ECONOMIC SANCTIONS INCLUDING DIVESTMENT AS OBSTACLES TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF MIDDLE EAST PEACE

by Jared Feldman

 

The Jewish community is deeply committed to alleviating the suffering of all people and we support efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  We seek a solution that will allow both peoples to live in peace and dignity and to fulfill the hopes and the aspirations of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples within the context of peaceful co-existence and mutual recognition. 

 

While we recognize that difficult compromises will be required in order for both sides to come to mutual agreement, we are very concerned about efforts that seek to blame Israel for the failure of the peace process or that seek to use economic actions that could be construed as attacks against Israel. Ironically, while presented as an effort to hasten a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these efforts are more likely to hinder rather than advance the peace process, endorsing a continuation of a strategy of rejectionism and terror. Moreover, in light of the change in Palestinian leadership and the corresponding improvement in relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, divestment efforts are ill timed and counterproductive.

 

These economic actions resonate as discriminatory and conjure memories within the Jewish community of the anti-Israel boycott.   They also raise an unfounded and repugnant association with Apartheid, which is unsupported by Israel’s history and treatment of its minority citizens.   As such, the current efforts raise fears in the Jewish community that the purpose of the sponsoring entities is to delegitimize the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state. 

 

The JCPA believes that:

  • Economic sanctions against companies doing business with Israel evidence a misunderstanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are a cause for great concern.  They polarize people and communities in such a way that the actions themselves, and not peace, become the central issue, making constructive actions for peace less possible; 
  • Efforts to single Israel out for economic sanctions, to the exclusion of other regions and nations around the world, evidence a troubling double standard that poses a serious challenge to intergroup relations; 
  • Support of economic sanctions against companies doing business with Israel reward intransigence by suggesting that international pressure can replace efforts to negotiate in good faith;
  • Economic sanctions targeting Israel would also adversely affect the Palestinian people, as the Israeli and Palestinian economies are intertwined, and thousands of Palestinians work in Israel.  Attacks on the economic life of the Israeli people not only undermine Israel’s survival but also the economic viability of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians and contribute to instability in the region.  They detract from the goal of a formation of a lasting and solid peace based on co-existence, economic relations and trade as well as other needed aspects of normalization that are crucial to the building of that long dreamed-of peace; and,
  • Those seeking to hasten peace should focus on efforts of reconciliation, including investment in the many meaningful coexistence programs, that are necessary to foster a generation of Israelis and Palestinians which will work and live side-by-side and move past the teaching of hate and the resort to violence.

 

The community relations field should:

  • Educate and encourage the Jewish community, including the campus community, to engage in dialogue within local communities with other faith and community groups to build understanding and develop bridges of communication; and,
  • Actively engage religious, civic, political, labor, academic and other institutions to inform the community at large about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to oppose the use of economic sanctions, including shareholder actions and divestment, as tools to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and support efforts to change such policies where they have been adopted. Joint travel opportunities can be an important part of this effort.

About the Author


Jared Feldman