around the world are mourning the loss of life that resulted
from the Israeli Navy commando raid on a flotilla of ships
brining humanitarian aid to a blockaded Gaza. Nine
activists were killed. Prosecutors have characterized
the incident, which occurred in international waters, as
of piracy and a violation of international law.
And top-ranking Israeli Navy reserves officers denounced
the attack and slammed the Israeli government for blaming
the activists for what transpired. “We do not accept
claims that this was a ‘public relations failure’ and we
think that the plan was doomed to failure from the beginning,”
the officers wrote in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister
many ways, the handling of the flotilla tragedy mirrors
Israel’s policy of Occupation of the Palestinian territories:
inhumane treatment and a disproportionate use of force against
those who have been labeled as terrorists. This is
a response born of arrogance
and hubris, and a disregard for international public opinion.
Add to that the confiscation of news cameras and media censorship,
and a propaganda
campaign perpetuating the notion of perpetual victimhood--
that the Israeli government can do no wrong.
is a prominent nation in the region, but that does not justify
apartheid. The nation's historical origins do not
give it a pass in acting ethically or in compliance with
human rights law. The Occupation must end if democracy
is to flourish in Israel, and public pressure can bring
about a just and equitable resolution to the conflict.
Some Jews of conscience believe that economic divestment—taking
the profit out of violations of human rights and of international
law– is the way to make it happen.
group Jewish Voice for Peace
just kicked off a divestment campaign. Their focus
is on TIAA-CREF,
a Fortune 100 financial services company and insurance giant.
The company serves 3.6 million people and manages more than
27,000 retirement plans and over $400 billion in combined
assets. TIAA-CREF’s motto is “Financial Services for the
Greater Good,” and it proudly calls itself “a global leader
in socially responsible investing.” And earlier this
year, the company divested from four petrochemical companies
that refused to stop doing business with Sudan.
seeks to persuade TIAA-CREF to stop investing in companies
that profit from the Occupation, such as Caterpillar and
Motorola. The former manufactures bulldozing equipment
for destroying Palestinian homes, while the latter supplies
cell phones to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) for use in
the Occupied Territories.
means profits. A settlement
industry of hundreds of companies has been built
around the servicing of 562,000 Israelis living in 135 settlements
and outposts in the West Bank, Arab Jerusalem and the Golan
Heights. These companies enjoy special government support,
including tax breaks, lower environmental and labor standards
and low rents. And they exploit Palestinian workers,
land and resources as they maintain an infrastructure of
buildings, walls and checkpoints to keep Palestinians separated
and out of the settlements. Many of the companies
serve the Jewish settlers, while others exploit the captive
nature of the Palestinian population and charge them exorbitant
rates. Meanwhile, Palestinians who work in these industrial
zones face labor violations and severe restrictions on their
movement and right to organize.
is a time-tested tool to bring about nonviolent social change.
The divestment movement against South African apartheid
is perhaps the most poignant example of such a strategy.
Similarly, a U.S.-led campaign
hopes to bring an end to Israeli-Palestinian apartheid.
considers itself a member of the "First World"
and the only democracy in the Mideast, as it maintains a
forty-three year military occupation. "To maintain
the Occupation, Israel uses harsh and often brutal controls
that are widely perceived around the world, if not in the
U.S., as an apartheid system. The truth is that even within
Israel, only Israeli Jews have enjoyed democratic government
and equal rights," says Barbara Harvey of Jewish Voice
for Peace. "Every person who values democratic
freedoms and equality has a personal stake in ending Israeli
apartheid, because its continuance threatens to redefine
democracy in ways that none of us who live outside Israel
accept for ourselves."
also suggests that Israeli policing practices are having
a bad influence in the U.S.: "How many Americans realize
that many of our local police forces and even private security
forces receive training in Israel, where the Israel Defense
Force is taught to dehumanize Palestinians? If the
world pretends that Israel's free society for Jews only
is a democracy, the unacceptable will inexorably become
acceptable beyond Israel's borders, threatening every one
West Bank consists of a multitude of fragmented enclaves,
many of which are connected to adjacent towns only through
checkpoints. Settlements, outposts and Israeli military
infrastructure place nearly 40 percent of the land out of
the reach of Palestinians.
Gaza is a prison. As Amnesty
International has reported, the blockade of Gaza
has left nearly 1.5 million men, women and children trapped
in a strip of land only 40 km long and 9.5 km wide.
The situation in Gaza is one of collective punishment, where
poverty, unemployment and food shortages have left four
in five people dependent on humanitarian assistance.
"Ghetto" is a word associated with pain and deep
historical symbolism for both black and Jewish folks.
The ghetto is a place where people are packed in and stacked
up, by design, and where dreams die and people suffer.
Well, Gaza is the ghetto, and one shouldn't have to live
in Gaza or be a Gazan to appreciate that suffering.
As one Israeli
official stated plainly, "The idea is to put
the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of
Arab Israelis are racially profiled, treated as second or
third class citizens, and regarded as a fifth column that
cannot be trusted. The efforts to strip
an Arab Israeli Knesset member of her citizenship because
she participated in the humanitarian flotilla (along with
Holocaust survivors, European lawmakers and Nobel laureates)
is a prime example of the discrimination Arabs face.
So, this is what the divestment campaign wants to change, so that democracy
can come to Israel. Business practices must change,
mindsets must change as well. Jews who are unhappy
with the current state of affairs in Israel should be able
to, as a courageous progressive rabbi once said, set
limits with the ones they love. They should be
able to speak up for Palestinian rights without being branded
as self-hating Jews, terrorists or enablers of terrorists.
Likewise, non-Jews who come to the table with a love for
human rights and a sincere desire to help the situation
should not fear accusations of anti-semitism. Displeasure
with specific policies of the Israeli government does not
equate with hatred towards Judaism or Jewish people.
And the rights of Palestinians and Israelis are not mutually
exclusive, nor should they be.
Executive Editor, David A. Love, JD is a journalist and
human rights advocate based in Philadelphia, and a contributor
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service,
In These Times
and Philadelphia Independent
Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com,
and Open Salon.
to contact Mr. Love.