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Israel: A Time for Personal Sanctions


Scholars for Israel and Palestine (SIP)
Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine, Pro-Peace

The perspective contained in the following statement are the collective thinking of the signatories, as developed through discussions of the SIP.  It does not represent the views of the SIP as a whole, The Third Narrative or any other institution.

For More Information about this Declaration by Members of the SIP, please contact: Professor Gershon Shafir,

Israel: A Time for Personal Sanctions
December 8, 2014

A central obstacle to a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the continuing occupation of the West Bank. Accordingly, we call on the United States and the European Union to impose personal sanctions on a cluster of Israeli political leaders and public figures who lead efforts to insure permanent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and to annex all or parts of it unilaterally in violation of international law.

There is a compelling current precedent for such moves. In response to Russia’s unilateral annexation of Crimea and its ongoing campaign of aggressive destabilization in eastern Ukraine, the United States and the European Union implemented, among other measures, personal sanctions—visa restrictions and foreign asset freezes—against government officials, public figures, and others who play especially significant roles in promoting and implementing violations of international law. (1)  We propose that similar personal sanctions be imposed on Israeli political leaders and other public figures who play central roles in Israel’s systematic, long-term violations of international law.

UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 allowed for a temporary Israeli occupation in the territories captured in the 1967 war, while calling for a negotiated peace settlement that would include Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories in return for recognition of Israel’s right, along with other states in the area, “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” These resolutions did not authorize permanent occupation, large-scale ongoing Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, or creeping annexation in the West Bank. Those policies plainly violate international law.

Continuing settlement and piecemeal annexation directly violate the Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention, which regulate the conduct of belligerent occupations, and also violate the ban on acquiring territory by force which is one of the foundations of the modern international order. In addition, they deliberately aim to prevent the kind of negotiated peace settlement envisioned by Resolutions 242 and 338.  These policies threaten to lock both Israelis and Palestinians into an inescapable path toward catastrophe. They demand an urgent response.

That response, we believe, should not take the form of generalized boycotts and other sanctions that indiscriminately target Israeli society and Israeli institutions. Such measures are both unjust and politically counterproductive. In particular, campaigns for boycotts and blacklists of Israeli academia attack the most basic principles of academic freedom and open intellectual exchange.

Moreover, a response to Israel’s settlement and annexation policies should not suggest that Israel bears exclusive responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy, or that, if pressured, Israel could solve it unilaterally. Achieving a just and durable negotiated solution requires constructive efforts by actors on all sides of the intertwined Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts. However, if the door is to be held open to the possibility of a just, workable, and peaceful solution, one requirement is to prevent actions that would sabotage it. For this reason, we propose targeted sanctions to focus on political actors engaged in such sabotage.


We single out four powerful Israeli political leaders and public figures who promote these unjust, unlawful, and destructive policies in their most extreme and dangerous form. These four explicitly support policies of permanent occupation and unilateral annexation. They reject efforts to negotiate peace and actively sabotage US-led efforts to promote them. They advocate and implement unilateral actions designed to preclude a negotiated peace. They are therefore legitimate targets for personal sanctions by the US and the EU.

1. Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home Party and Minister of Economy, Religious Services, Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs. From 2010 to January 2012, Bennett served as the Director General of the Yesha Council (the umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and previously in the Gaza Strip as well). He led the struggle against the 2010 settlement freeze. In February 2012, he published “The Israel Stability Initiative,” which flatly rejects any possibility of ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank or allowing the creation of a Palestinian state. Instead, Israel would unilaterally annex and bring under its sovereignty Area C, which constitutes 62 percent of the area of the West Bank; Palestinian autonomy would be allowed in Areas A and B, but under the permanent security umbrella of the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet. (2)  In November 2014 Bennett reiterated this program in a New York Times op-ed (3),  and as a member of the government coalition he has continued to press strongly for a policy of creeping annexation. (4) Recently he threatened to break up the government coalition unless Israel continues building new and expanded settlements. (5)

