+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:23:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 EU politicians to Israeli MKs: NGOs aren’t enemies of the state http://972mag.com/eu-politicians-to-israeli-mks-ngos-arent-enemies-of-the-state/116882/ http://972mag.com/eu-politicians-to-israeli-mks-ngos-arent-enemies-of-the-state/116882/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:23:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116882 Fifty MEPs send an open letter to their Israeli counterparts urging them to abandon legislation that singles out European-funded human rights and peace NGOs while not touching right-wing organizations.

By Davide Lerner

Members of the European Parliament during a vote at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. (EU Photo)

Members of the European Parliament during a vote at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. (EU Photo)

Dozens of members of the European Parliament published a harshly worded open letter to all members of the Israeli Knesset on Tuesday regarding the controversial “NGO law,” a new bill that selectively imposes transparency requirements on those largely left-wing associations receiving more than half of their funding from abroad. The bill passed the first of three readings in the Knesset late Monday night.

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The letter, promoted by UK Labour MEP Julie Ward, calls on the Israeli Knesset to reject the legislation. “We strongly urge you to be brave and strong in upholding Israel’s pluralist democratic values,” a passage of the letter says. “Human rights and peace-building NGOs serve as watchdogs for democracy, not enemies of the state.”

Asserting that the occupation is not an internal Israeli matter, the letter notes that the EU “funds the Palestinian Authority, without which [Israel's] administration of the Palestinian Territories would not be viable.”

The document has been signed by 50 MEPs, but Julie Ward’s assistants claim many more asked to support it after the deadline had passed. The majority comes from leftist groups like the Greens and the Gue/Ngl, which includes parties like Syriza (Greece), Podemos (Spain) and Sinn Féin (Ireland). Also the center-left Socialist and Democrats group, the second biggest in the Parliament after the center-right European People’s Party, expressed its support with 11 signatures. No MEPs from mainstream right-wing groups, let alone Nigel Farage’s “Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy,” have agreed to co-sign the letter.

The document comes amid a period of great tensions between Israel and the EU, peaking with the European Commission’s interpretative notice on labelling last November. The decision to label Israeli settlements products enraged the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, whose diplomatic efforts to block the move were however fruitless. In a letter to European Parliament President Martin Schulz at the time Netanyahu complained of an anti-Israeli “double-standard,” quoting “nearly 200 territorial disputes worldwide” which have not been subject to trade limitations of sorts. Specifically, he insisted on the case of Northern Cyprus which came under Turkish control in 1974.

Underlying the periodic standoffs between EU officials and members of the Israeli government is Israel’s shift to an unprecedented cultural hegemony of the right. As Noam Sheizaf wrote late last year, the right has become the “zeitgeist” of Israeli democracy. Illiberal moves like the NGO bill have suddenly become permissible as representative of “the will of the people,” Sheizaf wrote. A creeping tyranny of the majority seems to be breeding in the Holy Land.

As progressive views of the conflict are crushed or altogether banned, EU institutions grow weary of repeating the two states mantra while Israel turns it into an actual pipe dream on the ground. Likewise, Israeli policy-makers grow weary of seeing the Green Line quoted in EU legislative documents as they try to erase it by presenting the occupation as a “fait accompli,” a non-negotiable “fact on the ground.” For this very reason the directive on labelling was perceived as a huge blow, although inconsequential in terms of Israeli exports to the EU. While still reluctant to scale-up its use of market power to pressure Israel, the EU was enshrining opposition to the occupation into documents of near-law.

The latest letter from the European Parliament, which specifically addresses the “Transparency Bill,” warns that “all the European funds and benefits that Israel enjoys is based on Israel’s commitment to human rights, democracy, end of occupation, and the peace process, leading to a viable and just two-state solution.” Diplomatic warnings are increasingly pointing in the direction of market measures, while Israel pivots ever further to the right.

Davide Lerner is an Italian journalist who has written about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on publications like “l’Espresso”, Italy’s first weekly, and TPI, a fast-growing international politics online magazine. He currently lives in Brussels.

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Knesset hearing on unflattering press coverage looks like ‘witch-hunt’ http://972mag.com/knesset-hearing-on-unflattering-press-coverage-looks-like-witch-hunt/116858/ http://972mag.com/knesset-hearing-on-unflattering-press-coverage-looks-like-witch-hunt/116858/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 12:58:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116858 Chairwoman Tzipi Livni asks government agencies to present examples of ‘biased reporting,’ suggestions for legal and diplomatic tools for countering unflattering news coverage. Foreign Press Association slams the very premise of the hearing.

Tzipi Livni (photo: Yotam Ronen / activestills)

Tzipi Livni (photo: Yotam Ronen / activestills)

The influential Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense subcommittee held an urgent hearing on Tuesday on “legal warfare with respect to foreign media coverage – coverage which in the long term erodes the legitimacy of [Israel's] fight against terrorism” (Emphasis mine).

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Subcommittee chairwoman Tzipi Livni asked representatives of various government agencies, among them the Government Press Office, Prime Minister’s Office, Defense Ministry, Border Police and IDF to bring specific examples of “biased, one sided reporting against soldiers and police following terror incidents” and to suggest diplomatic and legal steps to counter the phenomenon.

The Knesset committee requested that the Foreign Press Association — which represents some 400 journalists from a wide range of outlets including The New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press, and CBC and Financial Times — also attend the hearing. Ironically, the “invitation” also asked them to present examples of their own biased, errant reporting, in what can only be understood as an indictment of their work.

In response, the FPA drafted a letter that challenged the very idea of holding such a hearing and emphasizing the level of influence the government already has on reporters.

“May we state first that we disagree with the premise of the hearing – it presupposes two things: that the foreign media are biased and that that supposed bias undermines Israel’s ability to quell terrorist attacks. We do not agree that the foreign media are biased, and the legitimacy of Israel’s campaign against terrorism is entirely determined by how Israel conducts that campaign. It has nothing to do with the foreign media.”

