Saturday, June 29, 2013

McDonald’s Strikes a Blow Against Israel. By Rami G. Khouri.

McDonald’s strikes a blow for legitimacy. By Rami G. Khouri. The Daily Star (Lebanon), June 29, 2013.


The news that the McDonald’s Israel franchise decided not to open a restaurant at a new mall in the Jewish settlement of Ariel, in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank, pales in comparison with the news out of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq these days. Yet the symbolic political significance of this act may impact the region in a substantial and positive manner in the years ahead.
My reasoning is based on the following points. First, any just and mutually agreed permanent peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians will have to return all the territories occupied in 1967 to the Palestinians (with mutually agreed land swaps in some cases).
Second, this can only be achieved when a majority of Israelis accepts a principle that the entire world has already accepted: that the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are occupied lands that Israel must relinquish, in return for Arab recognition of Israel’s demand for an end of conflict, acceptance of Israel’s legitimacy, and normal relations as peaceful neighbors.
Third, Israelis will only arrive at this point when they grasp that their continued acts of colonization will generate new and more effective international responses in the form of boycotts and sanctions.
Fourth, this delegitimization of Israeli colonization policies may be critical to heightening global and Israeli appreciation that Israel in its pre-1967 lands has the right to live peacefully within secure and recognized borders if it also recognizes parallel Palestinian rights. However, Israeli colonization in occupied Palestinian and other Arab lands is illegal, will not be tolerated, and will increasingly be fought through all available legal means.
Fifth, international business firms that boycott Israeli colonies are an important part of the growing movement to politically pressure Israel to reverse its colonization and annexation measures, and to negotiate a permanent peace accord that includes a sovereign Palestinian state and an agreed resolution of the refugees issue.
The realtor who is marketing the retail spaces in the Ariel mall has said that other commercial firms also expressed concerns about operating in occupied lands, presumably because this could subject them to international consumer boycott campaigns that have caused some other international firms to lose business, including Adidas, Veolia and G4S. This slowly expanding international business sector campaign to highlight the illegality of Israel’s colonization endeavor is matched by continuing efforts by some leading churches in the West to divest from investments in companies that are based in or exploit the resources of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
Some international artists or academics have also refused to engage with Israelis for the same reason. Such boycotts or divestments are relatively few today, but they are growing steadily, gaining more publicity, and hurting Israel and the Zionist enterprise where it hurts most – in the soft underbelly of their stained legitimacy.
This is one of the ways in which the apartheid system of South Africa eventually collapsed under the unbearable weight of its own self-inflicted international isolation. I am convinced that a similar process must unfold with Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories that are increasingly compared to apartheid practices.
Israelis and their zealot apologists in the West complain that boycotting Israel is a form of anti-Semitism and seeks to delegitimize the very existence of the state. Both of those are false accusations, and worn-out Zionist intimidation tactics that increasingly fall on deaf ears, because Israel’s blatant disregard for international law and its demeaning mistreatment of the Palestinians under its occupation for almost half a century have become so offensive to both human sensibilities and the rule of law.

Boycotts, divestments and sanctions differentiate sharply between Israel’s right to exist within its pre-1967 borders and its unacceptable actions in the occupied territories. The campaign to boycott and sanction Israeli colonization does not primarily aim to delegitimize Israel, but rather to delegitimize and end the criminality that Israel and Zionism practice in the occupied territories. Other aspects of these campaigns also highlight Israel’s mistreatment and denial of rights of Palestinians who are Israeli citizens within the state’s 1948 borders, and the Palestinian refugees scattered around the world.
The courageous decision of the McDonald’s Israel franchise may generate a campaign against the fast food chain’s products around the world by Zionist and pro-Israel groups that have used such pressures in other cases (such as threats to withdraw advertising from National Public Radio stations in the United States for alleged pro-Palestinian broadcasts).
It is important in these cases to resist the intellectual terrorism and political intimidation that Zionist groups will use against those who dare to point out that Israeli colonization – like South African apartheid – is an act of international criminality that must cease. That is, if the legitimate state of Israel within its original 1948 borders is to have any chance of living peacefully, and legitimately, with its neighbors, who should enjoy the same rights to secure statehood as Israel demands.