Saturday, July 16

The Boycott Laws

A national paranoia has settled over Israel. It began with the formation of the right wing coalition composed of the Likud, right wing religious parties, ultra-Orthodox parties and a vacillating Labor Party under Ehud Barak's leadership.

This party that had a glorious past, now has an uncertain future, especially after Ehud Barak destroyed it and fell into the arms of Netanyahu's coalition hook, line and sinker, forming the Ha-atzmaut Party.

Barak left a rather fragmented Labor Party full of squabbling, potential leader hopefuls, bent on destroying what is left of the emaciated left wing in Israel. The chances of this self- destructive party taking the lead for change and upholding democratic principles is zero, unless a dynamic leadership, free of squabbles and political stains, emerges. The possibility of this occurring is remote.

These developments strengthened the Netanyahu coalition of right wingers and weakened the left even further. A process of delegitimizing the Israeli left had begun. Anti-democratic laws such as the Pledge of Allegiance, Naqba laws, right wing racist rabbis received increased support from religious fundamentalists whose hatred for non-Jews has become more prevalent. Refusal of renting apartments to Arab students in Safed and other areas is becoming more acceptable and legitimate amongst religious Zionist extremists. At the same time, many Israelis are becoming more right wing and apathetic.

A parallel situation occurred in South Africa prior to the demise of apartheid. More draconian laws limiting freedom of expression became common place in apartheid South Africa in the 1960s, 1970's and 1980's. After this, world boycotts against apartheid South Africa, played a vital role in the ending of race discrimination leading to majority black rule with Nelson Mandela elected as president in April 1994.

Is Israel also going down the path of fascism and McCarthyism by stifling opposition? Has the right wing laid claim to Israel together with the settlers in the occupied territories? Anybody who opposes the anti-democratic laws that the Netanyahu coalition has introduced is viewed as a traitor and stands a chance of being severely dealt with under this newly enacted law.

Superficially it seems to be the case. The so-called major opposition party - Kadima, initially supported the anti-boycott bill but withdrew their support when the bill was re-worded to appear less severe. This does not say much for the Kadima Party, which sits on the political fence. The official opposition party Kadima is an offshoot of the Likud whose platform in certain instances is even more right wing than the Likud.

The Boycott Law is a blot on democracy! This means that you cannot pay lip service or organize campaigns to boycott products produced in the occupied West Bank.

Are these all knee jerk reactions by the Netanyahu Government? It could very well be. The fear of Israel's deligitimization by the world and growing anti-Semitism may be a factor. The world is against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the settlers living on usurped Palestinian lands which is a severe obstacle for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The world wishes to see two states for two peoples. However, the Netanyahu coalition exploits the situation and instills fear of anti-Semitism and Israel's deligitimization by maintaining a static situation. It is a pandering to the right and extreme right as well as to the settlers rather than moving toward a two state solution.

If Israeli law professors, actors, writers and various academics oppose this law because it clamps down on one's personal freedom - does this mean that they are serving the interests of Israel's enemies and seek to delegitimize Israel?

There is an erosion of democratic values in Israel. Most Israelis are apathetic towards democratic values and this was reflected in voting patterns in the previous election. Slowly or maybe rapidly this anti-democratic trend under the powerful Yisrael Beteinu faction of Avigdor Lieberman is gaining more support. It is fear of freedom of choice which they view as a danger to Israel's existence.

The illegal settlers in the occupied West Bank have never had it so good. The boycott law has been enacted to protect their interests by force by suppressing opposition to purchasing products of industries on the West Bank. This is just the beginning of a downward slope towards a right wing settler-oriented, right wing religious fanaticism supported by the government.

The idea of BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) is illegal and anybody who engages in promoting this will be dealt with severely according to the law.

Personally I oppose boycotts of Israeli products as well as divestment and sanctions. However I do support BDS when it involves illegal settler entrepreneurs and academics involved in Ariel University which is hard core right wing and settler oriented. We ought to have the right to be against this university and to boycott it.

The next step will be enacting laws against those who oppose the occupation. Once there is a trend to enact laws that are anti-democratic, there is no end to suppressing the opposition.

Israel claims that it is the only democracy in the Middle East. Now with The Arab uprisings, (the outcome of which is still uncertain) this claim may soon change.

People will not take to the streets to oppose these laws apart from a few dedicated democrats as this is not cottage cheese. We must ask ourselves whether we are serious about achieving peace with our Palestinian neighbours and the Arab world.

All weird and unnecessary laws that border on racism and right wing hegemony as if Israel is the property of the right wing and its allied rabbinical fundamentalists will not lead to peace and coexistence with our neighbours. If anything it will lead to an uncanny resemblance to Islamic self righteous fundamentalism. This can only deepen the conflict.

The loutish behaviour of the "kippa-cladded, tzitzit dangling, payot swaying" hill top youth will gain more legitimacy as they plunder and destroy Palestinian property.

Is it necessary to recognize Israel as a Jewish State? Is it necessary to restate and emphasize the obvious which is stated in Israel's Declaration of Independence? Israeli and Arab citizens of Israel have never disputed this. It is a Netanyahu delaying tactic to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian leadership in their frustration has lost their patience with Israel. Salam Fayyad has achieved much in improving and creating economic viability in the West Bank. He has also beefed up security and created confidence in the economy of Palestine. Violence and terror against Israel has dropped by 96%. Israel has not given him the credit he deserves for this almost impossible feat. The frustration of the Palestinian leadership has made them determined to unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state in September 2011 based on the pre-June 1967 borders. It remains to be seen as to how much world support they will get in the UN General Assembly.

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