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The authentic Jewish voice for peace

Published: November 19, 2010
Section: Opinions


Just this past week, we had an “Israeli Occupation Awareness Week” at Brandeis University. The organizers stopped short of titling the week “Israel Apartheid Week,” but the content and arguments were the same. The week was full of passion, misinformation and, most tellingly, a lack of discussion about the crimes of Hamas—the true spoiler in the peace process.

We already have a Jewish voice for peace. This voice for peace maintains the premise of two states for two peoples. It envisions a Jewish State that recognizes the nationalist desires of the Jewish People, and a separate Palestinian State that recognizes the nationalist desires of the Palestinian people.

A true “voice for peace” would not seek to undermine the negotiations and compromises that are taking place to implement two states for two peoples. Calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and branding it as an “apartheid” state, ruin all the constructive work that is being done to implement peace through a two-state solution.

Israel has no past or future desire to annex the territories in the West Bank. The apartheid analogy with South Africa ends right there. Branding Israel as an “apartheid state” derives from the worldview that a Jewish State has no right to exist. Remember that even the United Nations granted recognition to Israel as a Jewish State. The goal of those who call Israel an apartheid state is to force Israel to grant citizenship to the Palestinians of the West Bank. All those with reason and with a desire for peace know that this would lead to civil war and a possible extermination of the Jews of Israel. In short, continuing to call Israel an apartheid state and forcing it to grant citizenship to the Palestinians of the West Bank will not end in peace. The pro-BDS community is not a voice for peace. It is a voice calling for more war and more bloodshed.

On the other hand, the true voice for peace is seeking to establish legitimate borders for two separate, independent states. Multiple governments of Israel have been elected on platforms calling for a mutually negotiated agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that would satisfy the nationalistic needs of each people. These Israeli governments have been willing to let a Palestinian state come into existence alongside a partitioned Israel. In response to these painful Israeli compromises, the Palestinians elected Hamas, a party which refuses to negotiate with Israel and declares that it will wage war until Israel is wholly destroyed and replaced by an Islamist Palestinian State. According to the well-renowned Israeli scholar Gideon Shimoni, “Hamas is a movement that bases itself upon a policy that has genocidal potentiality. This should be totally indefensible from the point of view of fair minded liberals. Thus public demonstrations and boycotts should be against Hamas, not against Israel’s government.”

A true voice for peace would indeed call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Hamas, not Israel. A true voice for peace would seek to cripple and delegitimize Hamas, so that a negotiated compromise of two states for two peoples could be implemented. Those moderate Palestinians who strive for peaceful independence would be overjoyed to welcome an international boycott against Hamas. It is Hamas that prevents the Palestinians from achieving an independent state, not Israel.

Those who propose boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel are not voices for peace. They are voices of bigotry, hatred, anti-Semitism, anti-liberalism, racism, intolerance and irrationality. They waste their energies, time and talents on a cause that can only bring negative results to both Jews and Palestinians. If they truly desire peace, they should rather focus their efforts on two states for two peoples, building rapport with liberal moderates on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. By delegitimizing a compromising, liberal, humanist Israeli state, they are in fact legitimizing a fascist, racist, intolerant, uncompromising, destructive, genocidal Hamas state. They legitimize that which they ignore by their silence.

Editor’s note: The author is a Schusterman Israel Scholar and Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis.