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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 February 2019

Israel covers up its true goals

Tel Aviv continues to criminalise non-violent resistance to its occupation of Palestine
The Israeli Knesset passed a law intended to prevent supporters of the grassroots boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights from entering Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories. Ammar Awad / Reuters
The Israeli Knesset passed a law intended to prevent supporters of the grassroots boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights from entering Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories. Ammar Awad / Reuters

The Israeli parliament was unusually busy last week. In an act of mimicry, Tel Aviv decriminalised the use of marijuana. Following similar legislative decisions in the United States and parts of Europe, the marijuana bill was a desperate attempt by Israeli lawmakers to brand the country as western and liberal. Notwithstanding how ill-conceived such a law is, the fact of the matter is that Israel is far from a liberal country and other laws also recently passed by the parliament are clear evidence of this reality.

In a major attack on non-violent resistance to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and domination over Palestinian life, the parliament passed a law that denies entry visa and residency rights to foreigners that call for a boycott of Israel or Israeli settlements. Israel has previously criminalised support for boycotts by its own citizens, but this is the first time that Tel Aviv has targeted foreigners.

While some commentators have been quick to question whether this law will be applied to Jewish people who have called for a boycott (of which there is a growing number around the world), the target of this aggressive new law is Palestinians. Millions of Palestinians live outside the country and are barred from obtaining permanent residence in Palestine. Israel will now be able to easily prevent them from visiting their homeland by saying they support a non-violent boycott of Israel’s occupation (of which the majority of Palestinians do).

If there is any silver lining in this new law it is that it confirms how efforts to isolate Israel through a boycott are, indeed, working. If the boycott had marginal influence, as some Israel supporters have argued, then the parliament would not move forward with laws banning supporters.

While Israelis mock true, substantive liberalism with their marijuana law, it is critical to remember that the country is busy entrenching its occupation, criminalising non-violent dissent and blocking Palestinians in any manner it can from their homeland. There is nothing liberal or normal in such behaviour. Nothing can cover up the aggression of military occupation.

Updated: March 8, 2017 04:00 AM

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