Call It What It Is: Murder

I am not usually inclined to use this space for what others might call a “rant.” But this day, I feel there are some points that need to be made.

Today, Hamas claimed responsibility for the murders of four Israeli settlers along a West Bank road. One good friend of mine questioned why I use the term “murder” rather than killing. Another good friend spoke of the need to put the killings in “context” of occupation and the ongoing crimes attached thereto.

The car that was shot up in the West Bank today

And so, I was motivated to write, because when I hear these things from good people I start to wonder about our moral compass.

Why is this murder? Well, it seems to me when gunmen ambush a car full of civilians (yes, even if the civilians are criminals) and shoot them to death in cold blood, outside of anything that could remotely be called a combat situation, that’s murder.

Settlements are criminal; they are impediments to peace and encroachments on land that does not belong to Israel. They cause enormous human rights violations to Palestinians. But those who live in them have not thereby forfeited or in any way diminished their right to keep their lives.

I don’t see, quite frankly, what is so complicated about this. Hamas’ diabolical act today was not an act of desperation. It was not a cry from an oppressed and occupied people. It was a calculated act of murder, intended to further Hamas’ political goals. Was their goal, as many assume, to derail the direct peace talks before they even got started? Was it, as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum “…meant to highlight the failure of the security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel?” Whichever it was, the tool Hamas chose to further their goal was murder. Continue reading

The Power and Weakness of Boycott

Recently, Norway announced that a major Israeli company and a subsidiary were to be excluded from its national wealth fund’s investment list. The reasons were past activity in building settlements in the West Bank and working on construction of the Separation Barrier.

Tel Aviv protest against the new cultural center built in Ariel settlement

Before I go into what this means for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), let me say I applaud this action. Continued development of industry in the settlements only entrenches their presence. It is crucial that foreign governments and corporations stop supporting that development and make it clear that settlement industries cannot expect “business as usual” and, most importantly, that those companies are not in Israel. That is a line that must be drawn clearly, in the boldest green. The message must be sent in no uncertain terms that the settlements are NOT ISRAEL!

Predictably, supporters of the BDS movement have been declaring how this incident proves their strategy is working, that their “movement” is making real progress. But that is really overstating the case.

This is, indeed, a victory for the BDS movement, but not nearly the one they will, understandably, purport. The two companies are part of the corporate group owned by billionaire Lev Leviev, who actively promotes settlement expansion. Leviev has been targeted by BDS activists spanning the spectrum from anti-occupation groups to anti-Israel ones for years. Continue reading

Performing In Israel, Not the Settlements

I weigh in on the controversy over some Israeli performers’ refusal to perform in thee settlement of Ariel. Click here to read the piece at MeretzUSA’s blog.

Separating From The Settlements

In my latest piece for Meretz USA, I argue that the pro-Israel/pro-peace, or two-states movement should be embracing boycotts of settlement products and other economic actions directed at settlements only. The point is that settlements should be separated from Israel in people’s minds and that we need to address the point that, economically, Israel and the settlements are, in practice, one unit.

Is This Really The Time For Direct Talks?

In my latest blog post for Meretz USA, I question the wisdom of the big push by President Obama for direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians right now.

Of course, I support direct talks, and indeed believe them to be the only way to eventually settle this conflict. But right now, the Israelis and Palestinians are just not politically able to make the deal. The only way they would is if Obama pressures them very strongly, and with mid-term elections looming, does anyone seriously believe he is about to do anything of the kind?

I hope you’ll check out the article at Meretz USA’s blog.