future date the two
peoples decide to share a state, they can do so, but currently this is not
something they want.

So if the two-state solution is the way to stop the apartheid state, then how
does one achieve this goal?

I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer. Over the last three
decades, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have dramatically
increased their numbers. The myth of the united Jerusalem has led to the
creation of an apartheid city where Palestinians aren't citizens and lack basic
services. The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is
almost nonexistent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the
extreme right.

It is therefore clear to me that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in
Israel is through massive international pressure. The words and condemnations
from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results,
not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the
occupied territories.

I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and has since
garnered widespread support around the globe. The objective is to ensure that
Israel respects its obligations under international law and that Palestinians
are granted the right to self-determination.

In Bilbao, Spain, in 2008, a coalition of organizations from all over the world
formulated the 10-point
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign
meant to pressure Israel in a
"gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and
capacity." For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment
from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions
against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible
manner. Along similar lines, artists who come to Israel in order to draw
attention to the occupation are welcome, while those who just want to perform
are not.

Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is
the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians
-- my two boys included -- does not grow up in an apartheid regime.

This article orginally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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