Friday, March 20, 2015

Miko Peled: Time to give Palestinians their country back

More than the threat of war on Iran, Netanyahu’s re-election is a call for war on Palestinians everywhere. It is a call for war on human rights and international law. It is a mandate for the Israeli government to murder Palestinians. It gives Netanyahu license to continue Israel's seven-decade policy of racism and apartheid towards the people from whom they stole the land. It is also a call for people of conscience to impose boycotts and sanctions to divest and to isolation Israel. No more business as usual - it is time for outrage, for action, the type of action that brought down apartheid in South Africa. It is a call to finally allow Palestinians to have their country back.
Netanyahu can thank the U.S. House of Representatives for his victory. The boost from the "campaign stop" here in early March did the trick. The unprecedented exposure, weeks of discussion on CNN and other major networks, including the printed press - first prior to his arrival, then during his visit and speech and then the aftermath -  all of this was a gift to his campaign. He entered The House of Representative like Caesar entering Rome. Then upon his vanquishing and humiliating the president of the United States who was opposed to the visit and the speech, Netanyahu returned to Jerusalem where all of his opponents seemed like children in comparison.
Comparisons to Nazi Germany are a dangerous thing, particularly in this context. Still, in his speech to members of Congress Netanyahu crossed this dangerous threshold. In a well directed gesture that could not but have been planned, Netanyahu pointed to Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel who was seated in the gallery. “Elie,” Netanyahu called out, “your life and work inspires to give meaning to the words, never again.” “And” he added, and here he crossed the line, “I wish I could promise you, Elie, that the lessons of history have been learned. I can only urge the leaders of the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past. …not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.”
This reference without a doubt draws a line between President Obama and former British PM Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. He is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the German speaking Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany. However Adolf Hitler was not appeased but rather invaded Poland after which Britain declared war on Germany. Chamberlain was consequently forced to resign and Winston Churchill took his place as PM. Netanyahu is comparing Obama to Chamberlain and Iran to Nazi Germany.
Well, since he opened the door, other comparisons can be made as well.  The election of Netanyahu is not unlike that of other leaders who invoke a racist ideology, are elected democratically and then lead their nation and their region to catastrophe.  The U.S. must no longer appease Netanyahu’s Israel.
Israeli voters like power and they saw just that when Netanyahu returned from Washington DC. Israelis also vote in high numbers. This time they voted for a leader that promised promises to attack and kill Palestinian civilians, promised to deny Palestinians water, (Palestinians receive only 3 percent of the entire water supply though they make up more than 50 percent of the population), and deny Palestinians basic human rights we all take for granted. Netanyahu promises that 1.7 million people in Gaza will be subject to the brutally cruel siege, live in catastrophic conditions, and all this just minutes away from Israelis who live a life of plenty.
In many ways Israeli voters told the U.S. to go to hell. So will the U.S. continue to conduct "business as usual" with Israel or listen to the growing voice of the Palestine solidarity movement. Will the U.S. finally answer the call of countless Palestinian civil society and impose boycott, divestment, sanctions and once and for all isolate Israel? Perhaps now it is time to give Palestinians their country back.
Miko Peled is the son of the Israeli general Matti Peled and a peace activist, author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.

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