مقابلة على قناة الغد تم بثها بتاريخ ١١/٣/٢٠١٨
First published by the Middle East Eye on 6/2/2018
If it is to be taken seriously as a broker for peace, the EU must make disruptive decisions to pressure Israel, just as the US has been doing against Palestinians
The past few weeks have been transformational for the prospects, or rather lack thereof, for peace between Israel and Palestine.
US Vice President Mike Pence gleefully confirmed in a speech to the Israeli Knesset that his country’s embassy would move to Jerusalem by the end of 2019, as the US administration announced it would withhold $65m for UNRWA, the UN agency that provides services for Palestinian refugees.
This, coupled with US President Donald Trump’s insinuation that millions of dollars in US aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) should be cut after their “disrespectful” snub of Pence, has confirmed the current administration’s bias towards Israel, underscoring the PA’s conclusion that the Americans cannot play a role in any future peace process.
Bullying and blackmail of Palestinians
Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the US, said in a speech to the Middle East Institute that Trump had backstabbed Palestinians, not only taking Jerusalem off the peace table, but also taking “the table altogether”.
The Americans continue to claim they are developing the “deal of the century” while using a combination of bullying and blackmail to attempt to force Palestinians back to the negotiating table, from which they believe they have removed both Jerusalem and refugees’ right of return.
In his highly analysed speech to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Central Council, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recommitted to negotiations and peaceful popular resistance as the two strategic pillars to reclaim Palestinian rights.
However, the PA has shown little leadership in developing a national strategy for popular resistance, and is continuing security cooperation with Israel – which Abbas has called “sacred”.
The central council recommended the suspension of this security cooperation and, for the first time, urged the PLO’s executive committee to adopt the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a means of pressuring Israel. It also recommended suspension of the PLO’s recognition of Israel and announced the expiration of the Oslo Accords.
The PLO’s Executive Committee recently met in Ramallah to discuss the Central Council’s recommendations. It agreed to set up a higher level committee to study the recommendation to suspend recognition of Israel. No date was set for it to report on this important decision.
There was no mention of the recommendation -made for the second time- to suspend security cooperation with Israel. In terms of a change in the PA’s strategy for achieving Palestinian rights, there was little emerging from the meetings of the Central Council or Executive Committee.
Reiteration of longtime position
The key change the PA might be pursuing is a search for an alternative to the US as a sponsor for future peace talks. The PA initially saw the EU as the prime body to replace the US; shortly after his speech in Ramallah, Abbas flew to Brussels to meet Federica Mogherini, the high representative of the union for foreign affairs and security policy.
What he heard was a reiteration of the EU’s longstanding position. Mogherini said: “I want to, first of all, reassure President Abbas and his delegation of the firm commitment of the European Union to the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as shared capital of the two states … based on the Oslo Accords and the international consensus embodied in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”
Mogherini also reaffirmed the EU’s opposition to the “settlement activity that we consider illegal under international law”. She reminded Abbas that the EU has “already invested a great deal in the Palestinian state-building project” and vowed that EU financial support would continue, “including to UNRWA”.
For his part, Abbas thanked the EU for its financial support and asked that it continue to play a political role in the Middle East peace process. He reiterated the Palestinian commitment to fighting “terrorism, violence and extremism“.
In a direct snub to the PLO Central Council, Abbas affirmed his commitment to previously signed agreements- meaning Oslo Accords – to which he said Palestinians had adhered, and urged Israel to implement its responsibilities under the deals. He also called on EU member states to recognise the state of Palestine.
In a subsequent announcement, Mogherini pledged the EU would contribute an additional €42.5 ($53m) to Palestinians after Trump’s decision to cut support, including €14.9m to “preserve the Palestinian character of East Jerusalem”.
On the political front, Mogherini told reporters in Brussels that any framework for negotiations must involved “all partners”, sending a strong message that the US could not be excluded: “Nothing without the United States, nothing with the United States alone.”
Sustaining the status quo
Thus, far from rising to the occasion and using its historic and financial ties to Israel and Palestine to play a greater political role in formulating a way out of the current impasse, the EU will simply sustain the status quo.
Nine European states, including Sweden, already recognise Palestine as a state and it seems Slovenia may be next – yet the EU as a bloc has not given any indication that it may follow suit. The EU continues to support Israeli universities through its research programme, Horizon 2020, though it distinguishes between institutions on either side of the Green Line. Its position that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law has not been matched with commensurate action.
It took the EU many years to simply take a position that goods from the illegal settlements should be labelled. To counter Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the EU could have moved to ban goods from the settlements and to compel businesses and banks to seize any activities that support their continued existence through trade. However, there are no signs it will do this.
Following the decision by Israel to deny entry to human rights activists from EU member states for their solidarity and support for BDS, including European elected officials, the EU could have moved to impose a tougher visa regime or even ban settlers from EU countries due to their violation of international law. This would include some senior Israeli politicians and members of the extremist Israeli government who are not committed to a two-state solution and have called for annexation of the West Bank.
Action-light versus action-heavy
The EU could ban the sale of arms to Israel, as these could be used to violently entrench the occupation and to attack Gaza.
The reality is that the EU has the tools to match its words with action, but it has thus far shied away from using any of them. Its policy can be seen as action-light.
In contrast, America’s support for Israel is action-heavy, politically through the use of its veto in the UN Security Council and financially through providing it with half of its annual aid budget, while threatening to reduce the pittance it gives to Palestinians to bully them into negotiations.
If the EU is to be taken seriously as a broker for peace, it must make disruptive decisions to pressure Israel – moves as significant as America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Can the EU walk the walk or will it simply continue to talk the talk?
Anadolu Agency 24/1/2018
The US cannot continue to be accepted as an “honest broker” for peace, says speaker at panel organized by EuroPal Forum
By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
It is time for Europe to lead for peace in the Middle East following the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a London panel heard Tuesday.
The message was conveyed by speakers at the panel “Trump’s Jerusalem Promise: Time for Europe to Lead for Peace in the Middle East” organized by the EuroPal Forum – an independent and non-party political organization based in London working to build networks throughout Europe in support of the promotion and realization of Palestinian rights.
Speaking at the panel via a recorded video message, Julie Ward, a member of the European Parliament from the Labour Party, underlined that since U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel on Dec. 6, there has been an increase in violent actions by Israel’s occupying forces against the Palestinians.
Ward said Trump’s decision is a “serious provocation for those who have been pursuing a peaceful solution to the Palestinian cause”. She said Trump’s decision to reverse seven decades of foreign policy has dismayed the majority of the world’s leaders, dashing the hopes of peace campaigners from both sides of the conflict.
Stressing that Trump’s decision goes against all peace efforts by all parties and encourages Israel’s continuing violation of human rights, Ward said “it is clear that the U.S. would not be a productive partner” in the peace process.
“We are pushing the EU to take action…in the European parliament,” she added.
Toby Cadman, a barrister and international law specialist, pointed out that the rejection of Trump’s decision by the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council and by a very high number of the member countries at the General Assembly despite threats made by the U.S. administration was “significant”.
Cadman said whether Trump will implement his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem still remains to be seen, but the U.S. could not continue to be accepted as an “honest broker” for peace when such a decision had been made.
Another speaker, Dr. Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian academic, writer and activist, argued that with the latest decision, the U.S. administration “has made very clear that Israeli and U.S. interests are identical”.
“And therefore, the gloves are off. It is very clear that the U.S. not only isn’t an honest broker, it is not an independent broker, but it is totally identified with Israel,” Karmi said.
Recalling the cuts by the U.S. administration in funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Karmi said someone else should fill this gap.
“The EU becomes very important with this vacuum of international support for the Palestinians…Why the EU is now relevant is of course because it is very much involved in this business.”
Karmi said the EU has funded both Israelis and Palestinians in various fields and is therefore an ideal body to play the role.
“What is the EU’s position on Palestine and Palestinian people’s future? First, peace can be achieved by two states, by the creation of a Palestinian State and having a two-state solution. Secondly, there has been a concern by the EU from the beginning with the refugee issue.”
Karmi said the two-state solution has been the “bedrock” in EU policy toward the conflict and urged the EU to press on Israel for a possible two-state solution. She said the EU could suspend a visa waiver program in place for Israeli citizens which makes it possible for them to travel freely across Europe.
“That’s a very small action that the EU could start with,” she said.
Regarding Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, Karmi said “we must not think about the U.S. in this context. We have to free ourselves from this kind of thinking.”
Prof. Kamel Hawwash, an academic from Birmingham University and a writer, was among the speakers at the EuroPal Forum’s panel.
Recalling his recent entry rejection by Israeli officials, Hawwash argued that the EU should refuse entry for Israeli settlers.
“The last UN resolution about the settlers [from the occupied Palestinian territories] … distinguished between Israel and the occupied territories.
“The EU can actually escalate the distinction through an action to do with settlement… it must be about imposing some sort of sanction… If I am denied entry as a British citizen to Israel, why is it that Israeli settlers are allowed to come in?”
However, Hawwash also urged Palestinians to look at their own means to activate a peace process first and then start searching for support as well.
One of the organizers, Zaher Birai, told Anadolu Agency that he hoped the panel would “send a clear message that it is unacceptable… to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”.
Birai said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s statement yesterday “was worrying” despite the previous messages of support for Palestinians from the British government.
“Clearly, with Jerusalem now having been recognized by the U.S. as the capital of Israel, one would expect some symmetrical movement in the other direction to get things moving,” Boris Johnson said during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Johnson on Tuesday was accused of putting a two-state solution at fresh risk after suggesting Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital is a “moment of opportunity” for peace.
Trump’s controversial decision has sparked a wave of condemnation and protests across the world.
The full 193-member UN General Assembly met for a rare emergency special session regarding the decision, and 128 members voted in favor of a resolution which affirmed that the issue of Jerusalem is a final-status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions. Nine countries voted against and 35 others abstained in the vote held on Dec. 21 last year.
First published by the Arab Weekly on 21/1/2018
Israel is using its control of entry points to the occupied Palestinian territories to punish human rights activists and organisations.
Fifty years after Israel took control of all of historic Palestine in the Six-Day War, it is taking a number of approaches to the status and laws that operate in what the rest of the world considers illegally occupied Palestinian territory. Israel regards the area as “disputed” territory that it might consider returning — or more likely return part of — to secure peace with its neighbours.
In reality, Israel behaves as if it is sovereign over the whole of historic Palestine. It is important to note that UN Security Council Resolution 2334 distinguished between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, thus rejecting Israeli sovereignty over them.
International law does not consider Israel as sovereign over the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, which the Israelis in 1967 annexed in the Six-Day War. In recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, US President Donald Trump referred to Israel as a “sovereign nation” that can “determine its own capital.” He is wrongly recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the whole city.
There is no way to access the illegally occupied Syrian Golan Heights except through Israel. That border has been effectively shut since the 1967 war, with the exception of some movement facilitated by the UN peacekeeping force for humanitarian reasons. Even this movement came to a halt after violence erupted in Syria.
The Gaza Strip is accessed through the Beit Hanoun crossing, which Israel controls, or the Rafah crossing, which Egypt controls.
Entry to the West Bank and East Jerusalem is under Israel’s control, too. Palestinians with a Palestinian Authority (PA) passport enter and exit only via King Hussein Bridge, while Jordanian passport holders issued with Israeli visas by Israel’s Embassy in Amman can enter via the Sheikh Hussein Bridge further north.
Those carrying foreign passports, including European and US citizens wishing to visit either Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories, can enter through one of the bridges or through Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.
The situation for human rights activists who wish to visit the occupied territories has changed considerably over the past few years. While some have been subjected to questioning about the purpose of their visit and who they were planning to meet, most were allowed to enter, especially those who managed to convince Israeli authorities they were tourists visiting holy sites.
Faced with increased scrutiny of its policies and an escalating Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, however, Israel is using its control of entry points to the occupied Palestinian territories to punish human rights activists and organisations. It does this in addition to pushing allies to implement anti-BDS laws, particularly in the United States, where some 20 states have such laws.
While Israel has long denied entry at will to activists and EU and US citizens of Palestinian heritage, it is now routinely denying entry to those working in organisations supporting BDS or individuals who are vocal in criticising it and supporting BDS. Israel has passed legislation amending its law of entry to specifically deny access to such individuals. This included Hugh Lanning, chairman of the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign and myself. Shortly after this, it denied entry to Anwar Makhlouf, the head of the Palestinian community in Chile and three Swedish citizens, members of the World Council of Churches, over alleged BDS affiliations.
Israel went further in implementing its ban in July, ordering Lufthansa airline to deny boarding to five members of an interfaith delegation at Washington Dulles International Airport, including Jewish Rabbi Alissa Wise. Jewish Voice for Peace, an activist organisation opposed to the occupation, said this was the first time Israel had barred Jews, including a rabbi, entry to Israel because of political positions. Israel’s law of return stipulates that all Jews have the right to move to Israel and become a citizen. The airline claimed: “We don’t know who these people are. We have no information as to why the Israeli government does not want them to enter. We simply have to abide by the rules and regulations of every country in which we operate.”
Israel has gone even further, using intelligence about those planning to travel to one of its entry points to ban them before attempting to board flights. On November 13, it announced it was barring seven EU officials from travelling with a 20-member delegation of European Parliament members, national lawmakers and mayors over “support for Israel boycott” and for their aim to raise awareness on the plight of Palestinian prisoners, including political figure Marwan Barghouti. Israel’s Interior Ministry said the delegation had planned to visit Barghouti in Hadarim prison. It announced its decision a week before the delegation was to visit.
The European Union — France in particular — might have been expected to stand up for its citizens but instead used the sovereignty issue as a reason not to challenge Israel’s decisions. A French Foreign Office minister said: “One can regret this Israeli decision but it remains nonetheless sovereign.”
This is rather bizarre as the European Union does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Palestinian territories. It was left to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) to challenge the decision. The group’s executive director, Sharon Abraham-Weiss, said: “The interior minister is not authorised to serve as a commissar standing at the gate and deciding for the country’s citizens and for the residents of the occupied territories, who are dependent on Israeli border crossings, which positions are appropriate to be heard. Freedom of expression is not just the right to express oneself but also the right to be exposed to opinions, even opinions that outrage and infuriate the majority in Israel.”
The European Union must take a stand on the issue of sovereignty, especially as it relates to the occupied Palestinian territories, to ensure non-Israelis can access them or consider taking their own measures, including denying entry to illegal Israeli settlers wishing to visit. Otherwise, the message to Israel is “Carry on; there are no red lines to cross.”
First published by the Middle East Monitor on 9/1/2018
Israel’s extremist, settler-led government is on a roll. US President Donald Trump’s Christmas gift of recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his consequent surrogate bullying in the UN General Assembly on behalf of the colonialist entity has sent its leaders into a frenzy of actions that will have far-reaching consequences. Trump has in his Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hayley, a pro-Israeli figure that David Ben Gurion could only have dreamed of.
Haley stood alone in the UN threatening states that disagreed with the US decision – US President Donald Trump “will be watching the vote carefully” and “requested I report back on those who voted against us …” she told them. In the event the bullying had a limited effect with the General Assembly voting 128 in favour, nine against, with 35 abstentions. Not even the threat to cut US funding to some of the poorest states in the world worked on this occasion.
In her letter to the UN GA members prior to the vote Hayley attempted to play down the significance of Trump’s move arguing he was simply implementing the will of Congress expressed through the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act but that “the president’s announcement does not affect final status negotiations in any way, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem”, and that “the president also made sure to support the status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites, and did not advocate changes to arrangements at the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif”, Haley added in her letter.
Thankfully, from a Palestinian standpoint, the threats had little impact.
The reward for those countries which voted with Israel was a reception that Nikki Hayley organised at the UN which could have been held in a broom cupboard considering that the grand total of attendees according to the vote was nine.
On its part, Israel sought to increase its influence on poor countries by establishing a $50 million fund to support development in poorer countries and establish diplomatic backing, according to Israeli media reports. Israel had been trying to increase its influence, particularly in Africa, to garner backing internationally, including at the UN. Her efforts in Africa seemed to be making some headway until a summit organised by Togo was cancelled under threat of boycotts from a number of countries and pressure from others.
For now, Israel will take what it sees as a major breakthrough in its colonial project – America’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. It is noteworthy that rather than reiterate his UN ambassador’s stance that the final status of Jerusalem – including boundaries – was still up for negotiations, Trump contradicted her in a tweet claiming: “We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more.” He did not explain how or what. However, he went on to threaten the PA saying: “But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
Trump and Hayley’s contempt for the Palestinian leadership and people is now out in the open. Not only are they threatening to cut the PA’s funding, they have now moved to target the most vulnerable Palestinians, those refugees reliant on services from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA. Hayley explicitly threatened to cut funds to UNRWA “unless the Palestinians went back to the negotiating table”.
It is doubtful that the Trump administration really understands the potential impact of the moves they have threatened to make. Much of the funds the US passes to the PA are to ensure its security services continue to suppress Palestinian resistance against Israel’s occupation and it is therefore in Israel’s interest. Curtailing UNRWA’s ability to provide employment and services, particularly in Gaza, is likely to lead to an uprising whose format no one can predict with certainty. An area that has been under siege for 11 years, has suffered from three Israeli wars and that is deprived of electricity and free entry and exit is at boiling point. Again, keeping the situation calm and under control is in Israel’s interest.
As for Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, he must feel that he can contain this anger as he has now called for UNRWA to be dismantled, arguing it was “an organisation that perpetuates the Palestinian problem”. “It also enshrines the narrative of the so-called ‘right of return’,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting. His solution was that UNRWA “should pass from the world”.
Netanyahu, emboldened by an irrational American president but one who has sided with Israel during the election campaign and since his installation, is calling the shots with seemingly no one is able to stop him. The Knesset recently passed a bill, which amends the Basic Law of 1980 titled “Jerusalem, Capital of Israel”, in a way that would make it more difficult for future governments to return parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s own party, Likud, unanimously endorsed a resolution calling for the annexation of illegal Israeli West Bank settlements. This indicates the direction of travel of Netanyahu’s own party, which is now not that far behind the even more extreme elements of his coalition. Education Secretary Naftali Bennett has been urging annexation of the West Bank for years claiming “the time has come to say Israel is ours”. His fellow Jewish Home colleague and Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked stated“We’re here for 50 years already, and we will be here for another 5,000 years. Our policy is clear: Settlement in the entire Land of Israel and normalisation of life in Judea and Samaria”.
Israel’s plans to entrench the occupation are being complemented by further oppression of the Palestinians and their supporters under the pretence of democracy. The Israeli Knesset recently approved a first reading of the death penalty bill which would allow the authorities to execute Palestinian prisoners accused of taking part in “operations against Israeli targets”. The claim is that the death penalty would serve as a deterrent. However, it is reasonable to assume that a Palestinian who sets out to carry out ‘an operation’ against heavily armed Israeli soldiers knows full well that s/he is likely to be killed and therefore the deterrence claim is illogical. It is worth noting that the death penalty would not be extended to Israelis accused of violence against Palestinians.
Israel’s claim to be ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ was further eroded when it released a ‘blacklist’ of 20 organisations whose activists would be barred from entering the country and therefore the Occupied Palestinian Territory, essentially for supporting or promoting boycotts or the BDS campaign. It is also ‘investing’ a further $72 million into efforts to combat the movement.
None of the moves in the past month indicate a desire for peace by Israel, but rather a misguided conclusion it has come to that it can now make rapid progress towards completing its colonialist project in the era of Trump. However, from a Palestinian perspective, the situation is as dangerous as it has ever been.
It is extremely worrying for Palestinians that their tired leadership is devoid of any ideas or a strategy for liberation. The ageing Mahmoud Abbas refuses to do the decent thing and retire. He has promised to make “important decisions in 2018”, but his record shows a dearth of such decisions.
The forthcoming meeting of the PLO’s Central Committee in Ramallah should produce a new strategy. However, there are reports that there have been no significant consultations with the various factions and therefore the meeting could end up with Abbas presenting them with a fait accompli, reinventing negotiations as the only way forward but under a different framework not led by the US. That would be disastrous.
What is needed is much more radical. I suggested elements of what a future strategy could include in a recent article in MEMO which has started a debate. The Palestinian people cannot afford to leave their future in the hands of those that have proved their failure. They need to take back control of their liberation movement and fast.
First published by the Middle East Eye on 9/1/2018
We will continue to work using all peaceful means to support the Palestinians until they have attained their rights whatever the price Israel attempts to extract from us
I do not have to imagine the anguish – yet determination – felt by the activists who are likely to be denied entry by Israel following the publication of its blacklist of organisations to be targeted for supporting the Palestinian people. I was denied entry at Tel Aviv airport in April 2017 shortly after the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, voted to ban supporters of boycotts against Israel.
Being denied entry to my homeland by a representative of a state that was built on the dispossession of my people was very difficult to grasp.
I had travelled with my wife and five-year-old son to spend the Easter vacation with family in Jerusalem. They were allowed in but I had to endure a 12-hour wait in a holding room for a flight back to Birmingham.
The British embassy told me they could not help as Israel was a “sovereign country”, but Israel is not sovereign over the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) including East Jerusalem where I was too be based.
Those wishing to visit the OPT can only do so via Israeli-controlled entry points either along the River Jordan or Tel Aviv airport.
I had mixed feelings about my experience – a combination of anger, helplessness and humiliation. But at no point did I regret anything that I had done that may have led to my being denied entry. I did, however, quickly understand more clearly than ever what it feels like to be a Palestinian refugee, to be so close to my homeland and not to be able to step out of the airport to see it, to smell it and to feel it. I always have this incredible feeling of belonging to the place as soon as I see the majestic Al-Aqsa mosque as I drive to the Mount of Olives where my wife’s family have lived for centuries.
On the blacklist
The two weeks I spent back in Birmingham separated from my wife and son could have been extremely difficult under the circumstances. However, I was damned if I was going to sulk or allow Israel to defeat me. Rather than curtail my activism I wrote my story up, was interviewed by the media, wrote more op-eds about Israeli violations and tweeted just as much, if not more.
One of the reasons I was denied entry was I had a high profile in one of the organisations that appear on Israel’s blacklist, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), which has been campaigning for justice for Palestinians for nearly 40 years.
I had spent eight years as vice chair of the organisation but had stepped down from this position at the time of my being denied entry for personal reasons. However, I had done enough to appear on Israel’s radar as a “problem”.
The PSC is non-partisan, working for the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. It responded to the call from Palestinian civil society organisations in 2005 to support a campaign organised by the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel until it ended the occupation, treated all its citizens equally and implemented the right of return for Palestinian refugees. All three demands are legal and moral.
Israel has attempted to present the BDS movement as anti-Semitic but this smear has no basis in reality.
The PSC worked closely with the BDS campaign and other organisations to pressure companies complicit in the occupation to reconsider their involvement, which led to some key successes including changes made by Veolia and G4S.
In response to the BDS movement’s growing successes, Israel has dedicated a minister, Gilad Erdan, and a ministry funded to the tune of millions to combat BDS activities but has failed to counter it through argument. It has resorted to legal means to bully those who may be tempted into supporting BDS, especially in the US and in Europe.
In the US, where Israel enjoys blind support, individual states have passed legislation that would punish those companies that may be suspected of refraining from doing business with Israel and to exact a price from individuals who support boycotts.
France has already effectively outlawed boycotts of Israel, using strict laws against “inciting discrimination”, while the UK has attempted to stop local authorities boycotting Israeli companies through their specific ethical procurement guidance.
When the UK tried to apply similar pressure to local authority pension funds they were challenged by the PSC, which defeated the government in this matter. Yousef Munayyer, the director of the Campaign for Palestinian Rights, called the group’s inclusion a “badge of honour”.
In a show of defiance, a number of the organisations on Israel’s blacklist have come out to call their inclusion a badge of honour. They are in agreement that they will not be dissuaded from continuing to fight for justice for the Palestinian people and will even redouble their efforts.
Some have reported new members joining following the publication of the list. My guess is some organisations not included are feeling left out and will do even more in the coming years in support of the Palestinians.
It is personal
However, I, like Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, am hit doubly hard by the ban. First, I for now and Rebecca potentially are unable to visit Israel and the OPT to show our solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis striving for peace.
However, for her as an American Jew married to an Israeli with relatives there and myself as a Palestinian with relatives there, the impact on us is severe. It is personal.
The ban stops us ever seeing elderly members of our families. Certainly in my case my two remaining uncles are likely to die before I am next able to visit my homeland.
Following US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as its capital, Israel has embarked on a set of measures to entrench its occupation, to complete the Judaisation of Jerusalem and to shut down criticism of its criminal policies.
It is even working to introduce the death sentence for Palestinians accused of carrying out operations against it. Those measures hardly indicate a desire by Israel for peace or that the conflict is about to end.
Against this background, Israel can be assured of one thing: individuals such as myself and organisations like the PSC will not be bullied. The peaceful but oppressed Palestinian people need us now more than ever.
We will continue to work using all peaceful means to support them until they have attained their rights whatever price Israel attempts to extract from us.
We are on the right side of history, while the Israeli regime, which continues to delegitimise itself through its actions, will be consigned to the dustbin of history. This is not a threat, but remember apartheid South Africa?
– Kamel Hawwash is a British-Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a long-standing campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is vice chair of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC) and a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). He appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com and tweets at @kamelhawwash. He writes here in a personal capacity.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: A Palestinian boy walks past a mural calling on people to boycott Israeli goods in the al-Azzeh refugee camp near the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem (AFP)