måndag 16 mars 2015

It's democracy or apartheid - important to maintain pressure on Israel

As Israeli voters head to the election booths on Tuesday to pick their country’s 20th Knesset, Israeli society is at a crossroads—democracy or apartheid. The shadows of ethnonationalism and settlement politics darken the future outlook. Continued Right-wing rule with Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm could lead to the definitive demise of an already wounded Israeli democracy and to the consolidation of a power relation between Israelis and Palestinians which left-leaning liberals in Israel are increasingly inclined to openly dub apartheid. Meanwhile, optimists might point to signs of hope in the form of an anticipated setback for the most aggressive right-wing nationalist parties. Another sign of hope is the new Joint List—consisting of the Hadash Party, a group of small Arab parties and non-Zionist Jews—that seems headed to become the third largest party in the country.

Netnyahu’s six years in power have been devastating—primarily for the Palestinians in Gaza who have been subjected to repeated bombing raids and a continuous siege. But the people in the West Bank have also suffered land losses from ever expanding Israeli settlements. Furthermore, Netanyahu’s politics has damaged Israel’s own people. Many of the most urgent problems in Israeli society have deepened: continued substantial economic inequality, growing child poverty and a deepening housing crisis. Last but not least, Netanyahu’s unmitigated right-wing nationalism—supported by openly racist and ultraconservative parties—has brought Israel to its worst diplomatic position in many, many years. Relations with its strategic partner, The United States, have probably never been more strained, and several European parliaments have followed Sweden’s lead in recognizing the State of Palestine. In addition, Jewish communities and organizations around the globe are finding it increasingly difficult to support the Israeli Right-wing government’s ultranationalism and—in many cases—open racism. Israel’s isolation in the international arena is contributing to causing Netanyahu and the Likud to apparently be facing a disappointing election outcome. That can, and should, be viewed as a victory for all of us who in different ways have pressured the Israeli state to respect UN resolutions and international law.

But even if Netanyahu might lose power, there is every reason to suspend any celebration. The probable government parties in a more moderate constellation are all in favor of the broad strokes of Israel’s current politics vis-à-vis the Palestinians and its neighboring countries. Creating a functional coalition may prove a challenging equation, with many mid-sized parties that all represent a patchwork of positions on various left-right political spectrums: the peace process, economic distribution and the role of religion in society. For those of us who dream of a future with equal rights and responsibilities, individual as well as national, for all people living between the river and the sea, we still have a long way to go. That is why it’s crucial that the rest of the world refrains from allowing itself to be lulled by a more “appropriate” phraseology within diplomatic circles. We have to continue to pressure the next Israeli government—regardless of political denomination and parliamentary backing—by making it abundantly clear that if Israel continues to violate international law, we, Israel’s true friends and the international community, will have no choice but to apply the same political modes of pressure on Israel, such as BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), that was used to get the South African government to dismantle its apartheid system. That is the best support we can offer to those groups in Israel and Palestine that continue—albeit in the face of powerful resistance—their work for human rights and democracy for all.

(Traslated from Swedish by Christopher Pastorella)

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