Samah Jaber
Bitterlemons (Opinion)
July 21, 2011 - 12:00am

For those who lament the Palestinians' use of violence and sigh, saying, "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?" here is the answer: Israel delegitimizes all tools of resistance. Most recently, the Israeli parliament passed legislation making it possible to punish any public call for economic, cultural or academic boycott of the Israeli occupation and its settlements.

A boycott is a very reasonable tool of resistance, one used by many nations--the Irish, the Indians, the Jews--against their respective tyrants. With the notable exception of the state of Israel that continued providing the apartheid regime of South Africa with weapons, boycott was even international policy at one time. At an individual level, each person is entitled to choose to give or not give oxygen to entities that contradict their personal values.

While Israel's new law is meant to empower the settlers and intimidate the international movement in solidarity with Palestinians, it also generates many thoughts about the Palestinian stance on the boycott. Some Palestinians have a very stratified, complicated and enmeshed relationship with Israelis.

I, a Palestinian, am writing about the boycott while enjoying a learning experience in London in the presence of Israeli colleagues. In October, I will start a three-year study program at the Israeli Institute of Psychoanalysis. In East Jerusalem, where I live, many Palestinians work in Israeli institutions and when they get sick, are treated in Israeli hospitals. Many Palestinians from the West Bank can only find work in Israeli settlements, and let us not forget the tragic reality that the infamous separation wall was built by Palestinian hands.

As a result, it is perplexing how to draw a fine line between the need to live and survive and not hindering the national plight by normalizing relationships with the occupier. In the current absence of a Palestinian national policy despite patriotic awareness, one can only "freelance". While I keep good interpersonal connections with a very few Israelis with whom I share common values, I strongly oppose normalizing relationships with the occupation and its institutions. A Palestinian needs to be aware and accomplished enough to do one thing without eroding the other.

One can be sure that there is no win-win situation between the occupied Palestinian nation and the Israeli occupation. The more the occupation expands its settlements, the more it develops its racist policies, the more we suffocate in occupied land. A boycott of the Israeli occupation is the mildest form of resistance that Palestinians and those who support them are obliged to carry out. The boycott is a sign of an individual and collective strength; its main value is the psychological and moral effect of confronting and potentially isolating Israel.

I know some Israelis who until today refuse to buy German cars, although they like them, because they don't want to contribute to improving the German economy. Imagine us, whose wounds from Israelis are still open and bleeding.

Israelis who endorse the boycott are seen as an autoimmune disease by those who fail to see any sign of health in these few good antibodies trying to protect the infected Israeli conscience. I hope that this legislation against boycotts will serve to further expose the false democracy that the occupation brags about and delegitimize Israel internationally, causing more uproar than the boycott itself. "Autoimmune disease" is just additional nomenclature augmenting "self-hating Jews," "anti-Semites," and other terms meant to silence and intimidate people.

By neutralizing military resistance, and prohibiting boycott, the occupation should be very happy in the status quo. Why make any steps towards peace? Why give up its old tired racist ideologies and practices? Palestinians will go to the United Nations and announce their state and things will only get more polarized. There is, on the other hand, a good opportunity to wage a large international boycott campaign against the Israeli occupation. Israeli individuals can only encourage their government to move towards peace by endorsing a boycott. If they fail to do so, Israel will keep hastening quickly towards a moral collapse that will bring only shame and humiliation upon all of its supporters.


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