Israel is being led into a quagmire

Nathan Geffen says Monessa Shapiro's criticism is misdirected

In a recent article explaining why Israeli products manufactured in occupied territory should be boycotted, Doron Isaacs and I stuck to facts that are largely undisputed. We argued that this non-violent tactic is necessary to halt the de facto Israeli annexation of the West Bank, and contain it behind a recognised border.

We find it sad, even tragically desperate, that in response to our article Monessa Shapiro resorted to childish ad hominem attacks. This is a typical tactic of someone defending an ideology sinking in moral quicksand. Her bravado comes from a right-wing Zionist spin on history.

Shapiro states: Geffen and Isaacs correctly tell us that Israel captured these areas in the '67 war, but they omit to tell us that this was a defensive war forced on Israel by its belligerent neighbours ...".

It is highly disputed whether the '67 war was a defensive one. For a well-researched view that casts doubt on the defensive nature of the war, see the eminent Israeli historian Tom Segev's book 1967. He states that there was "no existential danger to the state". Nevertheless, it is utterly irrelevant to our argument whether or not the war was defensive. The ethical choice today remains: either annex the occupied territories and give everyone living there full citizenship, or leave.

Shapiro states: Geffen and Isaacs glibly suggest two choices facing Israel. Yet they ignore the most logical scenario - for the Palestinians to recognise and accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state and to desist in their desire to destroy it.

This is disingenuous. Shapiro does not recognise that Israel is an occupying power, and says nothing about ending the Occupation for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Therefore, what good will it do Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state? Furthermore, why should the political views of individual Palestinians determine whether or not they have freedom of movement, the franchise and equality?

We condemn the Hamas charter for its anti-Semitism, but, incidentally, the ruling Likud Party's charter makes no room for a Palestinian state. It says that Israelis have the right to settle in the West Bank and claims the Jordan river as the eastern border of Israel. Surely democrats should require a state to be democratic, not that it have a particular ethnic or religious personality. There are several states that define themselves in religious terms including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania and Yemen. Surely Israel should not join such inauspicious company?

Shapiro states: A quick perusal of the internet will show Geffen and Isaacs (as they obviously don't have access to history books) that when Israel annexed East Jerusalem all Arabs living there were offered Israeli citizenship.  This they refused, preferring instead permanent residency. The following comes from Wikipedia, a site so easily accessible that even the most ignorant among us can glean information: 'Jerusalem Palestinians were permitted to apply for Israeli citizenship, provided they met the requirements for naturalization-such as swearing allegiance to Israel and renouncing all other citizenships-which most of them refused to do.'

Many times in history Jews were offered rights if they renounced their identity, and they refused. Shapiro should have quoted the rest of the Wikipedia paragraph:

"Until 1995, those who lived abroad for more than seven years or obtained residency or citizenship in another country were deemed liable to lose their residency status. In 1995, Israel began revoking permanent residency status from former Arab residents of Jerusalem who could not prove that their 'center of life' was still in Jerusalem. This policy was rescinded four years later after it was discovered that more Arabs were moving back in order to retain their status.

In March 2000, the Minister of the Interior, Natan Sharansky, stated that the 'quiet deportation' policy would cease, the prior policy would be reverted, and Arab natives to Jerusalem would be able to regain residency if they could prove that they have visited Israel at least once every three years. Since December 1995, permanent residency of more than 3,000 individuals 'expired,' leaving them with neither citizenship nor residency."

Shapiro states: Mitzpe Shalem, the kibbutz that houses the Ahava factory is about 10 kilometres beyond the green line, in a desert area totally uninhabited by Palestinians.  In fact until the establishment of the kibbutz it was completely uninhabited territory.

Such arguments are typical justifications for colonialism. Palestinians claim that Arab al-Ta'amira was displaced by Mitzpe Shalem. It is indisputable that the roads to Mitzpe Shalem cross Palestinian territory and form part of the Occupation. Travel on those roads is restricted. Services, including military protection, are provided to Mitzpe Shalem that are not provided to Palestinians.

Its existence is consequently part of the overall dispossession of Palestinian rights and lands. We note that Shapiro does not dispute that Kalia displaced Palestinians. Furthermore, 10kms into Palestinian territory, is a significant inroad in a small territory. Would South Africa willingly accept occupation 10kms into its territory?

Shapiro states, The OSS campaign bases its entire case for boycotting Ahava products on the argument that Israel's presence in the "Occupied Palestinian Territories" is illegal. This is a matter of much dispute.

We base our campaign on the fact that the presence of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal. This is not a matter of any serious debate. Article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention states, "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population in the territory it occupies."

In the September 2005 High Court of Justice decision in the Alfei Menashe case the Israeli Supreme Court held: "The Judea and Samaria areas are held by the State of Israel in belligerent occupation." It is indisputable that with nearly half-a-million of its citizens living in the West Bank, Israel is in constant violation of Article 49. Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia exemplify this.

Shapiro states that we do not care about the rights or security of Jews. Actually we do. It is true that we are deeply concerned about the daily abrogation of Palestinian rights. Israeli Jews, by comparison with most of the world, have high standards of living and freedom.

But it is also of deep concern to us that the settler project and its worldwide support by Zionist organisations are leading Israel into an intractable and dangerous quagmire. Shapiro and her fellow Occupation apologists, who obviously care about Israel, fail to see that it is not us who work against Israel's best interests; it is the settler movement.

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