2. Uri Ariel, a Member of the Knesset from the Jewish Home Party and Minister of Construction and Housing. In the past, he served as the Secretary General of both the Yesha Council and the Amana settlement movement. He explicitly advocates having “just one state between the Jordan River and the sea, and that is the State of Israel.” (6) He has been a consistent advocate of accelerated settlement building. As Minister, he is responsible for issuing building tenders for housing east of the Green Line, such as the 1,400 housing units authorized this year to be built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Moreover, Ariel sought to undermine US peacemaking efforts by announcing those tenders just four days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s January 2014 visit to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. (7) Ariel has also confessed to informing Israeli settlers about Israel Defense Forces’s attempts to evacuate outposts that are illegal even under Israeli law; thus he has worked behind the back of the government of which he is a member. (8)  Finally, in July 2014, in a dangerously incendiary violation of long-standing Israeli policy, he publicly called for a Third Temple to be built on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. (9)

3. Moshe Feiglin, a Member of the Knesset from the Likud Party and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. Feiglin stands out for his straightforward and undisguised extremism. His annexationist program goes beyond Bennett’s. “The Feiglin Platform” of 2012 calls for complete annexation of both Gaza and the West Bank, and advances an unambiguous formula for permanent rule over a politically disenfranchised subject population. (10)  In July 2014, Feiglin also called for removing most Arabs from Gaza and replacing them with Jews to solve the housing crisis in Israel. To Palestinians “choosing to remain” there, and to Palestinians in the West Bank who have lived there their whole lives, he offers just “permanent resident status” – or citizenship on condition that they accept the supremacy of the Jewish way of life throughout the land. (11) Feiglin has already been banned from entering the UK on the grounds that his sweeping anti-Arab and anti-Muslim diatribes “propagate views which foment and provoke others to serious criminal acts and also foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.” (12)

4. Zeev Hever, also known as Zambish, Secretary General of Amana since 1989.  Since 1978, Hever has been one of the most persistent and influential organizers of settlement construction. Amana taxes settlers to enable its subsidiary, Binyanei Bar Amana, to become the major builder of houses in outposts that even Israeli governments view as illegal. In 1984, Hever was arrested as a member of the Jewish Underground and sentenced to 11 months in prison for attempting to plant an explosive charge in the car of Dr. Ahmed Natshe, a Palestinian leader from Hebron. Since then, he has abandoned direct participation in violence, but not the path of systematic illegality aimed at rendering any negotiated peace agreement impossible. (13)


Annexationist policies pursued by these four individuals, and others like them, have created a genuine emergency. They slam the door not only on peacemaking at present but for the foreseeable future. They rule out the prospect for any two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Therefore, it is not sufficient to reiterate calls for negotiations. It is equally and urgently imperative to oppose the occupation itself, and especially those policies that seek to make it permanent and irreversible. It is necessary for the U S and the EU to go beyond verbal protest. They must take active measures to penalize lawbreakers. Well-aimed sanctions can play a constructive role in this respect if they focus on figures who bear the greatest responsibility for policies that deepen and extend the occupation and render the march to catastrophe increasingly inescapable. Therefore we propose personal sanctions as elements of a larger campaign to preserve and advance the possibility of a negotiated peace, resulting in Israeli and Palestinian nation-states coexisting side-by-side. Only such an outcome can offer both Israelis and Palestinians the basis for a free, secure, and hopeful future.

The undersigned are members of the Scholars for Israel and Palestine, affiliated with The Third Narrative (14):

Gershon Shafir
University of California, San Diego

Jeff Weintraub
Independent Scholar

Michael Walzer
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Todd Gitlin
Columbia University

Sam Fleischacker
University of Illinois at Chicago

Alan Wolfe
Boston College

Alan Jay Weisbard
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Rebecca Lesses
Ithaca College

Joe Lockard
Arizona State University

Zachary J. Braiterman
Syracuse University

Irene Tucker
University of California, Irvine

Michael Kazin
Georgetown University

Steven J. Zipperstein
Stanford University

Jeffry V. Mallow
Loyola University Chicago

Ernst Benjamin
Independent Scholar

Rachel F. Brenner,
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Chaim Seidler-Feller
University of California, Los Angeles

