Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. - Henry David Thoreau, On Civil Disobedience, 1849
Election season is upon us, and it's the time we are told we can shape our future by the power of the ballot box. Yet on many issues it is terribly limited.
On the issue of opposing the Occupation and oppression and continual dispossession of the Palestinian people, there is no electoral option in nearly every congressional district in the nation. As each congressperson seems determined to continue the status quo, to one extent or another.
The determination of our slaveholding President to prosecute the war, and the probability of his success in wringing from the people men and money to carry it on, is made evident, rather than doubtful, by the puny opposition arrayed against him. No politician of any considerable distinction or eminence seems willing to hazard his popularity with his party ... by an open and unqualified disapprobation of the war. None seem willing to take their stand for peace at all risks; and all seem willing that the war should be carried on, in some form or other. - Fredrick Douglass, The North Star, January 1848
Electoral Choices are Not Enough
Thoreau and Douglass saw that merely participating in elections was too limited a response to the reality they saw around them, an end to an unjust and perverse war and occupation, and the abolition of the institution of slavery made it necessary to move beyond the ballot box. they called on people of goodwill to move beyond the ballot box, and cast their whole vote. Citizen activism did not begin and end with a 15-minute visit to the voting booth.
In supporting the freedom struggle for Palestine and the end of the immoral US support for Israeli occupation, we must create a movement that will make s difference, even as politicians, nearly without exception, refuse to take a stand for an end to the funding of the occupation, that Israel continues day in and day out, with US-supplied bulldozers destroying farms and homes, with a refusal to recognize even the most basic rights of the Palestinian people.
The implications for property rights, both collective and individual, are perhaps self-evident. Despite Israeli claims that it obeyed the pre-existing land laws, over 20 percent of settlements are built on privately-owned Palestinian land. Israel seized land for settlements in the West Bank in a legally and politically manipulative way, designed to circumvent legal rights such as due process as well as specific Israeli obligations during prior peace negotiations. Even those lands "legally" seized for public use are held for the settler public and are not available for Palestinian construction or economic development. One of many striking examples: the Dead Sea abuts Israel and the West Bank, as well as Jordan. While hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the hotels on the Israeli part of the Dead Sea, Palestinians earn no income from this unique natural wonder. In fact, the entire area around the Dead Sea belongs to a settlement regional council, and Palestinians are not allowed access even for a picnic. Certainly they cannot develop tourist sites there...
Israel repeatedly promised to halt construction in settlements. This was explicitly part of the 2003 Road Map agreed with the Quartet as well as the 2007 Annapolis conference under the Bush administration. Despite this, settlements continued to grow, and at a much faster rate than the Israeli population as whole. While Israel argued that this "natural growth" cannot be stopped, it also continued to provide a myriad of financial benefits to encourage Israelis to move to settlements, including free preschools, a long school day, housing and mortgage subsidies, grants and subsidies for industry and agriculture, tax breaks and government assistance to municipalities to cover their debts. It is no wonder that in 2008 fully 20 percent of settlement growth was the result of migration from Israel proper. Israel repeatedly promised to halt construction in settlements. This was explicitly part of the 2003 Road Map agreed with the Quartet as well as the 2007 Annapolis conference under the Bush administration. Despite this, settlements continued to grow, and at a much faster rate than the Israeli population as whole. While Israel argued that this "natural growth" cannot be stopped, it also continued to provide a myriad of financial benefits to encourage Israelis to move to settlements, including free preschools, a long school day, housing and mortgage subsidies, grants and subsidies for industry and agriculture, tax breaks and government assistance to municipalities to cover their debts. It is no wonder that in 2008 fully 20 percent of settlement growth was the result of migration from Israel proper. ...Jessica Montell - B'Tselem
The demand (request? Suggestion? Hint?) to halt the settlements did not originate with the Obama administration. The refusal by Israel to abide by any such restriction in making great parts of the West Bank theirs, to the great detriment of the rights of the Palestinian people, is not the decision of one Israeli government, but part of the long history of settlement construction and land theft of the Israeli regime, continuing year after year, decade after decade.
Yet the US continues to fund it, with each new administration outdoing the last in promising ever more monetary support for the Israeli regime, the Obama administration no exception, having just recently outdone even the Bush administration in support of the Israeli military. Like previous administrations, it suggests that the occupation is not "sustainable", but sustained it is, with billions of dollars of US funds. Hardly any politician of any considerable distinction or eminence seems willing to hazard his popularity with his party ... by an open and unqualified disapprobation of US support for the Israeli occupation.
There is nothing new in having politicians being averse to taking risks for peace and justice, in fact that is the rule rather than the exception. There is also nothing new in mass movements in the US that dare to challenge and confront an unjust status quo... and in the end prevailing against what seems are impossible odds.
it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight...
Every week (at least) since 2005, Palestinian villagers and their allies (from Israel and international) gather to protest the Annexation wall that will eventually destroy the village unless it is removed. The Wall takes farmlands that are crucial to the economic survival of the village. Even the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled the placement of the Wall in Bi'lin to be unlawful.
Yet the wall remains on Palestinian land, and the resistance to it continues. The people of Bi'lin, and their international supporters, like Nelson Mandala and Desmond Tutu, are "casting their whole vote" for justice and peace in the Middle East. It has come at a steep price for many Palestinians, especially. Basem Ibrahim Abu Rahmeh died last year as he was struck by a tear gas canister fired by the Israeli army. His last words were "do not shoot, there are children and internationals here". Other Palestinians have also been shot, some wounded,some killed. Others are facing tough prison sentences for the "crime" of organizing protests.
Casting your whole vote does not come cheap.
Boycott Ahava! Occupation is ugly.
Ahava promises "Beauty Secrets from the Dead Sea." But the real secrets it keeps are an ugly truth—its products actually come from stolen Palestinian natural resources in the Occupied Territory of the Palestinian West Bank, and are produced in the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Shalem...
People are organizing and "casting their whole vote" by supporting nonviolent boycotts to hold companies accountable for illegal actions.
Ending US military aid to Israel.
It is time to end constructive engagement with Israel. It is not working. No amount of friendly persuasion has stopped Israel from continuing its continual dispossession of the Palestinian people. It is time for the US to come out on the side of human rights and international law.
Campaigns are going on around the country (example) calling for an end to aid that was not accountable to the standards of human rights and international law our nation should champion.
The people are taking the lead. It will not be the politicians that will create peace and justice in the Middle East, it will be the people that take risks to support human rights for all.