Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Boycott or Terror

Here is a piece written by a friend, Amos Givirtz. Givirtz is a Jewish Israeli who resides in the Negev and is a tireless advocate for Bedouin residents of the Negev struggling to obtain their rights.  Givirtz recognizes in this piece that Palestinian society will never cease struggling against the occupation. If that's true and Israeli fails (which it ultimately will) to suppress Palestinian resistance, then Israel and the international community have a choice to make: will they push Palestinians towards armed resistance or will they support nonviolent resistance, including boycotts. It's in everyone's interest, most clearly the interests of Israel, to support the latter.

Boycott. Divest. Sanction.

Here's Amos:
The Grad missile that fell in Beer Sheva was a reminder of the danger to the security of Israeli citizens, a danger that lies in the violent Palestinian struggle against Israel. Throughout the years of struggle over the land between the Zionist movement and the Arab Palestinian people, we have witnessed different modes of action to which the Palestinians have resorted in their attempt to resist their dispossession: war and terrorism of various kinds have been the main ones. Today we witness a relatively new kind of struggle: a popular struggle, basically non-violent. It takes place in villages whose people demonstrate against the erection of the Separation Barrier that robs them of their lands. It is also manifested in the Palestinian Authority's attempts to build institutions of a future state while opposing terrorism. We also witness the non-violent struggle of Palesitnian civil society organizations calling for various types of sanctions and boycott of Israel as a means of pressure to put an end to the Occupation and its violations of human rights.

As long as Israel persists in its occupation and reinforces it, the Palestinians will persist in their struggle against it. The question is only what type of struggle they choose: the option of armed struggle, namely suicide attacks, personal assaults, bombings, missiles, bargain abductions etc., or the option of a popular non-violent struggle.

We, citizens of Israel, have a security interest in supporting the popular non-violent struggle. It does not jeopardize our lives and security. It is a struggle that does not risk the lives of soldiers maintaining the Occupation, it does not even jeopardize the settlers' security. But it is a struggle that clarifies for us and for the world at large who the assailant is in this conflict, and who the victim. It is the type of struggle that shows us and the world who actually wants peace and who opposes it! It is a struggle that sows conflict between the majority of Israeli citizenry and the government of Israel and the radical right-wing! It is a struggle that will show us and the whole world that the Israeli army, rather than defending the people, is busy with Occupation and its enhancement.

Non-violent struggle, unlike armed struggle, enables the party against whom it is launched to recant - then pressure is lifted. It is a struggle that does not create irreversible facts on the ground, unlike killing and destruction that result from violent struggle: the killed cannot be revived. The often wounded cannot retrieve their former state. Boycott, on the other hand, can be lifted at any moment. It is a struggle that invites Israelis and international bodies to participate. No Israeli who opposes Occupation and human rights violations would give a hand to a violent struggle against Israel. However, many of the opponents of Occupation and the violation of human rights it entails would lend their hand to a non-violent struggle against the Occupation and its injustices.

Since there is no chance that Palestinians willingly rescind their claims to their lands and homes, there is no chance that they give up their struggle, as long as Israel continues to push them out. Our own interest, as Israeli citizens, is that the Palestinians resort to non-violent struggle. This includes demonstrations, creating institutions of their state-to-be, protest and support flotillas, non-collaboration, strikes, reconstruction of houses demolished by Israel, planting trees where Israel has uprooted them, various types of boycott etc.
A harsh struggle within Palestinian society revolves around the question what kind of road to choose. The recent Grad missile has reminded us of the violent option, while the calls to boycott Israel are a reminder of the non-violent option. Israelis who support boycott are more concerned with the security of the citizens of Israel than those who attempt to silence them.

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