The exercise of power is determined by thousands of interactions between the world of the powerful and that of the powerless, all the more so because these worlds are never divided by a sharp line: everyone has a small part of himself in both - Vaclav Havel
the darkness surrounding the Middle East peace process, we now see a ray of
light. Since 2009, the United Kingdom has been taking measures, in accordance
with European consumer protection rules, to ensure that settlement products –
goods you might find on your supermarket shelves that have been produced in the
occupied Palestinian territories – are no longer labelled as "made in
After a meeting of
the EU Council of Foreign Ministers last month, several European member states
now appear ready to follow the British initiative. Denmark has already
announced it will do so. Member states also committed to ensure that settlement
products were excluded from preferential treatment under the EU-Israel
Contrary to what you may think, EU member states which take
these measures act in Israel's interest. They do so because they take steps
that defend and reinforce the Green Line, the pre-1967 border between Israel
and the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Green Line is of decisive importance to achieving Middle
East peace. It is the line that was drawn in green pencil on the maps that were
on the table at the time of the cease-fire agreements between Israel and the
Arab states, signed in 1949. Regrettably, this line survived only until the
During this war, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Ever since, efforts of consecutive Israeli governments to blur this line and,
ultimately, to erase it have not ceased. The Green Line has disappeared from
the official maps of the State of Israel. Schools were even prohibited from
presenting it in educational materials.
The large-scale and expansionist settlement enterprise erodes
the Green Line every day. Residential communities, now housing more than
500,000 settlers, were established within occupied Palestinian territory in
order to make us forget the Green Line's existence and prevent the
establishment of an independent Palestinian state. It should long have been
clear to every Israeli that anything located inside the Green Line is the
democratic, legal, normative Israel, and anything beyond the line is something
else: undemocratic, illegal, not normative. Not ours.
But the Israeli people's eyes are blind, their ears are deaf and
their leaders are flaccid and weak. This is precisely the situation in which
civilised societies urgently need feedback and intervention from the outside:
to mirror the absurdity of the situation created and to focus attention on the
damage of human and political blindness. To tell Israel that it is impossible
to be treated as "the only democracy in the Middle East", while it is
also the last colonial occupier in the Western world.
It is not anti-Semitic and not anti-Israel to convey these
messages. On the contrary: the settlers, the conquerors and their political
allies – including Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel – are the
real enemies of Israel's future.
Indeed, anyone who wants to erase the pre-1967 border is
essentially asking to erase the basic values on which the State of Israel was established:
democracy, equality, the rule of law, secularism and modernity. Colonising
Palestinian land across the Green Line goes in the opposite direction: it
generates fanatic, nationalistic, fundamentalist and anti-democratic energies
that threaten all civilised Israeli foundations.
I have decided to not buy any product that comes from the
settlements. I do not cross the Green Line, not to promote public causes and
not for family events. Because everything happening across the Green Line is
the dark alter ego of Israel. Its hidden personality is manifest there. Evil,
aggressive and impenetrable. This personality threatens to take over the good
and humane parts of the legitimate Israel. With international help, we must
return these demons to their bottles, or rather to those positive domains for
which this state was established.
Preventing the mislabelling of settlement products as "made
in Israel" and blocking their preferential entry into the EU seems a
symbolic and minor step. However, in the present circumstances, it is a giant
leap for Middle East peace, which seems more remote than ever.
Contrary to what you may be told, this is not a sweeping boycott
of Israel, but a subtle and moral distinction that marks the difference between
Israel's great potential and its destructive capabilities.
If, God forbid, the Green Line will be permanently erased, from
consciousness and from the ground, then Israel will also be erased. The
struggle for the preservation of the Green Line is the struggle for Israel.
Anyone who defends and reinforces it is a friend of Israel and keeps hope
Avraham Burg was Speaker of the
Knesset (1999-2003) and Chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist