Imagine if Amos Oz, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and former Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna led a few dozen or more Israeli peaceniks to a settlement construction site this Friday, and they all sat down in front of the bulldozers and refused to leave, forcing the army or police to drag them off, possibly to arrest them. I bet this might get some attention, not only in Israel but overseas as well.
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And imagine that on Friday of next week, David Grossman, former Knesset speaker Avrum Burg and former Technion president Zehev Tadmor did the same thing at another settlement construction site with another crowd of ordinary citizens. And the Friday after that, the illegal sit-in was led by Yael Dayan, former cabinet minister Colette Avital and air force legend Iftach Spector. And on every Friday afterward, one or more Israelis of renown and influence led a throng of their countrymen and countrywomen on an illegal act of civil disobedience against the occupation, with some protesters probably ending up in jail for a little while.
Week after week after week.
In this 50th year since the Six-Day War, there’s been a lot of talk about whether the occupation is a done deal or whether it can still be defeated. I don’t know the answer – but what I do know for a fact is that the Israeli peace camp has not exhausted all possible means for bringing the occupation down. Far from it.
This is a proposal for action. It is based on three principles: One, what’s needed is a mass movement with the active involvement of Israeli VIPs. Two, law-abiding marches and petitions by themselves aren’t enough; the peace camp has to start raising some non-violent hell, and keep it up. Three, the goal is to rattle the Israeli political establishment, fire up anti-occupation sentiment abroad that will translate into pressure on Israel, and ultimately lead an Israeli government to sign off on a genuine two-state solution – one in which Palestine enjoys the same independence and sovereignty as that enjoyed by Israel and every other state worth the name.
The public figures mentioned above weren’t picked out of the air; they’re among the nearly 500 Israeli notables who endorsed a new NGO called “Save Israel, Stop Occupation.” SISO has the right goal and the right names, but what’s missing is ideas for action that could generate some heat. The organization suggests that supporters organize film screenings, art/photography exhibits, meetings with Israeli diplomats, campus and synagogue events, rallies. I’m sorry, but that alone won’t do it. Something much, much stronger is required.
Such as civil disobedience – but that’s only one tactic that might shake things up here and abroad. There is any number of other potent measures that an Israeli peace movement could take. For instance:
* Lobbying foreign governments against Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, while making it clear that the Palestinians are not an Israeli domestic issue, that Israelis do not have the “democratic right” to decide if the Palestinians should be free or not. The movement should take a cue from B’Tselem and American Friends of Peace Now, whose leaders testified bravely last week before a UN panel on the settlements. A timely move now might be to lobby the Obama administration to support, or at the very least refrain from vetoing, the next UN Security Council resolution against the occupation. Moreover, the movement should publicly support the Palestinian Authority’s “UN strategy” whenever the two are in agreement.
* Declaring that America’s “Israel lobby” – especially the dominant AIPAC and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations – is a giant obstacle to peace, and that the movement will not hesitate to fight it openly whenever the two are in dispute.
* Calling on foreign governments to repeal legislation that punishes the BDS movement. BDS is a divisive issue for the peace camp, so the movement would probably do well not to take a position on it, but opposition to the throttling of BDS overseas (not to mention at home) should get consensus support.
* Calling on Israeli reserve soldiers to refuse to serve in the West Bank. (This is too much to ask of young draftees, but not, I think, of older reservists.)
I would add that the movement should draw a very sharp line between itself and the far-left, anti-Zionist crowd, such as the hardcore BDS forces in the U.S. and U.K., and some (though not all) of the activists protesting alongside Palestinians in the West Bank. I don’t think the movement should be avowedly Zionist – Arab citizens must be welcome in it – but it cannot make common cause with people who want to dismantle the Jewish state, who think any kind of Zionism is racism.
These are just my suggestions; other people have other ideas, and the movement’s leaders and members would decide which ones to use. But it is time for the Israeli peace camp to start talking once again about concrete, practical actions that can be taken against the occupation – actions that haven’t been tried, actions that carry the potential to make an impact. We’ve been bitching and moaning for so long; it’s time to organize.
Larry Derfner is a copy editor at Haaretz and he blogs at www.larryderfner.com. His memoir "No Country for Jewish Liberals" (Just World Books) will be published in April 2017. Follow him on Twitter: @DerfnerLarry