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CJ Werleman

Israel will not make it to 100

April 2018, Israel marks 70 years since the 1948 declaration of the Israeli state [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 April, 2018

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Comment: Israel has historically enjoyed the bipartisan support of the US, but sympathies are changing and the era of unconditional political support is coming to an end, writes CJ Werleman.
As the state of Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary, the question of whether the apartheid Jewish state, as we know it today, will be around long enough to celebrate its centennial in three decades time?

The short answer, is no.

History has demonstrated that unjust, unequal, and repressive middle power regimes do not last long. Apartheid in South Africa lasted less than 50 years. Segregation in the United States under Jim Crow laws made it to 73 years, while totalitarian regimes in western Europe lasted not much more than a decade.

In an increasingly connected and interdependent world, no nation state is an island, and none can survive the economic-political costs of international isolation for long. The longer and deeper Israel's illegal occupation and colonisation of Palestine spreads, the further Israel finds itself from most of the international community.

Israel already finds itself adrift from Europe, where the label "apartheid" is invoked by an ever-increasing number of political and business leaders.

Jeremy Corbyn, the UK's opposition leader, not only 
advocates boycotting settlements and businesses in the West Bank, but also once chaired The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and, unlike his contemporaries in the United States, spoke out strongly against western "silence" over Israel's slaughter of unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza during the past weeks.

"The killing and wounding of yet more unarmed Palestinian protesters yesterday by Israeli forces in Gaza is an outrage," said Corbyn on 7 April. "They have a right to protest against their appalling conditions and the continuing blockade and occupation of Palestinian land," and spoke in "support of their right to return to their homes and their right to self-determination".

While Corbyn refuses to endorse a universal boycott of Israeli products, the growth of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, which seeks to end the occupation and dismantle Israel's illegal settlements and secure equal rights for all Palestinians - including the right of Palestinian refugees to return - has gained undeniable global traction.

When BDS emerged in 2005, only Palestinian civil society groups and fringe pro-Palestinian solidarity groups supported it, but today it has moved firmly into the mainstream and has spread across Europe like wildfire.

Israel is only a US election cycle or two away from becoming a wedge issue in American politics

"The economic damage done to Israel by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is rather insignificant thus far," observes the right-leaning Jerusalem Post. "European governments have pumped tens of millions of euros into NGOs that support various forms of BDS."

While there were a number of reasons the apartheid regime in South Africa eventually collapsed on itself, including the end of the Soviet-US confrontation, a competition that white South Africa had received economic benefits from, the boycott movement played a significant role in starving the state of foreign investment, thus forcing the then government to choose between staying on a path of economic self-destruction or reintegration with the international community. In 1991, it chose the latter.

This is the choice also facing Israel as international condemnation of the occupation, blockade, and discriminatory policies becomes more vocal, more organised, and more sustained.

Undeniably, the role the United States has played in shielding Israel at the United Nations has preserved and empowered Israel's defiance of international law, but politics are changing rapidly in the US.

The days of Israel enjoying bipartisan support in the US are now over. While the older generation of Democratic Party stalwarts might still sing odes to the Jewish state, the party's base has become staunchly opposed to Israel's occupation and repression of the Palestinian people.

In fact, younger voters overwhelmingly side with Palestinians, and given it's the 18-35 voter the Democratic Party hopes will drive it to victory in the 2018 midterm elections and 2020 general election, political reality is finally catching up to ageing white Democrat figures such as Pelosi and Senate minority speaker Chuck Schumer in the House and Senate.

In South Africa the boycott movement played a significant role in starving the state of foreign investment

"In Congress, a sidling away from Israel among Democrats may already be underway," observes Shmuel Rosner for The New York Times. "Once, Democratic legislators had to worry about appearing unsupportive of Israel; today some of them - especially those who need to be re-elected by liberal voters - seem to have the opposite concern: They do not want to be seen as too supportive."

In short, Israel is only a US election cycle or two away from becoming a wedge issue in American politics, akin to gun control, abortion, and gay marriage - and when that day inevitably comes, the unconditional US support Israel has enjoyed at the UN will be over, too.

It's not only politics that is changing sympathies towards Israel, but also the fact the memory of the Holocaust is fading out of view, according to Padraig O'Malley, author of The Two-State Delusion: A Tale of Two Narratives.

"These young people do not deny or forget the scale of the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis during World War Two, but they do not accept being held hostage to the sense of guilt of their parents or the actual guilt of their grandparents," writes O'Malley.

Younger Democratic voters overwhelmingly side with Palestinians

"These young people also do not see Jewish Israelis as victims. They do not believe that the Holocaust validates Israel's claim to exceptionalism or serves as a justification for holding another people hostage."

Israel also faces insurmountable demographic headwinds.

"The Jewish majority is decreasing – if it exists at all, over the whole territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River," observes Sergio Della Pergolla, a demographer of Israel.

"The crucial point is the rate of growth of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as among the Palestinian Israeli citizens, is higher than it is for the Jewish population. The slight but steady percentage differential is moving inexorably in one direction."

The point here is that if Israel fails to bring a two-state solution into reality, it will find itself claiming to be a Jewish state where non-Jews outnumber the Jewish population, which, in turn, will make its already anti-democratic laws, appear even more anti-democratic, and increasingly repressive, which will only bring further international pressure upon the state of Israel.

It is for these reasons, among others, that Israel should go out of its way to enjoy its 70th birthday, because quite clearly, the party might soon be over.


CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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