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'The occupation will collapse. And then we'll build a moral society here'

On Saturday night, thousands of Palestinians and Jews gathered in Jerusalem for an anti-occupation protest marking 50 years since the occupation began. Breaking the Silence head Yuli Novak spoke to demonstrators about the importance of solidarity and resistance to the violence and racism of the Israeli government. Below is a transcript of the speech, translated from Hebrew.

By Yuli Novak

These are dark, somber days. Our country is dominated by occupation, messianism, racism, ignorance, callousness, and violence. Blaming the right-wing government won’t help. Nor will sitting in our living rooms fantasizing about the day they’ll be replaced. And please, enough with the “Anyone but Bibi” rhetoric — Yair Lapid is no different.

The change we need to enact here requires courage, honesty, and the willingness to sacrifice something – the willingness to give up privileges and pay a price. Show me one politician – one! – who wants to be prime minister and is also willing to do this.

During dark days like these marked by daily violence, intensifying hatred, terrible racism, the occupation, there’s only one way to win: resistance. Struggle. Solidarity. That’s it. Resistance — that’s our strength and the regime’s weakness. Joining struggles is our hope, and what will bring about the collapse of the regime. Solidarity is our civil power, and the regime’s greatest fear. And there’s nothing more frightening for bad regimes than the moment when citizens stand up, resist, and fearlessly struggle.

When Palestinians do so in nonviolent demonstrations in the occupied territories — in Bil’in, in Hebron, in Sheikh Jarrah — the regime’s response will always involve violence and force. This is why we need to join forces. Because resistance and civilian struggles are the only means to challenge violent regimes. They’re the only means that cannot be suppressed with guns or clubs.

Solidarity is a state of mind. To be willing to sacrifice for the other and to understand that it’s the only act the regime can’t tolerate. Solidarity isn’t an empty slogan. It’s a tool which we’re neither sufficiently familiar with nor trained to use. This state of affairs is convenient for the regime, and has been fostered for decades by right- and left-wing governments – making sure we keep thinking solely of ourselves, keep living in existential fear, keep perceiving the occupation as necessary, and keep looking at racism as something that defines us.

Israelis hold signs calling to fight against racism, occupation, and for freedom of speech, in a march against the occupation in Jerusalem, April 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israelis hold signs calling to fight against racism, occupation, and for freedom of speech, in a march against the occupation in Jerusalem, April 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Solidarity is the only act capable of deconstructing such perceptions that have been instilled in us from birth. Solidarity is not only recognition of others’ pain and suffering. Solidarity is, first and foremost, recognition of one’s right to struggle for freedom, and recognition of our responsibility, and duty, to conduct this struggle together. And pay a price together. And be liberated together.

This is also the reason that the government invests the majority of its efforts into incitement, division, creation of hatred and fear.

For those who believe in freedom, equality, and life, we no longer have the privilege of sitting at home. Democratic public spheres are disappearing. Culture, academia, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, democracy, equality, morality and justice — all of them have become victims of the regime on the altar of occupation, settlements, and corruption.

This struggle is critical, and it doesn’t solely belong to Arabs, human rights organizations, the homeless, or Ethiopians. It’s the struggle of all those who wish to live in a liberal democracy. This struggle is against the nationalistic, messianic, racist, destructive regime of occupation.

To avert one’s eyes from the occupation is to cooperate with the wicked regime. To yield before violence is to strengthen it. To remain silent before racism is to legitimize it. To surrender to fear and intimidation is to accept this dark reality, allowing it to continue and intensify.

Each day that goes by without resistance is another day of deteriorating democracy. Each day that goes by without a struggle is another day of violence against Palestinian children. Each day that goes by without solidarity is another day in which racism and nationalism trump morality and justice.

Each day that goes by in which we neglect to merge our society’s tremendous forces — of all colors, ethnicities, and organizations — is another day which strengthens the violent nationalist occupying regime’s belief that nothing can stop it, and that they can carry on with their nationalist project of the occupation undisturbed. That they can continue to destroy, to injure, to harm, to kill.

Israelis hold signs calling to fight against racism, occupation, and for freedom of speech, in a march against the occupation at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem Old City, April 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israelis hold signs calling to fight against racism, occupation, and for freedom of speech, in a march against the occupation at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem Old City, April 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Today alone, right here beyond these walls, the maintenance and preservation of the occupation continues to take its toll. The victims of this reality — the lives of both Jews and Palestinians — are not predestined. This is the price paid for Israeli governments’ ongoing policy of abandonment and lawlessness.

