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Monday, November 24, 2014

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For boycotters, the ‘occupation’ began in 1948

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Gerald Steinberg

For those who believe that the anti-Israel boycotts and other forms of political warfare will end if an agreement is reached with the Palestinians, think again. Many of the organizations that lead these campaigns aren’t focused on the post-1967 “occupation,” but rather target all of 1948 Israel, from Kiryat Shmonah along the border with Lebanon (and Hezbollah) to Eilat at the southern tip.

For these political advocacy NGOs and their allies, any form of Jewish self-determination and sovereignty equality is, in their language, a form of racism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. And Israeli Jews who live in the Negev or Tel Aviv are “settlers.”

For example, the NGO known as Zochrot seeks to “raise public awareness of the [1948] Palestinian Nakba” (meaning the catastrophe) and supports a “right of return” – a total distortion of international law. They erase the Arab rejection of 1947 UN Partition Plan and the brutal war that followed, while attempts to flood Israel with millions of Palestinians are equivalent to seeking the elimination of any Jewish sovereignty. Arab refugees are sanctified, while roughly the same number of Jewish refugees who were expelled from Arab countries are wiped from the history books. Even if the peace negotiations succeed in defining borders and ending the “occupation,” Zochrot and its allies would continue their demonization.

Until recently, the tiny group of fanatics that run Zochrot had little visibility or impact, but their activities and impact have increased significantly, thanks to large budgets (close to $500,000 in 2011) for travel, publicity and one-sided “conferences.”

The core funders who enable Zochrot’s 1948-based demonization of Israel include European governments that claim to support a two-state agreement. The state-funded groups (including Christian humanitarian aid frameworks) come from Germany (via the Catholic Misereor group and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung), the United Kingdom (Christian Aid), Belgium, Ireland, Switzerland, France and Finland. Germany’s Remembrance, Responsibility and Future Foundation (EVZ), established primarily for restitution to forced labourers from the Nazi era, belatedly stopped funding for Zochrot in 2012.

While Zochrot is a particularly sharp example, it’s not unique in promoting demonization campaigns that target Israel. Indeed, supporters of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and “Israeli apartheid” events on university campuses often refer to “occupation” while seeking the destruction of Israel. And much of the funding comes from frameworks that receive their budgets from irresponsible European governments, as well as some private funders.

Another example of NGO-led “1948 occupation” campaigns exploits the complex issues surrounding land claims on behalf of Israel’s Negev Bedouin population. The Negev, with the city of Be’er Sheva, Ben-Gurion University and Soroka Medical Center, constitutes more than half of the country’s territory. As the Israeli Bedouin population grew significantly, due both to Israeli prosperity and to polygamy, with very high birth rates, illegal building, without planning or environmental considerations, has expanded. As is true for any other competent government, the Israeli leadership has sought to change course, in form of assisting the Bedouin by creating new towns with schools, clinics and other necessary facilities.

In response, political NGOs launched global campaigns attacking the plan, including language such as “ethnic cleansing,” “racial discrimination,” and “human rights violations.” In publications, videos, and presentations before the United Nations and European parliamentary groups, NGOs have falsely referred to the Negev Bedouin as “Palestinian victims” and Israeli Jewish residents in the Negev as “settlers.” The campaign erases 4,000 years of Jewish history in the Negev (from the arrival of Abraham in Be’er Sheva), thereby delegitimizing Israeli sovereignty. Noted Israeli columnist Ben-Dror Yemini reviewed a slick propaganda video produced by Rabbis for Human Rights portraying Israel “as the cruel anti-Semitic ruler, expelling and disinheriting and destroying and robbing.”

As in the case of Zochrot, funders bear responsibility for the damage caused by NGO warfare that exploits the language of human rights to target Israel. The European Union and its members (Germany again stands out), as well as the New Israel Fund (NIF), provide the money for the false claims and hypocritical Bedouin Negev campaigns.

By enabling fringe groups to mix the post-1967 “occupation” with the 1948 “green line,” NGO donors have led many centrist Israelis to question the claim that a two-state agreement will end the demonization campaigns. If European governments and the NIF want to change Israeli perceptions, they can’t allow their money to be used in these campaigns.

 

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