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Speaking to the Deaf: Activists attempt to talk with the Israeli public about Gaza

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Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestnians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in down town Haifa, July 18, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen arrest protesters as Palestnians living in Israel and left wing activists protest against the Israeli attack on Gaza in down town Haifa, July 18, 2014. (Photo: Activestills.org)

By Tuesday afternoon, two days after its launch, a little over 1,300 Israeli citizens signed a petition demanding immediate negotiations with Hamas, based on organization’s demands as they appeared in the media. Over 1,300 Israelis gave their consent to Hamas’s demands as a basis for long-term truce. Or maybe we should say only 1,300 Israelis, especially if we compare the modest response to our call to the 85,000 that signed a petition to expel MP Haneen Zoabi from the Israeli Knesset. In this incredibly pugnacious atmosphere, any attempt to lobby the Israeli public to accept even a momentary truce, seems naïve, perhaps even futile. As Francesca Albanese has noted on this site, Hamas’s more-than-reasonable demands have been answered by a deafening silence.

Why then did we, a group of feminist anti-occupation activists, insist on writing this petition? Especially given that some of us were already beyond giving up the Israeli public, and are involved in promoting BDS? Certainly not in order to present “the other face” of Israel, a façade of alternative voices whose marginal existence serves all too often to celebrate Israel’s thriving democracy. Nor did we really expect that this petition would change the course of Israel’s war machine. We know the worst has already happened.

No. We did it because we felt the complete absence of any voice speaking to the Israeli public. Not above its head, but directly to it: to our parents, brothers, sisters, friends and colleagues. There was no one, absolutely nobody, telling them that their government is playing with their lives, while there are alternative much less bloody routes. And while we fully support international pressure, and have been calling for it on any available stage, we believe intervention gains further legitimacy and is reinforced by attempts, ineffective as they may be, to address the Israeli public directly.

In the past two weeks, demonstrations against the war in Haifa and in Tel Aviv have been brutally attacked by swarms of raging thugs, carrying Israel flags and targeting activists with physical violence. Several protesters found themselves in the hospital, others are increasingly afraid to come out. Notwithstanding some encouraging acts of solidarity amidst this scary reality, the overall picture is bleaker than any of us can recall. It forces us to reflect upon the implicit and explicit decisions made by the Israeli Left in decades of struggle, which drew the vast majority of the Israeli public further and further away from any thought of compromise.

We are all operating under hopeless circumstances; Israeli anti-occupation activists no less than pro-Palestinian organizers elsewhere. Despite some truly impressive demonstrations around the globe, few countries have actually responded to public pressure and taken concrete measures against Israel’s aggression. To be completely honest, we still have a long way to go before the S in BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), will materialize politically, especially in Europe and the United States.

We cannot afford to be discouraged by this fact, nor allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear. Our sisters and brothers blood cries out to us from the ground of destructed Gaza. We owe it to them, to the entire Palestinian people kept under the boot of the occupation or away from their land, to do everything in our power to stop this disaster. And if this means speaking to the deaf, we will do that too.

Eilat Maoz and Inna Michaeli

Inna Michaeli is a Russian-born Israeli PhD student of sociology at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Eilat Maoz is an Israeli PhD student of anthropology at the University of Chicago.

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7 Responses

  1. gamal on July 23, 2014, 3:58 pm

    “We did it because we felt the complete absence of any voice speaking to the Israeli public. Not above its head, but directly to it: to our parents, brothers, sisters, friends and colleagues. There was no one, absolutely nobody, telling them that their government is playing with their lives, while there are alternative much less bloody routes”

    the well known Martin Van Creffeld not only doesn’t listen but flees the scene in the face of a Leverett, a complete Israeli withdrawal, the first of many, perhaps. It is some times tough to talk, good though that maybe.

    http://youtu.be/axtEe8yFbis

    • just on July 23, 2014, 5:57 pm

      He was angry and loud, but more than anything he appeared and sounded frightened.

      The status quo is no longer sustainable and he is afraid.

      Too bad.

      • Marnie on July 24, 2014, 8:20 am

        For most men isn’t anger the acceptable expression of fear? This guy must be scared S%@!less!

      • RoHa on July 24, 2014, 8:53 am

        Sometimes anger is just anger, without any fear.

    • W.Jones on July 24, 2014, 9:34 pm

      Flynt Leverett… From March 2002 to March 2003, he served as the senior director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council (NSC).

      Prior to serving on the NSC, he was a counterterrorism expert on the Policy Planning Staff of the U.S. State Department, and before that he served as a CIA senior analyst for eight years. Since leaving government service, Leverett served as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynt_Leverett

      For real? How is this the biography of the person talking?

  2. sandhillexit on July 23, 2014, 9:09 pm

    This is an amazing performance. RT is so strange. We grew up hearing that Russia could not abide the truth. (“There is no truth in “News” and no news in ‘Truth'”). Now, as a British NGO official in Jerusalem commented to me, all the Russians need to do to create mayhem in the ME is to tell the truth. Van Ceffeld is so pathetic. These folks, so used to an echo chamber, that, faced with actual debate, pick up their marbles and go home.

    Here we are, watching the US trying to stir up war in Ukraine in order to get Russia to STFU.

  3. Marnie on July 24, 2014, 7:40 am

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the nation’s reserve force, citing regret over their part in a military they said plays a central role in oppressing Palestinians, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
    “We found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service,” the soldiers wrote in a petition posted online and first reported by the newspaper.
    While some Israelis have refused to serve in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, the military’s structure is such that serving in any capacity forces one to play a role in the conflict, said the soldiers, most of whom are women who would have been exempted from combat.
    “Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians,” they said.
    Their comments come as the conflict in Gaza continues to escalate, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory even as the United States presses both sides for an immediate ceasefire and longer-term peace plan. [ID:nL6N0PY0Q2]
    Earlier this month, Israel said it was mobilizing more reservists in anticipation of increased fighting. [ID:nL6N0PJ473]
    In the petition, the soldiers pointed to the army’s structure and fundamental role in Israeli society as reasons for being unable to decouple any form of service from the fighting.
    “The military plays a central role in every action plan and proposal discussed in the national conversation, which explains the absence of any real argument about non-military solutions to the conflicts Israel has been locked in with its neighbors,” the soldiers wrote.
    “To us, the current military operation and the way militarization affects Israeli society are inseparable.”
    They said they opposed the Israeli Army and conscription law because of how women are limited to low-ranking secretarial positions and because of a screening system that discriminates against Jews whose families originate from Arab nations.
    Most 18-year-olds must serve up to three years in the Israeli Defense Forces.
    Some groups, such as ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students, had been exempted from service, but legislators this year moved to lift that exemption on such students starting in 2017. [ID:nL6N0M91KQ]

    Arab-Israelis are exempt from compulsory service.

    (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Jim Loney and Bernadette Baum)

    From humble beginnings, who knows where this will lead but I hope it encourages the men to disregard the call to kill.

    . . .

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