June 9, 2012
week marks the 45th anniversary of Israel's occupation of the West
Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. A decade ago, I joined a small group of Americans
in identifying the occupation as the Achilles heel in Israel's decades-old
violations of Palestinian human rights. We believed that hard work and our
diverse ethnicities, faiths, and ideologies, grounded in a common commitment to
international law, would soon get the "end occupation, uphold human rights" message
out to the political establishment and fellow Americans. After all, there was
international consensus concerning the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory
by war," a basic principle of international law enshrined in U.N. Security
Council Resolution 242 of 1967, which called for Israel's withdrawal from the
territories it seized in the 6-day war it launched on June 5.
though the organization we
co-founded has since grown to represent hundreds of thousands of Americans, the
Israeli occupation appears more entrenched than ever. Israel has cemented its
control of Palestinian land and water, settling over 500,000 of its people in
the territories and herding the Palestinians into ever-smaller enclaves, all
the while flagrantly violating international law. Yet it has continued to enjoy
the support of the United States, including diplomatic cover at the U.N. and
massive military aid.
has also benefited from the acquiescence of the Palestinian Authority and
Palestine Liberation Organization in the moribund "peace process" launched by
the Oslo Accords nearly 20 years ago. Although this so-called leadership now refuses
to participate in negotiations so long as Israel continues to colonize, they have
not definitively pulled out of them, even though the only tangible result has
been the inexorable loss of Palestinian land and rights.
they have no clear counter-strategy and have not been willing to invest in the
sources of power necessary to achieve Palestinian human rights, even though
there are many avenues available -- diplomatic, economic, mobilization of Arab
and international civil society -- that could effectively challenge Israel.
leaders have tinkered with the edges of the Oslo framework, such as the effort
to seek U.N. membership for the disconnected fragments of land now called "Palestine."
But they are fearful of completely breaking away and losing even the minimal
privileges Israel grants them as well as the U.S. and European aid necessary
for their survival. Their lack of strategy and inability to muster the
necessary counter-power contributes, wittingly or unwittingly, to Israel's
violation of Palestinian human rights.
contrast, Israel has been following a clear strategy for over six decades: more
Palestinian land, fewer Palestinian people. Having effectively made 60 percent
of the West Bank off limits to the Palestinians through barricades and the
Separation Wall, it is now focused on squeezing them out of East Jerusalem,
which it has illegally annexed -- a move not recognized by any world government.
To do so, Israel uses a mixture of bureaucratic measures, including: denying
permission to build; imposing very high taxes; home demolitions and evictions; and
annulling the Jerusalem residency of Palestinians who are caught studying and
working outside the city, even if they do so in neighboring Ramallah.
so often, Israeli leaders launch a trial balloon to define the shape of their
hoped-for final outcome. Last week, for example, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud
that Israel should take "unilateral action" regarding the territories. Recent attacks
against UNRWA are part of a continuing Israeli campaign to question the right of
the Palestinian refugees and exiles to return to their homes and lands, and
even their existence.
even as Israel wins the battles in this century-old conflict over the land of
Palestine, it looks increasingly likely to lose the war. The present-day
settlement and ethnic cleansing have drawn attention to the original injustice behind
the creation of Israel, when the same methods were used, and have brought into
the foreground the underlying racial discrimination of what is in effect a
when referring to African immigrants, a high-ranking Israeli official -- Interior
Minister Eli Yishai -- recently
said: "Most of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the
country doesn't belong to us, the white man." He also declared: "The
infiltrators along with the Palestinians will quickly bring us to the end of
the Zionist dream."
nature of the Israeli regime as it affects the occupied territories is
described in books and reports, novels, films, maps and infographics
that depict the population barriers and segregated roads. In recent years, this
has led to a sea
change in public attitudes towards Israel.
The change in
discourse has brought a growing response to the campaign led by Palestinian civil
society for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Individuals
and groups are boycotting Israeli settlement goods and artists are refusing to
perform in Israel. In Europe, financial groups and states have been divesting
pension funds from companies that profit from Israel's occupation. The general conference
of the world United Methodist Church in Florida, which recently concluded, called
for a "boycott of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on
country has yet taken steps towards sanctions against Israel, South Africa and Denmark
recently decided that Israeli goods produced in the occupied territories be
labeled as such; Britain had in 2009 officially recommended
such a measure to business owners, adding that labeling a settlement product as
having been manufactured in Israel would be a criminal offense because it
misleads consumers. Although the cumulative impact of the boycotts, divestment,
and consumer actions cannot yet be measured, certain companies like Veolia reportedly
lost billions of dollars. Certainly Israel and its allies are taking the BDS
campaign seriously, analyzing
the repercussions. They seek to re-brand Israel as an innovative, welcoming
state, organize lawsuits
against boycott efforts, and challenge
pro-Palestinian groups on U.S. and European campuses.
the brutality of the occupation is increasingly impossible to ignore, and draws
attention to the denial of the refugees' right of return and the discrimination
against the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Israel now risks becoming an
international pariah, as former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert foresaw
in 2007, even as he was unwilling or unable to stop the settlement project. And
a growing number of Palestinians are giving up on the two-state solution in
favor of a future state of Israel/Palestine where all citizens enjoy freedom,
justice, and equality regardless of race or religion. Israel's occupation is
indeed proving its Achilles heel, but in ways one could not have imagined 45
Nadia Hijab is
Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. She serves on the
advisory board of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.