A show of weakness: The ‘Israeli Peace Movement’ marches in Jerusalem

Israel/Palestine
on 6 Comments

Several hundred people, possibly 1,000, predominantly Jewish Israelis, took part in a demonstration in Jerusalem on Saturday night (April 1), carrying and chanting anti-occupation and pro-peace banners and slogans. Protesters marched from central West Jerusalem to Jaffa Gate in the Old City, where several Israeli public figures, and a Palestinian activist from East Jerusalem, delivered speeches. 

The action was organized by Standing Together, representing a coalition of Israeli NGOs, including Breaking The Silence, Combatants for Peace, Peace Now and two parties – Meretz and Hadash (the latter is not a Zionist party, but some of its members find it easier to collaborate with liberal Zionists than with full-fledged opponents of the Israeli regime such as the Balad party).
Standing Together is supported by the New Israel Fund. A press release referred to the organizing coalition as “The Israeli Peace Movement”, and an activist named Itamar Avnery, was quoted as saying: “We are going out this Saturday to protest and say something simple – the occupation is going to end. The right wing is trying to drag us down – they speak of annexation, they pour tens of millions on celebrations of the ‘unification’ of Jerusalem…but we know there is a huge majority in the Israeli public that wishes to end the occupation, and we will end it“.
Considering the breadth of the organizing coalition, and the rather soft, mainstream-friendly agenda, devoid of a broad anti-colonial or anti-Zionist discourse, Saturday’s action was far from impressive. Israelis who are not happy about the occupation, and these surely amount to more than 1,000, seem to be too passive to take a stand, and small habitual protests with routine scripts (licensed by the Israeli Police) seem to be ineffective, considering the very high threshold of political excitation in Israel. “…We don’t count. Our protest goes unreported…” – this was the grim conclusion of one participant, seeing that most of the Israeli media ignored the protest. Netanyahu and his supporters can sleep safely with such actions.
To counter the Israeli government’s policies, power and indoctrination, a continuous campaign of direct action is needed. Most Israelis are not up to the task, since they are too embedded within the ‘tribe’ to become dissidents, or they simply do not believe they can bring about a change.
The Israeli ‘Peace Camp’, i.e. those who do take some sort of action, could face up to reality and draw conclusions from an ongoing failure. If the overwhelming majority of Israelis have consistently failed to take to the streets to protest the occupation, perhaps it would be constructive to acknowledge that, and adopt an appropriate strategy.
To challenge this Israeli passivity or work around it, Israeli activists could focus on direct solidarity actions in the occupied Palestinian territories. In such actions, which dedicated small groups outside the so-called ‘Zionist left’, such as Anarchists Against The Wall or Ta’ayush, have been leading for years, even a small number of Israeli citizens can make a real difference in the lives of Palestinians under threat, and embarrass the Israeli government. Israeli activists can also work on the international level, to legitimize, promote and encourage the international campaign for the Palestinian cause, including BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), which, unlike the lethargic Israeli opposition, is vibrant, growing and effective. A recent UN speech by the current director of B’Tselem (an NGO which does not even endorse BDS) has shown how terrified the Israeli government is of appeals for international pressure against the occupation.
Furthermore, the Israeli ‘Peace Camp’ could examine its underlying assumptions. Slogans about “the occupation” and “the peace process” have a narrow focus, pinning the blame mostly on 1967, Israeli settlers and Likud. This is wrong. The underlying problem in Israel is not the occupation, but a settler-colonial apartheid regime in its entirety, dating back to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 (and, in fact, to pre-State Zionism). Insistence on a ‘Jewish and Democratic State’ has created a state whose ethno-religious nature overrides basic democratic, egalitarian principles. Ironically, the Israeli right wing has exploited Zionist history astutely, to counter and ridicule the selective critique put forward by the Israeli ‘Peace Camp’. For example, the former love to remind the latter that socialist Kibbutzim were built on the lands of depopulated Palestinian villages after 1948, and conclude that “We are all in this together, so don’t lecture us”.
In defense of Saturday night’s demo in Jerusalem, the very presence of bilingual Hebrew-Arabic banners, with the slogan “Jews and Arabs stand together”, counters the extreme right wing’s hegemony in the city, where one often encounters mobs chanting “Death to the Arabs” and assaulting Palestinians. Furthermore, Israeli activists should never give up on trying to mobilize their public. But progress will require more critical thinking on their part, especially towards the leadership of an ‘Anti-Occupation Camp’, which organizes an anti-occupation march in Jerusalem while actively thwarting selective sanctions against the occupation, and withdrawing funds from the few Israeli NGOs which support BDS.
About Ofer Neiman

Neiman is an Israeli activist

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6 Responses

  1. Maghlawatan
    April 3, 2017, 5:03 pm

    Israeli bowel movement.
    They lost. The education system was stronger .
    Israel has to go through the buzzsaw.

  2. oldgeezer
    April 3, 2017, 7:32 pm

    It may not be effective but it is heartening to see. There is always hope.

