Monthly Archives: March 2008

Women bring green educational institute to Arab sector. The role of a boycott is…?

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reports on a joint initiative between a group of 17 Israeli Arab women and the Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel to establish an educational institute in the Galilee region that will teach environmental conservation, recycling and ecology:

The women, aged 30 to 35, come from varied backgrounds – Druze, Moslem and Christian. They are being instructed by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

“This is the first group of Arab women to learn about environmental issues,” said Muadi. Explaining that in her neighborhood, environmental awareness is still in its infancy, she added: “We therefore decided to start with activities in the schools, because change has to begin with the students.”

After completing an SPNI course on environmental education, the women joined the staff of SPNI’s field school, which runs the environmental program in the village’s elementary school. The women gave several lessons to every grade, covering environmental topics such as nature, water, recycling, air pollution and ecology. Last week, the women and students went on a field trip that included a clean-up operation.

“The women’s involvement as part of SPNI’s teaching staff,” said Vasil Hazima, director of SPNI’s field school in Maghar”

The Green Party’s boycott Resolution C05 – part of a wider boycott and divestment initiative – currently acts against these types of partnerships. It is an entirely negative force that promotes hostility and inevitably contributes to pressure on Israel’s Arab (or Palestinian – depending on how they self-define) to turn their backs on such initiatives.

This pressure is evidenced in the experience of a delegation of philanthropists who were visiting Israeli Arab villages and institutions to research how best they might contribute to the kind of inclusive, equal society which is prerequisite of any kind of conflict resolution. There was a small but loud call to boycott the delegation. Here’s what Ami Nahshon, one of its members, had to say:

While the call to boycott fell on deaf ears among the vast majority of Arab public and civil society leaders, it taught all of us an important lesson: that the lines of conflict in Israel are not between the Arab and Jewish communities, but rather between those Jews and Arabs who embrace a vision of an inclusive and just society, and those who seem intent on pursuing an agenda of separatism and alienation. Our visit convinced us that it is our duty, as diaspora leaders, to embrace and support those who share this inclusive vision, and not to allow ourselves to be distracted by the separatist voices at the political fringes of both communities.

There is also the experience of peace activist Mohamad Darawshe part of an Israeli Jewish and Arab fact-finding mission to Northern Ireland who was boycotted by a Northern Irish International Relations academic for being Israeli.

And the experience of the Palestinian and Israeli workers and promoters of the Peace Oil initiative, a charity which was subject to a Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) sabotage attempt.

“Anything that the Zionist Federation could get excited about would be bound to inflame the PSC. Pro-boycotters tend to act jealous when Palestinians cooperate with Israelis and frequently attempt to break things up. Targetting Israeli-Arab-Palestinian cooperation and making an issue out of the only product in the Good Gifts catalogue with an Israel connection is a wedge-driving tactic and part of the general boycott strategy. It’s of a piece with their hard work to stop OneVoice dual peace concerts in Tel Aviv and Jericho, and their condemnation of Israeli academics for apathy while simultaneously encouraging and pressurising Palestinian academics to have nothing to do with them.”

OneVoice is a citizens’ Israeli-Palestinian peace movement which was sabotaged by boycotters when they attempted to stage joint peace concerts in Tel Aviv and Jericho.

What contribution has the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement had on improving Palestinian lives and advancing towards a just resolution to the conflict? None. It’s logic is to polarise, not reconcile. And meanwhile Israel’s reprehensible settlement activity in Har Homa and Givat Ze’ev continues, in the face of the Annapolis agreement to freeze activity, and despite the long-overdue evacuation of 18 ‘outposts’. The security barrier’s mission creep endures, causing it to bite deep into Palestinian territory. Hamas consolidates power in Gaza, tolerating or promoting the persecution of Christians, journalists and Trade Unionists. Gazan women take up the veil to avoid negative attention. Fatah, the secular political force in the West Bank weakens as the clerical, anti-democratic parties of Hamas and Hizb ut Tahrir gain ground. Iran funds weapons for Hamas and Hesbollah.

The Green boycott is the opposite of helpful. Any green activist should understand that it has no place in a movement which purports to support ecological and environmental activism. Its logic is conflict, separatism and alienation, and we should get rid of it as soon as possible.

