Not A Happy 64th B’day Israel!

By Samah Sabwai

Peeling off the artificial sugar layers and the dazzling celebratory ornaments, Israel on its 64th birthday stands fragile, isolated and exposed in a way it has never been since its foundation.

This has not been a good year for the Jewish state. Anti-normalization movements have picked up steam in the Arab world while the global campaign for Boycott Divestments and Sanctions continues to present a serious challenge, with a long list of artists refusing to entertain apartheid. Israeli Apartheid Week continues to grow on university campuses around the world despite Israel’s failed effort to counter it and non-violent resistance in Palestine which is often met with Israeli brutality is no longer the hidden secret it once was with more international activists witnessing and at times experiencing the brutality first hand.  The year ended with the a major announcement from the Methodist Church that they will divest from Israel.

On the diplomatic front, the PA took its bid for statehood to the UN.  Mahmoud Abbas’s moving speech at the UNGA  on November 23, 2011 was met with rapturous applause.  More than one month later, Palestine was admitted  into the first UN body UNESCO with an overwhelming international show of support further exposing the isolation of the Zionist state in the international arena.

Israel is also losing the media war as mainstream television networks and newspapers are becoming more daring in their criticism. For example 60 Minutes recently aired a program about Israel’s discrimination of Christian Palestinians, a show that Israeli officials objected to and tried to stop before it was even aired. But the real highlight for the year on the drama front was the broadcasting of the British TV series  The Promise on networks around the world.  Israeli supporters were furious and have tried in various countries to stop the show from screening.  In its final episode, The Promise brings to life scenes of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 Palestine.

Another sign of Israel losing its grip on the media front was evident when The Economist published this editorial  (March 6, 2012), holding Netanyahu responsible for the demise of the peace process  “No one bears greater responsibility for the trap Israel finds itself in today than Mr Netanyahu. As prime minister in the late 1990s, he did more than any other Israeli leader to destroy the peace process.”

And if all of this is not enough, even Israel’s powerful allies, including Australia  and the US have grown impatient with its behavior especially its derailment of the peace process, its continued settlements expansion and its appetite for attacking Iran.  Indeed Israel is losing friends fast.  Two other traditional allies have also been lost this past year as we saw the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador to Ankara following a row with Netanyahu’s government over Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla and the evacuation of Israeli diplomats from Egypt after Egyptian protestors stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo.  Worth mentioning is that until now, the Israeli embassy stands vacant as anti-normalization movements in the Arab world continue to gain strength and yield various victories from Morocco where activists are calling to criminalize normalization to Egypt where they have succeeded in cancelling the gas deal with Israel and are now calling for an end to the peace treaty with the Zionist state.

This year, more than ever, people have began to question Isreal’s democracy especially as the Israeli government moved to reinstate its infiltrator law, a 50 year old law that targets not only Palestinians but also all asylum seekers regardless of age.  Israel was also criticized for a barrage of other draconian laws reflecting its insecurity and discriminatory nature, like the law that was passed allowing communities in the Negev and Galilee regions smaller than 400 households to refuse potential residents on the basis of their ethnicity or religion.  And for those who find such acts reprehensible and would like to do something about it…say like boycotting Israeli settlement goods, Israel is ready for that too.  They have also passed a law that gives settlers the right to claim economic injury from a call to boycott and to actually sue the organizers of the boycott without needing to have any proof of such damages. 

Perhaps most telling of all is Israel’s passing of legislation that calls for withdrawal of government funding to any organization or institution that marks commemorating Nakba, that is remembering how Israel was founded on the ruins of more than 400 Palestinian villages and cities which were ethnically cleansed by the Jewish army, forcing more than 750,000 Palestinians into exile in order to pave the way for a Jewish majority.  In fact this year some people were arrested because they dared remember this part of Israel’s history!
So all in all, a very bad 64th birthday!

– Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian writer. She contributed this article to

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