FIFTY YEARS OF Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian territories is a sobering anniversary that warrants a thoughtful reassessment. Over the years, many have tried to end the Occupation and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Strategies for ending the conflict have included diverse tactics: forging relationships on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians, listening compassionately to the concerns of both sides, criticizing Israeli government policies, or pressing for sanctions against Israel with the goal of ending its government’s oppressive practices. As we take stock of these past efforts, it may be useful to identify four guiding principles that may inform our work to end the Occupation as we move forward.
1. Practice Tough Love: Avoid Both Harshness or Liberalism Toward Israel
Many strategies to end the Occupation have treated Israel either with unrelenting harshness (i.e., blaming Israel as the source of the problem) or excessive liberalism (i.e., uncritically backing Israel’s actions). Neither harshness nor liberalism is an effective strategy to change behavior.
A harsh response to the Occupation might be to ban all academic and cultural contacts with all Israelis, including Israelis engaged in peace efforts. A liberal response might be to condone Israel’s actions, maybe privately voicing concerns, but not wanting to make any public condemnations. A liberal response might also include deciding that Israel is doing the best it can, that it is the victim in the situation, and that the primary problem lies with the Palestinians. Neither of these responses will end the Occupation.
Campaigns like Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS), which have the goal of isolating Israel, are particularly harsh. Moreover, they can have limited effectiveness because isolating Jews from the rest of the world has been a component of anti-Semitism for hundreds of years.
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Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 2:65