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Israel, the occupation is at the core of who you are

If Jewish leaders and activists are going to speak up against Israel’s recent anti-democratic trends, they cannot remain silent on what has been corrupting its democracy for decades.

By Nadav Bigelman

Israeli soldiers take position near a burning tyre during clashes with Palestinian protesters at a demonstration marking Land Day at Qalandiya checkpoint, March 30, 2012. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers take position near a burning tyre during clashes with Palestinian protesters at a demonstration marking Land Day at Qalandiya checkpoint, March 30, 2012. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

It is not news to many Israelis that their government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is pushing all those who do not align with his spirit of nationalism and racism to the margins of society. Ongoing legislation against the LGBTQ community, the Jewish Nation-State Law, and intense incitement against left-wing activists continue to degenerate Israel’s delicate social fabric. Recent detainments of Jewish American public figures and activists at Ben Gurion Airport, including the journalist Peter Beinart, serve as a blaring reminder of this climate. However, they are merely a symptom of years of Netanyahu’s policies, and of the generation that was comfortable in ignoring the occupation.

Ronald Lauder is among that generation, and in his article, “Israel, This Is Not Who We Are,” recently published in the New York Times, he describes the drastic ideological and identity-related shifts impacting American Jewry. According to Lauder, divisive legislative processes in Israel are multiplying at a deeply troubling rate, and Jewish communities, especially younger groups, are no longer willing to stand idly by the anti-democratic trends unraveling in Israel in recent years. Fear of the deterioration of Israeli democracy is indeed troubling, and anyone who cares about Israel’s future cannot afford to sit on the sidelines, writes Lauder.

So far, he is on point.

So where is the problem? One word was missing from Lauder’s diagnosis. You guessed it: occupation. Both in analyzing the country’s ills and in offering solutions, Lauder overlooks decades of Israel’s military control over millions of Palestinians.

Lauder, like many in his generation, cannot comprehend how occupation is among the leading factors that have been corrupting Israeli democracy for 51 years, and counting. He is willing to speak against the ever-growing inequality between Jews and Arabs in Israel – especially with the passing of the Nation-State Law – but apparently, he does not mind the separate legal systems that discriminate between Jews and Palestinians in the occupied territories.

For Lauder, infringing on the LGBTQ community’s rights is unacceptable, but he does not seem to mind the denial of Palestinians’ political rights in the occupied territories, including the exploitation of queer Palestinians for security purposes.



It may have been convenient for Lauder and his generation to ignore the occupation, but this grave injustice will not disappear until Israel ends it. A just and egalitarian society cannot exist here so long as Arabs, and all minorities in Israel, are not completely equal to Jews. Israel will never be a true democracy so long as it continues to control millions of Palestinians by force, and Israelis’ security and liberty cannot be ensured so long as those of Palestinians are not safeguarded.

More and more young American Jews are realizing that the occupation is not just an Israeli policy mishap, but rather the most consistent policy that the Israeli government has furthered in recent decades. For Jewish leaders like Lauder to remain relevant, they must bravely confront the reality they have grown accustomed to suppressing, and uncompromisingly resist the occupation and the settlement enterprise. The young Jewish community is already there.

Nadav Bigelman is a member of Standing Together, a joint Jewish-Arab movement which aims to create social change in Israel.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      The peace process has been corrupting Israeli democracy for decades.
      During the early 2000s there were bombs going on every day & that was preventing us from being democratic.

      Reply to Comment
      • Unimpressed realist

        Yeah sure… its everybody’s fault. Nothing is at all yours.

        I bet you dont even know where the green line begins and ends — and you cant blame anyone for any of that. Bet you even think Lebanon occupied itself too and invaded itself…totally had nothing to do with Ariel Sharon or anything….

        Such cowardice and insistence on being a constant victim, while actually victimizing everyone else. The standard rationale of a serial abuser.

        Reply to Comment
        • Mark

          “I bet you dont even know where the green line begins and ends”
          Isn’t it where house and apartment prices start falling dramatically?

          Reply to Comment
          • john

            that disparity in housing prices is also a glaring example of inequality in israel. not to mention state-subsidized rent in settlements, almost like the government is paying people to be antagonizing fundamentalists.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Firentis

      תסמונת אקיבוש

      If a baby bird falls from a tree in Israel, the occupation is to blame.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Firentis: when someone is jailed without trial or even formal charges, the Occupation is to blame:


        Jarrar has been held without trial since July, allegedly for belonging to a terror organization, although info about charges against her remains confidential ..”Israel holds hundreds of Palestinians under administrative warrants for months and years without indicting them. These administrative detainees have their basic rights as prisoners in criminal proceedings revoked, in direct opposition to what is stated in international law.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          The best place for terrorists is prison.

