A global campaign that calls for isolating Israel internationally due to its controversial policies in the Palestinian territories has drawn supporters from many countries – including Israel itself.
“We want a democratic society, even if it is hard to imagine for us [given] the situation we are in now,” Sahar Vardi, member of the Israel chapter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, told Anadolu Agency.
“All human beings should have equal rights. The formulation – the one- or two-state solution – is less relevant than [the fact] that they should have equal rights,” she said.
Vardi and others have joined the Palestinian-led campaign, which was launched in 2005 and dubbed the “Boycott Within” movement.
Vardi said that campaign members support the Palestinian national cause and call for boycotting Israel in order to hold it accountable for human rights breaches committed in the Palestinian territories.
In hopes of forcing Israel to offer concessions that might realize equal rights for Palestinians, Vardi and her colleagues are calling on the international community to stop supporting Israel – both economically and militarily.
Recently, their voices grew stronger as Israeli forces waged a crippling military onslaught on the blockaded Gaza Strip with the stated aim of halting rocket fire from the Palestinian territory.
At least 2,145 Palestinians have been killed and more than 11,000 others injured – mostly civilians – over the course of the 51-day offensive, which began on July 7.
According to Israeli figures, at least 69 Israelis – 64 soldiers and five civilians – were killed over the same period.
The number of Palestinian fatalities from Israel’s current offensive surpassed the combined death toll from two previous operations against Gaza, including Israel’s 21-day “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008/09 in which at least 1500 Palestinians were killed.
The recent hostilities led to the highest military death toll for Israel since the 2006 war in Lebanon, in which 119 Israeli soldiers were killed.
On Tuesday, an Egypt-brokered ceasefire went into effect, ending more than seven weeks of devastating Israeli bombardments in the small, densely-populated coastal enclave.
Elifelet Sara, another member of the BDS campaign’s Israel chapter, believes Israel’s just-ended Gaza war could be a turning point in terms of the international community’s stance on the self-proclaimed Jewish state’s policies.
“The Israeli military attack on Gaza in 2008 was a turning point in many ways. The atrocities of the occupation were so visible; people were shocked,” the 31-year-old activist told AA.
“The terrible images coming out of Gaza right now can hopefully shock the international community,” she said. “That means more and more criticism of Israel.”
Ofer Neiman, a 42-year-old member of the BDS campaign’s Israel chapter, agreed.
He said Israel now have less international support than it had during “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008/09.
“Israel is losing support in the West among ordinary citizens and also [among] young Jews,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of people had marched in different countries of the world – including the U.S. and Europe – to protest the Israeli onslaught against Gaza.
To turn these sentiments into action, Neiman called on people in the West to seize the opportunity to influence their respective governments’ policies vis-à-vis Israel.
“Previously the Western governments supported Israeli war crimes in Palestine,” he noted.
“People have now the opportunity to change this by going on the street and demanding a new policy towards the Israeli aggressions,” asserted Nemian.
-Root of conflict-
Vardi, for her part, insists that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not a religious one, saying that coexistence between Jews and Muslims has never been an issue in the Palestinian lands.
She noted that her family is from Hebron – the most populated city in West Bank – where Muslims, Jews and Christians used to coexist for centuries.
“My family happens to be Arabic-speaking Jews,” Vardi said.
“They were living in Hebron and things were fine up until this become a nationalist conflict with the Zionist movement,” she recalled.
Palestinian society is also becoming more nationalistic as a reaction to the oppression of their rights, she added.
Vardi went on saying that the Zionist movement came to the Palestinian lands as a nationalist movement to build a nationalist state, which excludes others.
“To have a Jewish state, you need a Jewish majority and by definition you have to exclude others,” she pointed out. “This kind of exclusivity is the root of this conflict.”
The roots of the conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous “Balfour Declaration,” called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
Jewish immigration rose considerably under the British administration of Palestine, which began in 1920 and was consolidated by a League of Nations “mandate” in 1922.
In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state – Israel – was declared inside historical Palestine.
As a result, some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes, or were forcibly expelled, while hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns were razed to the ground by Jewish forces.
The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world. Palestinian refugees are currently spread across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other countries, while many have settled in refugee camps in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip.
On May 15 of each year, Palestinians still commemorate the mass expulsion in 1948, which they refer to as the “nakba” or “catastrophe.”
For many Palestinians, the right to return to their homes in historical Palestine – a right enshrined in U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 – remains a key demand.
Since its establishment, Israel has continued to misappropriate Palestinian land in the West Bank – on which it continues to build numerous Jewish-only settlements – in breach of international law.
Palestinians, for their part, demand the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with Jerusalem – currently occupied by Israel – as its capital.
Naiman regrets, for his part, that there is no real Israeli opposition against “war crimes, apartheid regime and the massacre in Gaza.”
“Most of the Israeli politicians right now are focused on the Israeli public opinion and I am sorry to say that but the majority of Israeli public want Palestinian blood,” he said.
And Vardi agrees.
“I am not psychologist,” she told AA. “So I can’t tell you whether Israeli thirst for blood has been quenched yet or not.”