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How can an Israeli support the BDS movement?

Why would an Israeli who loves Israel support the divestment movement at Stanford? It is either hypocrisy or stupidity to think that the current movement will be satisfied without a full-fledged boycott on Israel. Why then, would an Israeli support a boycott of his own people? I have been asking myself this question for the past few months. How can I, an Israeli whose soul is deeply rooted in Israel, support an act that may lead to harm for myself and my own people? As an Israeli scientist, I may find myself in the obscure situation in which my own funding will be cut off, I will not be able to present at conferences, my parents and friends may greatly suffer from the situation. Supporting the BDS movement should therefore be pursued only with the assumption that this is a necessary stage in ending the destructive situation in Israel.

For once, we should ignore the moral discussion related to the occupation. Moral arguments rarely influence people with different ideologies and often even polarize the discussion. Instead, we should have a practical discussion about the future of Israel. One fact which is almost irrefutable is that the current status quo is not a static situation but a dynamic process. Israel is constantly increasing its hold in the West Bank, building more houses and settlements, moving more people. This reality leads to an almost inevitable situation in which the land from the Jordan River to the sea will at some point officially become part of Israel.

This is not a radical prediction, it is the common belief among those who know the reality on the ground, both on the right and the left sides of the political map. Indeed, all facts support this prediction: There are almost 400,000 Jews living beyond the Green Line and the possibility of a territory exchange has become more and more impossible. The current political climate in Israel and Palestine does not allow true negotiations between the two sides. Thus the possibility of one state has become the most probable solution.

Let’s think for a minute about how this big country will look. Its majority will be Arab, some already citizens; others will strive for citizenship in any way they can. For a few years, Israel may be able to maintain the Palestinians’ second-grade, non-citizen status, but at great cost. Israel’s ability to stop this process will become extremely limited as soon as it officially incorporates the territories into its declared boundaries. The world, which is already pushing for a solution, will not accept a situation in which the new country has declared its borders, yet is treating some of its inhabitants as second-grade citizens. The question will then become: How democratic can the new, united country be? Ideally, the answer to this question is an equal, democratic state. Realistically, a combined state would probably lead to even more suffering for both Palestinians and Israelis. Therefore, in order to create a better future for both nations, the current reality in Israel must be changed.

For many years I spent my energy writing and demonstrating against the constant increase of Israel’s control in what could have been Palestine. I believed that external forces should not interfere in the internal processes within Israel. As the situation became more severe, I came to realize that this is not working. I was exposed again and again to the unbearable life of the Palestinians in the occupied territories and the increase of Jewish settlement at the expense of a possible Palestinian state. Without external pressure on the Israeli government to stop the occupation, our choice is already made. We are effectively choosing a one-state solution. The path to this solution is beset by the death and suffering of many Israelis and Palestinians. If a BDS process leads to a short-term inconvenience to me, my family and my people, so be it, if it also leads to a better future for the people and country that I love.

Amit Goldenberg

Amit Goldenberg is a second-year Ph.D. student in the psychology department. Contact him at amitgold ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

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