Confess oh ye men of the cloth: Keeping the divestment movement honest

What is the objective of the divestment campaign: rights for Palestinians or Israel’s destruction? That devil’s-fork question echoed in real time when Desmond Tutu lugged his moral halo into the conference hall of the United Methodists of America, even as he chanted the canticle:

The (hard) reality endured by millions of Palestinians requires people and organizations of conscience to divest from those companies …profiting from the occupation and subjugation of Palestinians.


Tutu and his flock must tell. They cannot have the Palestinian rights they pray for and Israel’s continued existence. It’s one or the other, on the terms they would impose on the Jews. Let’s be clear about this. If Norman Finkelstein, another high priest of Palestinian rights, can explain it clear enough, then so can Tutu.

(BDS campaigners)…call it their three-tier. (They) want the end of the occupation, the right of return, and …equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they … know the result of implementing all three… There’s no Israel!

So there we are; it’s not possible to campaign for divestment, boycott and sanctions while at the same time acknowledging Israel’s right to exist. Not if you’re honest about it, not if you allow your audience to have a brain. When Tutu makes his three-tier demands he’s banking on Israel’s demise.

Who knows; when the United Methodists at their Spring 2012 conference showed him the door perhaps they understood what he had in mind.

But Tutu’s confessional cannot stop there. He must explain another of his articles of faith. Think about it. A Church of England cleric and Peace Laureate has far better reason to be pro-Israel than pro- Palestinian. Where after all are Christendom’s holyland sites sacrosanct? Where may Christians pray openly, and face no pressures to convert?

Certainly in no Palestinian-run towns will you find those freedoms, least of all in the cradle town of Bethlehem, where Christian numbers have dwindled from 80 percent of the town’s people to no more than 20 percent. And then there’s Gaza. Since the Hamas takeover in 2007, half the Christians have fled. Christmas decorations are forbidden, along with public displays of crucifixes. In a December 2010 broadcast, Hamas officials exhorted Muslims to slaughter their Christian neighbors, copying what they have done in neighbouring Egypt. And remember the martyr Rami Ayad, owner of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore. They murdered him, and reduced his store to ash.

Yet Tutu champions the Palestinians while he excoriates Israeli Jews? In the confessional box we listen with ears cocked.

And what of the proclivity of Palestinians to stray from the victim role that divestment campaigners want them to play? Given a taste of Tutu’s ‘three tier’ rights, what did they do but elect Hamas on a genocidal platform. But Tutu and his flock would no more put that in their peace pipe and smoke than they would care to join the dots between Hamas and Iran.

Then there’s the campaign war cry – or would be if it had one. Give the Palestinians back their land!  Its every syllable and cadence plays on a rock-solid belief in three principles of faith: One, the Palestinians are a nation; two, they once had a land which Israel took from them; and   three, Israel is a usurping occupying power.

Whether any of those principles hold water is a question the Tutu flock would sooner die than confront, knowing that one failure would be sufficient to fell them like an ox.  And their divestmentism would crumple to an empty heap when brought face to face with the follow-up problem: If the Palestinians don’t, then who does have title to the West Bank?

Never mind UN statements; ignore media pundits and diplomatic speak. Tutu’s moral halo precludes him from supping at those tables. Not for human rights pretenders the art of the possible. If they have not moral courage and integrity they have nothing.

So ‘occupation’ is not a word divestment campaigners should bandy about. Yet bandy it about they do – profusely, even their law professors, who should know better. Occupation is their mantra. All that hot air would dissipate the moment you remove the creed that Israel is an occupying power.

Oh ye divestment campaigners, marching on Jerusalem while your priestly icons sprinkle their water along the road. Prey tell: what is it that your Palestinians really want? What is it that they have not already been offered, repeatedly since 1947? Will the Palestinian lamb really lie down with the Israeli lion once you have made of them a nation? That’s what you always tell your funders and field troops, even while your Palestinian victims are speaking another tongue. Hear them in their mosques; hear them in their schoolrooms, and on public platforms.

Ah, but there’s the rub. Your high priests never intrude into those milieus, content with statements of moderation and accommodation carried on the wires. And in this caution they display great good sense, knowing that were they to venture into a West Bank mosque, or a Gazan school, they would have the rug pulled from under them. They would learn that the Palestinian conflict is not about land and nationhood. They would learn that the Palestinians have never departed from their zero sum game.

Confess, oh ye man of the cloth, ye disciples of divestment gurus; put off your robes and say after your high priest Finkelstein: We know what our demands will mean: no more Israel!

About the Author
The writer is a prolific author of novels and non-fiction, essayist and commentator on ‘Enemies of Zion’ which happens also to be the title of his latest book. His works are The Paymaster, 1998; Hadrian’s Echo, 2012; Contributor to ‘War by other means: Israel and its detractors’, 2012; Enemies of Zion, (for publication 2017); and Balaam’s curse ( a novel in progress)