Charge of the Left Brigade

While Israel's right wing goes from strength to strength, dominates the Knesset and tries to push through anti-minority legislation, a new left-wing Zionist initiative is taking root in Ramat Gan. Does this idealistic bunch of activists stand a chance of turning the tide toward peace?

Boaz Gaon, Jonathan Gurfinkel
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Boaz Gaon, Jonathan Gurfinkel

The excuse for the gathering was the visit of Gary Wexler, an American adman who is involved in Jewish liberal circles in his homeland, and is owner of Passion Marketing. Among its various activities, the company works with nonprofit organizations in Israel and the United States. A passionate Jew from the West Coast, Wexler wanted to become better acquainted with Israeli movers and shakers in the realms of business, media, the arts and politics - thus embodying the phenomenon of the American Jew who seeks to "rediscover" civil, unofficial Israel. The Israel that is busy doing things and is fearful for its fate, and yet despite everything is sinking like a stone.

The meeting, held last March, began with greetings and ended with parched throats. The day before, Scandar Copti, director of the film "Ajami," had stated on the red carpet of the Academy Awards ceremony that he "does not represent Israel." That statement followed the arrest of two of his brothers during a demonstration in Jaffa, and triggered a violent, bitter and desperate argument that split the small group of 15. The allegations voiced on both sides - within a group in which everyone is on the same political team - served to expose the conflicted state of the Zionist-left camp.

The story thus far: Until recently, about half of Israel's left-wing camp has been in a state of clinical depression over what happened, or didn't happen, at Camp David in 2000. From the point of view of this faction, nothing has changed electorally during the past decade. Concurrently, the reins of power here have been held by a camp most of whose members do not want a political agreement with the Palestinians under any circumstances, while the rest want such an accord "in theory." Like a heavy smoker who wants to run a marathon "someday."

The other half of the above-mentioned camp pursued a different tactic after September 2000: In essence, it appointed itself to be in charge of the PR branch of Likud, the National Union and the Yesha council of settlements, the three major political groups responsible for the crash-and-burn situation of the country's dovish camp. These left-wing people said: Only the right wing will make peace, only Benjamin Netanyahu should be prime minister, Avigdor Lieberman is a pragmatist - and, in short: "It's good to have Likud in power."

The most concise summary of this state of affairs was provided by Wexler, the Californian, with lucid simplicity: "The right," he said, "played a fast one on you."

According to Wexler's analysis, in the past decade a quiet political campaign was conducted here with the aim of persuading the left that it was "powerless" and that "only the right wing can do it." Yet in most of the liberal democracies, America included, the political map is divided into two legitimate teams: conservatives vs. liberals, Republicans vs. Democrats. Usually, the conservative camp tends to be more religious, serves the rich and views war as beneficial in electoral terms. In contrast, the Democratic camp is mostly secular, seeks greater distribution of wealth and views war as harmful. Both camps are legitimate and both work indefatigably for the defeat of the opposition.

"We are now the minority," Republican presidential candidate John McCain declared just weeks after his defeat to Barack Obama in the 2008 elections, while his camp was bashed and sputtering, "and the minority has one mission: to become the majority" (New York Times, November 3, 2010 ).

"To become the majority" - that seems to be the goal of each camp, pursued at the expense of the other. And this is part and parcel of a democracy. After his humiliating defeat at the hands of Ehud Barak in 1999, Netanyahu did not stick around to explain to his camp "why we deserved that." In September 2000, with the Israelis and Palestinians in touching distance of a historic political agreement, Ariel Sharon was busy throwing lit matches into puddles of fuel. Why? Because the right wing's been engaged nonstop in an effort to seize the reins of government and in sniping at the rival camp, even when all appears to be lost and "there is no chance for an upheaval." That's how a sane, balanced democracy functions.

By contrast, the Israeli left - not including energetic marginal elements such as Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity, Anarchists Against the Wall and other groups - has been working for the past decade to glorify a camp that is apparently dedicated to its own political destruction.

Ehud Barak is, of course, the most extreme example of this phenomenon, but he is not alone - only a symptom of a common ailment. The democratic camp is handing over the keys to the right wing even though the latter is, in the view of the left, slowly destroying Israel, shaming it all over the world, hastening the collapse of our democracy, emptying its infrastructure budgets, raising the price of water and fuel, and so on and so forth. Instead of the left working to seize power with the same sort of energy, passion - and, yes, aggressiveness - it's sitting in the back seat of a car whose driver has forgotten to look in the rearview mirror. Why?

