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On Israel’s 60th Anniversary of Independence

Israeli Crimes and Boycott

Wednesday 2 April 2008, by Michel Warschawski

Jewish residents of Tel Aviv on 29 November 1947, following the United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine into two separate states, one Jewish and one Arab. Throughout the world, Israel is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its birth. These commemorations are based on a double omission that renders theses celebrations unacceptable from any ethical perspective. First, they avoid mentioning the terrible fact that the creation of the State of Israel was made possible and intrinsically linked to the dispossession of the indigenous Arab population and its transformation into a people of refugees. Speaking about the creation of Israel while ignoring the fate of the Arabs of Palestine is like speaking about the creation of the United States of America while ignoring the Native Americans, a historical falsification and an ethical failure. Second, this anniversary is not celebrated in a vacuum, but at a moment during which Israel is one of the states systematically violating the basic rules of international law, humanitarian law and human rights, as confirmed by the International Court of Justice.

Neither its genesis nor its present behavior provides a good reason to celebrate the State of Israel or to make it the guest of honor of international book fairs, in Paris or in Turin. Israel is a guest of dis-honor, and as such justifies the calls for boycott that were made by Arab writers and others. To boycott Israel or not is not a principled decision but a tactical question, depending on one criterion only: how can one be the most efficient in denouncing Israel and isolating it in the international arena. Personally, I have twice changed my position concerning an eventual boycott of the Paris book fair. Originally I decided not to attend, stating though that I do not consider those making the opposite choice as being wrong. After having been used by fundamentalist supporters of the boycott in their accusations against progressive non-boycotters (like Amira Hass, Eyal Sivan, Yael Lerer and others) as collaborators (sic), I decided to change my mind and attend the Paris book fair.

I do not regret this decision at all. The various activities organized by the opponents of Israeli colonialism, at the site of the book fair and outside of it were a tremendous success, attended by thousands of people who could not have been addressed if there would have been a mere boycott of the book fair. These alternative activities were the only critical-note in the loud pro-Israeli festival, and they received plenty of publicity.

Instead of spending precious time in arguing the pros and cons of boycott—which, as I said is a tactical question—the solidarity movement should, in each country, evaluate the weak points of the Israeli political, economic and cultural presence and connections, and unite their efforts to attack these weak points and effectively isolate Israel in the international arena. Efficiency should remain the key word in the strategy of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

For the next 10 months, the Israeli propaganda machine will organize plenty of celebrations for the 60th birthday of the Jewish State. To counterpoise this propaganda, all over the world, one should hear our voices saying, loud and clear: “there is nothing to celebrate, but a lot to do in order to repair what has been destroyed by 60 years of Israeli actions.”

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