‘Dissidents like me depend on Mondoweiss’: an Israeli describes challenging apartheid from within

An Israeli activist joined Palestinians in a candlelight vigil in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to protest the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes. Photo: Mahfouz Abu Turk/APA Images

HERE’S A GLIMPSE of life inside Israeli society—a culture that tolerates no dissent. A few years ago I taught a course at an engineering college in central Israel. The content was entirely technical, so of course politics never came up. But one week, I noticed that very few students showed up. And one who did come was flaunting an army beret—unusual for someone out of uniform.

Then, they stopped coming entirely. And when my student feedback came in after the term, one student was bold enough to write “This guy is against Israel, so I stopped going to class.”

I realized the students probably learned about me from Facebook pages that post photos of “traitors.” Both the absences and the IDF beret were intended to send me a message: If I won’t toe the line of supremacist ideology, I can be no part of Israeli society.

This kind of ostracism is standard for Israeli citizens who realize that our regime practices colonialism, apartheid and even a slow genocide (Gaza).  And the sense of utter isolation is why I’m writing to urge your support of Mondoweiss today.

The anti-apartheid camp in Israel is simply way too small. So we desperately need to communicate with the outside world. And for those who seek justice and full equality in Palestine/Israel, Mondoweiss empowers via information, commentary and action alerts.

In recent years, mainstream Israeli media has become more active in targeting specific Israeli dissidents and labeling them as “enemies of the people.” For example, the powerful news outlet Yedioth Aharonoth has been waging a crusade against BDS. They even partnered last year with the Israeli government to organize an international anti-BDS propaganda conference. Conference speakers threatened the BDS movement and Israelis who support it.

Or take actress Einat Weizman, who supports BDS and the Balad party. She has been vilified by Israeli politicians, and blacklisted by Israel’s leading, oh-so-tolerant and liberal theaters. In attempting to counter such orchestrated hate-campaigns, dissidents like me depend on Mondoweiss.

Israel’s 19th-century-style colonial project began too late in history, and it’s reached a dead end in the globally interconnected 21st century. In the long run, Israel cannot prevent the world from knowing too much about Israel. Young diaspora Jews, especially, will walk away from Zionism. Nevertheless, Israel tries hard to suppress information about its crimes. The Israeli army and settlers resort to petty harassment, threats or physical violence against those who document Israeli crimes. Mondoweiss’s reporting on these events is essential to the protection of citizen-journalists and human rights defenders.

Mondoweiss has also provided valuable coverage of hasbara, the techniques Israel and its supporters use to try to control public discourse. From the anti-Semitism card, to Whataboutery (“What about Syria? What about China? Why pick on Israel?”), to seemingly nuanced liberal Zionist shtick (“It’s complicated”), we are up against attempts to silence meaningful conversation on Palestine/Israel.

Mondoweiss has helped activists challenge important purveyors of liberal-Zionist ideology. Ha’aretz, for example, is revered for its columnists Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, but its editorial line has never endorsed full equality for the Palestinian people. Ha’aretz doesn’t cover Israel’s small anti-apartheid movement, to avoid being associated with the “delirious left”—a pejorative used even by liberal Zionists against advocates of full equality. And Ha’aretz consistently applies the toxic, defamatory label “terrorist” to Palestinians who attack armed Israeli forces in occupied territory.

Providing an alternative to Western media on Palestine/Israel might be Mondoweiss’s greatest contribution. Thanks to James North, Phil Weiss and others at Mondoweiss, we know how insidious the New York Times whitewashing of Israeli crimes has been. And thanks to Mondoweiss’s dogged persistence in covering the news, readers have information that is silenced elsewhere.

I’ve been to dozens of demonstrations in Israel/Palestine, and the only physical harm I’ve suffered was a few seconds’ burning sensation from a stun-grenade that hit my leg once. Over time I’ve developed a level of demo-burnout, and have stopped going to demonstrations. What is painful is knowing that Palestinians fighting Israel’s apartheid can’t tune out of reality in that way. Palestinians I know have experienced detention, beatings, house demolitions and even worse. I urge you to support Mondoweiss, as one of the few institutions that forces the world to recognize the injustice day in and day out.

Mondoweiss has facilitated an iconoclastic conversation on Palestine, Israel and Zionism. Mondoweiss has made it possible to discuss the Israel lobby in a serious manner, separating odious “Rothschild bankers” conspiracy theories from real facts about Zionist Jewish (and Christian!) forces in US politics.

Mondoweiss has given a stage to essential Palestinian voices. Mondoweiss has helped change the conversation in America. In short, Mondoweiss’s reporting is making a difference. Please join me in supporting Mondoweiss.