Journey of awakening

So, the day after the "Copti affair," we held a worried consultation and decided to embark on a kind of private journey of awakening with the aim of shaping anew our lost political identity. How is it possible, Rubinger asked, that the most basic and definitive landmarks of the mainstream left - the assumptions that there is a Palestinian partner, that the settlements are damaging to Israel, that the right wing has a problematic economic agenda - have been pulverized into gravel?

In his fiery and inspirational article "The Power of the Powerless," Vaclav Havel, at the time an anti-Soviet playwright and later the first president of the Czech Republic, wrote that political change begins the moment the citizens refuse to "live within a lie" and insist on their right "to live with dignity." Life in a lie, Havel (whose movement, which eliminated Soviet rule, was born in a cafe ) wrote, is a life cloaked in political cliches that are not subjected to genuine examination. The result? Everyone who does not agree with them feels "powerless."

It was armed with those cliches - conceptually pleasant but actually also enfeebling - that we launched an in-depth process involving outside experts who would address meetings held once every two weeks. The aim, in Vaclav Havel-style, was to refuse "to live within a lie," rather to live instead "within the truth."

The first cliche we confronted was that "Barak was ready to give everything at Camp David," formulated by Ehud Barak and his advisers after that failed summit. The "mother of all cliches," if you will.

We discovered that Tal Zilberstein, one of the "no-partner archbishops," who is as far from the radical left as East is from West, already declared in the fascinating 2010 film by Uri Rosenwaks, "Dor Shalem Darash Shalom": "I was part of the 'no-partner' campaign, and it's one of the things I regret most, because I think it was a mendacious campaign ... It was too successful, it became a Frankenstein monster ... Ten years later, there are still people who say, 'We gave them everything at Camp David and got nothing!' That is a flagrant lie."

Eldad Yaniv, another retired "archbishop" who is currently head of the National Left movement - in addition to belonging to the civil-political forum being described here - has made similar remarks in these pages ["Left standing," Haaretz Magazine, Nov. 26, 2010]: "I was one of the people behind this false and miserable spin. It may have been justified to a certain extent, to stir the Palestinians to revive the negotiations, but it's false." And, "I was a cynical person ... I didn't really understand what a destructive impact it could have."

Yaniv and other former Barak advisers expressed themselves similarly at meetings of the forum that was coalescing in Ramat Gan. "I remember Haim Ramon running up to me shortly after Ehud's 'no partner' speech and shouting, 'What are you people doing? Have you gone mad?" Yaniv said. "We told him to stop talking nonsense, it was just local spin meant to solve a momentary problem. He was right and we were wrong."

But if that campaign was "false," as its formulators say; if Ehud Olmert said that "There is a Palestinian partner"; if Netanyahu told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, "You are my partner for peace" (Washington, September 2010 ); and if the "Palestine documents" released by Al Jazeera show that the Palestinians have offered far-reaching concessions, abandoned the right of return to Israel and have agreed to leave thousands of settlers in their territory - how is it possible that the "no-partner" campaign is still under way? Maybe because it serves right-wing political interests?

Another expert we met in Rubinger's studio was Shaul Arieli, from the Geneva Initiative, and one of Barak's "map people" at Camp David. He gave us a list of "15 points" to which the Palestinians have already agreed, including "recognition of Israel's right to live in peace and security," "agreement to partition the land based on 78 percent to Israel and 22 percent to Palestine," "agreement to leave 70 percent of the Israelis who live across the Green Line under Israeli sovereignty," "agreement that the Western Wall will be under Israeli sovereignty," "agreement to annex 30,000 dunams [7,500 acres] from East Jerusalem to the city's western part," and more.

We also spoke with Ron Pundak, from the Peres Center for Peace, who has accompanied the peace process from its inception. And with Gilad Sher and other former Barak people, who described a salient, internal desire - just before the "no-partner" tact came into the world - to save the political skin of a person who would later betray his camp to join forces with Likud.

The bottom line of our clarification effort was: Most of the formulators of the "no-partner" axiom - i.e., Barak staffers and participants in the negotiations - now say it was a cynical spin of their making, and they regret it now. Instead of helping Barak, it helped the right wing steal the keys of the country and make a mad rush for the settlements.

More cliches

A second batch of cliches which required prolonged, courageous in-depth consideration, included: "The left is finished," "We will not get back into power for 100 years" and "There are no leaders." According to the latter working assumption, which has been hammered into the consciousness of large segments of the mainstream Zionist left, the liberal Israeli realm is incapable of producing leaders who are savvy and possess a clear vision.

At one meeting, our interlocutor, a former senior figure in the bureau of Prime Minister Barak, read out a list of 70 Israelis who declared their willingness in principle to lead a left-Zionist party. She noted that the list had been drawn up during a Sisyphean "liberal scouting project," which has been ongoing for two years. This endeavor was born of efforts to resuscitate the Meretz brand by transforming it, on the eve of the last elections, into the New Party - Meretz. The latter gave up the ghost not long afterward, but the scouting continued.

The list included mayors, army personnel, educators, academics, businessmen, trade unionists and media people - representative of the whole range of Israeliness. Among those we can mention are Ron Huldai, Amram Mitzna, Yael German, Avrum Burg and Uriel Reichman. There are also some veteran journalists, who are so far declining to divulge their identities.

Everyone on the list was asked a basic question: Would you be ready to join the leadership of the left-wing camp within the framework of a new party, which would position itself left of Kadima? All replied affirmatively, but most also added immediately, "but not yet," because "the time has not come."

To understand the reason for this reservation, it's necessary to take a hard look at the country's current political constellation: Far from allowing a courageous democratic discussion imbued with "dignity" and "truth" in the Havelian sense, it is saturated with fear - a fear that flows in one direction only, from right to left.

The following story illustrates this point. A few weeks ago, businessmen Erel Margalit and Moshe Gaon (full disclosure: The latter is the brother of one of the co-authors of this article and attended some of the forum's meetings ) announced a campaign to get Labor Party voters to return home. In a parlor meeting held recently in Rubinger's studio, Gaon related that he had received more than one reply from the business elite in the following spirit: "I am a Labor Party person, but I'm afraid to admit it."

This is a new situation, hallucinatory and frightening, in the history of right-left relations in Israel. But politics abhors a vacuum. And fear, which has become a common condition lately, serves those who want to go on ruling without any opposition.

In any event, with time, our Ramat Gan forum gradually expanded, the studio gradually shrank, and more and more people desperate for political and policy change started to show up, largely from the worlds of business and media. You can find the entire list of names, summaries of meetings and position papers on a Hebrew Facebook page ( ).

Many of the meetings hosted people involved in "democratic startups," who were looking for a way to become involved politically and sought money, talent and connections. These included a group of Palestinian social activists from Jaffa, as well as people from Smola (Leftward ), whose aim is to deploy for a national referendum on a peace agreement (if and when ); students from an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian college located in the Arava (the initiative of high-tech entrepreneur Oded Rose ); contributers from two liberal Internet magazines (one in Hebrew, one in English ); and others.

We made particular efforts to mediate between activists and professionals, and also held meetings and brainstorming sessions with top Israeli scriptwriters to discuss ideas. They pitched in for free, out of pure idealism. Shortly afterward another initiative was born, called Roundtable, whose goal is to bring all the segments of the left-wing camp together in one, non-partisan space.

This week, as part of the Roundtable launch, we held a meeting with a senior American political adviser named Stan Greenberg, whose bread and butter is dealing with political upheavals that have brought left-wing parties back to power.

Betwixt and between, there has been an interesting development: The members of our forum, the formerly "powerless," started to demand action. Some even started to think of themselves as potential leaders, giving interviews and publishing op-eds. The lesson was: Passivity begets more passivity, but action - any action - begets more initiatives. We also learned that Israel's political constellation is a malleable thing: The ease with which it can be reshaped by means of proper organization and appropriate tools is almost unbelievable - and all for the good.

After we hosted Isaac Herzog, who was then minister of social affairs, for a riveting encounter featuring an analysis of Israel's status in the international community, we received phone calls from other Labor leadership candidates who wanted "our help." Why? Because we were apparently seen as a network of activists possessing initiative, talent and strength - vital elements in the political arena, as Likud activists have always known. All that's needed to enter into such a dialogue with the leaders of the camp is the decision "to live within dignity" - meaning "to live within the truth," and to refuse to accept as absolute truth the cliches that the rival camp is good at manufacturing and marketing. An "existential revolution" of this kind, as Havel wrote, has the power to rejuvenate the life of the community and create a renewed sense of "civic responsibility."

