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Israel’s decision saddening but not surprising

Published: November 4, 2011
Section: Opinions

Last week, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) accepted Palestine as a legitimate member, causing something of a political storm. As you would expect, Palestinians rejoiced in light of this decision, which further legitimizes them in the international arena and strengthens their position as a possible full member of the United Nations. The Israelis, on the other hand, responded in a rather infantile manner. Their response: building 2,000 new, illegal housing units in East Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and Maale Adumim.

To me, this response seems outrageous, funny and expected, all at the same time. First, it is outrageous since expanding settlements is one of the core issues on the negotiations table. Even the United States, Israel’s most powerful ally, has condemned this decision (although I must also mention their cutting all funds to UNESCO, which amounts to around one quarter of UNESCO’s total funds). It is diplomatically outrageous because Israel is holding the Palestinian Authorities responsible for UNESCO’s generous decision to include them in their organization, damaging the peace process.

Second, this was a very funny decision to me, simply because of its extremely infantile nature. Many of The Hoot’s readers must already be aware of recent “price tag” activities—“price tag activities” being a euphemism to refer to violent crimes committed against Palestinians by Israel’s growing extreme right wing, mostly settlers. They include a recent mosque burning and the destruction of Palestinian olive fields. In the Israeli right-wing lexicon, however, these “price tag” activities have become synonymous with “acts of revenge,” justified, even when there is no defined preceding act that they are avenging. In the light of these “price tag” activities, Israel’s decision to increase settlements is funny because it is the diplomatic equivalent of “price tagging”—seemingly operating on the ideology that you’ve gain something, so I shall hurt you in response.

Ultimately, this is also a very expected response, simply because of the saddening shift to the (extreme) right in Israeli politics. This becomes very apparent if we, for example, look at the new laws the current government made; “The Nakba law,” for example, forbids any publicly funded organization to be sad on Israel’s independence day, in which Palestinians commemorate “the Nakba,” their exodus in 1948 during which, according to UNRWA, 711,000 Palestinians were removed from their homes. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it actually says in this law that a publicly funded organization cannot mourn on this day. Another example of such anti-democratic, borderline fascist laws is the “boycott law,” according to which whoever aligns themselves with the boycott movement may be sued in court; in other words, be careful if you publicly say bad things about settlement products if you are in Israel.

So my point is, ultimately, that such infantile, counter-productive decisions should not surprise anyone in light of the actions of Israel’s current infantile, counter-productive government. It is a “counter-productive” government because it continuously makes irresponsible decisions, hurting Israel’s interests in the long run diplomatically. The current situation, in which Israel and the United States fight desperately against the rest of the world, must stop. It simply does not make sense to me to keep on acting against the international consensus in an increasingly globalized world, despite the obvious benefits of cooperating with such a powerful ally. We are running out of time: Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to resign and dismantle the Palestinian Authority following 20 years of fruitless negotiations and false promises, and the Palestinian people are becoming dangerously frustrated. If this does not stop, we may enter a circle of intifadas and price tags. Israel must normalize its relations with the Arab world, perhaps accepting the proposed Arab Peace Initiative, which will solve the conflict and bring economic stability to the Middle East.