Robin Rothfield on the Occupation and the Nakba

i Jul 24th 2017

Members and supporters are invited to submit their own personal views. Write to editor@ajds.org.au with your own views, comments or questions.

By Robin Rothfield.


The Jewish Left has been strident in its appeal for an end to the occupation following the recent 50th anniversary of the Six Day War.

But there has been division among the Left over whether to connect the occupation with the Nakba, the term used for the exodus of Palestinians during Israel’s war of independence of 1948.

As previously quoted, Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace (USA)  has written: “Confronting the Nakba is not optional. Because working for a truly just peace without addressing it is impossible.” Rebecca Vilkomerson has further written: “The seeds of the occupation were laid in 1948, when 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes.”

Why mention the Nakba?

The proponents of the case for mentioning the Nakba argue that Israel was to blame for the  exodus of Palestinians. Those I have spoken to also argue that the State of Israel should not have been created. They claim that other solutions should have been found to accommodate Jews who were forced to flee from their homeland.

Historian George Antonius in 1938 wrote: “….The treatment meted out to Jews in Germany and other European countries is a disgrace to its authors and to modern civilisation; but posterity will not exonerate any country that fails to bear its proper share of the sacrifices needed to alleviate Jewish suffering and distress. Help for the Jews must be sought elsewhere than in Palestine”

It is easy to say “help for the Jews must be sought elsewhere than in Palestine” but where, exactly where? The last place Jewish survivors of the holocaust wanted to be was in Europe. Where else could the Jewish survivors go? Two other places have been proposed, Uganda and the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Re the Uganda proposal offered by Britain, in 1904 a three-man delegation from the World Zionist Congress was sent to inspect the plateau. Its high elevation gave it a temperate climate, making it suitable for European settlement. However, the observers found a dangerous land filled with lions and other creatures. Moreover, it was populated by a large number of Maasai who did not seem at all amenable to an influx of people coming from Europe.

After receiving this report, the Zionist Congress decided in 1905 to politely decline the British offer.

Re the Kimberly region proposal:

Steinberg was sent out from London to further investigate the scheme’s feasibility and to enlist governmental and communal endorsement. He arrived in Perth on 23 May 1939. Steinberg was a skilled emissary, and based his campaign on the officially declared need by Australia to populate northern Australia.

A 1944 opinion poll found that 47% of Australians opposed the scheme. Opposition was primarily based on concerns that the settlers would inevitably drift away from Kimberley and begin migrating to the cities in large numbers. On 15 July 1944 the scheme was vetoed by the Australian government and Labor Prime Minister John Curtin with bipartisan support informed Steinberg that the Australian government would not “depart from the long-established policy in regard to alien settlement in Australia.”

How realistic then is this claim that other solutions should have been found?

The support of the Jewish Left 1945 – 48 for a Jewish national home in Palestine

The Jewish Left received the news of the November 1947 decision of the United Nations General Assembly to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state with rejoicing and enthusiasm.

As a member of the executive of the Jewish Council to combat fascism and anti-Semitism Evelyn Rothfield wrote two pamphlets in support of Israel’s statehood, Whither Palestine (1947) and Israel Reborn (1948).

Details of these publications are provided by Jewish historian Philip Mendes in an article in Labour History, November 2009, as follows:

“As early as 1945, the Council expressed its support for a Jewish national home in Palestine. A pamphlet by Evelyn Rothfield, the information officer of the Jewish Council, called for free Jewish immigration into Palestine, and the establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth [Evelyn Rothfield, The Jewish People, RAAF Educational Services, Melbourne, 1945, pp.44-47.]. A further pamphlet issued by the Council in March 1947 titled Whither Palestine was issued with a supportive foreword by the Victorian Attorney General William Slater. This pamphlet firmly attacked the British White Paper on immigration, defended the right of the large number of homeless and displaced Jews to enter Palestine, and attributed Arab-Jewish conflict to the malign influence of exploitative Arab landowners, and the extremist Mufti of Jerusalem who had collaborated with the Nazis. The pamphlet called for Arab-Jewish friendship and cooperation in an independent Palestine [Evelyn Rothfield, Whither Palestine, Dolphin, Melbourne, 1947. The Council strongly supported the creation of Israel in 1948, and played a key role in promoting public sympathy for the fledgling state. The Council established a joint committee with representatives from the politically diverse Zionist Federation of Australia, Kadimah Cultural Centre and the Jewish Progressive Centre to organize pro-Israel broadcasts, newspaper articles and other publications, and public addresses. Young people and churches were specifically targeted. For example, the Council organized a ‘mass rally for youth to support the Yishuv (Jewish community) in Israel in its struggle for freedom and independence’. This rally was addressed by Presbyterian Minister and peace activist Reverend Alfred Dickie and Council President Norman Rothfield. In addition, the Council organized a mass Jewish rally to demonstrate the Australian Jewish community’s solidarity with Israel [Australian Jewish News, 10 & 17 September 1948; Jewish Council to Combat Fascism and Anti-Semitism, Annual Reports 1947-48, 1948-49; Norman Rothfield, Many Paths To Peace, Yarraford Publications, Melbourne, 1997, p.22.].