Roots of awakening

Is the left really awakening? To answer that question satisfactorily, we met in the past six months with most of the leaders of the left-wing camp, parties and movements alike. The Zionist left today is full of movements such as Blue White Future (Gilad Sher, Ami Ayalon ), the National Left (Eldad Yaniv ) and Free Israel (Miki Gitzin ), and groups seeking to found new parties or to forge intra-party renewal campaigns, such as Derech (Path ), Kadima's young-generation movement and the Back to Labor campaign of Gaon, Margalit and others. Another group, which has not yet officially gone public, is working on a project which aims to return the Saudi initiative to the Israeli agenda, as a kind of bypass road around a paralyzed right-wing leadership.

Another initiative, in which we are actively involved, is preparing a civic campaign on the Internet to get Israelis to sign off on all the points to which the Palestinians have agreed in 10 years of negotiations, "before it's too late." In other words, before the Palestinian public returns to the "one state" option between the Jordan and the sea, and the settlements become a kind of state-within-a-state.

In short, there are three reasons for the fact that the leftist awakening is indeed being felt everywhere:

1. The right wing is not making peace. The concept that "the right will make peace" is in its death throes. In 1996, Netanyahu did not undertake "to kill the Oslo agreement," but to bring "peace and security." Sharon did not promise "unilateral withdrawal," but "to establish peace." That's how they obtained the votes of the mainstream. However, it is at present clear to the majority of the Zionist left that Netanyahu will not "bring peace" and it's doubtful he ever wanted to, except under the condition that Hamas undergo mass conversion to Judaism.

Said Gilad Sher, who negotiated with the Palestinians during the Barak era and continues to be involved in peace projects: "Every prime minister, from [Yitzhak] Rabin until now has entered the Prime Minister's Bureau with hyper-enthusiasm, but then, slowly but surely, his world narrows down to a small crack called 'the conflict.' Rabin went with that to Oslo, Barak went to Camp David, Sharon went to disengagement, and Olmert tried to set in motion a major move that fell apart because of the various investigations [against him]. Bibi is the only one with whom nothing is happening."

If indeed the right wing is incapable of "making peace," why should the left abnegate itself before it? Especially when doing nothing means a one-camp political constellation, without an opposition. Without "dignity" and without "truth."

2. The right wing is eroding Israeli democracy. A few months ago, Isaac Herzog described the situation as "an Israel licking at the edges of fascism." With only one camp operating in the political landscape, in which everyone speaks in the same language, the result is a strange kind of phenomenon, whose possible outcome could be a commission of inquiry to investigate left-wing movements, or intimidation tactics on the part of "independent" bodies that persecute actors, artists and academics.

A few months ago, Erez Tadmor, one of the leaders of the ultra-Zionist group Im Tirzu, engaged in a debate on Army Radio against Yariv Oppenheimer, the general secretary of Peace Now. Tadmor, whose movement is funded in part by the clergyman John Hagee - a Texan chauvinist who has declared that, "the Antichrist will be part Jewish and a homosexual," and that the Holocaust was necessary to hasten the coming of Jesus - attacked the left for "not revealing the sources of its funding."

What are Tadmor's own sources of funding? Check out the English-language website of Im Tirzu and see where they want you to send your donation. The answer: to a resident of the West Bank settlement of Efrat named Jay Marcus, or to the Central Fund of Israel, which is located in the Marcus Brothers Textiles store in Manhattan. As The New York Times revealed two years ago, the Central Fund of Israel is one of the important economic channels used by groups in the territories to underwrite their activity. Accordingly, the donation is tax-deductible in the United States. Tens of millions of dollars have been injected into ultra-Orthodox and pro-settlement movements in the past seven years by those who donate directly to Marcus, or to his textile business.

Im Tirzu is not the only organization that receives money from the Central Fund of Israel. Another organization that refers its donors to that New York textile store is Women in Green, lead by Nadia Matar.

But it is Peace Now that is on the brink of a parliamentary investigation, while Im Tirzu is not. All this is a direct result of the "sabbatical" taken by the core of the left-wing camp.

3. The liberal as patriot. Sharon said, "We have to end the occupation." Netanyahu says "there is no choice but" to establish a demilitarized Palestinian state. In contrast, Moshe Arens, MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud ) and many settlers are talking openly about the binational option as the desirable choice.

One of our meetings was devoted to a fascinating, agonizing and important dialogue between performing artists who are boycotting the recently opened cultural center in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, and settlers from Ofra and from Gush Etzion, among them (some brilliant ) journalists from the right-wing newspaper Makor Rishon, members of the Eretz Shalom movement (a religiously oriented body), members of the Gush Etzion regional council and others.

