Guest Post by Aliza Bat-Ami: Another View of the BDS Campaign

A couple of weeks ago, on Wednesday, the 16th of January, I posted a controversial video called “Israel & Palestine: a very short introduction“. At that time, a very dear, longtime friend of mine who writes under the name Aliza Bat-Ami left a detailed comment, disagreeing with the message of that video. You can read her comment here

In the interest of respectful and open dialogue even (especially!) when people strongly disagree on important matters, I invited Aliza to write a guest post of rebuttal. I am honored to present it here. You are welcome to leave your comments here, or to email Aliza directly by clicking on her name below the title.

Thank you, Aliza, for allowing me to publish your response.

Another view of the B.D.S. campaign.

 Aliza Bat-Ami

The video “Israel and Palestine – a very short introduction.” starts by stating that  Jews fled Europe after “harsh persecution” and  that they were encourage by “the Zionists”  to came the Land “where the Jews had an age-old connection“(my emphasis).

We have indeed:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
…. How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?

These words, written over two and a half millennia ago, written at the time of the first forced dispersion from the Land of Israel to Babylon, sum up our connection to this place.

But, after many years and much pain and difficulties, in 1948 the modern State of Israel was declared.   The video makes it very clear that the Arabs rejected the proposed two-state solution presented them by the British (and have consistently rejected every offer since.)

Much happened thereafter, events which were presented in the video in a biased, simplistic way, ending up with the supposed “land-grab” of the West Bank.
[Use these links for accurate information on the formation of Israel, about Israel and the West Bank , the peace process, and the Palestinian refugee problem.]

The video concludes by a call to boycott, disinvest and sanction

Israel (B.D.S) for her deeds, as this will lead to a (non-specified) just peace.

This isn’t going to happen, for the following reasons.

First and foremost it is clear that the underlying aim of much of the anti-Israel B.D.S. movement (and certainly as presented in this video), is the destruction of Israel.  Even Norman Finkelstein, no friend of Israel, makes this point (see video).  The threat of extinction is no inducement to change, rather it encourages protective strategies. So why expect Israel to respond to such threats by national suicide?

Secondly, the video runs together the unsettled issue of Israel and the Palestinians, and the situation of Arab citizens of Israel. These are not the same issue at all.
Yes, things could be better but the video also makes no mention of the equality afforded to Israeli Arab, nor the fact that prominent and outspoken Arab critics of Israel like Ahmed Tibi and Haneen Zoabi sit in the Knesset, nor to the presence of Arab Israelis in all parts of society, including the High Court and universities. It also ignores the issue of obligations of all citizens in a democracy (Article 29 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.)

Yes, things could be better in the administered territories too, but B.D.S.  campaigns do nothing to help the Palestinians improve their lives, begin state building, or develop democratic institutions. They do not advance peace but only make the parties more inflexible.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not black and white. Arguments supporting boycotts ignore the context of Israel’s actions in order to justify penalizing only Israel.

Those behind the boycott efforts never mention the on-going terrorism that Israelis have suffered from, and they never mention groups like the PLO, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Have you actually read these documents?  In case you think I am exaggerating, here they are in plain English: The Palestinian National Charter: 1968 ; the Hamas Covenant 1988The Hezbollah Manifesto  (from the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation, an NGO dedicated to the aim of the  ‘Cedar revolution’ site; or  from a pro-Hezbollah site, here).

The world should really pay all the Arab leaders the courtesy of listening to what they say, believing them and taking them at their word. What is meant in effect is the dismantling of the State of Israel and the dispersion (or elimination) of the Jewish population.

The video also mentions the USA as a “terrible friend” to Israel, supporting and enabling all “crimes”. At least in that the B.D.S. supporters might be encouraged by the commencement of President Barack Hussein Obama’s second term. He might well prove to be a “friend” to Israel more to their taste. If that happens, I hope that the Jews will turn to a different Friend, the God of Israel, who has a longer track-record of commitment and involvement with events here.

What do I hope for our future?  Peace and health and the possibility of happiness.  And yes, righteousness and justice at all levels in my society.
I would like to live in a society without want and conflict, where all members take equal part and also give back equally.