I say these things here, in Jerusalem. A city whose streets have been dominated by uninhibited, violent, racist, right-wing gangs. A city led by a racist, opportunistic mayor. A capital that bears no semblance to justice and equality.

So yes, I’m calling for us all to join forces in our struggle, here and now. To fight for our truths. To give our all for our future. And to give hope. Because when we struggle against evil in solidarity as a united front, in the end we also win. And yes, one day the occupation will end. And Jerusalem will be what it should be — the capital of a democratic, just, and equitable state.

We can no longer afford to hold on to our privileges. We no longer have the privilege to seek out easy, comfortable solutions for which we don’t have to pay a price.

It’s time to face our fears, the painful but liberating truth: It’s not just Netanyahu. It’s not just Naftali Bennett. It’s not just Yair Lapid. And it’s certainly not Isaac Herzog. It’s us. This struggle is about who we are and who we will be.

And remember: In times like these, the struggle isn’t only the path — it’s the essence. Opposition to the regime is our hope. Our dreams should guide us. Recognition of who we want to be, without senselessly, fruitlessly gripping to “who we were.” Dreams of another space — of equality, unity, and compassion — are the kryptonite of the racist regime of occupation.

Here and now, we say loud and clear: You’ll go on with your violence, and our solidarity will prevail. You’ll continue with your repression, and justice will prevail. You’ll continue to hate and intimidate, and we’ll persevere unflinchingly.

You’ll continue to occupy, and the occupation will end. The occupation will collapse. And then we’ll build a moral democratic society here, where we’ll all have the opportunity for true reform.

This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. carmen

      “It’s time to face our fears, the painful but liberating truth: It’s not just Netanyahu. It’s not just Naftali Bennett. It’s not just Yair Lapid. And it’s certainly not Isaac Herzog. It’s us. This struggle is about who we are and who we will be.”

      Absolutely.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Firentis

      The liberating truth: It isn’t our leaders. It is us. We hate ourselves.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Tony Riley

      Big fan of Hamas and their “moral” murders of Gays, and of women fleeing from forced marriages?

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Tony: I can’t say this any better than Larry Derfner, so I’ll just quote him – page 258 from “No Country For Jewish Liberals”:

        This is not a popularity contest. It doesn’t matter that Israel, for example, treats gay people better than Palestinian society does. That doesn’t give it the right to rob Palestinians of their freedom and land. Nothing the Palestinians do or ever did justifies that. Black South Africans used terror against whites and against each other, often in gruesome ways; that did not justify apartheid. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1967 is not about a more tolerant society versus a less tolerant one; it’s about the right to be master versus the right to be free.

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is and always has been about the Palestinian rejection of any form of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. Starting one’s telling of history in 1967 is a clear and obvious sign of an attempt at obfuscating the issue.

          And to some extent it is a popularity contest. That isn’t the driving factor, but it is a factor. And when you have a currently unsolvable conflict then the question is who in that conflict do you support? The side that has similar social values to you and prides itself on tolerance and democracy, or the side that supports women and gays being killed for their moral transgressions.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Telling the history since 1967 as if events before ’67 give permission for today’s 50-year occupation and separation regime (“apartheid” in Afrikaans) is a clear sign of an attempt at obfuscating the issue.
            As for “Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel” — this phrase the right pretends is trouble free — see:
            http://972mag.com/why-i-oppose-recognizing-israel-as-a-jewish-state/78751/
            “…Because a “Jewish” state – as opposed to a state whose culture is Jewish or is “a national homeland” for Jews – will always be a racist, discriminatory state….”

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            I’ll repeat what I said. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is and always has been about the Palestinian rejection of any form of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel.

            When you find a Palestinian leader that is willing to accept a state whose culture is Jewish or is “a national homeland” for Jews let me know. Until then you are just arguing semantics to hide the fact that the Palestinians refuse to accept any formulation.

            Reply to Comment
          • Mark

            “the side that supports women and gays being killed for their moral transgressions”

            What moral transgression? It’s pure bigotry and desire to control.

