It is a very fine line to try to walk for a group that wants to take concrete action for peace and still identifies as a Zionist organization. Meretz USA does an admirable job of taking on that tension with their nuanced statement here. There are certainly critiques to be made, and I’m sure people will make them. But there is something more important here.
That something, which is all too often lost in the various political debates in Israel-Palestine, is a sincere attempt to reach across lines while maintaining one’s own identity.
Meretz USA is trying to do just that, in my view, with this statement. I particularly like the fact that the state they “denounce” attempts to bring down the state of Israel (kind of goes without saying if you’re pro-Israel, and I agree with them) while saying they merely “disagree” with using BDS as a tactic within the Green Line. I find that kind of nuance refreshing and it opens important doors for groups of various different views to be able to work together in areas they can without being bogged down about issues they disagree on.
I know many of my readers will find things to object to in Meretz USA’s statement, from a variety of different approaches to this vexing issue. I have my critiques as well, and I’ve shared them with Meretz USA. But let’s just for a moment, try and see where we have common ground rather than focusing on where we differ. Ultimately, I think a Zionist group trying to find a way to use economic pressure against the occupation is a very promising step forward that should be welcomed by all.
Buy Israel – Don’t Buy Settlements (They’re not the Same)
On February 15, 2011, Meretz USA President, Dr. Moises Salinas-Fleitman, and chair Theodore Bikelissued the following statement on behalf of the organization.
Based on our love of Israel, and our sincere, abiding and growing concern for the State of Israel’s secure and democratic future, Meretz USA for Israeli Civil Rights and Peace, a longstanding affiliate of the American Zionist Movement, wishes to clarify our position regarding various manifestations of the boycott/divestment/sanctions (BDS) tactics being employed around the world, including in Israel itself.
The Green Line between Israel and the West Bank/Gaza constitutes the geographic basis for a viable Israeli-Palestinian two-state compromise; four decades of Israeli settlement expansion are destroying that basis. Israel’s Occupation and settlement policies compromise Israel’s character as a democratic Jewish-majority state, while undermining relations between Israel and the future Palestinian state. These policies isolate Israel diplomatically in ways that are likely to have long-term security consequences. For these reasons, we believe it is of great importance to actively oppose the policies of Occupation and settlement while at the same time struggling to defend Israel against those seeking its destruction. Consequently we:
- Support the actions of Israeli performers, directors and writers who refuse to participate in performances held in Ariel or any other settlement beyond the Green Line.
- Support the actions of Israeli university professors who refuse to teach at or have professional ties with institutions of higher education in Ariel or any other settlement beyond the Green Line.
- Believe that American Jews, in order to express their support for the brave Israeli citizens refusing to cooperate with settlement policy, should refuse to purchase any goods or services, including tourism services, made in or by the settlements.
- Believe that American Jews should express their support for Israel’s continued existence within the Green Line by purchasing Israeli goods and services that are made within the Green Line.
- Disagree with calls to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel proper (within the Green Line), which we believe are misguided and ineffective. Such a broad set of actions amounts to a blunt punishment of all Israelis, rather than a targeted approach that focuses on the issue of settlements and Occupation, and is incapable of bringing those polices to an end.
- Denounce the use of BDS whenever employed as a tactic to bring an end to the State of Israel.
Israel is a legitimate state. However, this legitimacy does not extend to the settlements created in the occupied territories. Israeli citizens must not be compelled to work in the settlements, nor denied the legal right to boycott the settlements. Diaspora Jews have an important role to play. We must stand in support of Israelis who boycott the settlements, both in word and in deed.
We believe that a targeted boycott of the settlements (as opposed to a global boycott of sovereign Israel) is a legitimate tool to be used by Zionist organizations and individuals, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, to help bring the Occupation to an end and achieve a two-state solution. An indiscriminate boycott of Israel and Israelis runs the risk of strengthening those forces within Israel opposed to a genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and of alienating many mainstream Israelis of good will.
As Jews who care deeply about Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, we have an obligation to raise our voices and oppose policies that harm Israel and those under Occupation, and that are counter to our democratic and Jewish values. We realize that a number of settlements could one day become part of the State of Israel should there be equitable land swaps under a final-status peace agreement. Presently, however, the settlement and Occupation policies are undermining Israel’s existence, and as such we must play our part in bringing them to an end.
This position is time bound and will be revisited should the Israeli government institute a complete, effective, permanent settlement freeze and declare its commitment to the Green Line as the basis of a future two-state peace agreement.
Meretz USA is dedicated to two equally essential goals: 1) the achievement of a durable and just peace between Israel and all its neighbors, especially the Palestinian people, based on a negotiated two-state solution, and the end of Israel’s ongoing Occupation and settlement efforts that undermine the country’s national interests, sully the image of Zionism, and inevitably lead to the violation of the human rights of those under occupation, and 2) the realization of full human and civil rights, equality and social justice for all of Israel’s inhabitants regardless of ethnic/religious identity, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation.