Editorial

We Are All B'Tselem Head Hagai El-Ad

'The occupation must end' — that’s the flag that must unite Israel's opposition. Those who don’t wave it are helping make the status quo in the territories permanent.

B'Tselem CEO Hagai El-Ad.
B'Tselem CEO Hagai El-Ad. Nir Keidar

The speech by B’Tselem chairman Hagai El-Ad at the United Nations Security Council should be the updated platform of the opposition, in response to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of occupation and annexation. El-Ad touched the heart of the matter: The occupation must end. Forty-nine years of Palestinian misery and repression, and the insatiable expansion of Israeli settlements, must end. There is no more important national matter, and there is no other matter worthy of the opposition’s attention. Everyone should repeat just one thing: It’s time to end the occupation.

“What about the many ‘ordinary’ days of a 17,898-day-long occupation, which is still going strong?” El-Ad asked. “Living under military rule mostly means invisible, bureaucratic, daily, violence. It means living under an endless permit regime, which controls Palestinian life from cradle to grave: Israel controls the population registry; Israel controls work permits; Israel controls who can travel abroad – and who cannot; Israel controls who can visit from abroad – and who cannot; in some villages, Israel maintains lists of who can visit the village, or who is allowed to farm which fields. Permits can sometimes be denied; permits must always be renewed.”

B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad addressing the UN Security Council, October 14, 2016.
Chelsea Berlin

The conclusion is clear: “Israel’s long-term project to maximize its benefits from Palestinian land while minimizing the nuisance of Palestinian presence there has become even more palpable than perhaps ever before. Admittedly, even just half a day spent in the West Bank has long been more than enough to realize the permanence sought for the enterprise that Israeli governments right, center, and left have been advancing there since 1967.”

The public discussion of El-Ad’s speech focused on the platform where it occurred and on nonsense about National Service volunteers. But what El-Ad said is much more important than where he said it. Instead of remaining within UN protocols, it needs to be heard clearly at home.

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Next week when the Knesset begins its new session, opposition members must stand at the podium and deliver the same message: We are all Hagai El-Ad. Enough of this immoral occupation that endangers Israel.

If they are silent, there’s no justification for their official status outside the government.

The opposition is divided. Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), who attacked B’Tselem, and Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union), who ignored El-Ad’s speech, are helping Netanyahu from outside the coalition and are in practice supporting his policy. They’re troubled by the occupation because it’s a problem for Israeli hasbara. Ayman Oudeh (Joint List) and Zahava Galon (Meretz) gave El-Ad proper backing. Now they have a chance and an obligation to bring the public’s attention to his message, and not just to his right to address the UN.

“The occupation must end” — that’s the flag that must unite the opposition. Those who don’t wave it are helping make the status quo in the territories permanent.