At lunch with friends in Tel Aviv, as our argument grew more heated, my host said to me, “I hope that you are not talking like this when you are abroad, causing damage to Israel’s reputation in the UK.” “No”, I was able to reassure him, “there is no need for me to do so; damaging Israel’s reputation is adequately taken care of by the Israeli government.”
Several days later, this time at dinner with friends, I spoke about the possible effect of external pressure on Israel. If one considers Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories to be illegal why not boycott their produce? Or, would not the application of serious financial pressure on Israel make Israelis rethink their support of governments that are trying to widen their hold on the Occupied Territories? The reaction of one of my friends was that for an Israeli to support a boycott of any kind amounts to treason, adding that there were laws dealing with treason.
Most of my friends object to Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Territories and support a withdrawal from the territories within a framework of a peace agreement. They do not support any of the right wing parties that currently rule the country. However, there is a general discomfort with what in German is referred to as Nestbeschmutzer, one who soils his own nest. In today’s global world with open media, internet and travel, the notion of keeping criticism “secret” is rather unrealistic. Yet, even those who criticise their country internally shy away from criticising their country abroad.
I, too, would prefer Israel to act morally out of conviction and driven by its values rather than under external pressure. BUT, if the only way to get Israel to change tracks and get out of the mess it has got itself into since 1967 is for the USA and Europe to apply strong pressure, then such pressure should be applied. Sooner rather than later.