March 29, 2008

Women bring green educational institute to Arab sector. The role of a boycott is…?

Posted in boycott, british greens, cooperation, education at 12:30 pm by Mira Vogel

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reports on a joint initiative between a group of 17 Israeli Arab women and the Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel to establish an educational institute in the Galilee region that will teach environmental conservation, recycling and ecology:

The women, aged 30 to 35, come from varied backgrounds – Druze, Moslem and Christian. They are being instructed by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

“This is the first group of Arab women to learn about environmental issues,” said Muadi. Explaining that in her neighborhood, environmental awareness is still in its infancy, she added: “We therefore decided to start with activities in the schools, because change has to begin with the students.”

After completing an SPNI course on environmental education, the women joined the staff of SPNI’s field school, which runs the environmental program in the village’s elementary school. The women gave several lessons to every grade, covering environmental topics such as nature, water, recycling, air pollution and ecology. Last week, the women and students went on a field trip that included a clean-up operation.

“The women’s involvement as part of SPNI’s teaching staff,” said Vasil Hazima, director of SPNI’s field school in Maghar”

The Green Party’s boycott Resolution C05 – part of a wider boycott and divestment initiative – currently acts against these types of partnerships. It is an entirely negative force that promotes hostility and inevitably contributes to pressure on Israel’s Arab (or Palestinian – depending on how they self-define) to turn their backs on such initiatives.

This pressure is evidenced in the experience of a delegation of philanthropists who were visiting Israeli Arab villages and institutions to research how best they might contribute to the kind of inclusive, equal society which is prerequisite of any kind of conflict resolution. There was a small but loud call to boycott the delegation. Here’s what Ami Nahshon, one of its members, had to say:

While the call to boycott fell on deaf ears among the vast majority of Arab public and civil society leaders, it taught all of us an important lesson: that the lines of conflict in Israel are not between the Arab and Jewish communities, but rather between those Jews and Arabs who embrace a vision of an inclusive and just society, and those who seem intent on pursuing an agenda of separatism and alienation. Our visit convinced us that it is our duty, as diaspora leaders, to embrace and support those who share this inclusive vision, and not to allow ourselves to be distracted by the separatist voices at the political fringes of both communities.

There is also the experience of peace activist Mohamad Darawshe part of an Israeli Jewish and Arab fact-finding mission to Northern Ireland who was boycotted by a Northern Irish International Relations academic for being Israeli.

And the experience of the Palestinian and Israeli workers and promoters of the Peace Oil initiative, a charity which was subject to a Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) sabotage attempt.

“Anything that the Zionist Federation could get excited about would be bound to inflame the PSC. Pro-boycotters tend to act jealous when Palestinians cooperate with Israelis and frequently attempt to break things up. Targetting Israeli-Arab-Palestinian cooperation and making an issue out of the only product in the Good Gifts catalogue with an Israel connection is a wedge-driving tactic and part of the general boycott strategy. It’s of a piece with their hard work to stop OneVoice dual peace concerts in Tel Aviv and Jericho, and their condemnation of Israeli academics for apathy while simultaneously encouraging and pressurising Palestinian academics to have nothing to do with them.”

OneVoice is a citizens’ Israeli-Palestinian peace movement which was sabotaged by boycotters when they attempted to stage joint peace concerts in Tel Aviv and Jericho.

What contribution has the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement had on improving Palestinian lives and advancing towards a just resolution to the conflict? None. It’s logic is to polarise, not reconcile. And meanwhile Israel’s reprehensible settlement activity in Har Homa and Givat Ze’ev continues, in the face of the Annapolis agreement to freeze activity, and despite the long-overdue evacuation of 18 ‘outposts’. The security barrier’s mission creep endures, causing it to bite deep into Palestinian territory. Hamas consolidates power in Gaza, tolerating or promoting the persecution of Christians, journalists and Trade Unionists. Gazan women take up the veil to avoid negative attention. Fatah, the secular political force in the West Bank weakens as the clerical, anti-democratic parties of Hamas and Hizb ut Tahrir gain ground. Iran funds weapons for Hamas and Hesbollah.

The Green boycott is the opposite of helpful. Any green activist should understand that it has no place in a movement which purports to support ecological and environmental activism. Its logic is conflict, separatism and alienation, and we should get rid of it as soon as possible.

The Green Party should turn its back on anything that contributes to this pressure by rescinding Resolution C05. If we care about a peace beween Palestinians and Israelis, we should work on an alternative vision. And we will.