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

It’s a sad-looking protest. A few dozen members of Israel’s beleaguered agreement change mill around on a street in east Jerusalem, bracing signs in Arabic, English and Hebrew declaring:” Stop the occupation .” Older, well-dressed intellectual leftwingers with grey-headed whisker and round spectacles mingle with a scruffier younger crowd.

One man with a cigarette hanging in his opening resounds a cowbell. A few Israeli police look on with bored looks. Traffic moves by as ordinary. 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 leader ?” he questions, appearing up for fowls on power lines overhead.

This is part of what remains of the Israeli peace camp, crippled by a political system that has lurched wildly to the right. “Leftist” and “peacenik” are widely used as scornful insults 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 avoided. A December poll ascertained while more than half of Jewish Israelis want peace negotiations, almost 75% believed they would fail. The radical that loped 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 explain how this happened and why they are accommodating 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 rally, Pepe Goldman, an Argentinian Jew who emigrated to Israel in 1976, has complained ever since.” There is a process of burning out ,” he says on the sidelines.” Unfortunately, we are a small minority. Israelis are very, extremely …” he says, before restarting the sentence:” I would say they don’t give a shit about “whats going on” .”

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

The 67 -year-old no longer objections to convince his fellow citizens. He comes for more limited but concrete intellects- as an Israeli, with the additional rights under the law that necessitates, he was able to stand as a human shield for Palestinians who are facing forced evictions or assaults from settlers.

Despite floggings by pioneers and dwindling digits, he continues his activism every Friday.” We exclusively live once. I could not forgive myself if I let 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-spectrum shoulders and weatherbeaten face paint a picture of a much older man. On many dates, the Israeli ex-combat soldier is at the front 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 veterans who want to expose the reality of Israel’s grip over Palestinian life.

Shaul’s acquaintance is encyclopaedic. He appears to know the date of every accommodation- and there are more than 140 with nearly 600,000 inhabitants- was established and how each one feigns 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 arriving 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 armies ripened in power.

That is when the attacks on Breaking the Silence ramped up. Shaul reels off some from storage: an arson attempt on their powers; parties working undercover to infiltrate the organisation; a principle that was dubbed the” Breaking the Silence” proposal to ban them from speaks in institutions; and a blood nose last-place summer when a pioneer pierced him during a tour. Netanyahu even cancelled a meeting with the German foreign minister after he said he would speak to the former troops.

One specially bitter occurrence 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 car accident. Shaul was stunned but unsurprised.” When the defence minister calls you a sleuth, and the prime minister says you bridged a red cable, and the tourism diplomat says you’re a traitor. People answer the call ,” 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 guzzles a small whiskey in a barroom 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 on. But she cannot think of a single other Jewish Israeli correspondent who lives here.

Ending 51 -years of Israeli military govern is not an issue in this election, she says, because a new generation has come” to regard this reality as normal “.

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

As the settler crusade has succeeded in becoming a significant sector of society, the idea of annexing the enormous swaths of property they have taken is rapidly becoming a mainstream idea, she says.” They are high middle class, they are savvy, they are in the military, “theyre in” hi-tech .”

There is no longer pro- or anti-peace camps in Israel, Hass adds, exactly” the winning clique “.

The politician

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

Yossi Beilin, the only one of the four to have comprised a position in authority, 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 defendants are now in decline. In the 1990 s, he was part of secret talks in Norway that led to the Oslo accords, a framework to make a peace agreement that is likely stalled.

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

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

Beilin , now 70, says he promised to leave politics at 60 to allow a younger army to wreak 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 repudiates conciliation is off the agenda. It is a primary part of the Israeli psyche, he reasons.” Sometimes it is the elephant in the chamber( but) this is the real story of Israel .”

Asked to explain his steadfast confidence, he replies:” Because we need it badly .”


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