Jonathan Malino
Guilford College

Miriam Kastner
University of California, San Diego

Barbara Risman
University of Illinois, Chicago

Elaine Leeder
Sonoma State University

Jonathan Zasloff
University of California, Los Angeles

Susan Neiman
Einstein Forum, Potsdam

David Rush
Tufts University

Yomi Braester
University of Washington

Howard Wettstein
University of California, Riverside

Robert Jennings
University of Chicago


(2)  “Naftali Bennett’s Stability Initiative”, 26 December 2012 (
(3)  Naftali Bennett, “For Israel, Two-State Is No Solution”. New York Times op-ed, 6 November 2014 (
(4)  David Remnick, The settlers move to annex the West Bank—and Israeli politics. The New Yorker (21 January 2013)
(9)  ttp://
(12) &

3 Responses to “Israel: A Time for Personal Sanctions”

  1. Amiram Goldblum
    December 10, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    This is an excellent initiative, and should gain the support of many Israelis too. Signatures should be collected and sent to the US Congress and Senate as well as to all European Parliaments. There are very many Israeli settler leaders who should be added to that list, as well as leaders of right wing and anti human rights organizations in Israel, MKs of the “Eretz israel” Bllock in the Knesset that includ all the “Bayit Yehudi” members, many Rabbis of settlements and Yeshivas in the Settlements, LIkud adn “Israel Beytenu” members and others.

  2. Alan Jay Weisbard
    December 11, 2014 at 11:18 pm #

    I am one of the signatories of this statement and participated in its development. I speak here for myself and not in any representational capacity. My objective is to redirect some of this discussion to the statement itself and to our objectives in producing it. As we all know, online (and many other) discussions of Israel and Palestine have a strong tendency to go off track, to present extreme views, and to lose all sense of nuance. The statement we have issued, while bold, is a careful one, and deserves attentive reading and measured debate.

    The full statement makes clear that the signers of this initiative do not place exclusive blame on Israel or Israelis for the ongoing failure of the “peace process.” I anticipate that future statements will address issues of Palestinian behavior in much greater detail. I hope needless to say, and so far as I know, none of the signers has anything positive to say about Hamas or Palestinian acts of terror. That is simply not the subject of this statement.

    The sanctions against Russian leaders following Russia’s adventures in Crimea and Ukraine pointedly do not include Russian President Putin or Russia’s Foreign Minister. There are sound diplomatic reasons for this omission, including a recognition that such senior officials need to be able to travel to pursue important diplomatic activities, which might lower tensions and resolve the Ukrainian or other critical issues. The signers of this statement followed this precedent in not including Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Defense Minister, or the Foreign Minister. It is also the case that the official actions of these individuals, while subject to legitimate and powerful criticisms, have, for the most part, not been as extreme or antithetical to the possibility of peace as the four named individuals.
    This initiative is intended as a more carefully targeted alternative to more broadly sweeping and less discriminating BDS actions, and to academic boycotts in particular. It is also entirely the product of a group of progressive Zionists who have devoted decades to supporting the ideals of a Jewish and democratic Israel as proclaimed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. We have also been active with a larger group of colleagues in opposition to academic boycotts and the organized BDS campaign. Our initiative is entirely dissociated from the actions of BDS proponents who deny the fundamental legitimacy of the State of Israel and seek its dissolution or destruction. We do not intend to provide any aid or comfort to those who oppose Israel itself, as opposed to its policies.
    We find common cause with many Israeli military and security officials, as well as fellow academics, writers, and cultural figures who share our criticisms of current Israeli policies and social tendencies. We encourage others to join with us in supporting or participating with Scholars for Israel and Palestine and The Third Narrative.

  3. Lee Jaffe
    December 15, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    I want to raise the question of the problems inherent in this proposal, calling for government sanctions against people because you don’t like their political views. The idea is essentially anti-liberal at its heart and seems like a bad precedent coming from people who may want to express unpopular ideas at some point in th future.

    The free speech provisions of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment has been a balwark of democracy in this country for more than 200 years. The principle that the government cannot stifle opposiiton views or unpopular ideas is an essential protection for progressive causes. There are exceptions; crying ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, for instance. You may believe that those you’ve singled out are doing just that. But repressive governments have used exactly that ploy to suppress opposition views. Liberals and progressives have consistently fought such attempts to erode free speech protections.

    Now, in order silence those whose political views you oppose, you are asking governments to sanction people based on those views. At best this is a slippery slope, giving permission to governments to take action against individuals based on their views. More bluntly, it is a betrayal of the fundamental protections at the heart of our democratic system. I wonder how you “liberals” are going to feel when the ACLU takes the case against your proposal?

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