The letter goes on to list the variety of recourses the Israeli government already has for filing legal and other complaints regarding foreign reporting and admits that there are isolated incidents in which inaccurate or poorly worded headlines are drafted — but by editors sitting in their offices abroad, and these are quickly corrected when necessary.

The letter closes by stating: “A free and open media is the bedrock of a democratic society. Parliamentary subcommittee hearings that start from the premise that the foreign media is biased tend to look like poorly conceived witch-hunts.”

The hearing was called following a CBS news headline from last week about the murder of Border Police officer Hadar Cohen by three Palestinian assailants. The headline read: “3 Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on.”

In response, the head of the GPO Nitzan Chen threatened to revoke the credentials of reporters for inaccurate headlines. Following Israeli intervention, the CBS headline was changed to: “Palestinians kill Israeli officer, wound another before being killed.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement Monday expressing concern over increasing pressure and interference by the Israeli government on foreign journalists.

Last week, the same Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee held a discussion on violent incidents between security forces and the press, in which Knesset members and the IDF accused journalists of orchestrating events in order to negatively portray Israel.

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Hunger striking Palestinian journalist is dying, lawyer says http://972mag.com/hunger-striking-palestinian-journalist-is-dying-lawyer-says/116849/ http://972mag.com/hunger-striking-palestinian-journalist-is-dying-lawyer-says/116849/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 11:16:20 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116849 The Supreme Court suspended Muhammad al-Qiq’s administrative detention order but won’t let him return to the West Bank; al-Qiq’s attorney says he will only accept medical treatement in a Palestinian hospital.

By Oren Ziv and Yael Marom

Hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq at Emek Medical Center in Afula, Israel, February 8, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq at Emek Medical Center in Afula, Israel, February 8, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq is on day 77 of a hunger strike protesting his administrative detention, a practice Israel uses to imprison people without having to charge them or bring them to trial.

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Al-Qiq is suffering from serious vertigo, has lost most of his sight and hearing, and can barely speak.

Since the High Court of Justice “suspended” his administrative detention last week he has been surrounded by supporters, activists and his legal team. The court did not, however, allow his release and refused to overturn his administrative detention order despite his serious medical condition.

Al-Qiq has said he will continue his hunger strike until he is fully released and allowed to return to the West Bank, where he will agree to medical treatment.

Attorney Hanan Khatib, who was by al-Qiq’s side when +972 Magazine visited him on Monday, reiterated that he is a journalist and that imprisoning him without charge or trial is illegal.

“The [High] Court suspended his administrative detention but unfortunately ruled that he must stay in the hospital in Afula (inside Israel),” Khatibi said.

Al-Qiq rejects that ruling, she added, saying that he will continue to refuse medical treatment until he is brought to a Palestinian hospital in the West Bank.

“He is dying right now,” Khatib added. “As the medical team has noted, he could die at any moment of a heart attack.”

Outside Emek Medical Center in Afula, a few Israeli activists stood demonstrating for al-Qiq’s immediate release from administrative detention. Protests in solidarity with al-Qiq have also taken place in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and elsewhere in the world in recent days.

Demonstrators outside the Emek Medical Center in Afula in solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who is protesting his imprisonment without trial, February 8, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Demonstrators outside the Emek Medical Center in Afula in solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who is protesting his imprisonment without trial, February 8, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

According to reports in the Palestinian media over the weekend, negotiations to end al-Qiq’s hunger strike were accelerated in recent days due to his deteriorating medical condition. Israel, according to the reports, is offering to not extend his administrative detention beyond May 1, when the detention order already expires; al-Qiq rejected that offer.

Al-Qiq, 33, from the West Bank village of Dura near Hebron, worked as a reporter for the Saudi news channel “Almajd.” He was arrested on the night of November 21, 2015 when Israeli soldiers arrested him at his home. He was not allowed to make contact with either his wife or his attorney for many days.

Al-Qiq began his hunger strike four days after the beginning of his interrogation, when the latter reportedly understood that his interrogation was politically motivated. Sources close to Al-Qiq state that he was interrogated for “journalistic incitement,” and when he refused to cooperate, he was put in administrative detention for a period of six months.

The Shin Bet claims he is a member of Hamas who was previously jailed several times due to his activities in the organization. His current detention, according to the Shin Bet, came following “founded suspicions of involvement in terror activities with Hamas.”

He has not been charge with committing a crime. His attorneys are not allowed to see the evidence being used to justify his continued administrative detention.

Israel is currently imprisoning without charge or trial hundreds of Palestinians and at least one Jewish Israeli. The authority to issue administrative detention orders is drawn from pre-state colonial laws that are only valid as long as Israel is officially in a state of emergency, which it has been continuously since its establishment in 1948.

A version of this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Palestinians don’t need incitement to know they are occupied http://972mag.com/palestinians-dont-need-incitement-to-know-they-are-occupied/116822/ http://972mag.com/palestinians-dont-need-incitement-to-know-they-are-occupied/116822/#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 20:38:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116822 Israelis refuse to understand what drives Palestinians to violence. After all, it is far more convenient to dehumanize them than face reality.

A Palestinian youth throws stones during clashes with the Israeli army in Bethlehem, West Bank, December 4, 2015. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth throws stones during clashes with the Israeli army in Bethlehem, West Bank, December 4, 2015. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

There’s something self-righteous about calling Palestinians who violently resist occupation “terrorists,” while referring to the ones occupying them, also violently, as mere “soldiers.” It becomes even more grotesque when the people committing these desperate acts are minors, or even children. Even at the tender age of 11 and 13 they are still terrorists, even in so-called “liberal” newspapers like Haaretz. The fact minors that cannot be held criminally responsible for their actions is suddenly no longer relevant to these alleged liberals.

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Nobody wants to understand the motives of people resorting to violence. It is far more convenient to call them names and dehumanize them — it makes facing reality much easier. Everything is easier to handle when you don’t see the other side as human, like you.

It becomes even easier if you convince yourself you are liberal enough because you object to the occupation (of the West Bank and Gaza, of course not the lands occupied in 1948). But such liberalism is not at all progressive or liberal, since it enables believers to ignore their own side’s wrongdoings, all the while blaming the other side for how free-thinking individuals choose to resist.

Many so-called “liberal Zionists” recognize the occupation but refuse to recognize that the horrors caused by their own countrymen are the sole reason for most acts of Palestinians violence. Apparently, they think that if it truly was the occupation’s fault, then all Palestinians would be committing these acts. Again, this demonstrates just how too many so-called liberals see us as one “native” group; they refuse to see that we are a collection of individuals with personal agency and different views of reality. It’s similar to a “they all look alike” attitude combined with painful ignorance of our traumas and experiences.

An Israeli Border Policewoman at the scene where three Palestinians carried out a shooting attack outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. The three were immediately shot dead by Israeli security forces, February 3, 2016. (photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

An Israeli Border Policewoman at the scene where three Palestinians carried out a shooting attack outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. The three were immediately shot dead by Israeli security forces, February 3, 2016. (photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

In fact, there are no shortage of types of experiences, traumas and oppressions under Israel’s occupation. Palestinians living inside Israel, those living in the West Bank, residents of East Jerusalem, and the 1.8 million under siege in Gaza — we all live under different levels and types of occupation.

Not all of us suffer from the same humiliations, and occupation means a different trauma for each of us. A few months ago I wrote in these pages that Palestinians see the wave of recent stabbings and other violent acts of resistance as a way out of their hell, rather than a way to get to heaven. A week later, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency released a report saying the exact same thing. Just last week, Ban Ki-moon made an identical assertion: “History proves that people will always resist occupation.”

Of course Palestinians already knew that. We know our people; we know our experience. Violence is not a result of incitement. No Palestinian man, woman or child needs to turn on the television or go online to know that somebody was killed in an army raid on a refugee camp somewhere in the West Bank. Nobody needs incitement to know that they are occupied, poor, unemployed, humiliated, and full of hatred for their oppressor.

Until the so-called liberals fully understand the daily humiliations these people go through, and until they understand what these Palestinian “terrorists” have endured, they should stop dehumanizing them with convenient labels just to make it easier for them to sleep at night.

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Israel revokes entry permits for dozens of Palestinian peace activists http://972mag.com/idf-revokes-entry-permits-for-dozens-of-palestinian-peace-activists/116825/ http://972mag.com/idf-revokes-entry-permits-for-dozens-of-palestinian-peace-activists/116825/#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 17:46:00 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116825 Dozens of Palestinians active in joint peace groups will no longer be able to cross into Israel to give workshops on reconciliation and dialogue.

Palestinians enter the main checkpoint separating Bethlehem and Jerusalem. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians enter the main checkpoint separating Bethlehem and Jerusalem. (Activestills.org)

The Israeli army’s Civil Administration, formerly known as the military government, recently informed dozens of joint Israeli-Palestinian peace organizations that it would retroactively revoke entry permits for Palestinian peace activists from the West Bank into Israel.

The change will affect veteran Palestinian activists, many of whom work or even manage peace organizations alongside their Israeli counterparts, and who have led workshops on peace, reconciliation, and dialogue in Israel for many years.

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In early January, Lt.-Col. Eyal Ze’evi of the Civil Administration updated the Peace NGOs Forum, which includes dozens of Israeli peace organizations, on the change in policy. Up until that point, Palestinian activists belonging to these groups would use three-month entry permits, which they would renew four times a year.

The Civil Administration — which despite its name is the military arm that manages many aspects of the day-to-day life of Palestinians living in the occupied territories — is charged with issuing entry permits. As part of the change in policy, entry to Palestinians will be limited to 180 days per year, they will not be able to enter the country during the first week following the month in which they entered, and will not be able to appeal a permit request that was rejected for security-related reasons.

The peace groups were surprised not only by the change in policy, but by the decision to retroactively implement the 180-day restriction, which effectively prevents Palestinian activists from receiving new entry permits in one fell swoop. The decision has led these groups to cancel dozens of workshops, speaking events, and dialogue groups scheduled for January and February.

Staff meetings, which generally take place in either Israel or the West Bank, can now only take place in the latter. It is worth mentioning that Israelis can enter Palestinian cities, and that peace and dialogue workshops for people of all ages are continuing on the Palestinian side.

“The whole point of these meetings, in pre-military academy programs and schools, for instance, is that they are joint meetings, which is precisely why this decision makes our activities difficult,” says Uri Ben Assa, from Combatants for Peace. “Our meetings include an Israeli and a Palestinian who tell their personal stories. The Palestinian describes how he used to be part of the cycle of violence — some of our Palestinian activists have been in prison — and how he came to the conclusion that violence is not the way, and that he wants to achieve his rights nonviolently. Young Israelis ask tough questions, which is good, and they receive direct and honest answers while getting another perspective of the situation.”

“If we generally have 10 Palestinians who speak Hebrew and were able to obtain entry permits, now all the work falls on one or two people from Jerusalem. We are forced to cancel our events.”

Pressing on despite the violence

The first signs of a change in policy by the Civil Administration appeared last November. Following a stabbing attack by a Palestinian resident of Hebron who entered Israel with a work permit, the administration froze all entry permits for Palestinians from the Hebron area, including the peace activists among them. Peace organizations see the move as part of the general political atmosphere, which includes stabbing, shooting, and vehicular attacks against Israelis, as well as attacks on left-wing NGOs by the government and right-wing groups.

Activists in the Parents Circle-Families Forum, a grassroots organization of Palestinian and Israeli families who have lost family members to the conflict, believe that there are those who are afraid of the organization’s unique voice.

“Our goal is for people to hear Palestinians talk about their pain and bereavement, who explain how they do not wish to act out of revenge, but rather to promote nonviolence and reconciliation,” explains Doubi Schwartz, the Israeli general manager of the organization. “Today there are moles and different ways of hurting us through bureaucracy.”

Parents Circle Families Forum dialogue tent in Tel Aviv (photo: Henriette Chacar)

An activist with the Parents Circle-Families Forum speaks at a dialogue tent in Tel Aviv. (photo: Henriette Chacar)

Over the past few weeks, the Parents Circle-Families Forum has been forced to cancel dozens of meetings with 20-30 Palestinian activists. Another group of Palestinians that did not receiver permits will not be able to attend a tour of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, which was meant to provide the Palestinians with an understanding of the Jewish trauma from the Holocaust.

The groups point out that permits for Palestinian activists were already limited to three months, as opposed to six months for Palestinian laborers. The decision will not affect entry permits for all Palestinians, especially in light of the defense establishment’s recent request to grant entry permits to another 30,000 Palestinian workers. Only peace activists will face restrictions.

The organizations have been trying to fight the decision by contacting various people in the Civil Administration as well as members of Knesset. According to a response Schwartz received from the military body last week, the issue is being reevaluated, and the Civil Administration understands that “a comprehensive update often includes mishaps, each of which is assessed and from which we learn what needs to be implemented or changed.” The Civil Administration further clarified that “we have no intention of harming the forum’s activities or the meetings held by different organizations, and therefore we are working tirelessly to reach conclusions.”

The Civil Administration and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the unit charged with coordinating activities in the occupied territories, issued the following response:

The procedures for obtaining entry permits for different purposes that do not require an extended stay have recently been adjusted, and thus are issued for limited periods. In light of the many requests, the issue is being examined.

Let’s be clear: despite what the official response says, the procedures have not been adjusted. They have been changed completely.

Palestinians and Israelis take part in the yearly alternative Memorial Day service organized by Combatants for Peace. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians and Israelis take part in the yearly alternative Memorial Day service organized by Combatants for Peace. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

“I am not really sure why this is happening, maybe in light of the security situation, or perhaps it stems from the fear of giving peace organizations entry permits, because who knows what may happen,” jokes Mazen Faraj, the Palestinian general manager of the Parents Circle-Families Forum, who has been entering Israel for the past 10 years and lives in Dheishe refugee camp near Bethlehem. “In my opinion it needs to be the exact opposite: the work of these organizations only helps bring about the end of the conflict, getting to know one another and reconciliation, rather than ignoring reality.”

In addition to the ongoing crisis, these organizations are beginning to prepare for the yearly alternative Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day, which has taken place in Tel Aviv for the past 11 years. Activists fear that the new policy may end up harming the event. Last year, the Samaria Settler Council tried to cancel the event and called on Defense Minister Ya’alon to rescind entry permits from all Palestinians who were scheduled to take part. “Every year we have trouble bringing people in, and we end up getting only half of the permits we need for the 150 invitees from the West Bank,” says Ben Assa. “Now that things have fundamentally changed, I have no idea what will happen.”

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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When will the Left start talking about Israeli trauma? http://972mag.com/when-will-the-left-start-speaking-about-israeli-trauma/116807/ http://972mag.com/when-will-the-left-start-speaking-about-israeli-trauma/116807/#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 14:07:43 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116807 Without recognizing how deep-seated the trauma of ordinary Israelis really is, the Israeli peace camp will continue to be seen as elitist and disconnected.

By Yakir Englander (translated by Dr. Henry R. Carse)

Peace Now at the Rabin memorial rally in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, November 1, 2014. (photo: Oren Rozen/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Peace Now at the Rabin memorial rally in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, November 1, 2014. (photo: Oren Rozen/CC BY-SA 3.0)

My political opinions are aligned with Israel’s Left, but I was not born that way. Even today my personal Israeli narrative is far from typically liberal. I grew up in a modern ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in the city of Bnei Brak, and although I am sociologically far from that context today, many of the core values that still influence me stem from the Hasidic tradition. When I was an adolescent, I became part of the religious settler movement. And while I am not connected to it today, the courage that I witnessed in that society, one that allows you to take action in the real world, remains with me until this day.

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I understand that I may have no choice but to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unlike the majority of the “moderate Zionist Left” in Israel, however, including opposition leader Isaac Herzog, I see the establishment of two states as a painful separation. This solution will tear me apart from my dearest Palestinian colleagues, as more walls and checkpoints will put an end to our daily contact with each other.

In recent years, I have founded and worked as part of an interfaith peace organization that seeks to an end to the conflict. And still, like many Israelis, I find myself further and further from the Israeli Left, be it moderate, Zionist or radical. There are two reasons for this: firstly, because the leaders of the Left act similar to religious preachers who claim to know the Truth, even when it is ideological rather than divine. Their grasp of the Truth makes it hard for them to listen to others enter into a genuine dialogue. Secondly, I cannot relate to the leaders of the Left because of their language, which falls far short of expressing the complex emotions of fear and pain that I hear every day on the streets of Jerusalem.

Stop blaming the traumatized 

There is something tempting in the Truth: it protects people from the need to remember, every single minute, that they might be wrong. Certainly, this is why some are attracted to religion: it promises them access to the Truth.

It is fascinating to note that it was in fact Orthodox Judaism that was most pressed to compromise for generations on its ideas of Truth while living in the diaspora. Living in exile as a minority in a non-Jewish culture, Jews had little power, and they often had to act in ways that contradicted the commandments of divine Truth. A good example is the dictate of Jewish law known as “for the sake of peace,” according to which Jews must be sensitive to the values of their non-Jewish neighbors. This principle taught Jews to conduct themselves within non-Jewish society in ways that often starkly contradicted the letter of divinely ordained Jewish law, all for the sake of good relations with the non-Jewish world.

Family members of Israeli Border Policewoman Hadar Cohen mourn during her funeral at the military cemetery in Yehud, near Tel Aviv, Israel, February 4, 2016. Cohen was shot and killed by three Palestinians at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on February 3, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Family members of Israeli Border Policewoman Hadar Cohen mourn during her funeral at the military cemetery in Yehud, near Tel Aviv, Israel, February 4, 2016. Cohen was shot and killed by three Palestinians at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 3, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The Babylonian Talmud (written in the diaspora) took this idea a step further when it explained that “Jerusalem was destroyed because the Jewish people living there based all their judgments only on the divine Torah.” Remarkably, it was this uncompromising insistence on the Truth of divine halakha (Jewish law) that brought upon the fall of Jerusalem. This is because reality is always more complex, and often requires the humility to take a step back from the Truth.

