The case for US government sanctions on Israel

Activism

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) is an important, nonviolent tool to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict under the umbrella of international law and human rights.  The movement is growing in Palestine, Israel, Europe, the United States, and other countries because it is a readily available to businesses, organizations, and local activists.  According to veteran Israeli journalist Uri Avnery, BDS is also Prime Minister Netanyahu’s latest, post-Iran boogeyman to panic both Israeli and Diaspora Jews.

The BDS movement marks its tenth anniversary this month with a list of 100 successes.  Nevertheless, Amjad Alqasis recently pointed out in Mondoweiss that “the most urgent issue that needs to be raised today is the ‘S’ in the BDS acronym, or the campaigning for Sanctions against Israel.”

We agree.  It is time for the BDS movement to step up its game.  In particular, Noam Chomsky recently pointed out that nearly all BDS activities are restricted to consumer boycotts (B) and institutional divestment (D).  To extend his analysis, in practice the movement’s acronym is BD, not BDS, because of the lack of advocacy and activity for the U.S. government to enact sanctions (S) on Israel.  In our view, this omission is unfortunate because the historical record is clear.  Government sanctions are far more effective than individual or institutional actions to change the behavior of governments.

For example, in 1986 Congress overturned President Reagan’s veto to adopt the Comprehensive anti-Apartheid Act of 1986.  It resulted in the U.S. government imposing dozens of tough sanctions on South Africa that soon played a major role in ending legal apartheid in that country.

Based on this precedent, U.S. government sanctions directed at Israel would dramatically change the political dynamic of the Israeli-Palestine conflict.  Once implemented, the United States would scale back the diplomatic, financial, military, and intelligence support that has enabled 47 years of Israeli military occupation in Gaza and the West Bank, constructing an apartheid system in those areas.   It would also end the U.S. government’s resupplying of Israel with arms used against civilians in the midst of war and shielding Israel from political and humanitarian accountability at international forums.

Josh Ruebner, the Policy Director of the US Campaign Against the Israeli Occupation, and other analysts have pointed out that U.S. government support for Israel has encouraged Israel to deepen its violent occupation of the West Bank, strengthen its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, expand its immoral blockade of Gaza, and engage in discrimination against Palestinian Israelis.  Enacting sanctions on Israel, that is ending the U.S. government’s unflinching support of Israel, should be the key action item for organizations leading the BDS movement, yet most of them are conspicuously silent on this topic.

Nevertheless, the call for US government sanctions on Israel has already begun.  In addition to Amjad Algassis’s recent article in Mondoweiss, for years the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has called for enforcement of the U.S. Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts.  That demand was reinforced by prominent Christian clergy in 2012.  These laws restrict foreign U.S. military aid to legitimate defense and prohibit military aid to countries that abuse human rights.  Israel fails these two tests, so the enforcement of these laws would seriously curtail the over $3 billion in annual U.S. military transfers to Israel.

Just recently Partners for a Progressive Israel, a Zionist organization, called for sanctions as a way to coerce Israeli and Palestinian officials into serious negotiations to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state.

The time is long overdue for the pluralistic BDS movement to follow the lead of these organizations and now take well-defined actions to change U.S. government policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  We urge leaders of the BDS movement in the United States to prominently include U.S. government sanctions on Israel in all of their current BDS advocacy and actions.

So far, the successes of the BDS movement have not caused Israel to alter its policy towards Palestinians.  Instead, the Netanyahu government and its hard-core American supporters, like Sheldon Adelson,  have dug in their heels by devoting substantial funds to promote anti-BDS legislation and programs.

Therefore, it is now time for public demands on the U.S. government to introduce sanctions on Israel to end the occupation.  President Obama said as much when he promised to “reassess” U.S. policy on Israel-Palestine and Mideast diplomacy following the March 17 Israeli elections.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Mondoweiss today.

LA Jews for Peace understands that the Israel lobby will strenuously oppose any U.S. government sanctions on Israel.  But it is nevertheless worth waging this critical fight because sanctions would not only end U.S. government bias towards Israel, but also become a critical policy change to end the occupation.  In seeking wide support for sanctions, the LA Jews for Peace statement below proposes transferring the $3 billion in annual military support to Israeli and Palestinian humanitarian projects.

The goal of the LA Jews for Peace statement is to initiate a broad call for sanctions among groups and individuals dedicated to ending the occupation and the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, so all people in the region can live a safe and secure life.