            Reply to Comment
    4. i_like_ike52

      I read this, expecting to see some sort of program for action, and a road map as to how to “end the occupation”. There was nothing like this here, just a long list of slogans, cliches and “progressive” jargon about “resistance” and “solidarity”. Yuli says that none of the political players are going to help them, including the Left, so I must ask what these “progressives” intend to do to make the “occupation collapse”. Actually, Arafat had a definite plan of action….he ordered a massive wave of suicide bombings, which he believed would make Israel collapse, based on a reading of the Qur’an which says Jews are cowards and will run away when confronted with Arab violence. It didn’t happen and Israel’s security was restored. FATHAH and HAMAS propaganda cartoons show the same thing…Jews running away when confronted with knives or car rammings, but again, none of this does the Palestinians any good.
      So what is it that Yuli is hoping for? BDS? Not going to happend. Some sort of Deus Ex Machina in which all the world’s powers get together and threaten Israel to give up , “or else”? Israel did unilaterally give up the Gaza Strip but got only rockets and attack tunnels and a terrorist regime in power there. This led to the loss of any internal support for the capitulation Yuli is hoping for. So we see neither external pressure, or internal Israeli political movement is going to cause this “collapse”, given the Palestinian refusal to agree to a compromise peace. Yuli and her “progressive” friends will continue to be frustrated. Sorry.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      A great speech by Yuli Novak. Kind of sums it all up.

      Breaking the Silence is the utter scandal that gives the lie to all the confident right wing assurances that everything is just fine.

      Novak, former Air Force officer: “The occupation isn’t an internal Israeli matter. The Israeli occupation that we see as immensely damaging to Israel, is maintained and supported abroad. Millions of dollars, mostly tax money, are invested in telling the world ‘if you’re for Israel you’re for the occupation.’” “We bring to this debate an Israeli, patriotic voice that says ‘we love Israel, but the occupation harms it.’ It’s critical that the world knows there are Israeli soldiers who think the state’s future depends on ending the occupation.”

      Achiya Schatz, former combatant in the Duvdevan special ops unit: “People are silenced and gagged in Israel. Anyone who opposes the occupation is seen as a traitor. When the settlers’ Yesha Council speaks abroad how come nobody criticizes it? It’s sheer hypocrisy. The attempt to divert the debate to [our activity] abroad is government spin.”

      Novak: “Obviously Breaking the Silence statements raise objection. When you see the unpleasant sight in the mirror we put up, your first instinct is to look aside,” but “Israel’s problem is the occupation. What makes Israel look bad is that for 48 years we’ve been ruling another nation and not showing any sign that we mean to change it – not soldiers telling what the occupation looks like.”

      http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.692518?v=44179A0E1CDA6D2FDC0B896BDFA8318C

      Reply to Comment
      • Firentis

        The utter scandal is that a leader of an organization entirely sponsored by foreign governments and organizations is using those resources to both besmirch Israel’s good name abroad and to organize explicitly political protests in the capital of Israel.

        A patriotic voice? More like one bought and paid for by foreigners that uses her foreign-funded loudspeaker to amplify marginal voices of people that hate their own country and despise its people.

        But fortunately this travesty can be fixed reasonably quickly. This foreign interference in Israeli domestic politics is immoral and will be brought to an end. And all that has to be done is to prevent these organizations from receiving funding from foreign governments.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Nothing you say changes the fact that Breaking the Silence is indigenous, home grown, native, Jewish, military, IDF, patriotic, intelligent, competent, and of sterling integrity. And silence breaking. And you can’t get around this. That they then sought out some funding from outside and took their message outside because Israelis for years utterly refuse to listen, and because inside they are persecuted, that is a scandal, but that’s why they call themselves Breaking the Silence.

          You are trying to take something subsidiary and extraneous, some of their funding sources, and make it primary and the essence. It is not. (Anymore than the United State’s funding of Israel constitutes the essence of Israel. Anymore than the EU’s massive funding of the occupation constitutes the essence of the Palestinians or the occupation of the Palestinians. You are perfectly willing to accept all sorts of untracked outside funding for your settlers and your occupation and don’t ask what arms manufacturers and American parties benefit, or what foreign casino gambling magnate rules things, but turn all high and mighty when a tiny little organization of Israeli soldiers gets funding that does not come out of the Yesha Council Internal Slush Fund.)

          The fact that there is no reasonable conversation to be had with right wingers is borne out by the fact that when confronted with the truth from the most authoritative source conceivable they choose to clap their hand over their ears and vilify.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Moreover, as Novak says, the occupation intrinsically is not an internal Israeli matter.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Breaking the Silence is a marginal group whose only claim to fame is that their tactics are presently useful to their European funders. They produce propaganda against the country they live in at the behest of foreign governments and they go abroad in order to help Israel’s enemies apply pressure on the country. As an organization they are about as home-grown, native and Israeli as a new office opened up by a foreign company that happens to employ Israeli employees.

