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How to beat the occupation: Equality, equality, equality

Achieving justice requires putting aside specific visions of one or two states and instead pushing your communities, schools, places of worship and governments to take up the mantle of legal equality in place of occupation.

By A. Daniel Roth

Just like you, I argue about how many states is the right number of states between the river and the sea. I, like you, argue about the most appropriate word for describing inequality here. I, too, argue with friends and passersby about the merits and shortcomings of boycotting and BDS. You, like me, have a vision for what the fix should look like here and you are pushing for it. You, like me, are organizing your campus, workplace and community around an idea of what real justice looks like.

Maybe you’re happy or nervous about the end of the Kerry talks. Maybe you’re excited or scared about the prospects of Fatah-Hamas unity. You are most likely a two-stater or a one-stater or an anarchist or a progressive Zionist or a socialist or a liberal or a solidarity activist or something of the sort. But despite your many, many differences, all of you agree that human equality is vital, and that the occupation – millions living without basic rights – is a clear, present and systemic affront to that value.

Often we look more like the “splitters” in “Life of Brian” than we do thoughtful agents of change aiming to win. There are a great many organizations playing important roles, but not enough see themselves as partners, despite our many disagreements in a movement for equality.

The good news is that we can win this. The occupation – and many of the issues at stake in Israel and Palestine – is already among the most talked-about issues on university campuses and around dinner tables of progressive families and friends (even outside Jewish and Palestinian communities). It is already on the front pages of news media every other day. That’s a big deal – and that gives you a leg up.

Now is the time to shake things loose with a massive voice to move one step forward and end the occupation. It is the all-encompassing, necessary step forward for the sake of everyone in Israel and Palestine. Doing so requires focusing international movements on equality as opposed to specific – and divisive – political visions. It requires leaving aside arguments among pro- and anti-boycott people and instead, focusing our energy on ending martial law over Palestinians. And it requires breaking from the tendency to attack Israel on everything from its policy to its scientific achievements.

It requires putting aside specific visions of one or two states and instead pushing your communities, schools, places of worship and governments to take up the mantle of legal equality in place of occupation. To stop there is challenging, I know, but perhaps the peoples who call this place home, including the refugees who are barred from being physically present here, can and will choose a suitable solution when millions of others around the world are plainly and simply calling together for human equality and international pressure is clear and focused. Perhaps that is what is necessary to amplify our voices and really help win against the occupation.

Of course, visions beyond broad notions of equality are important. They guide our movements forward and help us to choose strategies and tactics that make sense; but right now we need to come together around the broad ethic that we are fighting for in order to end an unjust system of law and oppression. It will still require your involvement in direct action, boycotts, lobbying and education, but with eyes on the prize.

We can win. At this very moment arguments abound about what solution is better, which is more practical and which is more likely. But the emphasis from outside should be on the core problem: inequality. You can force your governments to speak out for equality in Israel-Palestine because of the immense attention given to this mess. You can dismantle foot-dragging and aimless arguments by focusing on the root of the issue. With enough pressure for equality from around the world, from the grassroots to the halls of power, it is possible that the people (or maybe the politicians) will be forced to pick a solution that ensures equality. Only then can we move forward with the actual mending, healing and building that is so badly needed.

Winning will require everyone on the so-called Left, the so-called progressives, the so-called humanists (and all the others who refuse to be labeled) to disregard some of our differences in order to strategically move forward. An end to the occupation is necessary so that actual peace – something that will take generations to achieve but nevertheless requires a “day one” where equal rights reign – can be built. This is something that the international community can do to win against the occupation, so that actual justice, the notion of harmonious mutual responsibility, can be achieved.

A. Daniel Roth is an educator and journalist living in South Tel Aviv. You can find more of his writing and photography at allthesedays.org and follow him on twitter @adanielroth

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    1. JDE

      None of this is achievable while Netanyahu is in office.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      The Palestinians are perfectly welcome to the equality that all people have – equality among themselves – if they can build such a society once they actually create their own state. Mexicans should strive with equality with other Mexicans. Canadians should strive for equality with other Canadians. Israelis should strive for equality with other Israelis.

      The claim that Palestinians want “equality” is meaningless without reference to a political framework. If they demand to create a state in place of Israel then their demand for “equality” is a meaningless marketing gimmick and they are actually trying to eliminate Israel and within the context of the Middle East the inevitable outcome of Israel no longer protecting its Jews is the massacre and expulsion of Jews. If they demand that they wish to create a state next to Israel and pursue “equality” there then that is certainly a productive and progressive goal. Confusing the two might be a useful tactic but it is entirely transparent and that requires only asking the simple question of whether in their vision of the future the State of Israel should be eliminated.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Richard

      This is totally incomprehensible. When you refuse to confront realpolitik – that security is the first, and economy the distant second, in terms of values that drive every important decision in the region – and instead wade into the mire of slogans and abstractions, you end up with mush that doesn’t matter and will never affect anything that happens on the ground.

      Reply to Comment