When a leading public figure takes an unexpected position, it’s important to pay attention. Uri Avnery is the best known figure in Gush Shalom (the Peace Bloc), a dovish group just outside the mainstream of Israel’s peace camp. Avnery’s criticisms of Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians are well-known and widely relied upon by people who want an Israeli or Jewish imprimatur for their own comments.

Particular attention thus should be paid to Avnery;’s most recent column, published on the eve of Israel’s 59th Independence Day celebration.

Avnery exposes the so-called one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an idea that “will harm [the effort to change the policies of the Israeli government] very much” because “[i]t diverts the effort from a solution that has now, after many years, a broad public basis [two states for two peoples], in favor of a solution that has no chance at all.”

“There is no doubt,” Avnery recognizes, “that 99.99% of Jewish Israelis want the State of Israel to exist as a state with a robust Jewish majority, whatever its borders. The belief that a world-wide boycott could change this is a complete illusion.” Avnery quotes his colleague, who recently asked Ilan Pappe (without receiving an answer):

The entire world has imposed a blockade on the Palestinian people. But in spite of the terrible misery of the Palestinians, they have not been brought to their knees. Why do you think that a boycott would break the Israeli public, which is far stronger economically, so that they would give up the Jewish character of the state?

“In any case,” Avnery observes, “such a boycott is quite impossible. Here and there, an organization can declare a boycott, small circles of justice-lovers can keep it, but there is no chance that in the coming decades a world-wide boycott movement, like the one that broke the racist regime in South Africa, will come about. That regime was headed by declared admirers of the Nazis. A boycott of the ‘Jewish State’, which is identified with the victims of the Nazis, just will not happen. It will be enough to remind people that the long road to the gas chambers started with the 1933 Nazi slogan ‘Kauft nicht bei Juden’ (‘Don’t buy from Jews’).”

The idea of a “one-state” solution also is dangerous to the Palestinians. At present, Jews constitute an absolute majority of the people living in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The average annual income of an Israeli Jew is about $20,000; that of a Palestinian is about $800. “The Israeli economy is growing every year. The Palestinians,” Avenery believes, “would be ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’. That means that if the imaginary joint state did indeed come into being, the Jews there would wield in it absolute power. They would, of course, use this power to consolidate their dominance and prevent the return of refugees.”

And it’s not just the Israeli Jews who will refuse to give up having a state of their own. Palestinians “can applaud an Israeli professor [Ilan Pappe] who advocates the dismantling of the State of Israel, but they have no time to wait for utopian solutions that could be realized in a hundred years. They need an end to the occupation and to achieve a solution to the conflict here and now, in the near future.”

But suppose calls for an international boycott of Israel were more successful than Avnery expects? “It would push all Israelis into the arms of the extreme Right, because it would reinforce the right-wing belief that ‘All the world is against us’ – a belief that took root in the years of the Holocaust, when ‘all the world looked on and kept silent’.” A general boycott of Israel would do more to isolate and weaken Israel’s peace activists than anyone else.

Avney concludes on an optimistic note:

All public opinion polls show that the great majority of Israelis not only want peace, but are ready to pay its price. But they are afraid. They lack trust. They are shackled by the beliefs they acquired in early childhood. They must be freed from them – and I believe that it can be done.

How does Avenery’s analysis affect the work of liberals and progressives in America? Just as in Israel, so, too, in America, campaigns that are perceived as demonizing Israel or aiming at the elimination of Israel as a democratic Jewish state will push friends of Israel, including critical friends of Israel, into the arms of the hard-liners. I am not calling for a moratorium on criticism of Israeli policies or conduct. But, I submit, it makes all the difference in the world whether the criticism and the critics are perceived, at bottom, as

* concerned for and supportive of Israel’s continued existence or

* fundamentally hostile to Israel.

I hope that friends of Israel will understand the imperative need to enable our country to play a constructive role in helping Israel secure peace with the Palestinians along the lines of the Clinton Peace Parameters and the Geneva Initiative. (See, generally, The shergald-another American Peace Plan and The Myth of the “Myth of the Generous Offer”.)

And to those who do not consider themselves friends of Israel, I say: You need to decide whether your desire to help Palestinians secure real improvements in their every-day lives exceeds your dislike of Israel. If it does, then we have common ground.

Happy Israeli Independence Day. May we merit the enjoyment of many more. Soon, in our days, alongside a free and independent Palestinian state.

0 0 votes
Article Rating