We don’t think supporting the BDS movement will help end the Israeli occupation, protect human rights and foster a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as noted here. “Well,” you might be thinking, if not BDS, what can I do?”
There are tangible activities that can help remove obstacles to resolving the conflict and increase the chance that, eventually, peace and justice will prevail, including:
- Press the U.S. government to stop enabling the Israeli occupation and engage in the kind of creative, evenhanded diplomacy that is necessary to resolve the conflict.
America’s active engagement is essential to removing the obstacles to a viable, contiguous Palestinian state, which is the best solution to the conflict even though it isn’t on the near-term political horizon. Pressing Congress and the administration to help achieve that goal and eventually jumpstart constructive negotiations is critically important. That’s the aim of a wide range of organizations, including American Task Force on Palestine, J Street, Churches for Middle East Peace, Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, Partners for Progressive Israel and T’Ruah.
Helping these groups involves unglamourous, patient and practical political advocacy. It might not provide the immediate gratification that can be derived from signing a resolution backing BDS or protesting against a musician planning to perform in Israel. But it’s more likely to have a positive, tangible impact on the future of Palestinians and Israelis. That’s because what the U.S. government says and does matters to Israeli leaders and the Israeli public. You could:
- Lobby the White House and Congress to help prevent the Israeli annexation of the West Bank. For example, the Israeli government has periodically announced plans to build new housing in “E-1,” a corridor that links Jerusalem to the West Bank. Building Israeli settlements there would make it even more difficult to create a viable, contiguous Palestinian state. Two-state activists in the U.S. keep mobilizing to press the American government to object to construction in E-1. Those plans have been indefinitely postponed.
- Help to ensure that U.S. military aid to Israel is not used to support the Israeli occupation or violate Palestinian human rights. That is the goal of several bills that have been introduced in the U.S. Congress in recent years, such as the Two-State Solution Act in 2021, which was supported by many of the groups noted above. While explicitly supporting security assistance for Israel, the bill called for robust oversight over that aid and barred it from being used by Israel to enforce or enable the occupation and annexation of the West Bank. Among other things, it also called for humanitarian assistance to Palestinian NGOs, while admonishing the Palestinian Authority to stop payments to the families of terrorists.
The Members of Congress and groups that supported this bill endorse military aid to Israel. But they don’t want that money to buy Caterpillar tractors that demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank or weapons that are used to enforce the occupation.
At TTN, we agree that holding Israel accountable for the aid it gets from the U.S. is important. That said, it’s wrong for people on the far left call to suspend all military aid to Israel. It’s irresponsible to ignore the threats to Israeli Jews and Arabs from rockets launched by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, or by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The U.S.-financed Iron Dome defense system that intercepts those rockets has saved many Israeli lives, including opponents of the occupation, anti-Zionists, post-Zionists and Israeli Arabs.
Yes, at the same time, Palestinian non-combatants in the Gaza Strip also need protection from Israeli missiles during periodic confrontations between Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad and Israel. The U.S. government should be urged to hold Israel accountable if it does not do everything possible to avoid injuries to non-combatants during these confrontations.
- Support and build a constituency for Arab-Jewish groups that are fighting together against the occupation, solving common problems, and building the trust needed for a peaceful future. Fortunately, many of these organizations are now getting financial support from the U.S. government, thanks to the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, enacted in 2020, but they still need your help.
Along with donating money and helping them raise funds, activists can contact these organizations and build a local constituency for them. For example, you could orchestrate presentations by their leaders to your house of worship, union and academic community. Broadening the constituency in the U.S. and other countries that supports this work will also bolster political support for the goals of these organizations.
It’s important to strengthen Arab-Jewish groups that are:
- Working together to stop Israeli settlement expansion, protesting against the occupation and trying to prevent violence. Examples include Combatants for Peace, Parents Circle-Families Forum, Women Wage Peace and Ta’ayush, among others. Some of these organizations include Jews and Palestinians who formerly engaged in violence against their “enemies” or lost children in the conflict. Now they’ve set aside their differences and collaborate on joint political activities.
Other groups are working to protect and save particular Palestinian communities endangered by the Israeli government. These include Ir Amin, which focuses on East Jerusalem and the South Hebron Hills Watch, which is helping several Palestinian villages that are threatened with expulsion by Israel.
- Fighting together for the civil and human rights of Israeli Arabs, such as Standing Together, the Abraham Initiatives and Sikkuy.
- Solving shared problems and creating the infrastructure of the future Palestinian state. Examples include environmental organizations helping Palestinians in the occupied territories and addressing climate change in the region, like COMET-ME and EcoPeace. Another noteworthy group is Project Rozana, which helps Palestinian doctors and nurses get specialized training in Israel and transports patients from the occupied territories who need clinical care in Israeli hospitals.
- Engaging in honest dialogue and building the trust necessary for peaceful coexistence, such as Hand in Hand and Talk Matters.
Many other civil society groups engaged in this work are part of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) an umbrella organization. Another step you could take is to contact ALLMEP for concrete suggestions on how you can help (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 202-618-4600).
Will any of these activities make a difference? In a book on boycotting Israel, Philip Mendes and Nick Dyrenfurth put it well:
“A sense of humility on the part of outsiders is necessary. Practical support rather than empty sloganeering is required. Helping each side of the conflict talk with each other rather than boycott one another is a pretty good place to start. It is…high time that BDS activists…were sent a clear message: get out of the way of those people who are genuinely committed to fostering the preconditions of a two-state solution.”
- Go to the region and fight the occupation. Realistically, there is a limited amount that people who live outside the region can do. If you’re really devoted to helping Israelis and Palestinians who want to solve the conflict, you could volunteer to work side-by-side with activists on the ground in Israel-Palestine. There are many opportunities, including:
- All That’s Left: Anti-Occupation Collective, an activist group that is set up for people from around the world to get involved in anti-occupation work as soon as they land in Israel-Palestine.
- Achvat Amim, which provides frameworks and programs for young adults to engage in meaningful partnerships with Palestinians and Israelis in the movement for self-determination for all.
- The Center for Jewish Nonviolence, which organizes delegations of people to take part in co-resistance and solidarity work, mostly focusing on the South Hebron Hills.