Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Marg Jacobs Speaks: "Israeli General's Son: Proudly Biased"

Hafia and Belgrade--where I have seen two communities of courageous people, women and men, taking on their nation's public discourse of their right to power. Marg Jacobs, with whom I stand in Women in Black in Melbourne, Marg, who has been working with Women in Black for many years, recently attended a talk by Miko Peled here in Melbourne. Here is her report.

Israeli general’s son: proudly biased
 When you’re about to hit an audience with really bad news, it can be wise to start on a positive note. 
Australians for Palestine introduced Miko Peled at the State Library of Victoria in September 2011. Peled starts by emphasising that he’s heartened to find the BDS (Boycotts Disinvestment and Sanctions) campaign provoking controversy in Australia. He admits to a biased position on Israel with a take that is proudly personal. As the son of an Israeli war hero and the grandson of a signatory to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, he has impeccable Zionist credentials.
‘Max Brenner’ supports Israeli military
Melbourne BDS supporters—as Peled heard about on his arrival here—were arrested in a heavy-handed police operation outside a Max Brenner shop. Max Brenner is owned by the Strauss group, financial backers of Israel’s most notoriously brutal brigade, the Gulani. Referring to Kevin Rudd’s statement that ‘in 21st century Australia there’s no place for boycott of Jewish business’ Peled said that Rudd should instead be proud of Australians involved in the BDS movement.
He asked, would Rudd speak out in its defence if the Strauss group were donating money to the Taliban?
For Peled the Israeli military command—exemplified by the Gulani brigade —are not only terrifying and vicious, but ludicrous, in their camouflage outfits. This military operates against an ‘enemy’ that is out of all proportion to its own war machine. An enemy without army, tanks, military structure and possessing only the most basic weaponry .
Ethnic cleansing has sunk the two-state solution
Israel has been on a mission to destroy Palestinians ever since it defied the majority of countries (including Australia) that in 1947 voted in the UN for partition. (Another opportunity to provide for a two-state ‘solution’ arose in 1967. Not only was this not taken, but Israel went on the attack against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. See http://mikopeled.wordpress.com/category/the-generals-son-by-miko-peled/ — Peled’s father argued against this and for Gaza and the West Bank to be returned to Palestinians.)
The Gulani Brigade was heavily involved in the 2002 mass killings of Palestinian refugees. On an even greater scale was Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, when in twenty-one days of hell, ‘an obliteration, a massacre, not war’ as Peled describes it, the military killed 1400 Palestinians in Gaza, injured 1000, and left many more thousands homeless.
Besides killing Palestinians, the state of Israel has stolen their land to build towns, malls and highways on, for Jews only. Furthermore, Palestinians have restricted access to water. Peled’s comment: ‘This is democracy?....while Palestinians have barely enough to drink, Jewish settlers not 500 yards away have swimming pools and green lawns.’ 
So it is futile to argue for two states. Where would the Palestinian state be? A solution where Palestinians receive 20% of the land in separated pieces dotted with Israeli settlements, is not viable.
Boycotts frighten Israel
Boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions can work against the racially segregated state. Because Israelis are desperate for approval and acceptance by the rest of the world, for most BDS is truly frightening. (It would be interesting to know more about how Peled sees this process playing out.)
Arguments against BDS by people like Australian parliamentarian Michael Danby rely on a false parallel. Danby pulls out the bogeyman of Oswald Mosley’s fascists in the 1930s smashing Jewish shop windows. Unlike the Jews of England and Germany, however—who didn’t engage in or support ethnic cleansing or have a military force— Israel is a legitimate target for boycott.
One secular democracy, the only resolution
Israel won’t part with any part of historical Palestine, and the reality is that the whole of this is occupied. So Peled advocates boycott of all Israeli products, not just those directly related to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. For him the reality is that the process [of ethnic cleansing] is no different in the West Bank from that in other parts of Israel/Palestine. The military themselves claim this, when they “.....justify their brutal enforcement of occupation at the settlements by describing them as no different to Tel Aviv. This is a justification! And at the same time they speak of the West Bank as a war zone”.
Those ‘still stuck in the notion of a Jewish state’ should look at photos of Israeli soldiers in religious garb, visit Jewish zealot colonies in the West Bank, and talk to people who see this as a zero sum game and think nothing of killing Palestinian children.
For Peled any hope of resolution lies in severing the institutions of government from the identity of either the Palestinian or Israeli side, and the creation of a free, secular and pluralistic democracy. Peace activists should unite around this, and demand:
·         equal rights for Palestinians
·         withdrawal of the military from the West Bank
·         freedom of Palestinians to travel throughout the country
·         an election in which Palestinian votes have an equal value to Israeli votes.
So: a call for boycott!
Peled has written that “Until these [above] conditions are met, Palestinians have no reason to negotiate or cooperate with the Israeli authorities. Until they are met there needs to be a concerted effort to isolate Israel, and to initiate a struggle that defies its laws and undermines its authority. Israel profits greatly from Palestinians who are forced to apply and pay for permits and licenses; Israel profits from Palestinians who are forced to buy Israeli products. Haaretz newspaper recently reported on the huge profits that Israeli farmers and government agents make as a result of the siege imposed on Gaza. An effort can focus on the idea, also made famous during the American Revolution, that there can be ‘no taxation without representation’ calling for defiance of the Israeli authorities and boycott of Israeli products and goods.”
Margaret Jacobs

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