Text of LA Jews for Peace Statement on Sanctions, June 24, 2015:

A Call for United States Government Sanctions on Israel

Decades of United States efforts have failed to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian areas and failed to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with both sides living in peace, security, and prosperity.  For the good of all parties – Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans – we call on the United States government to impose sanctions on Israel until the conflict is resolved through compliance with United Nations resolutions.

LA Jews for Peace calls on President Obama to follow through on his March 19, 2015, comments to Prime Minister Netanyahu, that the US would reassess its options regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, including diplomatic protection at the United Nations[1].  But President Obama has already stepped back from that position by shielding Israel from accountability at the UN.  His administration successfully lobbied to keep Israel off the list of armies that kill and maim children, less than a year after Israel’s assault on Gaza killed 540 children and wounded 2,955 [2].

The U.S. should now use government sanctions to persuade Israel to permit a sovereign Palestinian state, just like the US successfully used government sanctions to limit Iran’s nuclear program and to end South African apartheid.  LA Jews for Peace proposes that the Obama Administration begin these sanctions by lifting Israeli immunity at the Security Council through automatic US vetoes.

LA Jews for Peace also joins the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and prominent Christian clergy[3] in calling for enforcement of the Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts.  These laws restrict U.S. military aid to legitimate defense and prohibit military aid to countries that abuse human rights.  Rather than stop arming Israel, as dictated by U.S. law, the Administration is buying-off Israeli opposition to an Iran nuclear deal with new shipments of American first-strike weapons[4], including the F-35 and bunker-buster bombs.

There are many other sanctions that the United States can take to change the dynamics of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and induce Israel to end the occupation.  LA Jews for Peace also calls for the Obama Administration to enact sanctions on Israel that:

  • Transfer funds from illegal arms exports to local humanitarian agencies and organizations benefiting both Israelis and Palestinians.
  • End exemptions for US citizens who serve in the Israeli army.
  • Revoke the tax-exempt status of U.S. philanthropies that donate funds to the Israeli army and to settlements.

If these sanctions do not end the occupation, then the US government should turn to the same sanctions it imposed on South Africa.  For example, our government could:

  • Ban visits by Israeli officials who advocate racist and militaristic policies.
  • Freeze Israeli assets in US banks and limit Israeli financial transactions.
  • Ban commercial trade with the United States.

 

* Please send questions and comments to: [email protected]

[1]  Ha’Aretz, March 19, 2015: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.647965

[2]  NY Times, June 8, 2015: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/world/middleeast/israel-and-hamas-are-kept-off-a-grim-list.html

[3]  United Methodist Church Holy Land Task Force: https://www.umhltf.org/UMs_Holy_Land_Task_Force.html#15_Leaders_Ltr_to_Congress

[4]  NY Times, June 9, 2015: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/10/world/middleeast/general-martin-dempsey-reassures-israel-on-security.html

Note: This article is an expanded version of a recent call for sanctions by LA Jews for Peace  (http://lajewsforpeace.org/Essays/2015-SanctionsStatement.pdf)

About Jeff Warner and Dick Platkin

Jeff Warner and Dick Platkin are members of LA Jews for Peace.  They welcome comments and questions at [email protected]

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37 Responses

  1. Citizen
    July 11, 2015, 12:05 pm

    Way past time to do this.

  2. Princess
    July 11, 2015, 12:41 pm

    Israel is a settler-colonial apartheid state that’s premised on white supremacy.

    • Mooser
      July 14, 2015, 1:52 pm

      “Israel is a settler-colonial apartheid state that’s premised on white supremacy.”

      I don’t know that any of the Zionists stressed “white supremacy” as their aim (although the concepts are, each in its scale, quite similar) They seemed to have a different kind of supremacy in mind, one a bit more restrictive than just “white”.

  3. ivri
    July 11, 2015, 1:38 pm

    @just, citizen
    Sweet dreams guys. Two more anti-Israel Jews… It appears that the only way to grab attention in this respect is to have Jews support it. But what political clout the Jews for Peace have? If I am not wrong just about all the mainstream Jewish organizations in the US – ADL, JAC, AIPAC, ZOA, HILLEL, etc. – oppose BDS.
    Interestingly, the same phenomenon applies even in generally anti-Israel-inclined Europe – in just about ALL of them the mainstream Jewish organizations stand by Israel.
    In a peculiar way it confirms a broader historical rule, namely that the trans-historical Jewish journey somehow always manages to keep its core intact despite immense external pressures and bitter internal disputes.