By contrast, statements by the leaders of Israel’s Left reference notions such as the Truth or justice without any flexibility or understanding of how complex reality is here. “The Right has lapsed into fantasy,” says Stav Shaffir, “and only the Israeli Left – ‘mature and responsible’ – remains reasonable, with true and serious plans for the future.” The late Yossi Sarid spoke of the separation of left from right as “a separation in the State of Israel between the sane people and the Messianics…” These are only two examples among many.

Such language is problematic. Firstly, it is easy to counter the Truth that such language claims to represent. For example, one may challenge the assumption of Israel’s Zionist Left that there is an essential difference between the occupation of the West Bank in 1967 and the earlier Jewish expropriation of Palestinian land in Tel Aviv, Galilee, Jerusalem and elsewhere from the beginnings of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century. The Truth is always open to interpretation.

Another problem with claims to the Truth lies in their appeal to logic and reason, while human beings are in fact composites of reason and feelings, often with pain and trauma etched deeply into the human body and psyche.

Labor MK Stav Shaffir (Photo by Activestills.org)

Labor MK Stav Shaffir: ‘Only the Left is mature and reasonable enough to lead.’ (Photo by Activestills.org)

The Second Intifada was at its height by the time I completed my army service and enrolled at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. My reserve duty required me to serve in a unit that identified the remains of victims, and I was called to several scenes of painful terror attacks. The personal crisis I experienced there led me to my first encounters with the Left: Israelis and Palestinians at Hebrew University. I came to their meetings feeling very confused, with no idea what was right, as well as a burden of pain and trauma. At the meetings people were busy mocking political leaders, the failed peace agreements, the corrupt occupation, and religion as the root of the disastrous reality. Everyone agreed that only speedy progress toward a two-state solution could bring about peace and justice.

I remember coming away from these meetings with a heavy feeling — that I was being blamed for living in a reality of ongoing trauma (terror and violence had not et ceased). At the same time, I felt I was being told that I must abandon the two things that had been able to give me any sense of safety: the army and religion. I stopped going after a few meetings, realizing that I had left an ultra-Orthodox society that demanded my total allegiance to its Truth, only to align myself with a new political form of ultra-orthodoxy.

Talking about the Truth is important and valuable for those few people who dedicate their lives to understanding what is “right” and what is not. These days, however, Israeli society is not really being helped by lectures about how wrong and harmful it is. Not because Israeli policies are not harmful, but because there is no spiritual ability today to listen to these criticisms. As the Rabbi from Radin put it: “The obligation to convince someone can be practiced only when they are actually able to hear you.”

Israeli society needs leaders who are capable of speaking to this society’s pain and fear, who through dialogue with our feelings can free us from the powers that are destroying Israelis and Palestinians alike. We need leaders who show by example how to sacrifice part of their own Truth in order to heal wounds and bring about transformation. The Israeli peace camp must not be defined by the Left; it should include all who are ready to dedicate themselves to the process of healing themselves, and in this way to cease harming the Palestinians.

Negotiations with tears

We need a peace movement that will stop clashing with the Right about what is right what is wrong. For example, I am far less worried about whether every piece of evidence presented by Breaking the Silence is proven to be exact the military investigators. What is more important is to realize that thousands of Israelis who risk their lives in the defense of their country return home as I did, traumatized and in crisis. That we realize the crisis stems from the assumption that the army is purely a defensive one.

A public reading of Breaking the Silence testimonies in Tel Aviv to mark 10 years since the organization was founded, June 6, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A public reading of Breaking the Silence testimonies in Tel Aviv to mark 10 years since the organization was founded, June 6, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Daily confrontations between politicians from the Left and the Right only serve to emphasize the failure of the Left. Right-wing activists do not solely engage with logic. They bring up issues that relate to the fears that reside deep in our Jewish and Israeli D.N.A.. All these relate somehow to the conflict and its solution: shaking the moral foundations of the IDF; the feeling that Israeli critics are not speaking with their opponents but about them; the fear of non-Jews; the deep-seated suspicion of Palestinians and their leaders; the anxiety that if peace comes, Jews will marry non-Jews; and the underlying pain stemming from the conviction that Europe has never really come to terms with the trauma of the Holocaust.

The Israeli Left speaks about democratic values, but the Israeli public generally sees “Western values” as a language of logic — one that fails to speak to our hearts. If only the Israeli Left could speak to the people of this nation with the voice of 2,000 years of Israeli-Jewish culture, it is likely that the silent majority of Israelis would stand up and join the effort for peace.

A group of Israeli settlers refuses to evacuate the Gaza settlement of Bedolach, August 17, 2005. (photo courtesy of the Israeli Defense Forces)

A group of Israeli settlers refuses to evacuate the Gaza settlement of Bedolach, August 17, 2005. (photo courtesy of the Israeli Defense Forces)

The discussion of Dorit Rabinyan’s novel “Borderlife,” which was recently disqualified from the national curriculum by the Education Ministry, would be richer if the Israeli Left could cite examples of how the Kabbalist sages of North Africa would once study together with the Muslim Sufis, or if leaders of the Left could show that they themselves had demanded that the national curriculum include the painful poetry of expelled Jewish settlers from Gaza. The credibility of Breaking the Silence would only increase if they spoke about talmudic rabbis who insisted on learning from or with those who criticized the rabbinate.

The Israeli Left must internalize that a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians will not begin when the two sides sit down at the negotiating table. Rather, the agreement begins today, yesterday, and tomorrow, within and together with the people — all people.

