Friday 18 April 2014

Nicky Larkin: Being a true supporter of Israel means believing in Palestine too

Most of the country's citizens agree peace will only come if disputed lands are relinquished.

A year ago I took a big step. I came out of the closet. I declared myself a Zionist, and threw my keffiyeh scarf in the bin. Like many friends who've come out in that other traditional sense of the phrase, I didn't know what reaction to expect.

And while it might be easy to label yourself a Zionist in other parts of the planet, being an Irish Zionist is not so easy. We're in the minority, fighting a losing battle.

Yet I stand by my convictions. I firmly believe in Israel's right to exist, and exist in peace. But it's becoming tough to defend these convictions. It's increasingly difficult to declare myself a Zionist.

Why? Last week, Israel's housing minister, Uri Ariel, gave approval for yet another 1,200 new settlement apartments in the disputed territories – only days before US-sponsored peace talks.

Palestinian negotiator Mohammad Shtayyeh said these latest announcements of continued settlement expansion is "clear proof that the Israelis are not serious about these talks".

Ariel is a leading member of the pro-settler party, Jewish Home. His argument is that no other country in the world would take orders on where it can and can't build. He said it was the right thing to do at this time, for Zionism.

Just as I can't condone a Palestinian blowing himself up at a checkpoint with the promise of 72 virgins, I also can't accept the expansion of settlements on land the international community considers illegal, under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Yet the Israeli government argues the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to these territories occupied in the 1967 Six-Day war, due to lack of a legal sovereignty.

But the United Nations Security Council, the UN general Assembly, the International Red Cross, and the International Court of Justice all agree the expansion of settlements is illegal.

Even John Kerry, US Secretary of State, said so. Speaking last week, Mr Kerry said: "Let me make it clear. The policy of the United States with respect to all settlements is that they are illegitimate."

Strong words from the Secretary of State of Israel's most trusted and supportive ally.

So now more than ever, the Israelis are on their own. Their pathetic attempts at PR leads us to believe they just don't care – like a petulant child taking his football home if he feels he's being fouled.

But in my two months in the region last year shooting my film Forty Shades of Grey, the vast majority of Israelis said they'd give up the disputed territories in the morning, if it meant they could finally live without fear of buses exploding on their streets. And they were all exasperated by Israel's chronic lack of PR.

There were two schools of thought. Some citizens were frustrated by the complete inadequacy of Israel's PR. Others said Israel had just given up on PR altogether as it was pointless, because the whole world was already against them. And so there is a serious fracture between the Israeli government and the Israeli people.

But on my travels promoting the film, I also felt a disconnect between the hyphenated Jews and the actual Israeli citizens, who live and breathe these harsh realities on a daily basis, instead of watching it through rose-tinted glasses on Fox News.

I found that a frightening proportion of the diaspora seem to view Israel as some sort of Disneyland for Jews. But all diasporas prefer compliments to the truth, and us Spud-Heads are no different. The biggest Paddy's Day parade in the world isn't in Dublin – it's 5,000km away across the Atlantic ocean.

So I feel sorry for Gadi and Boaz and Barack and all the peace-seeking Israelis I sank beers with, who are at odds with their government, and those Fox News Jews.

Because what those hyphenated Jews spectacularly fail to realise is, if you truly support Israel, then you have to also support the Palestinian's right to statehood.

Give someone something to lose, and they will behave. People with nothing to lose are dangerous. And if the Israelis continue to refuse to listen to the rest of the world, those rockets will start flying again, buses will explode on streets, and mothers will lose their teenage soldiers, blown up at check-points by strapped-up kids on the hunt for those 72 virgins.

Sunday Independent

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