By Ben-Dror Yemini for Ynet (Nov 1) — Op-ed: In an article in The Washington Post, Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl claim they support the boycott against Israel for their love of Israel. But one cannot reach a peace agreement by supporting a campaign that opposes any peace agreement.
“When we say ’67 borders, we know that the greater goal is the end of Israel… Don’t say these things to the world. Keep it to yourself” – Abbas Zaki, Senior PLO official, Al-Jazeera, Sep. 2011.
“Muslims’ destiny is to kill Jews. Resurrection will come only after Jews are killed by Muslims” – the principal Palestinian Authority religious leader, the Mufti Muhammad Hussein, Jan. 2012.
We can keep on. It isn’t Hamas. It’s the senior officials of the Palestinian Authority (PA). When we read and hear this almost daily incitement, it isn’t simple for us, Israelis who strive for peace, who are willing to make painful concessions, to change public opinion.
From the south we have Hamas. From the north we have Hezbollah, and the Islamic State is coming closer. From the east we have the PA, where one of its senior officials is telling us that the ’67 boarders, for them, means the end of Israel.
Yes, we have to strive for peace. We cannot allow ourselves to give up. Peace is needed. But nothing is simple.
For two Jewish Zionists who love Israel, as they define themselves, everything is simple. They published an article supporting the boycott against Israel (“We are lifelong Zionists. Here’s why we’ve chosen to boycott Israel,” by Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl, Washington Post, October 23, 2015). For them, reality, incitement, Palestinian refusal to make peace – shouldn’t be taken into account. Israel is the only player in the blame game. But for many others, reality should be part of the story. So let’s face some facts.
We can assume that the writers are very familiar with the boycott campaign against Israel, which is active on many campuses in the United States. The campaign has clear goals and excellent speakers. The campaign, publicly and openly, is not seeking a peace settlement or solution of two states for two peoples. One of the three main goals of the campaign is the “right of return,” which means the destruction of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. This is not an interpretation. These are the explicit and declared goals of the heads and spokesmen of the campaign, as Omar Barghouti and Ali Abunimah, or as Professor As’ad Abu Khalil, declare: “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the State of Israel … That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject.”
So it’s a bit strange to support the right of Jews to a state and at the same time to support the world’s most prominent campaign which seeks the destruction of this very state.
The main justification of the writers for the boycott is the continuation of the occupation. In their opinion, this proves that the occupation is not temporary, but permanent. We can and should expect the two authors to know what happened over the last two decades.
In late 2000, then-President Clinton presented parameters which described the basis for a peace agreement: Two states for two peoples, Israeli withdrawal from 95 percent of the territories (the settlement blocs include only about five percent), the partition of Jerusalem, and a solution to the refugee problem.
Israel accepted the plan. Arafat arrived in Washington to give the Palestinian response. Before going to the White House, Arafat met with diplomats from Arab states, led by Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who supported the initiative. At the end of the meeting, Bin Sultan said to Arafat: “If your answer is negative, it will not be a tragedy. It will be a crime” (The New Yorker, March 24, 2003). Arafat went to the White House, and committed a crime.
This happened again in 2008, when then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert submitted a similar proposal. The Palestinian answer, again, was negative. According to Condoleezza Rice, Abbas insisted on the return of “four million refugees,” not to the proposed Palestinian state, but to Israel proper.
In between, Israel carried out a unilateral disengagement from Gaza. The Palestinians could have seized the opportunity to promote welfare and prosperity. But, led by Hamas, they chose to establish an industry of death, rockets, hatred and terrorism. They did not refuse the proposals of Israel. They refused the offer of the Quartet, which offered them hope and huge investments. They chose violence.
The two authors indicate the increase in the number of settlers. Criticism of the settlements is justified. But it should be clear: The increase in settler population is limited, almost entirely, to those living in the big blocs of settlements, which will remain part of Israel according to any peace initiative. But when the basic facts are not clear, the impression is that the settlements are an obstacle to peace. The settlements are a problem. The Israeli government deserves criticism. But this is not an obstacle to peace.
The authors cite Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who said that that control of the West Bank is “not a matter of political debate. It is a basic fact of modern Zionism.” Well, Rivlin supports the “one state solution,” supported by a small fraction of the ideological right and the radical left. But it isn’t clear why the authors give credence to a person who holds a symbolic position, while at the same time, ignoring the official Israeli position presented, again and again, in all negotiations, over the last 15 years.
The authors admit that Israel “is hardly the world’s worst human rights violator”. They even admit that “boycotting Israel is double standard”. But they excuse it with their love for Israel.
This is an interesting argument. When haters demand a boycott, they do it because they deny the right of Israel to exist. When lovers of Israel do it, they suffocate Israel with their love. The result is the same. But what is more interesting is that there is no Palestinian or Arab movement that will demand self-responsibility from the Palestinian leadership. No calls for a boycott of the Palestinian Authority even if time and again the Palestinian leadership refused any settlement based on the idea of two states for two peoples. No calls for a boycott of the Palestinian Authority even though it makes monthly payments to terrorist murderers of Jews, including members of Hamas, who are sitting in prisons. There is no call for a boycott against the PA that continues to fund anti-Semitic incitement against Israel.
There is something very racist about the absolute exemption from criticism granted to the Palestinian side, but obsessive criticism, directed to the Israeli side. The day when supporters of peace understand that the Palestinian side has some responsibility; the day when they demand that Palestinians end incitement and terrorist funding – will be a better day for the prospect of peace.
We can assume the authors have good intentions. They strive for peace. But their way is wrong. One cannot reach a peace agreement by supporting a campaign that opposes any peace agreement. One cannot stop the occupation by ignoring Palestinian rejectionism of the two states for two peoples solution. You cannot support a campaign that opposes the existence of Israel and claim that this is due to your love of Israel.
Peace is the enemy of the boycott campaign, and the boycott campaign is the enemy of peace.