          Reply to Comment
          • Mark

            Some might argue the best place for a terrorist is under the ground, with or without a wreath from Jeremy Corbyn.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            When is the terrorist leadership of the state of Israel going to prison?

            Israel Is the Terrorist
            Ilana Hammerman
            “….What are the acts of these young people? Terror? No, this is a desperate struggle by groups and individuals, who from the day they were born have nothing to hope for, against an army that is a thousand times stronger than they. And what is this army defending: The security of its country? No, it is defending the choice of Israeli governments to use terror to impose the “state of the Jewish people” on the entire region between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.”

            Reply to Comment
      • john

        it’s also a commonly cited reason for the demographic state to turn jews away, as well as the driving force of much jew-on-jew violence.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        @Firentis: In thousands of instances reliably documented with great authenticity by +972 Magazine, the occupation is to blame. You might try reading it once instead of simply dropping by to drop trifling comments that simply show the cold, racist contempt of Israelis like you for (non-Jewish) human rights documented in thousands of incidents by +972 Magazine. What you in fact contributed here today was one small extra bit of evidence in support of Nadav Bigelman’s thesis.

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          Sure. All Israeli problems are the result of the ‘occupation’. A guy cut me off this morning – occupation. The waitress took her sweet time serving me lunch – occupation. Yesterday the beach was polluted in some parts – occupation. There is a faint smell of construction in the office – occupation. The airline prices are really high during the September holidays – occupation. The sushi delivered by Japanika was tasteless on Thursday – occupation.

          I salute Nadav Bigelman for tying all of Israel’s problem to occupation. I am so happy to hear that none of the problems that we face on a daily basis will be solved until the ever so simple problem of the occupation will be solved and that we shouldn’t even bother trying.

          In case it isn’t obvious, I have contempt for people like him and for the European funded traitors that have decided to piggyback on internal Israeli problems and thus made them politically more difficult to solve despite them having nothing to do with the occupation.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Firentis, I think I perceived quite clearly that you are full of contempt. (Your clarification is superfluous.) You deflect by the usual base slander about “European funded traitors” (basically an all-purpose Yesha Council/Herr Stuermer-style anti-Semitizing/anti-Semitic slur dressed up as something better). All these activists and principled people, Jewish and non-Jewish, simply cannot plausibly be smeared as “doing this for the money.” To assert this is preposterous on the face of it and says much more about the accuser than the accused. And it positively reeks of the contempt you think we needed help detecting.

            Merely crafting more examples of meaningless “baby bird falls from nest” analogies doesn’t change anything or become anymore convincing as to what your real agenda is. You are engaging actually in an outright caricature of the deflecting response, the evasive response, the art of distraction, the obstinate refusal to grapple with the heart of the matter. I suppose Al Capone, too, said, before they shipped him off to Alcatraz, “oh sure, blame everything on my business enterprises, when the beach is polluted or some guy cuts you off in traffic, it’s my business practices.”

            “…politically more difficult to solve…”

            That depends on the meaning of the word “solve.”

            My translation, based on what I discern your meaning to be:

            “Just leave us alone with our nice little occupation for another fifty years, we need the time while we “solve” the problem by, bit by bit, when no one is looking, ramming our nation state law style supremacism down the minorities’ throats and ‘lower their expectations’ as our Bibi always says. It’s none of your business.”

            Which is the language of mobsters. (It’s actually the language of Trump, US Mob Boss-in-Chief, but I digress.) And that’s the thing. Israelis most definitely have shown that they cannot solve this on their own. No way. Outside pressure and outside objectivity and concern for justice is indispensable. So the last thing “the Europeans” should do is leave Israel alone, to its own devices.

            Reply to Comment
          • betz55

            The problem for you in this space, is that you are encountering a collection of people extremely well-informed on the topic of Zionism, it’s history, and the nature and tenets of the ideology. Further, we tend to also be extraordinarily aware of the depth and nature of the oppression israel has long committed against the actual victims, the Palestinians.

            israel and the incitement you and your ilk foment manifested in illegal settler squat terrorism and jewish terrorism is the problem.

            israel has painted themselves into a corner, surrounded by states that loathe them. Their hubris, arrogance and sense of entitlement based on the ridiculous credo of “chosen people”, has left them discredited, unmasked, de-legitimized, scorned, reduced to a worthless diplomatic dwarf, maniacally messianic fanatics, laughed at and alienated from the rest of the international community. That will be their legacy.

            You gotta work with what you have. Logically and morally, if one is an Israel supporter, like you, that‘s not much

            Reply to Comment
    3. BrianG

      The Jewish peoples are greater than the racist Netanyaha government in Israel.

      Reply to Comment