My following article appears in today’s Crikey:
US President Barack Obama has consistently stated that he imagines a two state solution in the Middle East, with viable Jewish and Palestinian nations alongside each other. Israel, in a clear sign of who runs the show, announced last week that it intended to continue building colonies in the West Bank, in direct violation of international law and US wishes. The White House expressed ”regret”. The Israelis know how to stall for time; they’ve been doing it for decades.
This is one reason why a leading global figure such as writer and activist Naomi Klein is now calling for a boycott of the Israeli state. She told an interviewer recently it was vital for the world to counter propaganda that “promotes the image of a normal, happy country, rather than an aggressive occupying power”.
Australia has backed this charade for as long as the game has been played. Both the Liberal and Labor parties have been willing partners. A few weeks ago, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the Australian Jewish News that, “we, as a nation, have always been very strong on supporting Israel’s right to defend itself and to seek security in the region.”
But now a small but noticeable shift may be occurring in the Australian political elite, away from prying journalists and Zionist lobby scrutiny. There is no doubt that the vast majority of serving parliamentarians express support for a two-state solution, openly opposing the possibility of a one-state equation, a state in which Jews and Palestinians live together.
But the impossibility of achieving two states — I saw during my recent visit to the West Bank and Gaza the myriad ways in which the IDF has become an instrument of the Jewish settler movement — has forced interested parties to consider alternatives. I know of at least two Labor frontbenchers that remain deeply sceptical of the Rudd government’s position. I have also spoken to senior Greens MPs who are investigating the viability of a rational and calm public debate about a one-state solution. It is a conversation that remains long overdue.
I can’t over-estimate the fear of these politicians in even raising the possibility of discussion; such will be the fury of the Zionist establishment. They will need reassurance that the Australian public is more than ready to engage on the issues; growing knowledge about Israel’s occupation, the blockade on Gaza and West Bank expansion is having a noticeable effect. Average citizens are increasingly concerned that their government is directly involved in the maintenance of the status quo, a situation that only benefits the Israeli state.
Jimmy Carter wrote in the Washington Post last weekend, after a recent visit to the region with The Elders, that the two-state solution is on life support and one-state is looking increasingly appealing:
“By renouncing the dream of an independent Palestine, they [Palestinians] would become fellow citizens with their Jewish neighbours and then demand equal rights within a democracy. In this non-violent civil rights struggle, their examples would be Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. They are aware of demographic trends. Non-Jews are already a slight majority of total citizens in this area, and within a few years Arabs will constitute a clear majority.”
Last week, for the first time ever, a major Western power, Norway, announced it was divesting from an Israeli hi-tech firm for complicity in human rights abuses in the occupied territories. The upcoming Toronto International Film Festival’s spotlight on Tel Aviv is being criticised by prominent global artists for “staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of … an apartheid regime”. These are the just latest example of a growing, global momentum against Israeli intransigence.
Take the meeting of leading Sydney academics next week at Sydney University (disclosure: I’ll be speaking on the realities in Gaza.) Initiated by the head of Peace and Conflict Studies, Associate Professor Jake Lynch, the aim is to focus on cutting ties with Israeli universities, such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, that are directly involved in supporting the occupation of Palestine. This is a non-violent way of telling Israel that “normalised relations” will be impossible while apartheid is practised in the territories. Most major Palestinian civic groups back the campaign.
This isn’t about unfairly targeting “democratic” Israel but rather highlighting the insidious ways in which the Israeli state and its associated institutions enjoy extraordinary privilege within the West as a partner for cultural exchange and beneficial trade relationships. Very few critics of this strategy seem overly concerned with the various methods employed by Israel to destroy, interrupt and hinder Palestinian educational systems. Besides, Israel isn’t being singled-out. Sri Lanka is starting to feel the beginnings of a global boycott after its murderous rampage against the Tamils this year.
These are all important discussions. And they need to be experienced in Australia. It’s time for the major parties to get past meaningless slogans — two states for two people and Israel is the region’s only democracy — and actually engage with ideas. Nothing should be off the table; two states versus one and boycott or engagement.
Antony Loewenstein is a journalist and author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution