Opinion |

Meretz, Leave Bennett’s Government and Fight the Occupation Again

Ilana Hammerman
Ilana Hammerman
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A Palestinian's van vandalized last August in Hebron.
A Palestinian's van vandalized last August in Hebron. Credit: Emil Salman
Ilana Hammerman
Ilana Hammerman

This is an urgent call to members of the Meretz party. Even in our deranged reality, no wisdom or morality has been conceived to justify the subjugation of your principles – as part of a movement established to fight for human and civil rights in Israel – to the principles of your coalition partners, from Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked to Gideon Sa’ar and Avigdor Lieberman, and on to Benny Gantz.

I can only imagine the movement’s founder, Shulamit Aloni, her face struck with amazement and sorrow because you have joined this government.

In the eight months of this coalition’s existence, the Israeli-Jewish thuggish dominion over the West Bank has taken on dimensions not yet seen. From the Jordan Valley and the central West Bank to the South Hebron Hills, from Homesh in the north to Susya in the south, settlers and their supporters from around the country are doing as they please in the occupied territories. They take over land and destroy trees, fields and cisterns while expelling people, beating them and injuring them. They open fire, throw stones and wage pogroms – with no one stopping them.

On the contrary, the state openly provides its patronage over this violence, affording protection and infrastructure to settlements and outposts where the assailants come from, with soldiers removing the victims from their land and grazing areas. This is the routine in these places.

Dozens of new outposts have sprouted up in recent months. Some are surrounded by fences, spanning huge areas. They’re called “individual farms” or “agricultural farms.” They’re nothing but more robbed land, largely barren for now, areas where Palestinians are forbidden to till their land or graze their flocks. They’re in the hands of violent Jewish zealots who seek to remove Palestinians from their land, livelihood and homes. This is what anyone wishing to see the situation as it is sees, and such people are scarce.

And Israel has a new government, called a “government of change.” The founding principles of this team, laid out in five pages detailing the wonders it plans to bestow on Israeli society, make no mention of the occupied territories and their residents, neither the Jewish settlers nor the Palestinians.

An exception to this is Jerusalem, most of which is actually occupied territory. Regarding Jerusalem, the founding principles say that “the government will promote the growth and prosperity of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, while continuing to build there ... turning it into an innovative and dynamic metropolis.”

Indeed, all construction in Jerusalem is for Jews and largely beyond the Green Line. Plans are still in place to expand the giant neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, built on Palestinian land, as well as for the construction of new Jewish neighborhoods at Atarot and near Beit Safafa.

Palestinians in Jerusalem, making up 40 percent of the city’s population, haven’t had a single new neighborhood built for them. On the contrary, the houses of dozens of families in older neighborhoods are under threat of demolition. The new government inaugurated its policy by backing the violent demolition of a house in Sheikh Jarrah, throwing its residents out onto the street.

Israel has a new government, a unity government from right to left. According to its founding principles, “the sides agree that the government will work to strengthen Israel’s national security and the security of all the country’s citizens, while constantly striving for peace.”

Nitzan Horowitz, Tamar Zandberg, Yair Golan, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, Esawi Freige – follow your Meretz colleague Mossi Raz and go see this reality. Go again and again, because events at these places are very dynamic. And tell yourselves what you already know: You’re not among those who believe that by trampling on the human rights of millions of people one can strengthen Israel’s “national security” and “strive for peace.” Get out of this government.

And then, go back to the occupied hills and join the handful of courageous Jewish Israelis, most of them much older than you, who are fighting in the spirit of your true principles. Maybe you can bring with you younger people who will take part in the struggle outside parliament, outside the government.

Maybe you can lead this struggle. There is no other struggle at this time, and your place is there.

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