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David Matas

 
THE UNITED CHURCH AND THE CALL FOR A BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL

by David Matas

 

[Reprinted with permission form the Jewish Tribune]

[Editor's note: Although this article was written before the United Chirch successfully passed its resolution for a boycott of goods form the West Bank, the rationale outlined herin by David Matas for opposing such a boycott is still relevant and not time sensitive]

The report of a working group of the United Church of Canada and a resolution before its General Council scheduled Aug. 11 to 18 in Ottawa calls for a boycott of goods made by Jews in an area in which the authors of the report and resolution do not want Jews to live. That is the essence of a report recently released advocating a boycott of Israeli produced goods in the West Bank and its implementing resolution.

Suggesting that Jews should not live in any area, because they are Jews, is just plain wrong. Suggesting that what Jews produce should be boycotted because you do not like where they live is also plainly wrong.

How did any Canadian church leader even get to the point of saying that Jews should not be living in certain areas and that the production of Jews who live in those areas should be boycotted? One would have thought all Canadian church leaders would know better.

The reason is the obfuscation that masks the underlying stratagems of anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism, like much incitement to hatred, proceeds indirectly as well as directly.

The direct approach calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. The indirect approach demonizes and delegitimizes Israel but stops short of calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. Yet the aim is to lead the gullible to conclude that Israel itself, and not any of its specific practices or policies, is a barbaric and inhumane project, which has no right to exist.

The labelling ‘occupation’ and ‘settlements,’ with the added notion that the settlements are illegal, turns an innocent fact, the presence of Jews in the neighbourhood, into an international crime. The purpose here is to lead the easily beguiled into the startling conclusion that human rights and international law require the ethnic cleansing of Jews. This ethnic cleansing is the ultimate objective of the anti-Zionists, no matter in what language it is clothed.

When Jordan was in control of the West Bank it was never called an occupier. Israel took over control of the West Bank from Jordan, which renounced any claim to it. Israel is no more or less an occupier of the West Bank than Jordan was.

The Geneva Conventions on the Laws of War prohibit forcible transfer of nationals of an occupying state to the territory of an occupied state. Even if the West Bank were occupied territory, the fact remains that the government of Israel has not forced even one Israeli to move to the West Bank. All Israelis live in the West Bank of their own free will.

The evacuation of Jews from Gaza when Israel abandoned control of that area shows the true end game of the rhetoric in which the United Church report authors are dabbling. The Israeli government had to evacuate Jews for their own safety because murderous rhetoric against them had become so deeply embedded and widely believed in the local Palestinian population that their lives were in danger.

The United Church report authors claim that they are concerned about the human rights of Palestinians. Yet, they have been bamboozled by bafflegab to join in an anti-Zionist rhetoric that does nothing to help Palestinians.

Though it is clothed in the language of rights, the application of the language of settlements and occupation to the West Bank has nothing to do with rights. Nowhere else is the voluntary movement of individuals to any territory characterized at international law as settlement by an occupying power in violation of the laws of war.

Human rights are universal. Claimed rights that exist only for Palestinians against Israel are particularized, the antithesis of universal.

Factitious particularized rights incite Palestinians to hatred, terrorism and war against Jews. It should be a matter of common sense that inciting Palestinians to attack Jews helps neither Palestinians nor Jews.

Peace in the Middle East will come when Palestinians are prepared to live side by side in peace with their Jewish neighbours not just beyond the Green Line, but also within the West Bank. Use of the rhetoric of occupation and settlement, by inciting Palestinians against Jews, makes peace harder to achieve. A true concern for the rights of Palestinians, a real search for peace, would mean dropping the language of occupation and settlements and calling on Palestinians to accept – finally – the presence of their Jewish neighbours.

David Matas is honourary senior counsel to B'nai Brith Canada and an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg.

Reprinted with permission of the Jewish Tribune

 
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