The Green Party should turn its back on anything that contributes to this pressure by rescinding Resolution C05. If we care about a peace beween Palestinians and Israelis, we should work on an alternative vision. And we will.

Fencing Israel

An unpolemical piece by Haim Watzman in Orion Magazine about the impact of the security barrier on desert life. It ends:

“Like Boral (and Bar-Hai and all the other Israelis I quote here), I have fought for this land in wars and conflicts. When a piece of land is part of your history, your religion, your identity, when you’ve defended it and seen people die for it, you want to protect it, preserve it—and possess it. And yet these feelings do not trump the fact that another people live on this land and feel no less powerful an attachment to it. I do not wish to be a part of a society founded on an injustice, so I support the Palestinians’ right to have their own country, even if it means giving up this place to which I am so fiercely attached.

As a former soldier, I know that added security for my country often means misery for the Palestinians. The fence is meant to protect me, but it will scar the land we share. As a lover of and frequent hiker over its mountains and through its canyons, I cannot bear to see the desert also under attack. But I do not want to return to the days of the bus bombings, when I had to fear for the lives of my children when they took public transportation to and from school. There are no ideal solutions here, only risks, and a choice between a set of unattractive options. That is part of our tragedy.”

BDS would end funding and partnership for anti-pollution project

Cooperation along the lines of the Stream Restoration Project undertaken by Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Ben Gurion’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Palestinian NGO Water and Environmental Development Organization (WEDO), and Tel Aviv University’s Institute for Conservation and Nature Research.

Background in last December’s Haaretz.

The ultimate aim of this research is to lay the foundations for an effective river restoration strategy for Israel and Palestine. This research is funded by the Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC) Program of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

MERC projects must include at least one Israeli and one Arab partner. It’s obvious that the “broad” boycott, divestment and sanctions “similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era” as called for by the BDS campaign and supported by the Green Party in Resolution C05, would harm this project, its developing partnerships, the state of the water, and the plants and animals living in it.

BDS looks less and less like good Green policy.

Hat tip: Hamish Q Cumber.

Green leadership, Stop the War Coalition and Ken Livingstone

Stop the War is an exceptionally bad, exceptionally immature critique of the War on Terror. For a better one, go and listen to Dan Hind speaking at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts on How Enlightenment was Hijacked and How We Can Reclaim It.

Critiques don’t come nicely packaged. Just because the war for Iraq was wrongly-premised, it doesn’t mean we should pull out of Afghanistan. It doesn’t mean that Hesbollah are heros.

Why is our speaker Caroline Lucas associating with StWC in such a desperately populist way? Why, in this video, does her bid for the mainstream sound so much like the futile, robot anti-Imperialism of the Socialist Worker Party and RESPECT? Where is the environmental critique? Where, since she has stepped up to the podium in her capacity as a politician, a policy-maker, are the answers? Her only answers: demand justice for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. Suspend the EU agreement with Israel. There has never been a time like the present time for British Greens, but Caroline Lucas is looking vaguely abroad without insight.

StWC is a bad association. It is an organisation that suppresses dissent, whitewashes Iran – indeed Caroline Lucas whitewashes Baathist Iraq before 2003 as a “proud country” – which invites speakers from antisemitic terrorist organisation Hesbollah, and one of whose central personalities is George Galloway, a demagogue who supports lying, upholds the values of Stalin and courts the votes of ultra-conservative Muslims by selling out on gay people and evolutionary theory.

StWC, Respect, Respect Renewal, the Socialist Workers Party and Caroline on behalf of the Greens all blame UK foreign policy for the London bombings (while neglecting to consider the role of, say, Saudi Arabia and its funding of hard Islam for September 11th, Madrid or London acts of terror to name only three). Here’s what Hassan Butt, former Al Quaeda member who now works to argue young men out of Al Quaeda, has to say about people who do this:

‘How we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy,’ Butt recalled in an outburst that stuck in my mind. ‘By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the “Blair’s bombs” line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamist theology.’

[I decided that my comment on London Greens recommendation about the mayoral elections was out of my remit for this site. MV]