Netanyahu Condemns Act of Terror But Misses the Point

This past weekend was darkened by the news from the West Bank that many of us saw when we woke up on Friday--that 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh had died in an arson fire set by Israeli settlers. As we read the news, Ali’s four-year-old brother and parents were in the hospital being treated for burn injuries. It wasn’t long before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the US, the UN, and the European Union condemned this act of violence. Most notably, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli Army, too, called this an act of terror.

This was indeed an act of terror, of unspeakable violence, and Netanyahu’s statement in support of justice for the Dawabsheh family was a welcome one. Yet this attack came just two days after Netanyahu had announced an expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank [1]. Not only does Israel continue to expand settlements, but this expansion of settlements goes hand-in-hand with the demolition of Palestinian homes—at least 56 homes destroyed by Israel in the West Bank in just the first six months of 2015 [2].

 This expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine and accompanying destruction of Palestinian homes is rooted in and reinforces a colonial and racist mindset—the very mindset that justifies the Israeli settlers setting a fire that kills and injures Palestinians and destroys their home. Netanyahu cannot logically or morally condemn these acts of terror against Palestinians and continue to expand settlements.

 This condemnation from Netanyahu gives me hope, though, that international pressure does have an effect. This condemnation and the news from earlier in the week that international outcry led to a delay in the destruction of the Palestinian village of Susiya [3] gives me hope that international pressure on Israel’s government is working. We know, though, that statements and petitions alone are not enough to stem the tide of settlement expansion and occupation of Palestine.

This is why the use of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) is so important—it keeps pressure on companies that profit from those illegal Israeli settlements; the existence and expansion of those settlements promote a mindset that leads to the very acts of terror that Netanyahu rightly condemns. This kind of economic pressure on companies will only increase the political pressure on Israel’s government. We have seen BDS work in the past in South Africa, and we have seen just this week that Israel is responsive to international pressure. BDS increases that pressure in non-violent ways. 

We mourn the death of Ali and pray for his family and all Palestinians living with the constant fear of attacks on their lives and homes. We pray for an end to the expansion of settlements and all violence done in the name of God. We continue to pray and work nonviolently for an end to the violence of occupation.