There is an old story of a couple who came to Rabbi Karelitz, chairman of the rabbinical court on Bnei Brak, before their marriage, asking how to achieve a healthy life together. The rabbi answered them curtly: “If you wanted advice on living together, you should have come to me 18 years ago!” When parties to an agreement sit down to negotiate, the spiritual orientation of the negotiators — and of the peoples they represent — is already formed. Their ability to compromise is limited by the existential situation of the societies they speak for. It is the work of the Israeli peace camp to work with the Israeli public (the same, of course, holds true for Palestinian leaders) so that the public, and their leaders, will approach the negotiations in a spiritual state that is as conducive as possible to achieving a healthy agreement. To this end, the peace camp must create and speak a new language — or become irrelevant.

The Israeli peace camp must become an open house for every Israeli, no matter what their orientation: orthodox, religious-Zionists, Mizrahin, expelled settlers from Gaza, Palestinian citizens of Israel, Jerusalemites, settlers, Ethiopians, and all the rest. The peace camp must use a language of dialogue with all people, even those who do not agree with its arguments. It must understand that Jewish culture (and not just orthodoxy) must be part of the culture of the Left, rather than viewing it as a stumbling block.

Jerusalem was destroyed only because those who lived there based their judgments on divine law. Jerusalem will be rebuilt only by those who are capable of embracing the pain we share, gathering our tears, and bringing them to the negotiating table.

Yakir Englander is the project director of Kids4Peace International and a Shalom Hartman scholar. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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‘They’re fighting ordinary people who want to live ordinary lives’ http://972mag.com/theyre-fighting-ordinary-people-who-want-to-live-ordinary-lives/116789/ http://972mag.com/theyre-fighting-ordinary-people-who-want-to-live-ordinary-lives/116789/#comments Sun, 07 Feb 2016 18:15:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116789 Two taxi rides gave a small glimpse into some of the daily realities of Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents — ordinary people forced to live in unordinary circumstances.

Palestinians arrive to Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, to cross into Jerusalem to attend the Ramadan Friday Prayers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, July 19, 2013. (Photo: Nidal Elwan/ Activestills.org)

Palestinians arrive to Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, to cross into Jerusalem to attend the Ramadan Friday Prayers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, July 19, 2013. (Photo: Nidal Elwan/ Activestills.org)

“These houses were once neighbors,” says Naseem, a Palestinian taxi driver, as we drive through the neighborhood of Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem. He points to the separation wall to our right, jammed between homes that were mere meters away from each other. “These people are even from the same families. Now they have to walk or drive around the wall and through a checkpoint, just so they can visit one another.”

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Naseem, who is in his early 50’s, speaks with a soft voice and a relaxed demeanor as he drives me from Jerusalem’s central bus station to Ramallah. I would normally use the regular public buses, but an attack on Qalandiya checkpoint just a few days before has me wary of running into trouble or going through more tedious security checks.

I give Naseem the name of the street where my meeting was located, but he has never heard of it. I call my colleague in Ramallah to ask for directions, she tells us the hotel nearest to the building. “Ah of course!” laughs Naseem. Palestinians generally don’t navigate their towns by street names (if they had any); instead we ask for the closest neighborhoods, landmarks, or family homes. “These street names in Ramallah are all new,” he says. “They name them after this country or that donor or that historical person. I don’t know if anyone even uses them to get around.”

Naseem lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and six children. His family is poor, and with a high rent and daily expenses, he says it is hard to make ends meet. He doesn’t mind his job – “I like having a simple life,” he says – so long as he can support his kids and help them enter higher professions. His eldest daughter just began her pharmacy studies at university.

A Palestinian man climbs over the Israeli Wall from the West Bank town of al-Ram to the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina, to attend the Friday prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque, in the town of Al-Ram, near the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, on the second Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, July 3, 2015. (Oren Ziv / Activestills.org)

A Palestinian man climbs over the Israeli Wall from the West Bank town of al-Ram to the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina, to attend the Friday prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque, July 3, 2015. (Oren Ziv / Activestills.org)

I ask Naseem how life has been for him in the city during the past few months. Since October, Jerusalem has been the epicenter of violence both from Palestinian knife and car attacks against Israelis, and from the Israeli security forces’ crackdowns and closures on Palestinian residents and neighborhoods. Naseem gives me the same answer I always hear from Palestinians in the city: “Hiya se’ib (it’s difficult).”

Naseem says the tensions in the city are being felt every day – “like something is choking and dragging you by the throat” – and it is only getting worse. He doesn’t like politics, but in his city, politics are inescapable. “I just want an ordinary life, with a regular job and time to raise my kids without trouble. But the city doesn’t give you that.” He gestures back to the wall splitting Beit Hanina’s homes. “I don’t understand what the Israelis think they are achieving with all this. They’re fighting ordinary people who want to live ordinary lives. And everything about this city forces us to be unordinary.”

As we pass Beit Hanina on the way to Qalandiya, I tell Naseem I cannot imagine how people who see the separation wall every day cope with it. Naseem shrugs, his voice still calm: “We get used to it. We don’t accept it, but we find our ways to deal with it.”

***

Israeli police stop and inspect Palestinian residents of Jerusalem as they enter and exit their neighborhood, Issawiya, East Jerusalem, October 15, 2015. Following a spate of over a dozen stabbing attacks carried out by Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, Israel blocked off and erected checkpoints at the entrances and exits of most Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli police stop and inspect Palestinian residents of Jerusalem as they enter and exit their neighborhood, Issawiya, East Jerusalem, October 15, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

A few hours later, I am picked up by a different taxi driver, Samir, to take me from Ramallah back to Jerusalem. Samir is from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz. He’s in his 30’s, more energetic in his talk than Naseem, but with the same relaxed posture in his seat.

Samir informs me that there had been an attack near Damascus Gate – a 19-year-old border policewoman was killed and others injured. Fearing that the authorities could be more aggressive at Qalandiya, Samir thinks it better to go through the road to the town of Hizma. He’s wrong; we arrive at the one-way road to find it completely congested. “Ya Allah,” he mutters, and quickly puts the car in reverse, gesturing to oncoming cars to turn back.