If you want to do something for peace, then come and visit with an open mind, and take part in some constructive joint program (e.g. Abraham Fund,) to help all the different people here.

The position that Israel is the cause of the sad situation in the Middle East ( at the very least)  has become the unexamined and – mostly – unchallenged dogma of current world opinion, especially in my own native land of BritainBut does that make it factual and true?
The truth of these allegations can easily be checked online by consulting source documents, or summaries such as these links (the formation of Israel Israel and the West Bank , the peace process, and the Palestinian refugee problem.)

Wednesday Video: Peace in the Middle East

This video is unabashedly political. It takes sides. From where I sit on the ground, it presents an accurate picture of the history and current state of affairs in Israel and Palestine. (“Where I sit” is precisely on the “Green Line“.)

This video will make some people, including some people I love, angry. I am sorry, deeply sorry. At the same time, I cannot live the life I have left without testifying to truth.

The video is from the Facebook page Israel Loves Palestine. There is also a page called Palestine Loves IsraelPeace is important. Peace does not come easily. Often, peace can only be attained through pain and sacrifice. 

Have you done anything for peace today?

Mamilla Cemetery

A little sight-seeing today.

Mamilla Cemetery is located just west of the Old City of Jerusalem. The space has been the site of places of worship, shrines and cemeteries since the Byzantine period (IV to VI centuries) and early Islamic period. Thousands of Christians were buried there in the pre-Islamic period, and a church stood on the site. It has been an Islamic cemetery at least since the Rashidun Caliphate (VII century), except during the Crusader period. In 1927 the Supreme Muslim Council, which was the high authority for the Muslim community under the British mandate, decreed an end to burials at Mamilla and declared it a historic site.

When the cemetery came under Israeli control in 1948, it was declared an abandoned property and as such came under the authority of the Guardianship of Absentee Property. By 1967, both vandalism and official building schemes had brought much of the cemetery to a derelict condition. There is still a great deal of controversy surrounding Israeli actions and plans with regard to the site.

I went through a corner of Mamilla Cemetery on a walk with my friend S this week, and took a few pictures with my telephone.

Mamilla Cemetery seen from the street. Note the one completely restored tomb among the many ruins.

Marker in Hebrew and Arabic, reading:
State of Israel
Protected Site
Keep this place clean.
Please do not introduce animals or alcoholic beverages.

A shrine (I believe) in the cemetery grounds. There are a number of Sufi shrines here, as well as the tombs of other mystics, emirs, muftis, and Jerusalem notables, as it was the largest Muslim cemetery in the area.

The door to the shrine.

The inside of the structure, taken with flash between the bars of the window. The presence of plastic jugs and bags of cement seem to indicate that it is under repair and renovation.

My first bus bombing (October Repeat)

October being Anniversary Month, I am republishing some of my favorite posts. Today’s is the first of three parts about my experience when a bomb exploded on the bus I was riding. I will not be reposting Part II (about the first minutes after the explosion until help arrived) or Part III (the immediate aftermath), but there are links at the end of each part. Thank you for reading.

I don’t recall the noise as much as the air pressure. It was as if the six sides of an invisible cube were collapsing in on me. I remember a feeling of weightlessness, then I was bent backwards over the back of a bus seat and several people were piled on top of me. A hot wetness spread from the man directly on top of me and I wondered if he was dead. I wondered if I was dead or about to die. I tried to remember the words of a prayer at the point of death, but I couldn’t.

It was a Sunday morning in the mid 1980s, before the First Intifada. An early bus from Haifa to Jerusalem, traveling south along the Coastal Road. Sunday is the first day of the work week in Israel, and the early morning bus was filled beyond capacity with students returning to the university from a weekend at home, soldiers returning to base, business people on their way to meetings or conferences – the usual post-weekend crowd. Skinny girls shared seats meant for one passenger, the center aisle was crammed with standing passengers straddling the luggage between their feet, and even the steps leading down to the rear door were occupied. People were sleeping, chatting, listening to music on headphones, reading newspapers. An army officer was seated next to me in the aisle seat, and I read his open newspaper out of the corner of my eye.

