I was quoted in an Australian Jewish News article today about Ben & Jerry’s announcement it would no longer sell its ice cream in Israeli settlements in the West Bank:
However, executive director the New Israel Fund Australia, Liam Getreu, disagreed. “It’s only reasonable to draw a distinction between the State of Israel and the land it occupies,” he said. “Every country around the world – including Israel, the US and Australia – acknowledges there is a difference between a sovereign state and the land it occupies.
“Additionally, attacking people who try and distinguish between sovereign and non-sovereign Israel by calling them antisemitic is to evade a matter of fact, abuse the meaning of ‘antisemitism’ and ultimately gaslight those who would try and work towards a future of equality and justice for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
I was quoted in the Australian Jewish News as Benjamin Netanyahu was replaced as prime minister by Naftali Bennett.
Not everyone, though, had such a positive view of the former prime minister. Liam Getreu, executive director of the New Israel Fund Australia said Netanyahu’s “legacy was dominated by relentless delegitimisation of human rights organisations, anti-democratic and racist laws … as well as attempts to undermine the justice system for personal gain”.
He added, “Jews around the world and so many Israelis – Jews and Arabs alike – have an abiding hope that this new government will choose to put Israel on a path of justice, equality and democracy.”
I was interviewed on ABC’s PM program after Naftali Bennett’s government was sworn in.
Interviewed on ABC's The World in the aftermath of the Gaza war and violence inside Israeli mixed towns
In the aftermath of the escalation of violence between Israel and Palestinians I was interviewed on ABC’s The World with Beverley O’Connor.
News.com.au published my op-ed on the ongoing crisis affecting Jewish-Arab shared society in Israel:
The world is watching what’s happening right now in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories with distress and sadness.
Israelis have been killed by a barrage of Hamas rockets designed to strike fear and with the singular goal of hitting civilians; Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes, trapped in Gaza with nowhere to go.
The current crisis hasn’t come out of the blue. Evictions in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah provided the spark that ignited the conflict.
In the past 18 months, Israeli courts have ordered the evacuation of 36 Palestinian families from their homes, with Jewish settler families replacing them. The scale of these evictions is unprecedented, so it’s hardly surprising they would catalyse the worst round of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.
Without any serious attention to the structural elements that underpin the conflict the cycle of violence will continue. While the dual reality of Israeli air strikes on Palestinians in Gaza and the storm of Hamas rockets in Israel grabs the headlines, an equally problematic issue has risen to the surface inside Israel.
For the first time in recent memory, serious intercommunity violence – between Jewish-Israelis and Palestinian citizens of Israel – has taken hold.
Palestinians living in the occupied territories don’t have Israeli citizenship, but more than a million Palestinians inside Israel do. They vote in Israeli elections and work side-by-side with Jewish Israelis, but without doubt there is inequality, racism and discrimination. There can be no doubt that the identity of Palestinians inside Israel is deeply fused with those in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere.
For years leading Israeli politicians have pursued a sustained rhetorical and legal campaign against them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of Arabs “voting in droves” and taking the election away from a right-wing government.
One of his coalition partners, Bezalel Smotrich, compared Palestinians to mosquitoes and urged the country to “dry the swamp”, while another, Itamar Ben-Gvir, until recently had a portrait on his wall of a man who committed a mass murder of Palestinians in Hebron in 1994. Netanyahu’s government also passed the quasi-constitutional Nation-State Law which formalised the legal hierarchy of Jews first, Arabs second.
Their views, amplified by the press and legitimised by the political leadership, reached its inevitable next stage – widespread violence – as Israel’s “mixed cities” with large Jewish and Arab populations became scenes of mobs and riots. News outlets issued horrifying reports about Jewish mobs roaming the streets of Haifa looking for Arabs to assault, stabbing an Arab-Israeli in Jerusalem’s main market.
In Lod, Arab mobs torched synagogues, stores and cars; in Tamra, a Jewish man was stabbed and assaulted.
Israel’s police chief blamed Ben-Gvir for stoking the flames of an “internal intifada”. First, with anti-miscegenationist marches through Jerusalem, then in Sheikh Jarrah, and now in the mixed cities.
Whereas Israel’s conflict with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza requires a diplomatic solution between two geopolitical entities – even Israel’s army knows there is no military solution to the conflict – inside Israel the answer has to be communal.
Jews and Arabs live in the same towns and neighbourhoods. They shop in the same stores, play in the same parks and eat at the same restaurants. They must be able to live together in complete equality and a truly shared Jewish-Arab society, a possible future not incompatible with Israel’s founding vision as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and between Jews and Palestinians inside Israel are two sides of the same coin. As long as root causes – racism and hatred from both Jewish and Arab extremists, and the inequality and humiliation of half a century of occupation – remain unaddressed, violence will continue to emerge.
A deepening of the military conflict is still possible, but the tide may be turning inside Israel. Jews and Palestinians are already harnessing their shared political power and showing the rest of the country they refuse to succumb to narratives of animosity and hatred.
A proper reckoning is required to solve the conflict as a whole – presumably through two states for two peoples – so as to avoid future flare-ups, but in the meantime, these acts of shared Jewish-Arab society keep me optimistic for a better future.