We return to Qalandiya and, as expected, the line of cars there is also packed. Seeing an opening, however, Samir makes a U-turn to cut in – causing the driver behind us to honk furiously. When the traffic freezes again, Samir steps out of the car to apologize to the other driver. He comes back with a guilty expression: “The guy was stuck on the road to Hizma for nearly an hour. He had just made it to Qalandiya before we cut in front of him.” He felt bad, but forced himself to forget about it. “It’s hard to not be selfish when it comes to checkpoints. You’re just desperate for it to finish as quickly as possible.”

Several minutes pass and we have only moved about 10 meters. But Samir isn’t too bothered. As we slowly make our way forward, he spots several people amidst the cluster of cars around us: a cousin, a former classmate, a fellow cab driver, an old friend. They smile and wave from their cars, asking about their families and cracking jokes. I tell Samir I find it amusing that the checkpoint had become a kind of meeting place. “It really is!” he replies. “The neighborhoods on this side are still part of our daily lives and our daily work. The wall makes it harder of course, but our connections haven’t been lost. We’ll always find someone to say hi to at the checkpoint.”

Cars wait to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint separating Jerusalem and Ramallah. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Cars wait to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint separating Jerusalem and Ramallah. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Another few minutes pass and we almost reach the soldiers guarding the checkpoint. Samir and I start discussing the subject of resilience, and again I express bafflement as to how Palestinians in Jerusalem can cope with their circumstances. Samir agrees that it’s a form of strength, using an unusual analogy to put it into a simplified context.

“Say you live in a house with another person. One day, that person suddenly brings a cow into your room. Bear with me a minute,” he says as I laugh at his example. “You’re shocked by what the housemate does and ask what on earth he is thinking. But the housemate doesn’t reply to you. A month later, he brings another cow into your room, and another one a month later, and so on. Soon there are so many cows that you don’t even remember what it’s like to live without them. Now all you want is just for there to be fewer cows in your room.

“So the housemate removes a cow, then another one, and maybe another one after that. You still have a few cows in your room; but you’re just happy that there are fewer than before. You live with this for as long as you can. But one day, you will remember that you could actually have something better – that you don’t have to live like this. Then, I suppose you crack. And God help you both when that happens.”

I thought about it and told him it was one of the best explanations of the Palestinian experience I had ever heard. Samir smiled and reached for the glove compartment to pull out an apple for a snack, along with his ID card to show to the young Israeli soldier waiting to inspect us.

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Jewish politicians meet with terrorist families too http://972mag.com/jewish-politicians-meet-with-terrorist-families-too/116779/ http://972mag.com/jewish-politicians-meet-with-terrorist-families-too/116779/#comments Sun, 07 Feb 2016 15:44:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116779 Netanyahu wants to kick Arab MKs out of the Knesset for meeting with families of Palestinian terrorists. Will the same standard be upheld for those who meet with Jewish terrorists?

Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to punish Palestinian members of Knesset for meeting with families of Palestinians who have carried out deadly attacks against Jewish Israelis. But could his initiative backfire and end up punishing members of his own government?

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The prime minister announced on Sunday that he would be promoting legislation to bar three MKs who met with families of terrorists from serving in Knesset. His announcement came in response to a report that Arab members of Knesset from the nationalist Balad faction of the Joint List met with the families of Palestinian terrorists. The Balad MKs said the visit was humanitarian, in order to help negotiate the release of the bodies Israel refuses is holding on to. The MKs reportedly took part in a moment of silence for the attackers.

Netanyahu called on the opposition to support his initiative in addition to a complaint he filed against the three with the Knesset’s Ethics Committee.

The prime minister’s proposal, however, could entangle a top minister in the Israeli government. According to American liberal Jewish newspaper The Forward, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked met recently with the mother of an Israeli-American minor suspect in the murder of three Palestinians last year. The arson in the West Bank village of Duma was considered a terrorist attack by the Israeli government and defense establishment. According to his attorney, following his arrest, the minor was subject to torture and solitary confinement by his Shin Bet interrogators.

In that case, allegations of torture markedly overshadowed the meeting between Israel’s justice minister with the mother of a suspected terrorist. In fact, as opposed to the Balad MKs, details of Shaked’s meeting could not be reported in the Israeli media due to a sweeping gag order on the case.

The Duma suspect, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. Israeli leaders have not only met with the families of convicted terrorists, some of them even employ them. Take Nathan Nathanson, who was convicted in 1985 for his involvement in the Jewish Underground and taking part in three car bombings against Palestinian mayors in June 1980. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Today Nathanson is a political advisor to Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked of Jewish Home at the party headquarters on election day 2013

Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked of the ‘Jewish Home’ sing Israel’s national anthem, ‘Hatikva,’ at the party headquarters on election day 2013. (photo: Activestills.org)

Or take Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever, a veteran leader of the settler movement and the subject of a recent investigative report, exposing him for fraudulently purchasing Palestinian land for the purpose of building illegal settlement outposts. Hever, who was also a member of the Jewish Underground, served a scant 11 months in prison for placing a bomb under a car belonging to Dr. Ahmed Natshe, a political figure in Hebron, in 1984. He has been closely associated with several Israeli prime ministers, most prominently Ariel Sharon, who is known as the father of the settlement movement.

Or what about Haggai Segal, who today serves as the editor-in-chief of right-wing newspaper Makor Rishon? Segal served two years in prison for planting bombs under the car of then-Ramallah Mayor Karim Khalaf and in the garage of Al-Bireh Mayor Ibrahim Tawil. Segal’s son, Amit, is a reporter for Channel 2 news, and has interviewed Netanyahu on various occasions. According to his own logic, Netanyahu, too, must be kicked out of Israel’s parliament.

And this isn’t even taking into account the countless number of members of pre-state Jewish militias such as the Palmach, Etzel, and Lehi — including several prime ministers — who committed massacres and headed expulsions in the years leading up to and during the 1948 War, only later to become leaders in the nascent Jewish state.

