Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to push for a referendum to consult Israelis about whether they would support any future peace deal with Palestinians. One wonders whether the democratic right to be consulted about the future of the military occupation which is being granted to the inhabitants of the occupying power will be extended to those living under occupation.
It is worth pondering what any possible peace negotiations might involve outside of further entrenching the military occupation and expanding Jewish-only settlements – which now house 500,000 illegal settlers. As has long been true, the removal of illegal settlements and settlers remains the startng point of any real negotiations. But settlement expansion continues apace, and perhaps even at an unprecedented rate if Peace Now is accurate in claiming that 1,500 new housing units have been approved for construction in the occupied territories by the new government since March.
Israel’s Prawer Plan which aims to empty the Naqab (Negev) desert of southern Israel of its Bedouin inhabitants passed in September 2011 without any consultation with those people it aims to displace. This campaign has been recognized for what it is by many – a clear case of ethnic cleansing in which the Bedouin population will be shoved into 1% of the land of the Naqab – not least the tens of thousands Bedouin inhabitants of those 35 villages earmarked for demolition under the plan.
One village which is not giving up without a fight is that of Al-Araqib which has been demolished and (rebuilt) 52 times in the past two years. It is not with a light heart that many are now referring to this planned mass eviction and expulsion as a second Nakba or tragedy.
Israel’s apartheid regime does not only discriminate against Palestinians. In a bid to reduce the number of African migrants in its borders, Israel is making agreements to trade humans for weapons and military training. This means that Israel is willing to send asylum seekers back to those regimes from which asylum is being sought in addition to bolstering them with arms. The mind boggles. Yet given the normalization of the exclusion of Palestinians from Israeli society and expulsion from their land even when under military occupation, this can be understood as a natural development in a state embracing racism as its modus operandi.
There has been some positive news. The European Union has taken steps to further recognize the illegitimacy of Israel’s colonial military occupation of Palestinian territory and illegal settlements. According to new funding guidelines, Israeli ministries, public bodies and businesses operating inside the occupied territories will be ineligible for hundreds of millions of Euros in annual loans from the European Investment Bank and grants and prizes will no longer be awarded to any Israeli entities carrying out activities in the occupied territories. The guidelines do not amount to a complete ban on funding, though, as companies like Ahava who are registered to an address inside Israel but carry out most of their business inside the occupied territories, will still be able to apply for research funding for research carried out inside Israel. Nonetheless, the move is being described as a major step forward by the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
There is real evidence that the global BDS movement is making headway. More and more Israeli’s are answering the call of Palestinian civil society for an effective boycott movement as the best possible nonviolent route to an end to occupation and justice for Palestinians. These voices are important and one can only hope that, like in South Africa, they will grow from the inside as they grow around the world. The following are words from Israeli journalist Gideon Levy:
“It’s difficult and painful, almost impossibly so, for an Israeli who has lived his whole life here, who has not boycotted it, who has never considered emigrating and feels connected to this country with all his being, to call for such a boycott. I have never done so. I have understood what motivated the boycott and was able to provide justification for such motives. But I never preached for others to take such a step. However, with Israel getting itself into another round of deep stalemate, both diplomatic and ideological, the call for a boycott is required as the last refuge of a patriot.”