In that meeting, a few of the settlers admitted that the really hot ideological merchandise talked about in the settlements these days is "a binational state with built-in inferior citizenship for the Arab population." In a word: apartheid. In such a situation, it's easier for Eldad Yaniv to travel around the country and silence right-wingers who dub him a "non-Zionist," and for Miki Gitzin and his Free Israel movement to excite thousands on Facebook and hundreds in the real world - all against the background of a fluttering blue-and-white flag.

Efforts to explain

All the reasons for the left's awakening are correct and worthy. But, you will ask, if the left is awakening, how can Avigdor Lieberman set his sights on 20 seats for Yisrael Beiteinu in the next Knesset? And why is the proportion of votes for the dovish camp continuing to fall?

The answer came from the political adviser Nissim Douek. The left's premise, he explained, was always that "the Israeli public doesn't understand that we are right." It follows that what the public needs is more information: "If we explain a little more to people," the thinking went, "they will understand."

The truth is, however, that Israelis understand everything they need to understand, Douek explained: They are smart and sophisticated and don't need more information.

"Sixty-seven percent of the Israelis who described themselves as being in the political center supported the continuation of the construction freeze in favor of advancing negotiations," we were told by pollster Dahlia Scheindlin, who worked for years with Stan Greenberg and attended some of our Ramat Gan meetings. In other words, the Israeli center does not belong to the right wing - even though it voted right sometimes. The problem, therefore, is that the majority of the Israeli public has not translated this understanding into action.

Douek mentioned the "cigarette allegory": For decades, the American public smoked like chimneys even though people knew very well that cigarettes kill. Nothing helped. The Marlboro man looked sexy and the whole business came in a sort of patriotic wrapping. For their part, however, Israelis know very well that the settlements pose a danger to their country's future and that it's impossible go on "smoking forever."

In the course of our forum's meetings we met settlers who spoke honestly and painfully about their desire to resolve the "immoral" - their term - situation in which they are living, but without sliding into "an even more immoral" solution in the form of "expulsion of Jews." Nahum Pachenik, a settler from Tekoa, near Bethlehem, and a student of Rabbi Menachem Fruman, recently founded Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace ), a movement devoted to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories, in which some 30,000 Jews will remain in their present homes as its citizens.

"Just as there are Arabs in Israel," Pachenik said, "there need to be Jews in Palestine." The way to get there, he explained, is by improving the present neighbor relations between settlers and Palestinians.

Gilad Sher and Ami Ayalon, from Blue White Future, have been meeting for months with settlers with the aim of producing a "white paper," detailing precisely the way in which the West Bank settlers will be evacuated - if and when. The movement estimates that between 20 and 30 percent of the settlers will leave voluntarily the moment Israel proposes that option. Another 60 percent prefer some sort of decision, meaning annexation of the entire West Bank and a binational reality, or establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. If the latter concept is "legitimized" - i.e., gains broad Israeli public support - they will accept it, albeit with grief and torment. However, if taking a certain course is perceived as illegitimate by the Israeli public, they will fight it with all their might. In other words, both within the Green Line and outside it, there is now cross-party recognition that the absence of a political settlement is like a spreading malignant tumor. So why isn't this recognition being translated into action?

The answer, Douek explained, is that the "anger" factor is missing. The tobacco industry did not collapse because Americans "grasped that smoking is harmful," but rather when it was proved to them that, behind a facade of "all-Americanism" and an army of "Marlboro people," there were sharp consultants and lobbyists who were making a fortune, and straw organizations that hid their main funders.

It's the same here. When Israelis begin to feel - in the gut and not in the head - that a fast one was pulled on them, that what was marketed as a patriotic all-Israeli project was actually funded by extremists espousing a binational or Jewish-religious vision, and by extreme evangelists who long for the return of Christ and the destruction of Israel - the trend will change.

We shall illustrate. The U.S. organization Foundation Center ( ) monitors American donations to Israeli groups. According to this organization, in 2008 the Central Fund of Israel (to which, it will be recalled, Im Tirzu and Women in Green refer their donors ) declared an income of about $13 million, in 2007 of about $12.1 million, and between 2003 and 2006, a total of $24.4 million. All told, some $39.5 million (with a deduction of a few hundred thousand dollars for expenses ) was collected and forwarded to Israel during that period. On a tax form which is available on its website, the Central Fund declares that it is a "charitable organization" whose aim is to provide "social services, humanitarian aid, aid to the poor." Does that upset you? Spur you to act? If so, Nissim Douek is right.

