Peacenik is widely used as a innuendo in Israel. Here four activists explain their demise and why they hold on

It’s a sad-looking protest. A few dozen members of Israel’s beleaguered peacefulnes gesture mill around on a street in eastern jerusalem, viewing clues in Arabic, English and Hebrew declaring:” Stop the occupation .” Older, well-dressed intellectual leftwingers with gray-headed mane and round spectacles mingle with a scruffier younger crowd.

One man with a cigarette hanging in his mouth resounds a cowbell. A few Israeli police look on with bored formulations. Traffic moves by as normal. Everyone seems to know each other. Another person sitting on the side of the road gestures to a reporter.” Do I have shit on my premier ?” he asks, ogling up for chicks on power lines overhead.

This is part of what remains of the Israeli peace camp, crippled by a political structure that has careened wildly to the right. “Leftist” and “peacenik” are widely used as dismissive slurs against an ever-embattled section of culture who are increasingly on the periphery and slammed as traitors.

In an upcoming election, the issue of the Palestinians- formerly the central focus of Israeli politics- is often circumvented. A December poll detected while more than half of Jewish Israelis want peace negotiations, almost 75% believed they would fail. The group that operated the survey, the Israel Democracy Institute, said the peace issue has ” disappeared almost completely from the Israeli public discourse “.

Four members of Israel’s beleaguered leftwing please explain how this happened and why they are harbouring on 😛 TAGEND

The protester

Pepe Goldman:’ We merely live once. I could not forgive myself if I let this happen .’ Photograph: Quique Kierszenbaum/ The Guardian

One demonstrator at the rallying, Pepe Goldman, an Argentinian Jew who emigrated to Israel in 1976, has demonstrated ever since.” There is a process of burning out ,” he says on the sidelines.” Unfortunately, we are a small minority. Israelis are very, exceedingly …” he says, before restarting the sentence:” I would say they don’t give a shit about “whats goin on” .”

After years of failed tries, many Israelis are asking themselves whether armistice , not to mention a Palestinian state, is necessary when Gaza is entirely blocked off, the West Bank occupation is tightly controlled, and their own economies is booming.

The 67 -year-old no longer protests to convince his fellow citizens. He comes for very limited but concrete reasons- as an Israeli, with the extra rights under the law that entails, he was able to stand as a human shield for Palestinians who are facing forced evictions or onrushes from settlers.

Despite vanquishes by pioneers and decreasing numbers, he prolongs his activism every Friday.” We exclusively live once. I could not forgive myself if I tell all this happen .”

The repentant soldier

Yehuda Shaul:’ Remember McCarthy? He’s alive and kicking and here in Israel .’ Photograph: Quique Kierszenbaum/ The Guardian

Yehuda Shaul is 37, but his whitened beard, broad shoulders and weatherbeaten face paint an image of a much older man. On many periods, the Israeli ex-combat soldier is at the figurehead of a bus, touring the West Bank to show Israelis and foreign visitors what the occupation looks like. The organisation he founded, Breaking the Silence, is made up of ex-servicemen who want to expose the reality of Israel’s grip over Palestinian life.

Shaul’s insight is encyclopaedic. He appears to know the date of every village- and there are more than 140 with nearly 600,000 residents- was created and how each one affects the Palestinians living around it.

When Breaking the Silence first started after the violent second intifada, Shaul says his group was ” mainstream”- critical singers, but one that came from the respected institution of the armed forces.” We had payed the right to speak out .”

But after Benjamin Netanyahu made deals with hard-line religious patriots in 2015 to form the most rightwing coalition government in the country’s history, pro-settler troops ripened in power.

That is when the attacks on Breaking the Silence ramped up. Shaul reels off some from remembering: an arson attempt on their powers; beings working undercover to infiltrate the organisation; a constitution that was dubbed the” Breaking the Silence” greenback to ban them from speaking in academies; and a viciou snout last-place summer when a pioneer pierced him during a tour. Netanyahu even cancelled a find with the German foreign minister after he said he would speak to the former troops.

One especially fierce chapter resulted after phone numbers of his colleague’s family members were posted online by a troll. Someone called her grandparents at 3am pretending to be a hospital worker to say she had died in a vehicle crash. Shaul was offended but unsurprised.” When the defence minister announces you a spy, and the prime minister says you bridged a red line, and the tourism rector says you’re a traitor. People answer the announce ,” he says.” Remember McCarthy? He’s alive and kicking and here in Israel .”

The columnist

Amira Hass in 1999 … a new generation has come’ to regard this reality as normal’. Photograph: Don Mcphee/ The Guardian

Amira Hass sucks a small whiskey in a bar in Ramallah to fend off a coldnes. Behind her the famed 1936″ Visit Palestine” poster hangs on the wall. Since 1993, she has lived in the territories, first in Gaza and now in the West Bank. As an Israeli writer, she says you should reside in the place you write about. But she cannot think of a single other Jewish Israeli journalist who lives here.

Ending 51 -years of Israeli armed pattern is not an issue in this election, she says, because a new generation “re coming”” to regard this reality as normal “.

There used to be an ” unhappines” in culture,” because there was still an understanding that there was a contradiction between our self-image as instructed, progressive, liberal, democratic, and the occupation. You had had a generation who knew what life was like before[ the occupation began in] 1967.”

As the settler flow has succeeded in becoming a significant sector of society, the idea of annexing the huge swaths of region they have taken is rapidly becoming a mainstream idea, she says.” They are high middle class, they are savvy, they are in the military, they find themselves in hi-tech .”

There is no longer pro- or anti-peace camps in Israel, Hass lends, just” the prize clique “.

The politician

Dr Yosef’ Yossi’ Beilin:’ Sometimes it[ peacefulnes] is the elephant in the area[ but] this is the real story of Israel .’ Photograph: Quique Kierszenbaum/ The Guardian

Yossi Beilin, the only one of the four to have viewed its own position in government, is also the most optimistic. Much of his three decades of political life was in the pro two-state Labour party but also in Meretz, which is firmly anti-occupation. Both parties are now in decline. In the 1990 s, he was part of secret talks in Norway that led to the Oslo harmonizes, a framework to make a peace deal that ultimately stalled.

” There is a general feeling that there is nothing to do ,” he says.

Few submerges like him remain in the Israeli parliament. The former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, one of the country’s most prominent peace campaigners, left politics this month after canvas indicated her tiny party would not make it into parliament again. In her exit discussion, Livni said conciliation had become a ” dirty word “.

Beilin , now 70, says he promised to leave politics at 60 to allow a younger mob to create new ideas. But would he have retired if his pro-peace ideology had been more successful?” It’s a good question. Maybe not .”

Still, he disclaims conciliation is off the agenda. It is a primary part of the Israeli psyche, he disagrees.” Sometimes it is the elephant in the area( but) this is the real story of Israel .”

Asked to explain his steadfast optimism, he replies:” Because we need it seriously .”


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