As the war on Gaza intensified and the images of killed children made the rounds, people all over the world asked a simple question: What can be done to stop this carnage?
The answer is: make the occupation costly and strengthen the resilience of the Palestinians.
It is clear that the impunity Israel enjoys plays a large role in its continued occupation and belligerence. Making the Israelis pay a price for continuing to rule another people by force and the siege on Gaza would have a positive result.
Many worry that as individuals they are helpless, but I believe that is not true. While Israel relies on support from international powers, mostly Western countries, there is much that can be made to influence political leaders to act differently when it comes to this unprecedented blind support for a country that kills babies at ease and yet continues to claim to be a democracy.
Already in the past month we saw how public opposition to the war on Gaza produced cracks in what seemed an unbreakable military support by countries like the U.S. and the UK.
Individuals, churches, unions and other entities can also do a lot to send the right message. Individual or collective efforts to stop buying products from Israel, to divest from investments in Israel and to seek sanctions on a country that puts no value on Palestinians’ lives can go a long way.
We have already seen supermarkets respond to consumer pressure, churches make a brave decision to divest from Israel and unions in Oakland, California, refuse to unload Israeli ships.
This effort must continue even after the war ends to send a clear message to Israel that its policies are rejected by the people of the world no matter how many lobbyists are working on its behalf.
The efforts to punish Israel for its occupation, illegal settlement and siege must be accompanied by a parallel effort to support Palestinians.
During the Eid al-Fitr holiday, one group posted on social media the prefaces for cell phones in Gaza and called on people to call randomly Gazans and say a few words of support.
Naturally, words of support will not replace a destroyed house or school. But strengthening the Palestinians’ resilience is the best way to counter Israel’s cruel collective punishment, which claims to be a “deterrent”.
When Israel is convinced that the Palestinians will not be deterred from wanting to live and enjoy independence and freedom of movement, it will begin the hard process of addressing Palestinian national aspirations.
The most powerful boycott of Israel today is actually happening in the occupied territories. In massive numbers, Palestinians are making the Israelis pay some cost.
However, the Palestinian boycott of Israeli products works only in the case of items that have a local or regional alternative.
While some Palestinian companies have been successful at providing quality products as alternatives to Israelis’, there are many items that either have no alternative or no alternative that is of quality. This problem can be addressed through a massive effort by countries like Jordan, Egypt and Turkey who have the ability to export products to Palestine that can fill this particular need.
If Palestinians are to be encouraged to make Israeli companies pay a price for their country’s occupation, there must be an effort to provide Arab and international products to help them towards that end.
A concerted regional effort, including industrial and product fairs, must be exerted to give Palestinian importers the chance to close this important gap and provide a cooperative Palestinian public with alternatives to products made in Israel. The balance of forces has been leaning heavily towards the Israeli side for too long, thus stunting all efforts to reach a just peace. This balance must be reversed and the occupiers must pay a price for their continued aggression.
Combining political and economic pressure against the belligerent state of Israel is the highest form of non-violent struggle that can be waged.
Palestinians saw in the past month the outpouring of international support for their just cause.
This support needs to be translated into effective political pressure and economic policies that can make the occupation and siege costly while supporting the Palestinian population. This effort can be effective, but will take time and require patience, endurance and persistence.
The fact that Palestinians are finally united in purpose and are working together is a huge plus that must be built on to create an effective strategy with tangible short-term and long-term goals.
Everyone can do something to support Palestine. The time is now and the opportunities for success are great.
Supporting Palestine today is the honorable thing to do and those who will be involved in it will be on the right side of history. They will be on the side that believes in human rights and human dignity and the rights of people to live in freedom and independence, away from war and occupation.
This article was first published in The Jordan Times on August 21, 2014.
Daoud Kuttab, an award winning Palestinian journalist who resides in Jerusalem and Amman. Mr. Kuttab is the director general of Community Media Network a media NGO that runs a radio station in Amman (al balad radio 92.4fm) a newsweb site ammannet.net and a TV production operation in Palestine Penmedia (penmedia.ps) which is producing the Palestinian version of Sesame street. You can read his blogs on DaoudKuttab.com and find him on Twitter @DaoudKuttab.
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