I was scarcely two hours into my first arrival in the small Palestinian village of At-Tuwani than I was in the midst of a boisterous shouting dispute about The Land. Israeli settlers had called police to force Palestinian shepherds back from what they considered their turf. The shepherds claimed the land was theirs.
Following extensive training with Christian Peacemaker Teams, I was on my first month-long assignment. I returned for more stints in subsequent years. Our team’s purpose included nonviolent tactics toward justice between Palestinians and Israeli Jews. What I witnessed toward Palestinians was appalling: Poisoned wells and fields; beatings; harassment of shepherds and even toward their children walking to school. I saw homes bulldozed because they did not have an Israeli-issued building permit, that is never issued anyway. Lands confiscated with evictions, as is now going on in the Masafer Yatta area where I served.
For over 40 years, the UN Security Council and General Assembly have stated in dozens of resolutions that Israel’s annexation of occupied territory is unlawful, its construction of hundreds of Jewish settlements are illegal, and its denial of Palestinian self-determination breaches international law. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its civilian population into territory under its occupation. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Jewish Voice for Peace, numerous other human rights advocacy groups, along with some church denominations and Jewish organizations, challenge Israel’s continuing settlement expansions into Palestinian lands.
The nation Israel has much to be commended with its vibrant economy, top-notch education and medical facilities, and a participatory society. After centuries of suffering horrific persecution, Jews find in Israel a common identity with their ancient biblical homeland. In many ways, Israel is a more open and democratic society than its neighboring countries. Yet Israel’s stranglehold on Palestinian lands is wrong.
I read with dismayed interest the press release “Treasurer joins coalition concerned about anti-Israel actions” (The Pocahontas Times, Sept. 1, 2022, page 2). Riley Moore, West Virginia State Treasurer, joined multi-state coalition of 18 State Treasurers, Auditors and Financial Officers sending a letter to a large investment company on its negative ratings of firms with business ties to Israel.
Riley’s and the others’ disturbing concern was that their states’ treasury investments might be tied to the influence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Their letter charges that “The BDS Movement (uses) tactics meant to isolate Israel in the world economy and breed prejudice against the Jewish people.”
Missing from their letter is why the BDS Movement exists in the first place. I am a non-Jewish member of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that supports BDS as a Palestinian-led nonviolent movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.
Treasurer Riley and his cohorts are also using investment boycott tactics to achieve their aims. May I then ask them their thoughts toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?