By Ofer Neiman from Boycott from Within
More than 25 years have passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords. In these 25 years, Israel’s racist, colonial endeavor against the Palestinian people has deepened. Thousands, mostly Palestinians but Jews and others as well, have paid with their lives for this. The term ‘Oslo’, in the Palestinian-Israeli context, has become synonymous with unrealistic thinking, a brutal military occupation, apartheid and failure. A growing number of Norwegian human rights activists have done a lot to change this reality, and they deserve our thanks and praise. One can ask how can solidarity with the Palestinian cause be translated into better Norwegian government policies on the Palestinian issue.
Supporters of justice and equality for all between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are facing an uphill struggle against the grim status quo which the Oslo process has created. In the current circumstances, millions of human beings - Palestinians - are living under brutal conditions of Israeli siege, land grab, arbitrary detention deprivation and aerial bombardment. Norwegian taxpayers are expected to sustain an unjust and untenable status quo, via Norwegian government ‘aid projects’, which would not be required if Israel was forced to end its blatant violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.
In the Gaza strip, Israel is inflicting death and horrific injuries on civilian protesters, including children, who are losing their limbs and their future to a cruel open-fire policy implemented by indoctrinated 19 year-old Israeli snipers. Water reservoirs in Gaza are salty and contaminated and the UN predicts that Gaza will become unlivable soon. These conditions have a devastating psychological impact on the local population. Despair, to the point of suicide, is on the rise.
In the West Bank, Israel is doing its utmost to deepen its grasp on area C- 60% of the West Bank. The clear intention is to annex this area and push out the local Palestinians, under the racist slogan “Maximum land and minimum Arabs”. The daily reality for Palestinians living in the West Bank is one of military incursions and arbitrary detention and torture.
Inside Israel, marginalization of its Palestinian citizens is deepening. With the recent enactment of the Nation-State Law, a majority in the Israeli parliament has made it clear that the former have only second-class citizenship in the state. The law grants national collective rights to Jews only. On top of this discrimination, its wording allows for practical, everyday discrimination against individual Palestinian citizens of Israel, for example in the admission to privileged rural communities where a screening committee can interview candidates and reject them.
Palestinian refugees in camps throughout the occupied Palestinian territories and the entire Middle East, most notably in Syria, are facing tremendous hardship. These refugees are sometimes forced to flee once again, and many risk their lives trying to reach Europe, including Norway. In an interconnected world, injustice in one place can have a far-reaching ripple effect.
Of course, numerous Norwegian citizens and groups are active against the ongoing Palestinian catastrophe at the hands of Israeli governments, in Norway or on the ground in Palestine. They face the Norwegian government and state institutions, which have been far less impressive when it comes to upholding Palestinian human rights. The time has come for senior Norwegian politicians and diplomats to acknowledge that the Oslo process has failed. Moreover, they should publicly come to terms with the current one-state reality in Palestine/Israel. This reality amounts to a one-state apartheid 'solution' imposed by successive Israeli governments, including those euphemistically described as “The Israeli moderates” or "The Israeli peace camp".
Anyone speaking to European diplomats and decision makers in private sees that they have a clear understanding of the reality here. Unfortunately, this has not been translated into firm official statements action. This must change. Norwegian state institutions can, and should, represent Norwegian human rights activists. An honest admission of failure and a commitment to act differently could allow the Norwegian government to do much more for justice and equality here, in line with what a growing constituency of Norwegian citizens is rightly demanding.
Governments and state institutions are not always passive or complicit in the face of human rights violations and the risk of war and bloodshed. For example, the Oslo municipality supports ICAN- the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. We need a similar response by these Norwegian institutions in the face of Israel’s ongoing apartheid policies. The Oslo municipality, and other Norwegian municipalities, could and should endorse Palestinian civil society’s call for BDS, and support the global, democratic nonviolent campaign for justice and equality for all here.
While successive Israeli governments have ignored basic principles of human rights and international law in their cruel treatment of the Palestinian people, we have seen that these governments are not immune to international pressure. For example, PM Benjamin Netanyahu has refrained (so far) from demolishing a small Palestinian-Bedouin village, Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, in area C- due to pressure by Western governments. The demolition, and the subsequent uprooting of the community would carve the West Bank into two parts, cement Israeli control in the area and undermine any attempt by European diplomats to pay lip service to an “independent, viable Palestinian state”.
Israel’s apartheid enterprise may look almighty but it is not. It is based on glaring contradictions, and sustained by an unholy global alliance of morally bankrupt, racist interest groups, which includes Islamophobes, arms industries and Evangelical Christian fanatics. This alliance can be defeated, and a victory for justice and equality in Palestine will encourage everyone struggling for for justice and equality and against racism all across the world.
Ofer Neiman is a Jewish-Israeli citizen from Jerusalem, and a member of Boycott from Within, a group of Israeli citizens who support BDS.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect BDS Norway’s editorial stance.