PAUL DUFFILL  -  Session Three

New media presents the opportunity to challenge the artificial dichotomy set up by the Israeli government and is supporters – and often accepted unquestioningly by conventional media – that basic human rights for Palestinians is somehow a barrier to peace. This could not be further from the truth: Violent conflict drives human rights abuses, and people’s reactions to human rights abuses and other injustices drive conflict and violence. BDS is a responsible, evidence-based social movement which – unlike many “official” peace initiatives – acknowledges that addressing human rights abuses can be a powerful driver for peace and enables peoples globally to positively contribute to these efforts.

 

Why Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions may well be the best hope for peace and human right in Israel and Palestine

 

Good afternoon everyone. My name’s Paul Duffill and I’m a visiting scholar at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney. I also work as a trainer in dialogue and conflict resolution for the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

 

I’d like to thank Australians for Palestine for having us here today.|

 

My background is in Peace and Conflict Studies and dialogue and that is what first drew me towards Israel-Palestine and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

 

The approach of one of the founders of Peace and Conflict Studies, Norwegian academic Johan Galtung provides I think a helpful way to look at what’s happening in Israel-Palestine. One of the hallmarks of Johan Galtungs work in conflict is to hone in on unarticulated assumptions and contradictions that drive a conflict. For Israel-Palestine a key assumption that is no doubt driving the conflict is the all too common assumption that Jewish people can only be safe of they live in a country where Jews dominate over non-Jews. This is of course fundamentally non-democratic. This is the reality of that term that is all too casually used, describing Israel as a "Jewish state". Indeed in addition to the illegal occupation of Palestinian land, within internationally recognised Israel itself, the Israeli human rights NGO Adalah has found that there are over 50 law in Israel that discriminate against people on the basis that they are not Jewish. Only the most well know of these laws is the Jewish Law of Return where people who are considered “sufficiently Jewish” by Israeli state bureaucrats automatically qualify for citizenship and all the financial and political benefits that that brings. Palestinians whose families have lived on the land for generations do not qualify for citizenship.

 

This is an example of what is referred to in negotiation practice as being "stuck on a position". Where one potential perceived solution, in this case a state where Jews dominate over non-Jews is seen as the only way that Jewish people can meet their legitimate needs for safety and security.

 

It is not surprising that what follows from this assumption is a rejection of a Palestinian state both in the Likud charter and voiced more publicly recently by the majority of the Israeli government’s cabinet. Any calls, by members of Hamas or others to eradicate all Jews in Israel is likewise being stuck on a position: assuming that Palestinian safety and security is only possible through eradication of Jews in Israel. But the difference that is especially critical for us in Australia is that Australia is actually supporting Israeli violence, Israeli human rights abuses and the seizure of Palestinian land through settlements. Where-as Australia places under heavy sanctions violent Palestinian groups and other groups in Israel’s neighbourhood including Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iran and Libya.

 

One country in the region with a highly problematic human rights record stands out as being conspicuously immune to Australian sanction: 

 

Israel.

 

Instead, Israeli arms companies receive substantial tax-payer funded support and the significant political support for Israel continues. Over the last ten years over 1.5 billion (that’s 1.5 billion with a “b”) 1.5 billion of Australian tax-payers money has been spent funding Israeli arms companies: the exact same arms companies that provide services to Israel’s illegal wall built throughout the West Bank and the same companies that support settlement expansion. Principally this is Israel arms manufacturer Elbit Systems.

 

For us in Australia - and in other countries that so actively support Israeli violence - this is the where the BDS comes in. This is also where we in the pro-Israel countries need to take a hard look at how can actually begin to support peace, rather than obstruct peace.

 

In protracted, complicated violent conflicts such as Israel-Palestine I believe it is especially important to look carefully at lessons learned from experienced practitioners and researchers. For matters of complicated and emotive social policy issues, I think it is particularly important to take an evidence-based approach.

 

Governments and civil society should not ignore these hard-won lessons from best-practice if they are serious about supporting a negotiated peace to this violent and internationalised conflict.

 

Scholarly research and insights from practitioners of international dialogue and negotiation show a number of important conditions for successful peace negotiations. This research comes from a diverse range of sources and disciplines such as international conflict resolution, international relations, psychology social psychology, sociology, and political science.

 

Two key conditions for successful peace negotiations and dialogue stand out when we review this important body of research and practice:

First, the parties should find themselves in a situation of balanced power and mutual stalemate whereby neither party can escalate to victory and the deadlock is difficult, undesirable for both parties.

The second common condition for successful negotiation and dialogue is that the parties sense the possibility of a negotiated "way out," and believe that the other party shares that sense too. That the parties can envisage a potential way out of the violence, which will meet all parties needs for safety, security etc.

Clearly, under current circumstances, neither of these conditions is present in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In 1992, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir candidly remarked in the New York Times that had he remained in office he would have dragged out peace negotiations in order to buy time to dramatically increase Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories. Since then, a succession of peace negotiations has produced just this result result: Since 1992 Israel's settler population has more than doubled grown from 246,400 to over 547,000. Last year, Israel's Housing Minister Uri Ariel predicted that the number of settlers would increase by 40% by 2019.

As Israeli historian Avi Shlaim colourfully put it, Israel not only has no incentive to conclude a peace agreement with the Palestinians, but rather sees it in its interests to continue drawing out negotiations "like a man who pretends to negotiate over the division of a pizza, and he keeps eating it."

If the current situation presents no adverse stalemate for Israeli military and government, it likewise fails to present a way out for the Palestinians. In 2011, Al-Jazeera published the Palestine Papers, leaked records of secret peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The documents showed the deep and uneven concessions Palestinian official negotiators had offered to their Israeli counterparts, concessions which, when publicised, were widely rejected by their own constituents in the Palestinian public.

Much has been made of Benjamin Netanyahu's pledge that there would not be a Palestinian state while he is Prime Minister. Yet the fact remains that the charter of the ruling Likud party continues explicitly to reject the creation of a Palestinian state, as do the vast majority of cabinet ministers in Israel's new government.

The current unrevised Likud party charter also show opposition to the two state solution, a charter the was launched during the Oslo peace process; includes these commitments:

a. The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.

b. Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem

c. The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.

d. The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.

 

Clearly the state quo of peace processes has not worked. The boycott divestment and sanctions movement however has the potential to address these problems. The movement aims to:  

Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;

Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties they fled from or were expelled from as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

These goals also provide critical support to the Arab peace initiative. The Arab Peace Initiative was launched in 2002, and endorsed by the entire Arab League as well as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, offers full normalisation of relations with Israel in exchange for certain improvements in Israel's policies towards the Palestinians which closely map onto the goals the BDS movement is promoting. Indeed the one of the core requirements of the Arab Peace initiative is:

a.Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967 as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

And:

b. Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

This is why as a peace studies academic and as a dialogue and conflict resolution trainer I believe that BDS has real potential to contribute to both peace and human rights for all in the region of Israel and Palestine. An end to Australia's support for Israel's illegal behaviour would provide much needed support for peace efforts. Such a policy would be much more in line with core positive Australian values of fairness, peace and the rule of law.