(Unidentified Israeli activist, arrested last weekend in Safa, the West Bank. Photo by Laura Weisman.)
Joseph Dana writes:
There is a minority in Israel that is willing to risk life and limb to stand up to the occupation at its core. Multiple times a week, groups of Israelis venture through checkpoints into the West Bank in order to meet with Palestinian counterparts and help them maintain the basic necessities of livelihood and hold on to what little land they still legally own. We are continually attacked by settlers and harassed by Israeli authorities, which try to restrict our efforts and often use excessive force. Despite the constant obstacles and fear of arrest, court dates and injury, we continue to fight the occupation with nonviolence.
As an Israeli actively contesting the overt and covert policies of my government, I have been struck with a feeling of familiarity and identification with the events that have been unfolding in Iran. The images of young people flooding the streets, confronting the authorities and standing up for the rule of law is similar to the Israelis who confront the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank. I see students in Tehran, of the same age as myself, using twitter and blogs to communicate information from the ground in the face of great censorship. I have been watching the YouTube videos from the front line and it conjures up the same feelings as the videos that we are making in the West Bank. It is a different situation in Tehran but one cannot ignore the common determination to challenge governmental policies, take risks and get the word out. In both countries, the only way to do that is to make your presence known in the most corporeal way.
Iran and Israel are different countries with different systems of government, histories and values. The current regime in Iran is authoritarian while in Israel we have democratic systems, at least as far as the Jewish residents are concerned. But there are also similarities: both countries’ national characters stress the bond between religion and state and are ideologically driven, such that both societies necessarily have elements of oppression and movements against that oppression. The struggle that many young people are taking up against the current Iranian government regarding the election has never taken place in Israel. But Israel’s parliamentary system is horribly flawed and it is widely agreed in Israel that it is in desperate need of reform.
Both Israel and Iran have sizeable populations of people under the age of thirty. These populations carry an unusually heavy burden. In Iran, as in Israel, the country places on its youth the weight of defending its country in the military. The obsession with defense and strength falls directly on the shoulders of the countries’ youth. With responsibility comes voice. In Iran, the youth has been finding its voice quickly and strongly in the past weeks. In Israel it has been a long process, but in both places, it requires the steadfastness of defiance.
If you feel solidarity with the struggle in Iran over elections, don’t forget that in Israel we have our own resistance, a homegrown and genuine resistance. In both countries, law-abiding citizens are looking to reform their governments’ policies out of a commitment to make their country a better place to live in.