A solution to the problem of the occupation will be worthless if we do not gain the courage to take apart the human food chain that has become entrenched in this land since 1948.
On Sunday night, I spoke at the annual protest march — this time in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv where it is usually held — calling for an end to the occupation of the East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. However, despite the protests’ emphasis on the occupation that began in 1967, I spoke at length about the need to shift our focus to the root of the issue: the 1948 war, the Nakba and the creation of a system that grants Jews privileges over those who have lived on this land for hundreds of years. Below is my speech in full:
This year we’ve reached an interesting intersection, in which we mark 67 years since 1948, and 48 years since 1967. I have noticed that coming to terms with this almost-poetic alignment of dates has excited a great many people, who took the opportunity to make witty, ironic jokes about this numerical coincidence.
And perhaps, after 48 years we have said everything there needs to be said about the occupation: that it corrupts, it destroys, it kills. After 48 years we know well how to describe the occupation. We don’t, however, know how to stop treating it as a matter of fate.
Perhaps this random meeting between 67 and 48 is a good opportunity to remember the deep, fundamental connection between these two dates, and remind ourselves, once again, that one cannot truly understand the atrocities of the occupation of 1967 without recognizing the catastrophe of the Nakba in 1948.
For 48 years there has been an attempt by large segments of the Zionist Left to present 1967 as the moment in which we strayed from the path — the breaking point which started the downfall. And here we are — many of us who do not view ourselves as Zionists — marking 48 years of occupation, as if this was the moment the clock started ticking.
It is not for nothing that we are here. ’67 marks another, significant point in a process of oppression and theft. It is true that ’67 birthed the messianic settlement movement, but we cannot forget 1948, which birthed Ben-Gurion-style messianism. And it is true that ’67 is checkpoints, arrests and humiliations in the West Bank, but ’48 was military rule — the birth of humiliation and oppression — and which in many ways has never been lifted from Palestinian citizens. And it is true that ’67 includes the choking of Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Silwan, but ’48 was the destruction of Yaffa, Akka, Bisan and Al-Quds.
We stand here today because the sights of day-to-day, arbitrary military violence in the occupied territories beyond the Green Line are ones that would horrify any decent person. Just two weeks ago I saw how, just dozens of meters from here, the state sent its forces — armed from head to toe — to protect the right wing’s violent provocations, all while heavily suppressing the local Palestinian residents.
We mark ’67 because it is the ugly, maskless face of ’48. The crazy idea of engineering the region through force, and the militant aggression that feeds it, were not born in 1967.
As someone who is of this region, I reject the colonialist mentality of barricading ourselves in Ehud Barak’s imaginary “villa in the Jungle.” I know that a solution to the problem of ’67 — that is, a return to the Green Line — will not change a thing if we do not gain the courage to take apart the human food chain that has become established here since ’48. One that classifies the sons and daughters of this land to supreme or inferior, all the while setting them against one another. This is my moral call and political obligation as a Mizrahi, as a Jew and as a person who comes from this region.
I get my moral and political inspiration from the Musrara neighborhood, not far from here, where the Israeli Black Panthers had the courage to present a different vision for this place. That vision was also silenced by the drums of war.
I immigrated to this country when I was nine years old. It took me years to understand that even at nine, when my feet first stepped on this land, I had more rights than the native people of this land, who had lived here for hundreds of years. It took me many years to understand that the privileges granted to me as a Jew were part of the same mechanism that oppresses me as a Mizrahi who hails from this region.
Today I stand in solidarity with my Palestinian brothers and sisters against the injustices of ’67. But I know that the necessary change that this place needs takes us back 67 years, not 48. That is our only chance to finally breathe the clean air of respect, justice and equality in this land.
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.