Former Israeli officials argue that the Anti-Israel Boycott bill hurts Israel by legitimizing illegal settlements and expanding the definition of Israeli territory.
By Ami Ayalon, Gilead Sher and Orni Petruschka / Forward
August 10, 2017
[Ami Ayalon is a former director Shin Bet, Gilead Sher is the former Chief of Staff for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Orni Petruschka is a high-tech entrepreneur in Israel.]
As Israelis committed to the future of our country as the secure, democratic home of the Jewish people, we wish to underscore, expand and add perspective to a critical point J.J. Goldberg makes in his August 4th column about the anti-BDS bill now before the U.S. Congress.
The bill proposes to criminalize explicit boycotts of Israel. But Goldberg points out that while the debate about the bill has focused on whether or not the bill violates freedom of speech, a much more controversial issue embedded in it is its tacit recognition of settlements, contravening official US policy. And settlements have posed one of the most serious obstacles to efforts by successive U.S. administrations to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
As Goldberg notes, “The bill commits the United States for the first time to extending protection, including legal protection, to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.” The bill does that, Goldberg explains, by blurring the distinction between Israel and “territories under its control,” i.e. the occupied territories.
The significance of eroding this distinction cannot be overstated. It endangers the future of Israel as a Jewish-democratic state. It delegitimizes the entire Zionist enterprise. And it actually plays into the hands of BDS advocates.
Here’s how: If Israel includes the territories, it cannot be a democracy, because the approximate 2.5 million Palestinians residing in the West Bank have no civic rights, unlike their settler neighbors, who are Israeli citizens.
This concept cannot be stated enough times. No country that does not mandate full civic equality to millions of people can legitimately claim to be a democracy and have that claim accepted by the world’s democratic states.
That is exactly what BDS advocates point to when they assert that Israel is an apartheid state. And if Israel is defined as including the territories, as it is in this bill, they are correct.
Thus, the legitimacy of Israel hinges on the distinction between Israel proper, where Jews have a right for self-determination, and the territories, in which a Palestinian state should be established in order to fulfill the aspirations of the Palestinian people for freedom and dignity.