Let's Fix This Country
foreign policy

Israel May Be Left With Only U.S. As Ally

World support slipping away

Time is not on Israel’s side. The unending occupation, the demeaning checkpoints, the anti-terrorist barriers, the soldiers and tanks even after years of relative calm with West Bank Palestinians, the expansion of settlements usurping those lands with 540,000 Jews now living beyond the 1967 boundary, the increasing attacks by settlers on Palestinian neighbors, all have inspired growing questioning of Israel’s moral integrity.

Added to that, a disturbing indifference to civil rights has eroded good will. Eritrean and Sudanese refugees seeking asylum are being confined to a camp in the desert, leading to accusations that Israel is a racist society. Israel was in the process of driving thousands of Bedouins off land in the Negev desert that their families have lived on for generations to make way for the transfer of huge military bases, until public outcry from human rights groups and demonstrations within Israel forced them to back down. Palestinians in the West Bank say they are frequently the targets of violence from Jewish settlers. So-called “price tag” attacks have almost quadrupled in the last four years — 72 in the first two months of this year. This refers to revenge taken against Palestinians when Israel's army uproots olive trees that settlers have planted on Palestinian land, for example. The settlers “cut down trees, deface mosques and beat Palestinian farmers”. Israel refused to permit construction materials from entering Gaza for eight weeks last year, and then only allowed their use in United Nations projects, leaving thousands of construction workers without jobs.

the B.D.S. movement

These policies have given rise to a boycott of Israeli products. “The young generation...realize[s] that the stones of the first intifada and the suicide bombers of the second are yesterday’s weapons in yesterday’s war.”

What began as a grassroots effort to dissuade supermarket shoppers in Western countries from buying Israeli oranges and hummus has become the organized “B.D.S.” movement, which stands for boycott, divest and sanction, the weapon its proponents have chosen seek to end the Israeli occupation. It has not gained much traction in the United States, but a number of European financial institutions no longer invest in Israeli companies. A Dutch pension fund cut ties to Israel’s top five banks for doing business with Jewish settlements. Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund banned investing in construction companies that build outside the 1967 line. The European Union revised its grant guidelines, disallowing awards to Israeli universities or companies active in East Jerusalem or the West Bank.

If the boycott is but an annoyance now, the failure of the talks to continue could lead to a “massive eruption of the B.D.S. movement”, believes Gidi Grinstein at a non-profit concerned with the Israeli society. Kerry said continued construction of the illegal settlements will provoke an international boycott “on steroids”.

Netanyahu calls the boycotts an attempt to “delegitimize” Israel. He and others, seemingly impervious to legitimate objections to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, human rights violations and the ongoing appropriation of West Bank lands, have resorted to the usual fallback, calling the boycotts “anti-Semitism”. That label, in the past usually successful in intimidating critics into silence, is working less well today. Other defenders of Israel point to all the injustice perpetrated around the world and ask why single out Jews for the boycott? Except nowhere else has one people occupied the land of another for 47 years. Even the U.S. Department of State has said that Israel’s “institutional, legal and societal discrimination” against its own Palestinian citizens is an “existential threat” owing to the apartheid image that this treatment evokes.

The B.D.S. movement itself does have suspect intentions, though. It, too, demands the right of return of the dispossessed refugees, which Israelis view as an attempt to destroy the Jewish state from within. The vast influx would extinguish the ethno-religious self-definition of the country. “They want to see Israel disappear”, says Grinstein.

Ultimately, though, harshly controlling another people against their will sharply diverges from the values of the Jewish diaspora and from the creed of self-determination at the core of American values.

But abandonment by the U.S. is extremely unlikely. Politicians are not just mindful of the Jewish vote when they greet Benjamin Netanyahu with standing ovations in Congress and routinely vote unanimously on pro-Israel measures. A much larger voting bloc is the evangelical Christian multitude in the U.S. which believes in the Rapture that will only occur when all of Palestine is in Israel's hands. That is the prerequisite for the battle of Armageddon to begin and the End Times to arrive when the faithful ascend into heaven. The evangelicals number 70 million in the U.S. vs 14 million Jews worldwide. The media assumes that the Jewish lobby AIPAC holds the greatest influence, but the evangelical lobbying organization, Christians United for Israel, is larger and spends much of its money on aiding settlement building in the West Bank in defiance of U.S. policy.

It is the growing opprobrium of other countries that Israel is concerned about, principally in Europe. Israel’s fear is that the import of foreign investment in its high-tech companies could dry up in addition to the export of its technology and agricultural products to Europe that are key to its economy. If Israel and the Palestinians continue on their present course of refusing to yield on any of their conflicting demands, it is Israel that will suffer most from its growing worldwide isolation.

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