Larry Snider

Boycott, Beinart, occupation and peace

Weariness has inspired propositions for a new relationship between young American Jews and Israel. But responses do not bode well for the prospects of peace

It is difficult to recognize the level of anger, pain and victimhood that resonates with Palestinians living a repressed life in Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus or hundreds of other lesser-known villages (as well as Gaza).

In 1967 Israel won the war and decided to pursue its own interests by building Israeli homes throughout the West Bank of Jordan in a pattern that would famously create its own “facts on the ground,” and eternally disrupt the contiguity of a viable Palestinian State. There are multiple players and terror has been one tragic answer to the lack of freedom enforced each day by both the Israel Civil Administration and the Oslo Accords themselves.

The rules that every Palestinian lives by, most Israelis understand. But almost no Americans (Jewish or otherwise) are aware of the detrimental effect that the war has on the prospects of peace every single day.

On September 28, 1995 the state of Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo II agreement in Washington, effectively dividing the West Bank into three zones: Area A, which comprises 17.2% of the land and provides the Palestinian Authority with full civil and security control; Area B, which comprises 23.8 percent of the West Bank and provides Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control; and Area C, which comprises 59 percent of the West Bank and provides full Israeli civil and security control, except over Palestinian civilians.

If you look at a map of the occupied territories — and there are many, including the January 2011 Peace Now map (PDF) — it clearly identifies the division of the West Bank and exposes the contest over land claimed by religious Jews as ancient Judea and Samaria, by Palestinians with deeds from the homeland of their parents, and by refugees as the land that was taken by force during the Nakba. It is also the land that was rebuilt and sold cheaply to thousand of Jewish immigrants who made their way to Israel in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, and continue even now.

Since there has been little progress on the peace front, Palestinians, increasingly followed by left-wing Israelis, American and European Jews, are working to promote BDS: the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeted against Israeli Settlements or generalized against the State of Israel.

Examples of boycotts that have worked in the Civil Rights Movement here in the United States and against apartheid in South Africa have inspired comparison and millions of words against the injustice of the continuing occupation. In an environment where the leaders can’t even sit down in the same room to begin a meaningful dialogue, Israelis and Palestinians alike have grown weary of the promises of presidents and prime ministers for two states and peace. It is easy to disrupt a peace process that increasingly looks unrealistic and removed from reality with rockets from Gaza, revolution occurring across the Middle East, the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons and the inability of a son in Bethlehem to travel five miles to visit his mother in East Jerusalem.

Weariness has inspired pundits such as Peter Beinart to propose a new relationship for young American Jews with Israel and the acceptance of a targeted boycott — which I do not support — as one measure of Jewish social justice and as a vehicle to peace. The response of the organized American Jewish community has been a frenzied move to cull the adherents of BDS from the flock. Thus, American Jews are unfortunately isolating themselves even further from the discussion of how best to navigate the storm and edge the Jewish people, the state of Israel and the Palestinians forward, to a place where they can begin substantive negotiations and enjoy true prospects for freedom, security, and, perhaps, the peace that both Israelis and Palestinians so desperately need.


Editor’s note: This blog post and its headline were slightly changed to correct the mistaken impression that the author supports the “Zionist BDS” campaign advocated by Peter Beinart.

About the Author
Larry Snider was President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace a non-profit based in suburban Philadelphia. Today he lives in New Jersey and is a Board Member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey.