The Israeli settlement of Har Homa overlooking Bethlehem. (Photo: IMEMC)
A report sent to the European Union on Monday by its member countries’ top diplomats in Jerusalem and Ramallah proposed state-level boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel’s illegal colonial infrastructure in the occupied West Bank. These recommendations, unprecedented among Western nations, herald a breakthrough for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Like most efforts opposing only the West Bank settlements, they appear somewhat myopic about the state policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid that stand squarely behind settlers’ walls and guns, while also denying refugees their homes and Palestinian citizens of Israel equality under its laws. But high-level backing for even modest steps can afford many new opportunities.
The European Commission should consider passing legislation to prevent finance generated within its member states being used to support illegal Israeli settlements in occupied territory, the bloc’s top diplomats in Jerusalem and Ramallah have advised …
The finance recommendation has been worded with deliberate vagueness to maintain a consensus among sharply differing views within the EU. But the clear implication is that some of the European Consuls General – ambassador-rank representatives to the Palestinians – want the Commission to consider for the first time whether it has an obligation to legislate on the grounds that the settlements contravene international law.
Under one interpretation of the proposal, the Commission would use legislation to force companies in Europe to break their links with businesses involved in settlement construction and commercial activities. This follows some high-profile voluntary examples like that of Deutsche Bahn, which last year pulled out of electrification of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem rail link because it cut through the West Bank.
The Guardian says that the document
calls on the European commission to consider legislation “to prevent/discourage financial transactions in support of settlement activity”.
Legislation should prohibit trade and business with settlements based on their illegality under international law, rather than a politically-driven boycott, said one EU diplomatic source.
And Ynetnews panics:
The recommendations include the preparation of a “blacklist” of settlers considered violent, in order to later mull the option of banning them from entering the European Union. The document also seeks to encourage more PLO activity and representation in east Jerusalem.
Moreover, the European report advises senior EU figures visiting east Jerusalem to refrain from being escorted by official Israeli representatives or security personnel.
A Western diplomat told Ynet that the Europeans are well aware of the implications of the latest recommendations.
Talk is cheap, of course. But careful organizing and determined action by Palestinians and solidarity activists could make the next steps quicker and more comprehensive. Whatever we think of the two-state “solution” these proposals aim to bolster, they offer us a valuable new arsenal in the struggle against Israeli apartheid.
And speaking of a two-state resolution to Israel’s 63-year occupation of Palestinian land, and ongoing displacement and subjugation of its indigenous people, it appears that these same diplomats, many of whom have spent their lives pursuing it, are nearing despair as its infeasibility becomes undeniable. In an article provocatively entitled “EU on verge of abandoning hope for a viable Palestinian state,” The Independent says:
The Palestinian presence in the largest part of the occupied West Bank – has been, “continuously undermined” by Israel in ways that are “closing the window” on a two-state solution, according to an internal EU report seen by The Independent …
With the number of Jewish settlers now at more than double the shrinking Palestinian population in the largely rural area, the report warns bluntly that, “if current trends are not stopped and reversed, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders seem more remote than ever” …
The 16-page document is the EU’s starkest critique yet of how a combination of house and farm building demolitions; a prohibitive planning regime; relentless settlement expansion; the military’s separation barrier; obstacles to free movement; and denial of access to vital natural resources, including land and water, is eroding Palestinian tenure of the large tract of the West Bank on which hopes of a contiguous Palestinian state depend …
Area C is one of three zones allocated by the 1993 Oslo agreement. Area A includes major Palestinian cities, and is under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Area B is under shared Israeli-Palestinian control.
Although Area C is the least populous, the report says “the window for a two-state solution is rapidly closing with the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and access restrictions for Palestinians in Area C [which] compromises crucial natural resources and land for the future demographic and economic growth of a viable Palestinian state”.
It says the EU needs “at a political” level to persuade Israel to redesignate Area C, but in the meantime it should “support Palestinian presence in, and development of the area”. The report says the destruction of homes, public buildings and workplaces result in “forced transfer of the native population” and that construction is effectively prohibited in 70 per cent of the land – and then in zones largely allocated to settlements of the Israeli military.
If we haven’t crossed that line, we’ll cross the line sooner or later where the two-state solution is no longer possible, at which point the only solution is the one-state solution. And then, are we talking about apartheid or democracy?
The French parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee also accused Israel of using water as “a weapon serving the new apartheid” two weeks ago. And all of this comes shortly after Israel’s public condemnation by every bloc of the United Nations Security Council – with the predictable exception of the United States – in December.
As the one-state reality seeps into the world’s consciousness, we can expect increasing numbers of Israel’s current allies to slowly inch – or, perhaps, quickly run – away from it. These developments offer a moment of opportunity, for Palestinians and all supporters of human equality. What can we do but try to make use of it?