The Council also distributed 25,000 copies of a pro-Israel pamphlet, Israel Reborn. The pamphlet argued that the only Arabs who opposed partition were the feudal landlords and chieftains from surrounding countries who ‘fear the progress and enlightenment which the Jews have brought to the Middle East’. These war lords were allegedly not representative of the broader mass of Palestinian Arab peasants, workers and middle classes. According to the pamphlet, ‘Arabs in Palestine have displayed little enthusiasm for the war. Many of them, to escape fighting, have tried to leave the country…The fact is that the large mass of Arabs inside Palestine have little quarrel with their Jewish neighbours’ [Evelyn Rothfield, Israel Reborn, Dolphin Publications, Melbourne, 1948.].

The Council organized a petition in favour of immediate Australian recognition of Israel. The petition attacked the Arab invasion of Israel, stating that ‘those Arabs who have attacked the Jewish State are not Palestinians, but outsiders led by rulers from neighbouring countries. They have attempted to prevent the establishment, not only of the Jewish State, but of an independent Arab State in Palestine as well. They seek to divide the country of Palestine amongst themselves’ [Brian Fitzpatrick and 23 others, Australia and Israel, Jewish Council to Combat Fascism and Anti-Semitism, Melbourne, July 1948.].  The Council distributed 55,000 copies of a brief pamphlet based on this petition.

The dispossession of Palestinians (the Nakba)

There are members of the Jewish Left who argue that the establishment of the State of Israel led to the dispossession of Palestinians. Historian Benny Morris is the accepted expert on this subject and in his book “The Origins of the Palestinian Refugee Problem he writes (chapter 3, first line:)

“The Palestinian refugee problem was born of war, not by design, Jewish or Arab.”

In other words had the Arab world, instead of going to war against the fledgling state, been prepared to live in peace with Israel then there would have  been no Palestinian exodus.

Excerpts from this chapter by Benny Morris are attached. On the one hand there was a voluntary Palestinian exodus with the departure of many of the country’s upper and middle class families. On the other hand the “atrocity factor” played a major role in precipitating flight from certain areas of the country.

Whether the decision on partition taken overwhelmingly by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947 was a good or bad decision, it was the decision of the international community and should have been accepted by the Arab world.

Palestinians and Israeli Jews could have lived side by side in peace and  harmony.

If one only accepts decisions with which one agrees then chaos is the end result.

Progressive Jews should continue to campaign for the end of the occupation while not forgetting that the 5 Arab states which went to war with Israel must bear the primary responsibility for the dispossession.

Members of the hard left are aware of the UN decision on partition and of the war waged by 5 Arab states but these facts appear not to have penetrated their sub-conscious.

The effect of Jewish immigration on the Arab population

Evelyn Rothfield in Israel Reborn argued that the only Arabs who opposed partition were the feudal landlords and chieftains from surrounding countries who ‘fear the progress and enlightenment which the Jews have brought to the Middle East.’

In searching for examples of how Jewish migration has benefited the Arab population I came across the following extract  from the Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2003.  The complete article is attached.

The Arab Palestinian populations within those sub-districts that eventually became Israel increased from 321,866 in 1922 to 463,288 in 1931 or by 141,422. Applying the 2.5 per annum natural rate of population growth to the 1922 Arab Palestinian population generates an expected population size for 1931 of 398,498 or 64,790 less than the actual population recorded in the British census. By imputation, this unaccounted population increase must have been either illegal immigration not accounted for in the British census and/or registered Arab Palestinians moving from outside the Jewish-identified sub-districts to those sub-districts so identified. This 1922-31 Arab migration into the Jewish sub-districts represented 11.8 percent of the total 1931 Arab population residing in those sub-districts and as much as 36.8 percent of its 1922-31 growth.

Atrocities committed during the 1948 war

My brother David has informed me of atrocities committed in the area of Kibbutz Barkai, the kibbutz where he settled after ‘making aliyah’ in 1965. He says that at some point after settling in, they were told that the land on which the kibbutz settled in 1949 belonged to an Arab village prior to the war.