            The fact that their loudspeaker is bought and paid for by foreign governments is the primary and essential aspect of the reality of this marginal group. For all the attempts to paint them as some sort of native and thus legitimate phenomenon, they are not. They are a proxy of foreign government engaged in a campaign of delegitimization and demonization of the State of Israel. The only people that are willing to participate in such activities are those for whom a paycheck from a foreign government is more important than their country or their conscience.

            As for their “silence breaking”. They receive foreign money which they use to employ “researchers” whose goal is to collect anonymous testimony from Israeli soldiers. They then use that anonymous testimony to generalize and to produce propaganda reports. They then spend the rest of their foreign money to travel around the world and to present their propaganda to audiences looking to hear their deep hatred of Israel confirmed by “Israelis”. There is no real attempt to actually report cases of abuse to the Israeli authorities. There is no real attempt to actually change anything on the ground. All that they are involved in is producing and spreading propaganda at the behest of their foreign sponsors.

            They are the lowest form of humanity possible and the only reason you think they are anything more is because you find their propaganda reaffirming to your own biased and ignorant view of Israel. That you think they are “authoritative” is once again proof of the extreme bias that you hold regarding Israel.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “The fact that their loudspeaker is bought and paid for by foreign governments is the primary and essential aspect of the reality of this marginal group… The only people that are willing to participate in such activities are those for whom a paycheck from a foreign government is more important than their country or their conscience.”

            Absolutely no way. This is baseless slander. It is not even plausible on the face of it. The whole emphasis you make on “foreign money” is bogus. It’s bull sh*t: saying something without any serious regard for the truth. And it’s all you’ve got.

            “There is no real attempt to actually report cases of abuse to the Israeli authorities.”

            False. They tried to do this at first and quickly discovered that the authorities used it to cover up and to persecute Breaking the Silence-participating soldiers.

            They are as authoritative as hell. They are the ultimate in authoritative and if it were not for them, and for the occasional hand held video capture the IDF and the Israeli government would never admit to a thing. Sorry, Novak is right, you can’t handle the truth.

            Note that your ideological ally, Ike52, below, accuses someone else of “the classic stereotypes about Jews, that they are inherently disloyal to the countries they live in and work for the interest of foreign interests. This dangerous belief led to much tragedy in history.” Except when directed at the Jews of Breaking the Silence then apparently it’s quite alright!

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Breaking the Silence receives 90%+ of their funding from foreign governments and foreign organizations. In practice they are an Israeli subsidiary of a foreign campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel. They are effectively employees of foreign governments and organizations and their activities should be treated accordingly as an entirely illegitimate foreign intervention in domestic Israeli politics.

            They are not authoritative. Their goal is to produce propaganda and all of their activities are geared towards that goal. Their data can not be checked because all their sources are anonymous. Any abuses can not be corrected because they are not reported to the Israeli authorities. So, all we have is their claim to be authoritative, that is, the claim of a foreign-funded propaganda organization that they don’t exaggerate or make up claims to match their immediate propaganda needs. This claim is worthless.

            They are a bunch of foreign-paid traitors who are willing to say anything and do anything that their foreign sponsors would pay for.

            Reply to Comment
        • carmen

          “A patriotic voice? More like one bought and paid for by foreigners that uses her foreign-funded loudspeaker to amplify marginal voices of people that hate their own country and despise its people.”

          You’ve described the united states govt to a “T”, bought and paid for by the zionist state, using its foreign-funded loudspeaker to amplify the marginal voices of people who hate their country and its people.

          Yuli, unlike most zionists, is a patriot who loves her country, her people (all of them) and wants justice and equality for all. Period.

          Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            “But fortunately this travesty can be fixed reasonably quickly. This foreign interference in the United States domestic politics is immoral and will be brought to an end. And all that has to be done is to prevent these organizations from receiving funding from foreign governments.” #BDS

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            I am confused by your analogy. Did you just declare the thousands of American Jews that donate to lobby their own government to be foreigners?

            Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            This is, of course, one of the classic stereotypes about Jews, that they are inherently disloyal to the countries they live in and work for the interest of foreign interests. This dangerous belief led to much tragedy in history.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Except when directed at the Jews of Breaking the Silence it’s quite alright! Is that how it works?

