Eurovision and the Boycotting of Israel

, by Samuel Mork Bednarz

Eurovision and the Boycotting of Israel

Artists from around the world have chosen to boycott the next Eurovision song contest being held in Israel as a protest against Israel’s current violations of international law. Although the effects of protest and boycotting are always hard to pinpoint - in the case of the Israel/Palestine conflict at the very least you have something worth protesting if nothing else. Of course, it’s a controversial issue and many would opt to defend Israel as an innocent participant in a conflict where their only violation is “self-defense.” Historically speaking this point of view might be worth discussing - but in the modern version of the conflict - it’s hard to see why anyone should take it seriously.

The Palestinians and the Israelis have been arguing about who gets to live where and own how much ever since the British promised the same land to two different parties following the end of the First World War when the Ottoman Empire collapsed leaving the Middle East to be divided into new territories. These decisions were often sloppy and self-serving towards the West.

The divisions were so extreme that some countries in the modern Middle East only exist because the West wanted to put a puppet state on top of any valuable resources - Iraq is an example of this. There were a lot of bad decisions made during that time. The details of this history are undoubtedly fascinating and complex, and in regards to some parts of the conflict, unpacking who is right and who is wrong would take a lifetime of unbiased research.

Nevertheless, we find ourselves in 2018, and the conflict between Israel and Palestine is still raging on with no end in sight. We need to figure out who is doing the right thing right now, and what needs to be done to make this nightmare end. The short answer is that both parts are messing things up. That being said, Israel has infinitely more power than Palestine. This is not an excuse, nobody is letting the Palestinian government off the hook based on this point, but it does mean that Israel has a bigger hand to play in solving the issue than Palestine.

The Problem

In recent years Palestine has been more willing to arrive at a peace agreement and Israel has been more dismissive. In 2014, Abbas, the president of Palestine, suggested a peace agreement in which his demands were for Israel to pull back to the previously agreed upon 1967 lines, releasing the last batch of prisoners agreed upon by prior peace talks, and stopping any further construction of illegal settlements. Israel rejected these demands. One reason why Israel did so is that they don’t recognize the settlements as illegal. They gained control of what was previously Palestinian land during this conflict and they decided to build houses on that land, and in their mind this is perfectly legitimate.

Putting aside the issue of whether or not they now own the land that they have taken control over during the conflict, this kind of behavior is clearly not amounting to any trust in Israel’s willingness to reach a peaceful solution. In order for the Palestinian people to live peacefully next to Israel they need to have a working society, and taking their land away is pretty counterproductive to that goal. Anyone who takes peace seriously ought to put the people on the ground on their list of priorities, preferably towards the top, but at the very least on the list somewhere. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis need to have the opportunity to build their societies up in order for them to be persuaded to stop fighting.

Furthermore, the problem becomes even clearer when you acknowledge that the people previously living in the areas where Israel is now building settlements were thrown out as part of the process; their houses were bulldozed down to make way for ethnically Israeli citizens. If Israel genuinely claims that they have rightly taken control of this territory as a part of a defensive conflict then at the very least they should also take on the responsibility of the people who live there.

What we are left with is an issue where you either have to acknowledge that the settlements themselves are illegal or you can pretend like taking any land you want in a conflict is justified - but then you have to explain why forcing one group of people out of the land you now have responsibility over is not ethnic cleansing, in your mind. I mean - I will wait. Take your time to explain that one, because the rest of the international community sure can’t seem to make much sense of it. Either way, what Israel is doing is morally wrong, and Netanyahu might bend into a pretzel trying to argue that what they are doing is “justified” but at the very least we can’t deny that what Israel is doing is self-serving and corrosive towards any goal of peace in the region whether justified or not.

You can’t sit there and pretend like Israel is the “good guy” that cares about peace and then turn your head the other way and say “Israel has the right to do whatever they want with those people living there.” Either Israel is a benevolent power who only wants the best for the region, in which case they should not stand in the way of Palestine’s ability to rebuild, or they don’t care about peace - they just care about getting as much land out of the situation as possible. Whether it’s “legal” or “justified” isn’t really a meaningful question if you genuinely want peace. Peace is not the same as justice, so anyone who says they are for “peace” but they will defend any violent act from the perspective of justice is clearly lying about their dedication towards actual peace.

A person like that does not want peace; a person like that wants revenge. Anyone who has ever had their parents break up a fight with their siblings will know from experience that peace does not always taste sweet. Sometimes peace tastes bitter. Violent retaliation feels very satisfying and “justified” in the moment, but peace requires that you put vengeance aside for the benefit of long-term progress. Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, seems to have a very hard time understanding this.