Doron Avital, a former commander of the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal, who holds a Ph.D. in logic from Columbia University and is now active in Kadima, spoke to us about what he terms "the liberal fallacy." "While the right wing acts indefatigably and changes the rules of the game as it is played," he said, "the average liberal waits for all the conditions to be fulfilled before taking any action."

What about the other side of the fence? If Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful ) consisted of liberals, the settlement project would not have come into being. If Ariel Sharon had been a liberal, he would not have become a candidate for prime minister after the Kahan Commission recommended that he step down as defense minister.

The left, in contrast, assumes that a series of "optimal conditions" must exist for the coveted change, whatever it may be, to happen. But that's a fallacy. The rules change as action is taken - and with its help. The Four Mothers group was labeled "the four dishrags" until its activity gathered public momentum, which eventually caught the attention of Ehud Barak, then a candidate for prime minister, who adopted their agenda: withdrawal from Lebanon within a year of his election.

So the answer to the question of "what to do" is to stop asking and start doing. The result of patiently waiting for conditions to become "optimal" will always be that they become worse. Sitting in an armchair is totally restrictive. When one gets up from it, though, one realizes new things about oneself, the political alignment and the way in which political processes are transformed into hard reality.

It's hard to change reality. Indeed, another lesson we learned about the left-wing camp has to do with the voting patterns in recent years. It turns out that the electoral "maximum" of the left-center is declining from one election to the next, as a result of demographic-sociological factors related to immigration, natural population increases and the exclusion of the Israeli Arab public from the political game.

This must be clear: Even before we take into account the decrease in the proportion of people voting for the left among those who feel that there is "no partner" - a gradual erosion is occurring in the maximum voting potential ("even if the whole camp turns out and votes" ) due to other factors including ethnic origins, voting patterns of the parents' generation, education, etc.

The left is wrong to think it needs to work "as hard as the right" in order to win the elections. The truth is that it has to work about 1.25 times as hard in order to reach a "status quo" situation.

Action begets action

We did not suspend our professional pursuits in order to engage in the civic project we have been describing here, nor did we disrupt our family life or forgo other luxuries. We went on working, we continued to be productive, we found the holes and the windows through which we are capable of introducing civic action, that makes us stand up straight and stops our bellies from sagging. Because action begets action. It's hard to shut your eyes once they have been opened.

"For the real question," Vaclav Havel concluded his essay "The Power of the Powerless" (1978, translated by Paul Wilson ), "is whether the brighter future is really always so distant. What if, on the contrary, it has been here for a long time already, and only our own blindness and weakness has prevented us from seeing it around us and within us, and kept us from developing it?"W

Joint tours

The Ramat Gan forum's most moving encounter was with Palestinian representatives of the Bereaved Families' Forum and of Combatants for Peace. The members of this group, Ali al-Awad, Basam Armin and others - put a big dent in the "no-partner" cliche and in the assumption, currently espoused by the Israeli political mainstream, that "the political impasse is good for Israel." The Palestinians spoke of a daily life of cruel distress, about a new generation bereft of hope which does not know Oslo, about a new intifada that's brewing and about increasing numbers who are saying: "The Israelis want a bi-national state, so let's give them one."

Al-Awad talked about his brother, who died during an interrogation by Israel's Shin Bet security service, about the urgent need for peace and about a grass-roots network of peace activists that he is trying to organize, at risk to his life, throughout the West Bank. After he spoke, it was suddenly no longer clear whether the "non-partner" in this story is him or us.

Afterward, the former Palestinian minister of prisoners, Sufian Abu Zaida, came to Ramat Gan and told us about the disengagement from Gaza from the Palestinians' point of view. "We begged Sharon," Abu Zaida said, "to leave Gaza within the framework of an agreement, not unilaterally, because if you do, Hamas will celebrate in the streets on the day after. And that's what happened, so why are you amazed at the Qassam rockets?"

Boaz Gaon, 39, is a playwright, scriptwriter and journalist. His works have been performed by the Cameri and Beit Lessin theaters, among others; at present, his play Traitor, an adaptation of Enemy of the People by Ibsen, is running at the Beer Sheva Theater. He is currently writing scripts for Channel 10 and Keshet and heads the drama department of Slutsky Communication Channels.

Jonathan Gurfinkel, 34, is a director, and served as the main director of A Wonderful Country for three seasons. In addition, he was creator of a television drama series, directed a documentary called The Arena, and was a columnist for the weekly Hair. At present he is working on a full-length feature film.

Credit: Yoram Rubinger



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