    • for-peace
      July 11, 2015, 2:56 pm

      “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

      Mahatma Gandhi

    • ivri
      July 11, 2015, 4:13 pm

      Gandhi was a man of peace. Look at these guys and decide for yourself if the analogy applies.

      • zaid
        July 11, 2015, 11:56 pm

        ivri

        Ghandi supported the palestinian cause.
        and if he was alive today he would have been labeled an anti semite.

      • for-peace
        July 12, 2015, 3:21 pm

        This indeed illustrates the mechanism through which Gandhi’s words come true.

        At the onset, identity determines for the masses, who is a man of peace and who is a terrorist. Gandhi was not embraced as a man of peace by the British Colonials at once. He was jailed.

        Then, some distinguish themselves from the masses and see that it is actions and principles that should be the basis of that determination not the shape of a nose or the off shoot of Aramaic one speaks. This is what Mondoweiss is about.

        Eventually the advantage of truth wins over more and more among the masses and wins. The pace at which this happens depends on a lot of complex factors, but the principle remains: “the truth shall set you free” and free is what humans strive to be.

    • ivri
      July 11, 2015, 6:37 pm

      @Giles
      Get real. The problem of Arabia has very little to do with the Jews in the US – they largely stems from altogether other sources. Israel or the Jews is a convenient fig leaf and scapegoat but in the Arab countries themselves they stopped using it (as starkly different from the past) – they know better and got matured out of it (which is a good sign for the future). Some people here don`t seem to have reached that stage.

    • Citizen
      July 11, 2015, 9:18 pm

      @ ivri

      RE your: “Sweet dreams guys. Two more anti-Israel Jews… It appears that the only way to grab attention in this respect is to have Jews support it.”

      I’m not Jewish. You are Israeli; and, I assume, Jewish. Do you have dual citizenship? I don’t. I pay taxes. Do you? To which government? Did you ever read what Petraeus had to say about how US rubber-stamping of Israel paints a target on the backs of US troops overseas? Or that the first question out of any Middle East diplomat meeting a US representative questions US rubber-stamping of Israel? When’s the last time the IDF fought along side US troops? Did you know Israel is the top beneficiary of total US foreign aid in entire US history? How many Americans know that? Do you?

      • Mikhael
        July 13, 2015, 1:06 am

        Citizen July 11, 2015, 9:18 pm . You are Israeli; and, I assume, Jewish. Do you have dual citizenship? I don’t. I pay taxes. Do you? To which government?

        Israeli-US dual citizens , like all people who hold dual citizenship of the USA and another country, are required to file US tax returns with the IRS on income they earn outside the US. The US is unique in this regard, as far as I am aware. Other countries that permit dual citizenship, unlike the US, allow their citizens who live and work abroad to not file taxes. New FATCA rules also require foreign banks to disclose to the IRS the accounts held by US citizens. For much of the year, I live and work in the USA and even when I live in Israel, much of my work is outsourced consultancy work for US-based firms, so I would have to file and pay my US taxes regardless. But my Israeli bank sent me a letter announcing that it has to report my meager account balance to the IRS and I know of other dual citizens who were unable to open accounts in Israeli banks because the banks don’t want the headache of dealing with US citizens. Even my Israeli-born daughters who have never set foot in the US will be subject to this if I take out US citizenship for them. (So far, I only took out a US passport for the eldest when she traveled to the US with me.)

    • RoHa
      July 11, 2015, 10:54 pm

      “If I am not wrong just about all the mainstream Jewish organizations in the US – ADL, JAC, AIPAC, ZOA, HILLEL, etc. – oppose BDS. Interestingly, the same phenomenon applies even in generally anti-Israel-inclined Europe – in just about ALL of them the mainstream Jewish organizations stand by Israel.

      For anti-Semites like me, this is evidence of the moral depravity of Jews. They will support, or at least excuse, any evil, so long as it has the label “Jewish” attached. Only a tiny handful will stand up for decency and humanity.

    • just
      July 12, 2015, 4:00 pm

      Thanks for the guffaw, ivri!

  4. amigo
    July 11, 2015, 2:06 pm

    Al Jazeera has an interesting video on BDS.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2015/07/israel-bds-boycott-movement-150711043138691.html

    Husam Zumlot puts Dan Diker in his place as Diker insists on referring to the Occupied West Bank as , “Judea , Samaria” and accuses BDS proponents of carrying out , “Economic Terrorism ” against Israel and of destroying –get this–“The emerging Palestinian State.He insists that Palestinians should come back to the table and negotiate. Zumlot,s response is brilliant.

