Israel’s government, economy and citizens regularly exploit everything they can from the West Bank, leaving the Palestinians the bare minimum for survival. If Israelis want change, they’ll have to come to terms with reality.
Contrary to popular belief, the boycott is not the greatest threat facing Israel, at least not at the moment. However, now that BDS has become a household name, it is perfect opportunity for Israelis to have an honest conversation about the occupation. As opposed to the angle being peddled by Yedioth Ahronoth — which has been leading an open campaign against the BDS movement through a series of articles and op-eds — it is clear that the support for the BDS movement overwhelmingly stems from our control over millions of people in the West Bank and Gaza who lack basic rights.
The occupation is one of Israel’s biggest national projects, if not the biggest. Every single part of the population — not to mention the Israeli economy — take part in it. From the hi-tech industry that develops our most advanced combat and surveillance devices, to the major Israeli corporations of the Israeli economy, to the thousands of people who have manned checkpoints and patrolled the streets of the West Bank over the years — everyone has had a role.
There are those who claim that the occupation is a burden on the State of Israel. Perhaps they are right. But we cannot ignore the fact that it is also profitable, even for those who live in central Israel and are convinced that the “extreme right” is to blame for everything. First and foremost, there are the profits that come from a number of business ventures in the West Bank: the mines that Israel controls, which bring down the costs of building across the country; tourist sites; or just about any industry that relies on the cheap Palestinian labor.
Even the land itself is profitable for Israel. The Israeli government solved the housing crisis in the ultra-Orthodox community by moving over 100,000 people to two cities on the other side of the Green Line. Imagine how much this kind of land would be worth in central Israel. Or what about Jerusalem, which for years has ceased expanding westward, only eastward?
The markets of Ramallah and Khan Younis carry Israeli goods. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are a captive market for Israeli products, worth billions of shekels a year. Perhaps the Palestinians would prefer to buy cheaper goods from Jordan and Egypt, but developing open trade under occupation is nearly impossible.
And what about all those smaller forms of profit that we’ll never actually be able to quantify. Imagine a truck that leaves from Eilat toward Kiryat Shmona on the northern border — how much would the drive cost if it had to circumvent the West Bank? What if it had to pay a toll to the Palestinian Authority? What would happen if we had to pay the Palestinians to use Route 443, which cuts across the West Bank? Or if we leased the land beyond the Green Line upon which the high-speed railway to Jerusalem is slated to be built? And what about air space, aquifers or electromagnetic frequencies?
Partner, the local Israeli supplier of Orange, a French cellphone company whose CEO stated late last week that he intends to stop doing business in Israel — has antennas all across the West Bank, much like every other other major Israeli cellphone company. The problem does not only stem from land theft; Israeli companies alone have the right to operate 3G networks across the country. The Palestinian network, on the other hand, allows only for phone calls and text messages. As a result, thousands of Palestinians who want to use 3G must obtain it through Israeli companies. This is a clean profit for Partner and the other companies. And this is without even getting into strange stories, like how Orange paid rent to Israeli settlers who illegally established an outpost on privately-owned Palestinian land.
The bottom line is very simple: Israel — its government, economy and citizens — regularly exploits everything it can from the West Bank, leaving the Palestinians the bare minimum for survival. There is no such thing as “democratic Israel” to the west of the Green Line and “occupying Israel” to its east. Occupying Israel exists in Tel Aviv as well.
Instead of rolling our eyes and crying “anti-Semites” like the Right does, or blame the settlers and Netanyahu — like the Left does — the time has come to recognize these facts. Only then will we be able to start making a change.
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.