by Jeff Mendelman, ’09
“The international solidarity movement is a cult,” said Norman Finklestein recently, “Just come out and say it, you want the destruction of Israel. You think you’re so clever, but you’re not fooling anyone.” The BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement for a just peace in the Israel/Palestine conflict gets attacked, often, and with vigor. But, that’s the opposite of how it should be; those who promote the status quo should get an earful.
Zionists are, increasingly, status quo advocates. Why? Because life as an Israeli Ashkenazi Jew right now isn’t too bad: there are jobs, natural resources, and security.
But, what about the people who live on the other side of the border? What do they experience? In the Gaza strip, the unemployment rate for young people is as high as 60%. The average yearly per capita use of water in Palestine is limited by Israel to 50 cubic meters of water, whereas in Israel citizens may use up to 2400 cubic meters. And the Palestinians have to pay twice as much for their water, even though their GDP per capita is $1,000 per person as compared to Israel’s $30,000 per person.
These statistics sting, but often images paint a clearer landscape. I recently saw a talk by Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi where he showed some striking footage. In the first clip, the Israeli army releases dogs on unarmed Palestinian women, allows the dog to bite the woman, and cares more about the dog’s safety than the Palestinian woman’s safety. In the next clip, the Israeli Defense Forces repeatedly beat an unarmed Palestinian boy after they deemed him innocent of any crime or potential crime. They strike him again and again in the face. These scenes are also part of the status quo, but they do not make international headlines.
These statistics and images are indefensible. Yet, the international voice that speaks up with these Palestinians gets drowned out by the Zionist voice, which plays the role of victim, despite the facts on the ground.
For example, in Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli army used white phosphorus on civilians. White phosphorus literally burns through skin and is carcinogenic, and so, is unequivocally illegal under international law. In the onslaught on Gaza, over 1400 Palestinian civilians died, including over 300 children. On the other side, 13 Israeli soldiers died, and 9 by friendly fire. These are the indisputable facts, and upon public scrutiny, should not be tolerated as normalcy. The BDS movement attempts to disrupt this egregious status quo.
Yet, the Zionist movement assaults BDS tooth and nail, unwilling to level criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Instead, Zionists urge the public to do more and more research, to delve into the complexity of the conflict. I say to them. It’s a stall tactic. Just come out and say it, you have no interest in a just peace.
Jeff Mendelman is a non-violent activist, focused primarily on revitalizing the Gulf Coast post-Katrina and the Israel/Palestine conflict. He graduated from Stanford in 2009, and will attend UC Davis School of Law, King Hall in the fall.