Today, as Tel Aviv prepares for a second race riot in a week, an investigative journalist is being indicted for investigating something. Yesterday a member of the so-called centrist Kadima party called for the imprisonment of all human rights workers in Israel! If politician-incited race-based violence and the silencing of the press does not ring your emergency bell I am not sure that anything will. What about the occupation? Remember that?
A friend who works as an educator with children and teachers all over Israel recently explained that in recent months she has noticed that more students than ever talk about the settlements and outposts in the West Bank as part of Israel. An MK recently confirmed for me that under the law settlers are considered to be living in Israel, even if the territory they live on is not.
There is no recognition of the Green Line at the majority of dinner tables across Israel and to them there is no difference between the two sides. There is no democratic or undemocratic Israel for the majority of Israelis. There is only Israel and my educator-friend explained to me that open racism is becoming more common in the public school system and throughout society.
This conception of Israel in the public consciousness is erasing the green line, just as it is erasing civil rights for citizens and human rights for those living under occupation and siege. It is clear that the Israeli leadership (with applause from the organized Jewish community in North America) is all too eager to move in this direction with no regard for justice, which is at the core of Jewish culture, history, tradition, and faith.
Over the past few months it has become ever more apparent that the Netanyahu government is walking toward one state under Israel’s control. Laws and infrastructure are being shifted to make this possible. The two-state solution may be dead or dying. Some call it a myth, while others push for three states. Some are happy about it, including some members of Knesset, and some, like prominent Palestinian philosopher Sari Nusseibeh, are reluctantly embracing this new reality. Other Palestinian leaders, like some Jews/Zionists/Israelis, are noticing that the relationship between Israel and justice is trouble. As the idea that Israel will become an apartheid state at some point in the future is repeated over and over again, one can’t help but wonder when that future might be and if these next few months may be the last few months in which to strike a deal for two states.
Perhaps the date we are waiting for to act is December 21, 2012? The facts on the ground are changing fast, in Jerusalem and all over the West Bank. This is not a static situation and the perspective that the same options that were available in 1992 are still available today is the product of a community not willing to face the truth. A one state reality means that the struggle to end the occupation will eventually turn into a more classic civil rights struggle.
At the end of the day, there are only two ways of achieving equality here: Either give everyone citizenship and let the society sort itself out through democratic processes, or create space for Palestinians to create their own citizenship.
All peoples have the right to self-determination. That’s why I think that two states make sense for Israel and Palestine. These are two peoples who want to create societies that reflect their collective potential. Two states, for me, is a step toward libertarian socialism (a federation of societies, states, or communities). This couldn’t be more different from liberal individualism. This is an inter-communalist ideology that views the creation of a society as a project that individuals and groups can engage in together. All people are equal and should be treated as such. We have to decide which framework for equality fits best for the people here and then fight for it. Equality does not exist here. I repeat: we have to struggle for it.
Despite the desire for self-determination that pretty much all people demand, and while there may be a will for all kinds of solutions, the growing reality of occupation and repression is winning here.
The precarious situation that the country’s refugees and migrant workers find themselves in today is also not static. High level members of the government are inciting violence against these communities, especially in working class neighborhoods where people are hurting. These politicians are demanding they be jailed or thrown out. They are calling refugees a cancer.
When I discuss the situation here too many people say that we need to fortify the fortress of Israel because they hate us. Anti Semitism exists, certainly. To believe that some out there do not hate us is foolish, but to project that fear onto the world at large is even more so. It is short-sighted and leads to constant fear and supremacist attitudes. The movement that I come from has always been vigilant about guarding our well-being in the ghettos and in the Yishuv, and now guarding justice is the way to guard ourselves.
It is time to stand up in Tel Aviv and Eilat and say: No human being is illegal. No, migrants from the Global South are not seeking to rape, murder, and steal from you. No, it is not their fault that global capitalism and war have decimated many of their homelands. No, Eritreans and Sudanese are not here to hurt people; they are here to escape genocide and oppression. No, it is not okay to react with hate speech or violence. No, I would never condemn an entire people for an individual crime. No, it is not okay to rampage a community out of misplaced rage. No, Israel does not have a just policy - and it needs one that protects asylum seekers and inspires confidence in the strength of our nation as a just and positive force in the world. No, it’s not okay for us to stay silent and hope this all blows over.
And then it is time to stand up and say the same thing about the occupation of Palestine. Violence and economic oppression are not okay anytime, anywhere.
Whether the attitude is apathetic or hateful, those attitudes, directed at Palestinians or Sudanese, are racist and destroying this place and the people here. People often say “There is plenty great about Israel, why do you have to focus on the ills?” Israel does make medical and technological breakthroughs, people here have made leaps and bounds in environmental protection and there are incredible examples of communal living and democratic education. I am proud of those facts, but listing the good is no answer for the bad.
Yelling about how good it is for gay people in Tel Aviv doesn’t somehow wash away how terrible it is for Palestinians in Hebron. There is a deep need to wake up, acknowledge the amazing realities, and take responsibility for the appalling realities. The ‘social movement’ for a more fair economy in Israel needs to make the connection between the occupation, the poor economy, and the ease with which violence is incited. The movement here needs to take a holistic picture of what is going on here.
I have seen a former prison near Nablus turned into a community center for Palestinian youth activists. Things can change for the better. I have met settlers who want to live in Palestine after a two state solution is agreed upon. Things can change in all kinds of ways. Time is running out. Making life unbearable for Palestinians and unsafe for Africans seems to be aim of the unjust here in Israel. They want them to leave. The rules are changing here.
Human beings are acting in violent ways that only non-violent direct action can counter. Whether it is a race riot in Tel Aviv, the demolition of a home in the West Bank, or the arrest of a journalist for doing their job; whether you are taking responsibility for the Jewish people, the Palestinian people, Israel or humanity you are needed here and now.