What does it feel like to be a target? Jewish-Israeli dissidents and anti-occupation activists have, for the most part, been lucky enough to avoid that question over the years. While Israeli authorities have had few qualms clamping down on Palestinians who openly challenge Israel’s military dictatorship in the occupied territories, Israeli Jews have largely been spared their wrath.
That’s beginning to change. From Shin Bet interrogations at the border to coordinated attacks on prominent anti-occupation activists to the delegitimization of left-wing NGOs, authorities have been making life increasingly difficult for outspoken Jewish Israelis. For more well-known activists, the ad hominem attacks are worn like a badge of honor: proof that laying bare the cruelties of occupation is actually doing something.
Then there are activists like Guy Hirschfeld, who stand little to gain from becoming a target. Over the past few months, it has felt at times like Hirschfeld, 49, is Public Enemy No. 1 for Israeli authorities in the West Bank — and particularly the settlers. A long-time member of Ta’ayush — an Israeli-Palestinian volunteer grassroots group founded during the Second Intifada, and one of the few groups of Israelis that regularly puts their bodies on the line in solidarity with Palestinians — Hirschfeld spends most of his days accompanying Palestinian shepherds in the Jordan Valley, where they regularly come under attack by settlers or the army.
If Hirschfeld’s ideological leanings have made him a target, his brazen, often shocking style does him no favors. His routine chastising of soldiers, in which he often resorts to personal insults, coupled with a defiant irreverence for conventional norms (he commonly refers to the ideological settlers in outposts as “terrorists”) have landed him in the crosshairs. Since joining Ta’ayush in 2009, Hirschfeld has been arrested or detained between 60-70 times — 25 of them this year alone.
Hirschfeld is an easy target, but his case is exemplary of a larger clampdown on grassroots Israeli activists who struggle alongside Palestinians in the occupied territories. That clampdown was on display two years ago when a far-right group tried to bring down Ta’ayush veteran and Hirschfeld’s mentor, Ezra Nawi. Today, now that Nawi is significantly less active, Hirschfeld has become the primary target of the right.
Rather than deter him, the intimidation tactics have only made Hirschfeld more outspoken. His Facebook following has blossomed over the past two years to over 4,000, including some of...Read More