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            You mean the Jews of Breaking the Silence that are on the payroll of foreign governments and organizations? They don’t even bother to deny it because all the records are public. They can’t deny it because it is a fact. Each and every representative of Breaking the Silence is paid a salary whose source is some government or organization in Europe. Every single one of them. Every single one of them has decided that he is willing to get paid a salary in return for producing anti-Israeli propaganda and even to travel abroad to convince people to hate Israel. These are your so-called “patriots”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Firentis I gotta ask you do you really think anyone believes this utterly slanderous crap? It’s not on a much higher level than that heinous Herr Stürmer video. NOTHING you say undermines the integrity of Breaking the Silence. These soldiers from the very beginning have been in this for the highest moral reasons. The soldiers testifying are of course not paid. That the organization needs to sustain itself with “outside” funding is testimony to the fact that Israelis persecute them. And here’s the problem with your use of “foreign” and “outside”:
            You guys over on the “Why ‘it’s not apartheid’ arguments fail” site strenuously insist that the West Bank is not Israel. Except that as Yeah Right pointed out, while “Israelis *say* that this is an occupation they *act* as if they own the joint.”
            You can’t have it both ways in this sense too: the occupation is NOT an internal Israeli political affair. It is not Israel. It is occupied territory foreign to Israel.
            When we discuss apartheid you want to say “it’s not Israel!” and when we discuss Breaking the Silence you want to say “it’s Israel!”

            Reply to Comment
    6. Mark

      The headline in the Hebrew version reads: “On Saturday night a protest against Netanyahu: the corporation, Avraham Mengistu, the disability pension and the struggle against the occupation.”

      This seems a quite different story: a protest against Netenyahu that embraced a whole range of issues. Solidarity of sorts, I suppose.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      They were 1500 persons according to the newspapers. Jerusalem has 800’000 inhabitants and Israel 8’400’000… It is a small group who offends the Jewish People. Without the police protection they would have been “corrected” by our patriotic wonderful Jewish youth.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Carmen, most Jewish and Israeli support the “zionist enterprise”. If you are not happy here, clear the area. The right is stronger every day, the real Jewish youth is with us. There will be more and more Jews in the liberated Judea and Samaria and the Arab world is sinking in chaos.

      Reply to Comment
      • carmen

        You go first.

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          No, I am at home, you not. I am happy here, you not. I am a Jewish, you probably not. That is the difference.

          Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            What I find interesting Itshak is I don’t question your claim to be jewish, or anyone elses. But a cookie cutter jew I’m not and never have been. Where you live is someone else’s home, no matter how you spin it. I’m not going anywhere at your request.

            Your english has gotten remarkably less raggedy. You’re not supposed to be learning english at the ulpan, so I think you’re probably somewhere other than where you claim to be. Fraud.

            Reply to Comment
    9. Randall

      But how can the liberated areas be un-liberated?
      More and more Israelis are living in Yesha each day.

      Reply to Comment
    10. alfred lerner

      What a fantastic speech by Yuli Novak, a brave and outstanding woman and fighter for justice in a society that no longer values what we American Jews consider to be “Jewish values.” We need to tell our politicians that if Israel wishes to continue the occupation, it must pay for it itself. The US and the international community should no longer pay for Israel’s ongoing occupation and ethnic cleansing. And if Israel wants weapons, it should pay for them. And we need to recognize that Israel’s repressive tactics have been taught to our own militarized police, who now do not hesitate to confront demonstrators with assault rifles and steel coated rubber bullets.

      Reply to Comment
      • i_like_ike52

        Alfred-
        What in your eyes are “Jewish” values? Do you mean things like “social justice” and “democracy”? What’s uniquely Jewish about them? Are you saying non-Jews didn’t have these values until you “progressives” came along and taught them to them? Where did these “Jewish values” come from? The Bible? If that is what you think, did you ever real the whole Bible? Do you like everything in it?

        Reply to Comment
    11. barry

      seems to me the writer might believe in humane values and freedom, but the question is do the Palestinians believe in such? Or given the chance, do they seek to drive out all the Jews, establish laws that restrict religious freedom, rights for women, gays, the press…. The experimental evidence is not encouraging to those who value freedom and tolerance.
      I suspect the only way to make progress is find a way to have folks work together to demand humane values on ALL sides, otherwise they will just be seen as helping one side defeat the other. And that will neither end the “occupation” nor bring peace.

      Reply to Comment
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