by Amira Hass
The resolution passed last week by the German parliament defining the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement as anti-Semitic is nauseating. As the daughter of survivors of the cargo trains, who only by chance did not reach the end planned for them by the Third Reich, this resolution above all reeks of minimization of the objectives and results of Nazi anti-Semitism. Any comparison between the Jews in Germany during the 1930s and today’s Israel is an act of minimization in its concern for the agenda of the state that was established in 1948 through the expulsion of the nation that lived here, and that is now a military power that rules over 5 million Palestinians without rights.
The decision makes an intolerable comparison between the calls to boycott Jewish businesses in Nazi Germany and the logical call to boycott or impose sanctions on a great power whose institutions, laws and most of the population are dedicated more than ever to the project of causing the disappearance of the Palestinians as a collective with roots and rights in its homeland.
This comparison is infuriating and is a denial of history. Because what is the obvious conclusion from a comparison that degrades an entire historical and institutional context? The conclusion is that the Palestinians are like the Nazis and that the Jews who peddled notions and migrated from Poland to Berlin, or the Jewish owners of a large publishing company in Frankfurt were powerful and capable at the time of confronting the waves of the Sturmabteilung – just as Israel today is powerful and capable.
The decision is also a source of despair. If there was a slight chance of saving Israelis from themselves and from the job with which they identify so strongly – that of prison wardens belonging to the master race – it was only by means of boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Not against some performance by an artist, but against international corporations, against Israeli tourism abroad, against smiling receptions for racist Israeli politicians in world capitals, against commercial ties with Israeli arms developers who sell their wares to the most murderous regimes in the world today.
We can argue with BDS, about the official declaration of intentions and the actual implementation, the contradictions between declarations and implementation, the political vagueness, the targets that are chosen and the decision-making process. But it’s a real crime to erase so violently – as the German decision does – the essence and the roots of the idea of BDS, which the Palestinians adopted and developed as a conscious and political tool in the battle against oppressive foreign rule.
This is a regime that consistently shows contempt for all United Nations decisions regarding Palestinian rights. That tramples important clauses in international law, that anchors the discrimination against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship in legislation, that deceived the entire world in the way in which it manipulated the Oslo Accords so that they would provide a stamp of approval for its colonialist-settlement enterprise.
It’s a real crime to ignore the circumstances under which the call to BDS arose; in other words, the time and the place in which a branch of the Jewish people which came into being in Israel cynically and constantly trades in the Holocaust, our murdered families, the memory of their severed future – in order to continue to sever the present and past of the Palestinian people. And that crime is being committed by the German parliament. Oh, the shame.
German political parties have veteran emissaries in Israel: The Social Democrats’ Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Christian Democrats’ Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Green Party’s Heinrich Boll Foundation and the left’s (Die Linke) Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. They all have ties with Palestinian and Israeli activists and organizations that oppose the occupation. They have a great deal of information and insights that are available to every parliamentarian and official in the German Foreign Ministry regarding the methodical manner in which Israel is crushing all the possible avenues for change and a shared and decent life with the people of this country, the Palestinians (in two states, one state, a confederation – it makes no difference. In any case history has no final stages). The parliament’s scandalous decision also makes light of all the knowledge and insights that its embassies have accumulated.
It is a direct continuation of the silencing tactics adopted against critics of Israel in various countries in Europe and the United States. There is no question that this is a huge Israeli success. The investment in nongovernmental organizations (such as NGO Monitor), in the Strategic Affairs Ministry and in creating a network of paid volunteers among Jewish youth and student organizations has proved itself.
Taken together, thanks to the inexhaustible financial resources and scare tactics of mainstream international media outlets, among others, they have succeeded in reversing reality: presenting the Palestinian people that is arising to protest its dispossession as the attacker, and Israel as a victim standing at the gates of Auschwitz. What a sickening absurdity. The resolution, ostensibly designed to fight anti-Semitism, is also a product of sophisticated Israeli propaganda. Sophistication and skill of the magnitude alleged by an anti-Semitic cartoon.
These words are being written on Saturday, less than 24 hours after the decision was passed. Not all the details are clear as of yet, but I read with some degree of relief that representatives of Die Linke did not vote for it. If only they would take on the task of stopping the damage caused by the decision, and together with BDS supporters forge a political path that will show that opposition to anti-Semitism and the battle for Palestinian rights are combined.