    • just
      April 4, 2017, 6:21 am

      Agreed, oldgeezer. This was a most interesting speech:

      “‘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.”

      https://972mag.com/the-occupation-will-collapse-and-then-well-build-a-moral-society-here/126361/

      Now for Yitzhak Laor:

      “After 50 Springs

      Once more it’s the “holiday of freedom,” with its hollow words. And behind them, like a tortoise’s shell, more hollow words: “A closure was imposed on the West Bank.” A huge prison, behind barbwire fences and gates. The Jews, beneath the even more hollow words “for taking us out of bondage,” open the door for Elijah the Prophet and there, outside, in the dark, there are millions of faceless people with no rights, subject to our troops, male and female; little pharaohs progress. At night they are permitted to burst into the homes of the natives and steal not only the firstborn sons; they are even proud, these heroic soldiers, when a woman bearing scissors is executed. “Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that know Thee not.” Including teenagers.

      Then there is Holocaust Remembrance Day, another desecration of words. But we are not allowed to compare – not the fences, not the erasure of Arabic from the bus stops, and not the state racism. We will hear about the digging of tunnels out of the Warsaw Ghetto until the End of Days, but the tunnels of the Gaza ghetto under Rafah, to bring food and medicine, we consider a threat. And the tunnels under the fences toward the kibbutzim in the so-called “Gaza envelope” communities – more hollow words – we will portray as annihilation. And it will all be called terror.

      The destruction of the Jews in Europe became Zionist needles, with the uprooting of Sephardic Jewry threaded into the eye of such a needle: “Never say this is my final road.”

      Then will come Memorial Day for the Fallen of Israel’s wars, whose fallen were not sufficient so they added all those who were killed since the end of the 19th century – the more the shallower – and then added to the wars of choice and no-choice the victims of terror.

      And we gather to count and recount, and the hollow language is gradually emptied, from this Independence Day until the next one. Whose independence? From whom? Zaka will make sure to separate a torn Jewish limb from a shattered gentile organ.

      So they’ll say to us: There are days in which we have the right to commune with our dead – actually, every day of the year – and we mustn’t compare: not the little children’s fear; not the bereaved mothers; not the dead bodies at Abu Kabir; not the destruction of mourning tents; or the thousands of prisoners.

      For 50 years, children who were 10 when the occupation arrived have been calling out in fear. Now they are 60 and their sons and daughters remember nothing except the tens of thousands of Hebrew-speaking storm troopers who vote increasingly rightward with the help of the hollow language, break into homes and pull sleeping people out of their beds – because they’re “defending their home.” And their grandchildren also remember nothing except the lawlessness and the heartlessness. God is a soldier at a checkpoint; the indifferent laugh of a girl sergeant; a settler who cuts down a vineyard and prostrates himself before the idol of the Land of Israel; the size of the colonel who kills a teen and flees: “Thy beauty, O Israel, upon thy high places.”

      Yes, it’s spring in the land of the Bible, a quiz for the students of Zionist yeshivot and ceremonial flybys that at night scare the children of Gaza and Lebanon.

      The Israel Prize will be awarded with proper awe by that tiny bourgeoisie that needs state ceremonies. And then will come Lag Ba’omer and Jerusalem Day, with the centurions in their spiked shoes racing through the streets of the occupied city. “Thou God to whom vengeance belongeth.”

      I want to remember my teacher, Yehudit Itunin, of blessed memory. They whispered about her that she was “a Revisionist.” One morning in November 1956, when she told us in class 2A about the Egyptian destroyer Ibrahim el-Awal surrendering in Haifa Bay overnight and Moishele applauded, the teacher chastised him by saying, “In Cairo this morning, there are mothers crying.” (This was just after the fedayeen: in the orchard of the moshav near us, laborers had been murdered.) …”

      read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.781264

      He could have reached beyond 50 years ago… He wrote this in 2011:

      “…Liberation from Zionism is not a dirty word. In any case, what lies behind Zionism nowadays are interests related to water, real estate, strategic relations with the U.S. and a huge army hungering to justify its existence.

      If our fathers erred in their use of myth, we should part from it, for the sake of our sons and daughters. We don’t have to leave this place or give up our lives. But for their sake, we have to get rid of Zionism.”

      read more: http://www.haaretz.com/get-rid-of-zionism-1.365648

      • MHughes976
        April 4, 2017, 12:09 pm

        Thanks for Laor article, very eloquent and perceptive. The Israel Prize, which he mentions, is being awarded this year to David Beeri, the organiser of the archaeolgical theme park that is busy humiliating the local Palestinians and destroying the evidence that scientific archaeology might use. Raphael Greenberg’s ‘Bible and Interpretation’ remarks on this are well worth reading.
        Meanwhile, I wish I could share the optimism about the collapse of Occupation.

  3. Elizabeth Block
    April 4, 2017, 10:45 am

    I’ve just read Thomas Suarez’s “State of Terror.” Horrifying. Read it.

    Itamar Avnery – Uri’s son? grandson? great-grandson? Carrying on family tradition? Excellent.

  4. maiselm
    April 4, 2017, 3:14 pm

    In the current climate in both Israel and its major sponsor, the very existence of such a Peace Camp is something to be marveled at. And the best thing to do is to give it critical support, as Ofer Neiman does. It is not clear to me that his recommendation (stop demonstrating that you are weak; be strong and go put your lives on the line as the braver young people are doing) is the best means of giving critical support–only comrades on the ground can know, however, and Ofer Neiman is there on the ground. So, while this might seem curiously lacking in solidarity from a distance, I yield to the better judgment of Ofer Neiman. I caution just a bit: while there are any democratic rights left, it would be wise to use them as much as possible.

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