    • just
      July 11, 2015, 2:32 pm

      The video has a message that it won’t play in my location/country. ;-( Many thanks for the info, amigo.

      • amigo
        July 11, 2015, 2:55 pm

        Sorry that does not work for you. Is AJ in the US .I recall vaguely that they applied for a licence to broadcast some 10 years ago–maybe even longer than that but met with the usual zionist supporters whining and accusations of AJ being run by terrorists.

        Note up post , ivri is self injecting his myopia inducing pills .He just cannot see that train coming down the track and picking up speed.It,s going to be messy when the proverbial shtf and ivri is right in the thick of it.

        C,mon train.

      • just
        July 11, 2015, 3:27 pm

        Toot- toot!!!

        All aboard!

    • Bornajoo
      July 13, 2015, 10:06 am

      I saw this video Amigo. I agree that Zumlot was totally brilliant. He was just so human as opposed to that disgusting creature speaking for the Israeli side, Dan Diker. Everything that came out of Diker’s mouth wanted to make me puke

      I’m wondering if our American friends can watch this video on YouTube? It’s really worth watching if it can be found

      There is a miniscule chance of sanctions while Obama is POTUS but that changes to a non existent chance of sanctions if Psycho-zio Hillary takes over

      • bintbiba
        July 13, 2015, 10:33 am

        Bornajoo, Amigo ,

        Give this a try for the Youtube France 24 interview with Ali Abu Nimah . Hopefully the people in the US will be able to view it. I tried !

        https://youtu.be/IbT2jNaz_jg

        Well, Well… It looks by trial and error I succeeded !

  5. piotr
    July 11, 2015, 2:53 pm

    Some argue that in the light of how much the world depends on technologies developed in Israel, any boycott would be hypocritical and futile. But some argue that such technologies, if any, were developed mostly by immigrants educated elsewhere, while the education level in Israel is declining, and the current crop of scientists and engineers not really being the envy of the world. Consider today’s story:

    Israeli Drone Crashes in Lebanon for 2nd Time in 3 Weeks

    An Israeli drone crashed in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli on Saturday, the Lebanese army said, in the second such incident in three weeks.

    “At around 8:30 am (0530 GMT), a drone belonging to the Israeli enemy went down in the port of Tripoli, and the army has taken the necessary measures,” the military said in a statement, without elaborating.

  6. Rusty Pipes
    July 11, 2015, 7:15 pm

    Great statement about sanctions by LAJP. Frankly, I wish you had stopped there without bringing Chomsky’s arguments about BDS into the discussion. You note that End the Occupation and some church groups, like United Methodists, have been urging various types of sanctions for years.

    What you fail to mention is that most American groups involved in BDS are part of the coalition of groups that have been a part of End the Occupation. I have not heard the leadership of any of these groups telling people to ignore Sanctions, to not bother with contacting politicians about I/P policy and just focus on the B and D of BDS. (I have heard many lay people complain about being worn out trying to get any response from their representatives on ANY issue related to I/P — so they are not only relieved, but energized by the potential of doing something with their consumer dollars to Boycott Apartheid or their individual or collective investments to Divest from the occupation.)

    It is worth noting that politicians, who are required actors for enacting sanctions, are not known for their courage. If the people lead, the leaders will follow. The B and D of BDS were used in the South long before Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. The B and D of BDS were active long before Congress finally enacted sanctions against South Africa.

    It is a worthy task for the BDS movement to step up actions for Sanctions. The growing successes and public education from Boycott and Divestment initiatives may increase the calls from the general electorate for politicians to take a principled stand on I/P and support for those politicians who are willing to resist pressure from the Israel Lobby (and thank you for acknowledging that such a thing exists — Chomsky hardly does). In the meantime, working on Boycott and Divestment makes dealing with recalcitrant politicians a less discouraging and draining task.

    • Citizen
      July 11, 2015, 9:45 pm

      The most I have ever got from my contacting my government reps about the I-P problem and its handling by US government is a boilerplate message not responsive to my message. It really sucks! They certainly tell me my wishes may be ignored with no consequences. Very insulting. I know SCOTUS, WH, & Congress do not represent me, nor anyone I know personally.

      • Rusty Pipes
        July 13, 2015, 9:57 am

        For the most part, little to no response. And yet, they are the ones on whom the American people must rely to enact legal sanctions — as they eventually did to South Africa. I wonder what response Chomsky has gotten from his congresscritters about Sanctions against Israel for its war crimes and occupation.

