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.