It was raining inside the bus, red rain. Oh. Not rain. I saw an empty shoe, filling with the red not-rain. The body on top of me – it was the army officer – rolled to the side, and I could see the front of the bus. The driver, his chair gone, was standing at the steering wheel, using both hands to get control of the vehicle. I could read the tension in the muscles of his arms and back. Another man, a passenger, also stood and battled with the mechanism. I was reminded of movies about seafarers braving the elements as they struggle with the ship’s wheel. Unbelievably, the two men managed to bring the bus to a shuddering stop at the side of the road without hitting any other vehicle.  I realized that I wasn’t about to die, but I didn’t understand what was happening. “Are we being shot at,” I asked no one in particular.

This was a trip I made often because I had friends who lived north of Haifa and I frequently spent weekends with them. My favorite part of the trip was along the stretch of coastal road. I always tried to sit near the window so I could look out at the calm, blue Mediterranean Sea. Soon the bus would move inland and I  would be able to look at the small Bedouin camps near Jericho, watch the children herding goats and the women working under the hot sun. I always enjoyed this two-hour trip and thought of it as the last part of a pleasant weekend away.

An older woman began shrieking hysterically. Her male companion yelled, “Shut up, Shoshana, nothing happened! It’s just a flat tire.” I felt sorry for her. People began to move, checking their limbs. I found I was in no pain and could stand up, so I did. I began to move along the aisle somehow, trying to see if there was anyone I could help. Behind the driver lay a man, pale and sweaty, with a severe crush injury to his lower leg. I made my way to him.

Part II is here.

My first bus bombing, Part I

I don’t recall the noise as much as the air pressure. It was as if the six sides of an invisible cube were collapsing in on me. I remember a feeling of weightlessness, then I was bent backwards over the back of a bus seat and several people were piled on top of me. A hot wetness spread from the man directly on top of me and I wondered if he was dead. I wondered if I was dead or about to die. I tried to remember the words of a prayer at the point of death, but I couldn’t.

It was a Sunday morning in the mid 1980s, before the First Intifada. An early bus from Haifa to Jerusalem, traveling south along the Coastal Road. Sunday is the first day of the work week in Israel, and the early morning bus was filled beyond capacity with students returning to the university from a weekend at home, soldiers returning to base, business people on their way to meetings or conferences – the usual post-weekend crowd. Skinny girls shared seats meant for one passenger, the center aisle was crammed with standing passengers, luggage between their feet, and even the steps leading down to the rear door were occupied. People were sleeping, chatting, listening to music on headphones, reading newspapers. An army officer was seated next to me in the aisle seat, and I read his open newspaper out of the corner of my eye.

It was raining inside the bus, red rain. Oh. Not rain. I saw an empty shoe, filling with the red not-rain. The body on top of me – it was the army officer – rolled to the side, and I could see the front of the bus. The driver, his chair gone, was standing at the steering wheel, using both hands to get control of the vehicle. I could read the tension in the muscles of his arms and back. Another man, a passenger, also stood and battled with the mechanism. I was reminded of movies about seafarers braving the elements as they struggle with the ship’s wheel. Unbelievably, the two men managed to bring the bus to a shuddering stop at the side of the road without hitting any other vehicle.  I realized that I wasn’t about to die, but I didn’t understand what was happening. “Are we being shot at,” I asked no one in particular.

This was a trip I made often because I had friends who lived north of Haifa and I frequently spent weekends with them. My favorite part of the trip was along the stretch of coastal road. I always tried to sit near the window so I could look out at the calm, blue Mediterranean Sea. Soon the bus would move inland and I  would be able to look at the small Bedouin camps near Jericho, watch the children herding goats and the women working under the hot sun. I always enjoyed this two-hour trip and thought of it as the last part of a pleasant weekend away.

An older woman began shrieking hysterically. “Shut up, Shoshana, nothing happened! It’s just a flat tire,” her male companion yelled. I felt sorry for her. People began to move, checking their limbs. I found I was in no pain and could stand up, so I did. I began to move along the aisle somehow, trying to see if there was anyone I could help. Behind the driver lay a man, pale and sweaty, with a severe crush injury to his lower leg. I made my way to him.

Part II is here.