  7. NickJOCW
    July 12, 2015, 5:03 am

    A settler with an Israeli passport wishing to travel to Europe does not require a visa. This seems wrong since they are living in areas occupied illegally and many are arguably terrorists and really shouldn’t be welcomed. If all holders of Israeli passports were required to apply for a visa then it should be possible to sift out the settlers.

    • amigo
      July 12, 2015, 6:56 am

      “If all holders of Israeli passports were required to apply for a visa then it should be possible to sift out the settlers.”NJ

      I prefer!!.

      It should be possible to shift out all the settlers.

      • just
        July 12, 2015, 7:55 am

        +1, amigo!!

        (btw~many non- illegal settler- Israelis might also be terrorists, too. I can’t believe that Israelis don’t need visas to travel in Europe anyway.)

  8. LA PLAYA
    July 12, 2015, 5:20 am

    I get the same boilerplate letters from my Senators and Reps. Always the same la-la-la about US and Israel joined at the hip, our best ally, America’s best friend, and generally concluding with the standard ‘what are you, an anti-semite?’

    Listen to me, US Senators and US Representatives. I am not an anti-semite, but a concerned American citizen who backs justice for the Palestinians, and strongly objects to my tax money being sent to the government of Israel to kill hundreds of Palestinian children.

    My only encouraging news so far: one brave Senator from my state DID NOT attend the Congressional love-in for Netanyahu earlier this year. This Senator replied to my protesting email with thoughtful consideration; he supported an American president rather than a foreign politician. My other Senator replied to my email with the standard hasbara boilerplate, and she was there for Netanyahu, yo-yoing up and down for the standing ovations with the rest of the bought-and-paid-for US congress audience.

  9. mariapalestina
    July 13, 2015, 10:38 am

    Thank you, Jeff & Dick. (Good to see you both Saturday evening at the Iftar dinner with Dr Mustafa Barghouti.)

    Thought you might be interested to know that Ted Lieu, who replaced recently retired U.S. Congressman & good friend of Israel Henry Waxman, is engaging in Facebook chat with constituents. Not sure how long he’ll keep this up, but so far he is being very responsive to comments made on his page. On Saturday I had an interesting exchange with Congressman Lieu concerning Iran and Israel. As an alternative to phone calls, emails & letters to the office of Waxman, it’s refreshing to be able to have a dialogue with Lieu in real time. Sadly, signs point to Lieu being in the pro-Israel camp.

    • just
      July 13, 2015, 11:47 am

      Thank you, Jeff & Dick. (Good to see you both Saturday evening at the Iftar dinner with Dr Mustafa Barghouti.)

      How cool! Thanks so much for sharing that great Ramadan/ solidarity/activist news, mariapalestina!

      (I’m grinning so broadly that it’s beginning to hurt!)

  10. jake41
    July 13, 2015, 11:00 am

    Right now the case for the USA to apply sanctions on Israel is like Israel applying sanctions upon itself.

  11. michelle
    July 14, 2015, 1:36 am

    .
    if the government won’t sanction unjust governments the people should
    if the government won’t represent it’s people then the people must represent themselves as much as they are able
    the people must sanction Israel and it’s supporters every & all
    we must BDS all our leaders in every group that ignores/hides/supports this injustice in our name they must be made to hear us
    and those around us must hear & see how despite the efforts of many this injustice is allowed in their name
    .
    it is to bad America has to buy ‘friendship’
    .
    G-d Bless
    .

  12. Sibiriak
    July 14, 2015, 2:21 am

    …it is now time for public demands on the U.S. government to introduce sanctions on Israel to end the occupation
    —————–

    Indeed. But let’s be clear about one thing: if sanctions are ever introduced “to end the occupation”, the U.S. government, unlike the official BDS movement, will NOT be agnostic about the required solution; the explicit goal will be a two-state settlement based on the so-called “international consensus”: ’67 borders, land swaps, large settlement blocs annexed by Israel, largely symbolic “right of return” w/ compensation etc.

  13. Pippilin
    July 17, 2015, 6:30 pm

    There has been some divisiveness going on among the US coalition of organizations that claim to support BDS. The whisperings going around appear to concern the allegation that some groups want to “go easy” on Israel while others do not. The latter group is saying that the former groups are intent on removing them from the coalition. I am making a calculated guess that this is the background for not having had much action in the ‘sanctions’ department. But I don’t know for sure.

    This article at http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/2015/7/17/end-the-jewish-occupation-of-the-solidarity-movement convinced me to drop membership in one organization.

    http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/2015/7/17/end-the-jewish-occupation-of-the-solidarity-movement

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