Cina Zacune has just returned from Gaza and takes issue with those who signed a letter in the Guardian arguing for cultural bridges, not boycotts.
Having just returned from two weeks in Palestine it is hard to articulate a response to the letter stating, “Israel needs cultural bridges not boycotts” (see Guardian letters October 23rd). I wish that the signatories would spend time in Palestine to see the situation for themselves.
Over 650,000 Israeli settlers now live illegally in the West Bank & new settlements are being built on Palestinian land with relentless intensity, there are 24 settlements around Bethlehem alone. These settlements take increasing resources from Palestine, for example, Israel controls & owns all the water in Palestine. They supply plentiful amounts to settlements for swimming pools, lawn sprinklers and the like whereas Palestine has to pay heavily for enough water just to exist. On this, my third visit to Palestine, people said to me “We cannot breathe”. This was not just from the teargas that hangs over Bethlehem at the moment but also from the constant restrictions to their daily lives. These include education, freedom to travel, making a living and from being forced to live in increasingly impoverished and overcrowded areas.
So far this month, 52 Palestinians & 8 Israelis have been killed. Over 5,000 Palestinians have been injured, many from teargas, rubber bullets & live rounds fired by Israeli security forces at protesters. Young protesters I spoke to see no hope for their future. They have watched their parents humiliated & their lives restricted & curtailed. Israeli settlers violate their beloved Al Aqsa Mosque Aon a daily basis. The young people protest in the only way they feel open to them.
The magnitude of the injustices experienced by Palestinians grows daily, from ethnic cleansing, illegal colonisation, racism, imprisonment of children & denial of statehood. The Israeli plan is to make life so unbearable for Palestinians that they will leave. Israeli academic Baruch Kimmerling describes this policy as politicide, “a process that has as its ultimate goal the dissolution of the Palestinian peoples existence as a legitimate social, political & economic reality”.
In this climate a “Culture for Coexistence” seems farcical. Until Palestinians are freed from the degradation & injustice of the illegal occupation conflict will continue. For things to change, pressure has to bear on Israel. For too long, over 60 years in fact, people have talked of a” desire for peaceful coexistence” whilst simultaneously supporting Israel in its project for a Jewish state & all that this entails. Talk of peace, of “understanding & mutual acceptance” is impossible between colonised and coloniser, oppressed and their oppressors.
The case for a cultural boycott of Israel has never been more necessary or moral. The aim is to help end Israel’s impunity from the law and advance the cause of Palestinian freedom.