in post

2 June 2021

I once had my name down on a website for Israelis who support boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel (BDS). It wasn't entirely appropriate because I don't self-identify as Israeli, am not a citizen, and am only a resident here. But I thought, at the time, that this seemed to be the most promising nonviolent action that could bring pressure on Israel. I'm not really aware today whether the BDS campaign is on the upsurge or the way down, though obviously anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian feeling is running quite strong now in the wake of the recent violence. But that doesn't matter. Pressure should be brought against Israel all the time because, left by itself, Israel continues to colonize and uproot Palestinians. That isn't going to change. It can only be slowed, but that's worthwhile too.

In the choice between violent and nonviolent action, I am always in favor of nonviolence, because both violence and nonviolence are self-perpetuating. Violence itself is a difficult concept. What Israel is doing, by expropriating land and uprooting Palestinians, is no less violent, in its own way, than throwing bombs. Oppression gives an oppressed people the right to defend itself by whatever means it sees fit. It's just that violence by Palestinians against Israelis hasn't shown itself to be very useful. You take a people traumatized by centuries of antisemitism, pogroms and holocausts, and in physically attacking them, you only awaken in-built fear, survival instincts and adamant determination to overcome you as the latest incarnation of their archetypal enemy. I'm not sure what can work, but that one doesn't, or hasn't so far. It's succeeded only in perpetuating a cycle of violence. Sumud, perseverance, insisting on one's humanity, appealing to conscience, demanding equality, might work better, if the world stays interested. The one-state solution, transforming the conflict into a civil-rights struggle, may eventually be on the cards; but getting there will be mighty hard; maybe impossible.


It's perfectly legitimate to boycott Israel. You choose your issues, can't fight on all fronts. The Palestinian issue is a worthy one. This is not to say that there are not other equally worthy causes in the universe. Sometimes I imagine going to live in another, better place. But actually, it's rather hard to find a nation that does not commit horrible crimes, is not guilty of racism, isn't trying to keep immigrants out, doesn't experience mayhem in the streets, isn't surveilling its citizens or brainwashing them, doesn't have huge and growing socio-economic disparities, isn't relying for its wealth on exploitation of poorer countries, isn't laundering money for criminals, doesn't have a problem with corrupt politicians, isn't selling weapons to support internecine warfare, isn't aiding and abetting corrupt regimes, isn't contributing to the destruction of the biosphere. All nations are pretty terrible, as far as I have seen. They all have issues, present and historical. Sometimes I imagine living in Europe. A split second ago, historically, Europe was the worst place to live on the planet. Engulfed in never-ending wars, committing genocides, colonizing and oppressing the rest of humanity. And, in our post-colonial world, it isn't like all that suddenly went away. I feel a strong cultural and spiritual affinity for India, but that is kind of an "in spite of itself" love, rather than seeing the country with rose-tinted glasses. I'm held in sway by its social critics and brave dissidents.

When there's a cancer somewhere in the organism, it affects the whole organism.

Despite my embarrassment at living in Israel, looking for a nation that is somehow better is a foolish quest. In every nation there are injustices crying out for redress, and, if one wants to be active, there is much work to do. It's more convenient to do that work in one's home environment. On the other hand, if one wants to find a comfortable niche to settle down in, almost any place will suit - far away or close. Sometimes it's easier to live in a country where one identifies less with the social justice issues. That's why people love to vacation or even settle in questionable locations like Thailand or Sri Lanka. I'm almost at that stage now, but for the world I feel a bitter taste born of the bile that rises from my stomach whenever I remember what's happening out there.


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