Israel’s Current Strategy

It seems like Israel’s current strategy is to just throw death and suffering at the Palestinian people until they give up, but this conflict has been going on long enough for us to realize that human beings just don’t work like that. You are not going to be able to change a people’s will to fight by throwing bombs at them. If you kill someone’s family, whether by accident or otherwise, whether you deem it “necessary” or “just,” when you bomb hospitals, schools or UN camps, the people left behind aren’t just going to bend over. On the contrary, in most cases, it seems those people will be even more willing to fight. Which begs the question, what is Israel’s goal here?

If they really wanted peace then they should have stopped bombing Palestine, give them space to rebuild and make sure that their quality of life is raised out of the gutter. When Israel throws bombs back at Palestine, whether justified or not, it feels more like they are chasing the satisfaction of revenge rather than any practical solution or progress. This does not make it okay when bombs are launched at Israel from Palestine either, but for one thing, Israel has the Iron Dome defense system, which is not perfect, mind you, but it more or less protects Israel from damage.

Secondly, the reason why terrorist groups in Palestine launch their bombs from public areas is because their objective is not Israeli citizens; sometimes the rockets they send don’t even have any payload. The real objective is to tease Israel into returning fire because when Israel starts killing more civilians it gives terrorist groups the opportunity to radicalize more Palestinians. Nobody involved with the politics in this conflict is actually dumb enough to think that Israel does not already realize this. If bombing Palestine only produces more terrorists, then it is clearly not about stopping the bombings.

Either Netanyahu is too stupid to see that bombing Palestine will only prolong the fighting and produce more terrorists willing to bomb Israel back, or he understands this perfectly well but does not care because the terrorists give him an excuse to grab more land. To put it simply - he’s either an idiot or a psychopath, and either way, this has to stop. One look at this graph ought to tell you that Israel’s military response is much too extreme. Nobody can look at this graph and claim that Israel is simply defending itself; nobody can look at this graph and claim that Israel is fighting for peace.

At this point, it would be better for Israel to just annex the entire territory. This would effectively put all the land under the control of Israel, but it would also mean that the Israeli government would have to consider all Palestinians as if they were Israeli citizens, because that’s what they would become.

You don’t bomb an entire city just because some people in that city are being violent. Frankly, this ought to be obvious even if it’s a city in another country, but if you can’t see that point of view at least you would have to acknowledge it in the event that the city in question was domestic. So, at this point, even complete annexation would be more humane than what Israel is currently doing. Abbas and the leaders of Palestine probably would not be happy about it, but the people would certainly be better off and I think a lot of the people on the ground share that priority over any other.

I could continue talking about the ineffectiveness of revenge bombing, or the multiple times Israel has opened fire on Palestinian protestors because they got too close to the border while protesting to get Israel’s attention, both topics which are worth bringing up, but on the issue of settlements alone I think we can reach the conclusion that Israel’s actions, at the very least in the modern half of this conflict, have not at all been dedicated towards peace but rather selfish greed or revenge-born satisfaction. A large majority of the victims in this conflict are Palestinians, and a large majority of those victims are innocent people.

B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories - has recorded 8,166 conflict-related deaths since 2000, of which 7,065 are Palestinian and 1,101 Israeli.[1] In other words, 87 percent of deaths since 2000 have been Palestinian and only 13 percent Israeli. A public opinion poll conducted in March 2013 found that most Palestinians do not support firing rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip with only 38% favoring their use and over 80% supporting non-violent protest.[2] Nobody is suggesting that Palestine is benevolent - because they clearly aren’t, but Israel isn’t good either, and they sit with all the power to make a change.

There has been a movement of anti-war within Israel’s own people. Netanyahu still holds majority control over the country, but it’s entirely possible that protests - and especially high publicity boycotts - like the one taking place with the Eurovision song contest - might reach out and touch the Israeli people.

The Solution

At this point, it seems our best hope for positive change is to get the attention of the people themselves, and to that goal - I say boycotting the Israeli Eurovision song contest is an admirable mission. This act alone probably won’t win the war, but no act alone could; in order to win a war, you have to win many battles. This is one battle that might put us closer to winning the war and that’s why I think we should salute it rather than roll our eyes.

To end this article, here’s the last graph which might put the lopsidedness of the conflict into perspective. This pie graph shows the percentage of Palestinians killed compared to Israelis and perhaps even more revealing, the percentage of Palestinian children killed compared to Israelis.

This is not what self-defense looks like.

Sources: [1] vox.com/2014/7/14/5898581/chart-israel-palestine-conflict-deaths [2] jpost.com/Middle-East/Poll-Hamas-continues-to-lose-popularity-among-Palestinians-309372 [3] btselem.org/statistics/fatalities/after-cast-lead/by-date-of-event [4] israelpalestinetimeline.org/charts/

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