There is a key distinction that needs to be made between the term “government of Israel” and “Israelis”. In my previous blogs, I have tried to be consistent in making that distinction.
In a well functioning democracy, there will be a ruling government as well as an effective opposition that represents those voices whose views and opinions are not the same as that of the government. For those countries that do not have an effective or well functioning opposition, there is no doubt a need for some form of pubic opposition or resistance to the positions and policies of the ruling government. One can argue that Israel is one such country given that there appears no effective and formal voice of opposition that can call the ruling government to task for such blatant “wrongs” as violating international laws and not respecting basic human rights.
As it relates to the current Palestinian occupation and all the wrongs associated with it, there exists a portion of the Israeli population that recognizes and respects the difference between right and wrong. These people are working hard to right some of these wrongs and in doing so no doubt pay a personal price. They risk being labelled as “traitors” or “not one of us” by some in their communities and most definitely by their government. I applaud these people and their various organizations and would like to acknowledge at least a few of the ones that I have had some association or contact with.
Machsom Watch – is a volunteer organization of Israeli women that oppose the occupation, the appropriation of Palestine and the denial of Palestinian human rights. They monitor checkpoints/agriculture gates, the military courts and Palestinian villages. One of their aims is to influence public opinion in Israel on the conditions faced by Palestinians, conditions that in their words, “corrode the fabric of Israeli society and the values of democracy”. A seasoned member of Machsom Watch is Hanna Barag. Hanna cautioned those who monitor the checkpoints by suggesting “the checkpoint/gate process, like much in the West Bank, is not logical – leave your logical minds at home” and, that in general “the settlers run the country and set the agenda for the government.”
Rabbis for Human Rights – is made up of over 100 members – all Israelis and all ordained Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Renewal Rabbis. Their work “expresses the view that as Jews, we are obligated to protest every injustice enacted against any other person, a view based on the belief that men and women were created in God’s image”. They believe that it is their obligation to inform the Israeli public about human rights violations, and that it is their role to pressure state institutions to fix these injustices. In 2012, I met a Rabbi for Human Rights who was working with and supporting a Bedouin community that was being pressured by the government of Israel to “pack up and move” to support further settlement construction.
Women in Black – is a women’s anti-war movement formed in Jerusalem in 1988. Responding to what they consider serious violations by Israeli soldiers, the women hold a vigil every Friday in West Jerusalem, wearing black clothing in mourning for all victims of the conflict.
My wife, Debbie, participates in these weekly vigils and recently told of one such Friday where the participants received slurs/obscenities and had an empty deodorant can thrown at them.
Breaking the Silence – is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories (ie. West Bank) . They “endeavour to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life.”
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – is a human rights and peace organization established to end Israel’s occupation over Palestine. It takes its main focus, as its vehicle for resistance, Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes. In my visit to the organization in 2012, a young lady noted “Opposition of any kind to the actions of the government is labeled as anti-semitic. My grandmother, who experienced the Holocaust, would be very angry to hear that term used to defend these house demolitions.”
B’tselem – The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (ie. West Bank) was established by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists and Knesset members in 1989. They endeavour to document and educate the Israeli public and policy-makers about human rights violations, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public and help create a human rights culture in Israel.
It is the people that make up these groups and organizations that I feel a connection with and for which I have great respect. May their work continue to provide a strong voice of opposition and resistance to the government of Israel – Inshallah.