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Hagai El-Ad

Hagai El-Ad

Posted: June 29, 2010 02:22 PM

From a Source of Inspiration to a Pariah State

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In 1948, just a few years after World War II, the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration was drafted with the memory of the War's horrific human rights violations still fresh and resonating in the minds of its authors. It has since become the key international document stating humanity's common commitment to the protection of human rights. Thus, the Declaration was one of the ways in which the global community has addressed the Holocaust, expressing a commitment to never allow such a crime to ever happen again.

On the very same year, the State of Israel was established. The State's establishment, too, was partially a reaction to the Holocaust.

Since then some sixty years have passed.

Recently, one of the Declaration's drafters, Stéphane Hessel, published an article calling for Israel's global condemnation: "The absence of meaningful action from governments to hold Israel accountable to international law leaves open one path for citizens of conscience: to take this responsibility upon themselves, as done against apartheid South Africa.... By flagrantly attacking the aid ship, Israel has inadvertently brought unprecedented awareness and condemnation not only of its fatal siege of Gaza but also of the wider context of Israel's occupation practices in the Palestinian Territories... the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) initiative is a moral strategy which has demonstrated its potential for success."

As an Israeli citizen, my heart shudders at these notions.

At the same time, I recall my sense of despair earlier this June, when -- as we have done every June since 1967 -- we marked another year's passing since the start of the occupation. Already, the 44th year has begun, and there is no end on the horizon. Meanwhile, the suffering of the Palestinians just goes on, the prolonged occupation becoming increasingly established. My heart shudders.

What a long way has Israel traveled in just over six decades: from being founded on the very same year as the Declaration of Human Rights, as some form of a response to one of the most horrible crimes in human history -- to becoming a state referred to by one of the Declaration's drafters as having a "criminal government" deserving of BDS. How much goodwill, hope and optimism were destroyed along this journey, how much human suffering caused -- and how difficult it will be to change course.

The path leading beyond the cliff's edge is clear and Israel's government is propelling the country forward with eyes wide open. It's bewildering: how a country whose leaders are so obsessed with the State's image abroad are at the very same time refusing to internalize the basic connection between image and essence. In other words, if to state just one recent example, the government's current flotilla-related "image" problems are not really the result of the IDF spokesperson's delay in releasing certain video clips to the international media. These are not simply problem of image; rather, they result from deep, fundamental issues that Israel has been trying to dodge for decades. When will we finally be blessed with a leadership that will try, for a change, to actually address the issues, and will forgo the obsession with image alone for awhile?

The current government continues to focus on convicting the world of "being against Israel" -- while at the same time providing more and more reasons why more and more people will be moved to protest against its policies. This is the unfortunate path forward, connecting Israel's actions, image, and what gradually more and more of the world's "citizens of conscience" will do if Israel does not start to change course.

Israel, too, is part of the world: Israeli citizens are the world's citizens as well. Hence the question presents itself: what about Israel's "citizens of conscience"? What will we do in order to start changing course?

 

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