How are the protest movements in Israel connecting to issues of peace, justice, and equal rights? ALLMEP explores on a recent members call:
In August, our members convened to discuss the political crisis in Israel, the protest movement and how it is connected to their missions and activities as civil society organizations. Our members that do policy work gave a policy overview, we heard perspectives on the protest movement from Palestine, and we dove deep into the work of ALLMEP member PCFF, and the implications of the current situation on their peace education work.
There is a clear link between the protests in Israel and the core issues that ALLMEP members are working on: peacebuilding, equality, and justice.
We wanted to share some of the key messages from those who spoke during the call, so that you could hear directly from those who are trying to navigate this complex situation:
From our members that do policy work in Israel:
Ofer Dagan is the Co-CEO of Sikkuy Aufoq, a shared Jewish and Arab nonprofit organization that works to advance equality and partnership between the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and the country’s Jewish citizens. These are the notes that Ofer shared with ALLMEP members:
We identify a paradigm shift in government policy – from conditional integration, to absolute exclusion and suppression. This is both a danger and an opportunity:
- They can’t cancel the five-year plans, so they try to cut back where possible. The danger in the long term – that there will be no follow-up plans.
- They neglect the fight against crime, and at the same time, take advantage of the increase in violence to train them to use tools of repression such as the Shin Bet, administrative arrests and more.
- There are moves to harm the status of Arab society – the implementation of the nationality law in policy, the flag law, the expansion of admissions committees, Negev Judaization, and more.
What can we do?
- Public struggle – for example struggles with cuts of 550 which are against all professional logic.
- Strengthening and tightening ties with government officials.
- Identifying cracks in the coalition – for example using legislation favoring the ultra-orthodox community for the Arab society’s benefit too.
- Work with institutions under the government – hospitals, local authorities, etc.
- Expanding the value-based and political public discourse to issues of equality and partnership between Arabs and Jews – the protest opens the existing thinking frameworks, people are looking for new ideas.
Dr. is the Co-CEO of the Abraham Initiatives, an organization that aims to create widespread positive social change in the field of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel by focusing on stimulating policy change in both national and local government. This is what he shared with our members:
Behind the idea of the judicial reforms is the desire to enhance the Jewishness of the State of Israel at the expense of Its democratic values. Since democracy is about equality, this means Arabs as even less equal.
The protest against the new reforms mainly focusing on democracy and the composition of the election committee of new supreme court judges or the override clause, all are important. But the protest is too nationalistic and too militarized and not overlapping our immediate agenda. For many Arab citizens, Israel is an ethnocratic regime. It is a Jewish supremacy state, especially after enacting the nation-state law. Jewish supremacy in a democratic society is an oxymoron. The leaders of the protest want to preserve the status quo.
Arab citizens were never equal citizens and never will be, so the protests against the Judicial reforms are a Jewish business. Yet, the judicial overhaul is worsening our status, it is affecting and risking the status of our brothers in the occupied Territories:
- For many Arabs, it is about the annexation of the Occupied territories. It is about changing the reality between the Jordanian river and the Mediterranean, and denying the rights of the Palestinians.
- The reforms include new laws. Changing articles of laws and changing existing policies.
- Many of these proposed 140 laws directly hit the Palestinian community, their status, and the budgets allocated for them to bridge the gaps between Arab and Jewish citizens.
The government’s intentions are clear and already announced by some ministers. It is in favor of harsh policies against the Arab citizens and denying political and cultural rights to the Arab citizens. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has reportedly frozen grants earmarked for Arab municipalities so he can “reconsider” what to do with the money. NIS 200 million ($55 million) set aside for economic development. He is “reconsidering” the transfer of funds as he weighs his “priorities” for the funding.
We, at Abraham Initiatives, have a project with the Center for Citizen Empowerment to monitor the implementation of government decisions 550 and 549.
Our work includes emphasizing exactly how Palestinian citizens of Israel are affected by decisions and tactics of the current extreme coalition within the Knesset, the media and the general public. Since the beginning of the protests, we have worked with Palestinian citizens of Israel, encouraging a level of involvement within the protest movement. Concurrently we work with the Protest movement leaders and supporters highlighting the issues affecting Palestinian citizens of Israel that are not being addressed within the Protests.
The Abraham Initiatives has brought to the forefront the major challenge of Arab society, crime and violence. The unprecedented number of fatalities of Palestinian citizens of Israel is no longer being disregarded. With my speech on the central stage of the Protests at Kaplan at the beginning of the summer, the Abraham Initiatives brought the number of fatalities squarely to the public. This issue can no longer be ignored.
Our Public Affairs Department continues to monitor and act within committees while we publicly stand against the coup. Two examples of us raising our voice within the Constitution Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset and the Security Committee continue to ring true.
Fighting against deepening discrimination is a crucial step to fight for building partnerships and this is why we, the Abraham Initiatives, are active in the protest.
This government continues to advance policies that have shifted between discrimination, neglect and lawlessness to actual institutional aggression against the Arab society. Facing this challenge:
- Combating racism in high schools
- Internationalizing the challenges that the Palestinian community is facing
- Support grassroots mobilizations
- Get organized and unite: The change can be only through building political partnerships. Palestinian- Jewish coalition against Fascism in Israel.
A view from Palestine:
Wasim Almasri, ALLMEP’s Director of Programs, gave an update on how he sees and lives the current moment. This is what he shared:
Palestinians feel that the surge of Israelis onto the streets comes from concerns over potential impacts on their privileges and rights, rather than from a deep worry for the millions of Palestinians living under military rule in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian local media channels, particularly those funded by the PA, have dedicated extensive coverage of Israeli protests. For the PA, these ongoing protests are viewed as pivotal events that could lead to internal shifts within Israeli politics.
This period has marked the deadliest year for Palestinians. Incursions in the West Bank, raids, settler violence against Palestinians and their businesses, forcible displacement of Palestinians from their homes. There has been a notable surge in radicalization among Palestinian youth as an indirect consequence of Israeli government policies aimed at diverting attention away from the protests within Israel. These policies will continue to weaken the Palestinian leadership.
Many Palestinians feel that the protests are an internal Israeli struggle to maintain the status quo and there is no sense among many Israelis demonstrating today that they understand that what’s happening now is a logical outcome of a system that systematically oppresses Palestinians. Some of the Israeli supreme courts’ decisions from the past decade allowed the state to carry out policies against Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and inside Israel. Palestinians have a little to no faith in the Israeli justice system.
Palestinians in the Peacebuilding field think this is an opportunity for Israeli society to confront the occupation because it is the actual source of inequality and injustice.
A Case Study of PCFF:
Yuval Rahamim is the Co-CEO of the PCFF, a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization of over 600 families, all of whom have lost an immediate family member to the ongoing conflict:
PCFF’s educational programs [summer camp for bereaved Israeli and Palestinian teens, and dialogue meeting in Israeli High schools] were attacked recently, no longer by right wing activists only but this time by the ministry of education and the education committee of the Knesset. These attacks did not come by surprise. From the day the new Israeli extreme coalition was formed, it was clear to us this blow was coming.
We started to set up an emergency plan that included extended advocacy, media, and legal measures. With the support of the special task force created by NIF, this structure is now fully operational and helped to break some of the actual obstacles [summer camp was executed with great success], leverage a lot of public attention on the banning from GEFEN [by effective PR and social media coverage] and legally challenge the ministry of education outrageous decision.
At the same time, we benefit from a massive public support from NGO’s, educators, individuals and MK’s who all rightfully see these attacks on PCFF as another stage in the coup the Israeli government had launched over Israeli democracy, and through that over the last chances for peace.
You can sign the Parents Circle Families Forum petition to reverse this decision.