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WATCH: Three days under military closure in Qabatiya http://972mag.com/watch-three-days-under-military-closure-in-qabatiya/116766/ http://972mag.com/watch-three-days-under-military-closure-in-qabatiya/116766/#comments Sun, 07 Feb 2016 11:49:12 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116766 West Bank town put under closure following last week’s deadly attack on Israeli Border Police officers in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Photos and text by: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Palestinians protest against the Israeli military's closure of ‪‎Qabatiya‬, near Jenin,  February 6, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians protest against the Israeli military’s closure of ‪‎Qabatiya‬, near Jenin, February 6, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

After three days of strict military closure, the Israeli army lifted its blockade Saturday evening on the town of Qabatiya in the northern West Bank.

The blockade was put in place last week after three Palestinians from the town carried out a shooting attack at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, killing one Israeli Border Police officer and wounding three others. The three Palestinians were immediately shot and killed by Israeli security forces. Many have called the closure on Qabatiya a form of “collective punishment.”

Palestinians carry the body of Ahmed Zakarneh, one of the three Palestinians killed during the shooting attack on Israeli Border Policemen in Jerusalem's Old City, Qabatiya, West Bank, February 5, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians carry the body of Ahmed Zakarneh, one of the three Palestinians killed during the shooting attack on Israeli Border Policemen in Jerusalem’s Old City, Qabatiya, West Bank, February 5, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

As a result of the closure, each of the town’s entrances was completely sealed off with dirt mounds, preventing passage in or out of the village, home to 20,000 Palestinians. The schools closed their doors and residents were stuck at home, while commercial traffic in the town came to a complete standstill, drastically affecting Qabatiya’s vegetable market — the largest in the West Bank.

Clashes erupted across Qabatiya and last for several days, leaving dozens of Palestinian wounded by live fire and rubber bullets. Three Israeli soldiers were wounded last Thursday night by stone-throwing while carrying out raids in the village.

Palestinians take cover during clashes with Israeli forces in Qabatiya, West Bank, February 6, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians take cover during clashes with Israeli forces in Qabatiya, West Bank, February 6, 2016. (photo: Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

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What does ‘coexistence’ look like in a segregated city? http://972mag.com/what-does-coexistence-look-like-in-a-segregated-city/116757/ http://972mag.com/what-does-coexistence-look-like-in-a-segregated-city/116757/#comments Sat, 06 Feb 2016 17:29:44 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116757 ‘Coexistence’ in one of Israel’s major mixed cities means Palestinian citizens must forget who they are, where they were born, and whom they were born to.

By Zohar Elmakias

Two eighth grade girls from Ramle’s Juwarish neighborhood stabbed a security guard at the central bus station last Thursday. Following the incident, I thought a lot of about Ramle. I was born and raised there, and many of my family members still live in the city. Ramle is, for better or for worse, the landscape of my childhood, the place I always go back to. As a child, I participated in various “coexistence” activities with local Arab children. We met at the pool, at summer camp, at school. But I did not live in a “mixed city” — I lived in a segregated city: I did not know their language, and it took me time to understand why our neighbors put up a Christmas tree in their living room, or why fireworks lit up the sky on Christmas Eve.

The knife found in the backpack of one of the 13-year-old girl's backpack following the stabbing attack in Ramle. (photo: Israel Police)

The knife found in the backpack of one of the 13-year-old girl’s backpack following last week’s stabbing attack in Ramle. (photo: Israel Police)

And though I lived in a segregated city, Haaretz recently published a list of education experts and local leaders who praised the city for its coexistence, among them was Mayor Yoel Lavi, who said: “Ramle is a multicultural city where Jews coexist alongside Arabs as neighbors. We will continue to be good neighbors with no difference between sectors.”

In an interview in 2005, Lavi said: “There are homes in Juwarish that are nicer than those in Kfar Shmaryahu. How can people call it a refugee camp? There is an excellent school there…and houses that are reminiscent of the Loire Valley.” In that same interview, Lavi talked about the local elections and his relations with the Arab population of the city:

I come crawling on all fours, begging that they vote for me. Someone gets up and says: ‘How can we vote for you when you have a sign that says ‘The people are with the Golan?” I did not let him continue. I told him, ‘Listen. I don’t like your wisecracks. I didn’t come to talk about national issues. I came to deal with the fact that you don’t have water or sewage infrastructure, that you don’t have roads and sidewalks. If the Arab sector wants to talk to me about national issues, I will be the first to shoot you. I have a lot of life experience. Every time I shot at Arabs I stayed alive and they didn’t. Fuck off.’ So I left. I solved all the infrastructural problems in Juwarish. There is a reason they vote for me. Whenever they break the law I strike. But I am the first to defend them when it comes to their rights.

In those same years, Lavi refused to give Arab names to the streets in Ramle, saying that those who don’t like the decision can either move to Arab towns or “change their Allah.” He later apologized, although two years later Israel’s attorney general decided not to appoint him to head the Israel Land Administration (ILA). Even the chairman of the ILA, one of the most discriminatory and problematic bodies in Israel, cannot stand Lavi’s remarks and policies.

Lavi’s remarks show exactly what kind of “coexistence” is acceptable to him: the kind in which people are made to forget who they are, where they were born, and whom they were born to. The kind where people are made to forget their language, their culture, and their god. People will talk endlessly about brainwashing or fanatical identification with the Palestinian struggle, while forgetting one simple fact: Palestinian citizens of Israel are part and parcel of this place. Infrastructure, water, sewage, education, professional opportunities, cultural budgets — these are all rightfully theirs. Talk of acting “for them” or “in their name” is nothing but a patronizing distraction from this truth.

As usual, words of wisdom come directly from those we refuse to listen to — those we prefer to forget. At the end of the Haaretz article, the children of Juwarish say, “On the bus ride here we felt that everyone was staring at us and was afraid of us. It’s frightening to be children in this city because everyone suspects you.” I don’t know which city Yoel Lavi lives in. Probably a different one altogether.

Zohar Elmakias is an editor for Haokets, where this article was first published in Hebrew.

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