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Paul Larudee

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Does the Global March to Jerusalem Delegitimize Israel? Not at All.

Posted: 03/27/2012 11:40 am

Co-written with Feroze Mithiborwala and Ali Mallah

Israel is justifiably concerned about being treated as an international pariah. Although its ability to advocate for its perceived interests through the American electoral system -- and thereby bond with the power structure of the United States -- appears stronger than ever, Israel's main strategic think-tank, the Reut Institute, considers Israel's reputation to be its Achilles heel, and the greatest threat to its very existence.

This is because Israel has, in effect, put all its eggs in the American basket. American power is what allows Israel to receive deferential treatment in most European countries, and even allows some Arab countries like Jordan and Egypt to promote Israeli interests in defiance of the wishes of their own people. Without U.S. diplomatic intervention, advocacy and arm-twisting, it is doubtful that any country in the world would defend Israel's policies. Indeed, the handful of tiny dollar economy Pacific island nations that consistently side with Israel in the United Nations are the absurd exceptions that prove the rule.

The worry is that even as Israel wins the governments of nations that need its good graces -- and that of its big American brother -- it is losing the people of those nations. While the point may be obvious in the case of U.S. allies in the Arab world, it is perhaps less well known in societies like Spain, Holland, India, Greece and others.

The government of Greece, for example, humiliated itself by preventing a peaceful flotilla of boats from leaving its shores for Gaza in 2011, for the sake of relations with Israel. If we want to know how the Greek people feel, on the other hand, we need only look at their pride in organizing the 2008 popular campaign to break the Israeli siege of Gaza, as shown in the Greek film Gaza, We Are Coming, or at a recent basketball match between Israelis and Greeks, which was more about Greek solidarity with Palestine than about athletics.

The Global March to Jerusalem, a movement to prevent the expulsion and marginalization of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine, is merely an extension of these popular initiatives, which the Reut Institute rightly perceives to be growing. However, it is a grave mistake to think that such initiatives are the cause of Israel's delegitimization. Rather, it is Israel's actions and policies that create its image as a practitioner of ethnic cleansing and an abuser of human rights.

What can you say to put a positive spin on the disenfranchisement of 70,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, accomplished with the stroke of a pen by Jerusalem's mayor, Nir Barakat, on December 26, 2011? What can put a nice face on the policy of reducing Jerusalem's Palestinian population from 37% to 30%? Of confining that population to 6% of the land area? Of the routine denial of housing expansion on Palestinian land? On the thousands of existing homes that are under demolition orders?

If the world's people refuse to stand still for such crimes, and instead organize themselves into a peaceful, nonviolent protest march to make their will known, is the movement the cause of Israel's poor image, or are both the result of Israel's actions? Is it any wonder that the world has despaired of its leadership holding Israel accountable, and has therefore created popular initiatives like the Gaza flotillas, the Gaza Freedom marches, and the Global March to Jerusalem?

If there is a trend, it is toward increasing unity among the world's peoples, with new partnerships and networks forming into larger and larger coalitions for action. This is not likely to change due to Israeli propaganda, whitewashing, public relations efforts or other attempted manipulation of opinion. "You can't fool all of the people all of the time," said U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.

Increasingly, all the people are less inclined to be fooled, and more inclined to exert their will. The Global March to Jerusalem, engaging dozens of countries and many thousands of participants, is merely the latest and possibly the largest and most diverse expression of that will. However, it is not likely to remain so for long.

Paul Larudee, Feroze Mithiborwala and Ali Mallah are members of the Central Committee of the Global March to Jerusalem. For more information, visit gm2j.com or http://www.gmj-na.org.