Jewish mysticism, contemporary politics, and personal musings
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Progressive Zionist academics call for personal sanctions on leaders of the settlement movement in Israel
Members of the Scholars for Israel and Palestine, one of the faculty groups that belongs to the Third Narrative, sponsored by Ameinu, a progressive Zionist organization, have just issued the following call for personal sanctions on four leaders of the settlement movement in Israel: Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel, Moshe Feiglin, and Zeev Hever. Personal sanctions mean targeted actions against these particular individuals. The US and EU have implemented personal sanctions against some Russian figures for their role in the Russian annexation of Crimea - consisting of "visa restrictions and foreign asset freezes." These particular individuals have been singled out for their prominent leadership roles in the settlement movement and for their extremism. This is not a call for general sanctions on Israel, or for a boycott of Israel, or for divestment from any Israeli companies or companies that do business in Israel. The SIP and the Third Narrative, like Ameinu, are opposed to the BDS movement. I am one of the signatories of this call.
Scholars for Israel and Palestine (SIP) Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine, Pro-Peace
For More Information about this Declaration by Members of the SIP, please contact: Professor Gershon Shafir, email@example.com
Israel: A Time for Personal Sanctions December 8, 2014
A central obstacle to a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the continuing occupation of the West Bank. Accordingly, we call on the United States and the European Union to impose personal sanctions on a cluster of Israeli political leaders and public figures who lead efforts to insure permanent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and to annex all or parts of it unilaterally in violation of international law.
There is a compelling current precedent for such moves. In response to Russia’s unilateral annexation of Crimea and its ongoing campaign of aggressive destabilization in eastern Ukraine, the United States and the European Union implemented, among other measures, personal sanctions—visa restrictions and foreign asset freezes—against government officials, public figures, and others who play especially significant roles in promoting and implementing violations of international law. (1) We propose that similar personal sanctions be imposed on Israeli political leaders and other public figures who play central roles in Israel’s systematic, long-term violations of international law.
UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 allowed for a temporary Israeli occupation in the territories captured in the 1967 war, while calling for a negotiated peace settlement that would include Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories in return for recognition of Israel’s right, along with other states in the area, “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” These resolutions did not authorize permanent occupation, large-scale ongoing Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, or creeping annexation in the West Bank. Those policies plainly violate international law.
Continuing settlement and piecemeal annexation directly violate the Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention, which regulate the conduct of belligerent occupations, and also violate the ban on acquiring territory by force which is one of the foundations of the modern international order. In addition, they deliberately aim to prevent the kind of negotiated peace settlement envisioned by Resolutions 242 and 338. These policies threaten to lock both Israelis and Palestinians into an inescapable path toward catastrophe. They demand an urgent response.
That response, we believe, should not take the form of generalized boycotts and other sanctions that indiscriminately target Israeli society and Israeli institutions. Such measures are both unjust and politically counterproductive. In particular, campaigns for boycotts and blacklists of Israeli academia attack the most basic principles of academic freedom and open intellectual exchange.
Moreover, a response to Israel’s settlement and annexation policies should not suggest that Israel bears exclusive responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy, or that, if pressured, Israel could solve it unilaterally. Achieving a just and durable negotiated solution requires constructive efforts by actors on all sides of the intertwined Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts. However, if the door is to be held open to the possibility of a just, workable, and peaceful solution, one requirement is to prevent actions that would sabotage it. For this reason, we propose targeted sanctions to focus on political actors engaged in such sabotage.
We single out four powerful Israeli political leaders and public figures who promote these unjust, unlawful, and destructive policies in their most extreme and dangerous form. These four explicitly support policies of permanent occupation and unilateral annexation. They reject efforts to negotiate peace and actively sabotage US-led efforts to promote them. They advocate and implement unilateral actions designed to preclude a negotiated peace. They are therefore legitimate targets for personal sanctions by the US and the EU.
1. Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home Party and Minister of Economy, Religious Services, Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs. From 2010 to January 2012, Bennett served as the Director General of the Yesha Council (the umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and previously in the Gaza Strip as well). He led the struggle against the 2010 settlement freeze. In February 2012, he published “The Israel Stability Initiative,” which flatly rejects any possibility of ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank or allowing the creation of a Palestinian state. Instead, Israel would unilaterally annex and bring under its sovereignty Area C, which constitutes 62 percent of the area of the West Bank; Palestinian autonomy would be allowed in Areas A and B, but under the permanent security umbrella of the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet. (2) In November 2014 Bennett reiterated this program in a New York Times op-ed (3), and as a member of the government coalition he has continued to press strongly for a policy of creeping annexation. (4) Recently he threatened to break up the government coalition unless Israel continues building new and expanded settlements. (5)
2. Uri Ariel, a Member of the Knesset from the Jewish Home Party and Minister of Construction and Housing. In the past, he served as the Secretary General of both the Yesha Council and the Amana settlement movement. He explicitly advocates having “just one state between the Jordan River and the sea, and that is the State of Israel.” (6) He has been a consistent advocate of accelerated settlement building. As Minister, he is responsible for issuing building tenders for housing east of the Green Line, such as the 1,400 housing units authorized this year to be built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Moreover, Ariel sought to undermine US peacemaking efforts by announcing those tenders just four days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s January 2014 visit to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. (7) Ariel has also confessed to informing Israeli settlers about Israel Defense Forces’s attempts to evacuate outposts that are illegal even under Israeli law; thus he has worked behind the back of the government of which he is a member. (8) Finally, in July 2014, in a dangerously incendiary violation of long-standing Israeli policy, he publicly called for a Third Temple to be built on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. (9)
3. Moshe Feiglin, a Member of the Knesset from the Likud Party and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. Feiglin stands out for his straightforward and undisguised extremism. His annexationist program goes beyond Bennett’s. “The Feiglin Platform” of 2012 calls for complete annexation of both Gaza and the West Bank, and advances an unambiguous formula for permanent rule over a politically disenfranchised subject population. (10) In July 2014, Feiglin also called for removing most Arabs from Gaza and replacing them with Jews to solve the housing crisis in Israel. To Palestinians “choosing to remain” there, and to Palestinians in the West Bank who have lived there their whole lives, he offers just “permanent resident status” – or citizenship on condition that they accept the supremacy of the Jewish way of life throughout the land. (11) Feiglin has already been banned from entering the UK on the grounds that his sweeping anti-Arab and anti-Muslim diatribes “propagate views which foment and provoke others to serious criminal acts and also foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.” (12)
4. Zeev Hever, also known as Zambish, Secretary General of Amana since 1989. Since 1978, Hever has been one of the most persistent and influential organizers of settlement construction. Amana taxes settlers to enable its subsidiary, Binyanei Bar Amana, to become the major builder of houses in outposts that even Israeli governments view as illegal. In 1984, Hever was arrested as a member of the Jewish Underground and sentenced to 11 months in prison for attempting to plant an explosive charge in the car of Dr. Ahmed Natshe, a Palestinian leader from Hebron. Since then, he has abandoned direct participation in violence, but not the path of systematic illegality aimed at rendering any negotiated peace agreement impossible. (13)
Annexationist policies pursued by these four individuals, and others like them, have created a genuine emergency. They slam the door not only on peacemaking at present but for the foreseeable future. They rule out the prospect for any two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Therefore, it is not sufficient to reiterate calls for negotiations. It is equally and urgently imperative to oppose the occupation itself, and especially those policies that seek to make it permanent and irreversible. It is necessary for the U S and the EU to go beyond verbal protest. They must take active measures to penalize lawbreakers. Well-aimed sanctions can play a constructive role in this respect if they focus on figures who bear the greatest responsibility for policies that deepen and extend the occupation and render the march to catastrophe increasingly inescapable. Therefore we propose personal sanctions as elements of a larger campaign to preserve and advance the possibility of a negotiated peace, resulting in Israeli and Palestinian nation-states coexisting side-by-side. Only such an outcome can offer both Israelis and Palestinians the basis for a free, secure, and hopeful future.
The undersigned are members of the Scholars for Israel and Palestine, affiliated with The Third Narrative (14):
Gershon Shafir University of California, San Diego
Jeff Weintraub Independent Scholar
Michael Walzer Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Todd Gitlin Columbia University
Sam Fleischacker University of Illinois at Chicago
Alan Wolfe Boston College
Alan Jay Weisbard University of Wisconsin, Madison
Rebecca Lesses Ithaca College
Joe Lockard Arizona State University
Zachary J. Braiterman Syracuse University
Irene Tucker University of California, Irvine
Michael Kazin Georgetown University
Steven J. Zipperstein Stanford University
Jeffry V. Mallow Loyola University Chicago
Ernst Benjamin Independent Scholar
Rachel F. Brenner, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Chaim Seidler-Feller University of California, Los Angeles
Jonathan Malino Guilford College
Miriam Kastner University of California, San Diego