Until recently,  it never occurred to him to investigate this matter further. But then he came across the following passage at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wadi_Ara,_Haifa

During the 1948/1949 war the locals in the area experienced violence at the hands of Israeli forces. A member of the Kibbutz Be’eri, assigned to the Guard Milices testified in a study undertaken by Israeli historian Yitzhaki and Uri Millstein: “We were in Wadi ‘Ara. We raided a nearby Palestinian post and brought a prisoner for interrogation. A soldier beheaded him and scalped his head by knife. He raised the head on a pole to strike fear among Palestinians. Nobody stopped him.”

David adds, ‘It was this barbaric act that took place over the boundary of partition and within territory designated as the Palestinian state, together with reports of other atrocities elsewhere, that no doubt led to the flight of the villagers who were never permitted to return. Kibbutz Barkai was later established on this site, occupying the land of the villagers, who had been effectively evicted from their land and their homes.’

This is horrendous but atrocities were committed on both sides.

One of the greatest massacres that the Arab forces perpetrated against Jews during Israel’s War of Independence was the massacre of a convoy of doctors and nurses at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem on April 13, 1948, when 79 innocent people, many who were working to save other lives, were slaughtered. Tamar Fuchs, who was 12 at the time, remembers the massacre vividly.

“At about 10 a.m. a neighbor burst in shouting, ‘They’re attacking the convoy to Mt. Scopus.’ From the roof, we saw black smoke and passing British cars which did not offer help,” Fuchs said, recalling “the sharp smells of burnt flesh drifted with the eastern winds in our direction. Until 2 p.m. we saw smoke and heard explosions. My friend’s sister, Nurse Ziva Barazani, was in the convoy. Her remains were not found.”

Another horrific event was the Gush Etzion massacre on May 13, 1948. All 133 inhabitants of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion were slaughtered, although after several days under siege they had emerged with white flags. This did not prevent the Arab forces from opening fire at the group and stabbing the ones who survived that attack with knives. Nor did they spare the women of the kibbutz. The kibbutz was then looted and burned.

While recognizing that atrocities were committed by both sides the fact must be accepted that it was the 5 Arab states of  Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, which declared war on the fledgling state of Israel.

The underdog

I suspect that a key factor in the thought processes of young left Jews is a feeling that the Palestinians are the underdog in the Israel Palestine conflict. This may be the case today but it was not the case in 1948.

“After the Partition vote, some Arab leaders threatened the Jewish population of Palestine. For example, they spoke of “driving the Jews into the sea” or ridding Palestine “of the Zionist Plague”.[1] (Benny Morris)

Just before the 6 day war President Nasser of Egypt declared a blockade against the Israeli port of Eilat and 9000 tanks were moved to the borders of Israel. On 27 May 1967 Nasser declared:

“Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight…The  mining of Sharm el Sheikh is a confrontation with Israel. Adopting this measure obligates us to be ready to embark on a general war with Israel.”

Consider also this statement in 1967 by Ahmed Shukairy, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization:

“We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants and as for the survivors – if there are any – the boats are ready to deport them.” – Shukairy, June 1, 1967, speaking at a Friday sermon in Jerusalem.

In 2007 I was in Israel attending the wedding of my niece Ilana. During my stay I was invited to spend a day at Kibbutz Negba, a kibbutz belonging to the Left Hashomer Hatzair federation. My hosts made a point of explaining how in the 1948 War of Independence it was at Kibbutz  Negba that the advance of the Egyptian army was halted. Using only small arms the fighters of the kibbutz overcame the Egyptian heavy armour. Kibbutz Negba has erected a monument to these fighters. This was a clear example of Jews fighting for their survival.

Must one mention the Nakba when referring to the Occupation?

Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace (USA)  has written: “Confronting the Nakba is not optional. Because working for a truly just peace without addressing it is impossible.”

But  here are the names of 5 organisations which have which have issued statements against the occupation but without mentioning the Nakba.

T’ruah – Rabbis for human rights (USA)

Amnesty International

Machsom Watch

New Israel Fund

Meretz Australia

All of the above organisations are committed to human rights.

Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS)

The AJDS was formed in 1984. In 1989 the AJDS published a “Statement of Concern” in the Jewish News signed by over 550 Australian Jews. The statement included the following:

“The time has come to establish a peace of mutual recognition, based on territorial compromise and self-determination. Only such a peace will guarantee the security of Israel, the realization of Palestinian aspirations and regional stability.”

The words “mutual recognition” and “territorial compromise” clearly imply support for a two state solution. And a two state solution implies the valid existence of the state of Israel.

A compromise solution reached by the current AJDS executive

When debating whether or not to refer to the Nakba in the statement issued on the 50th anniversary of the Occupation, the compromise reached by the executive was to ascribe the term “Nakba” to the position held by the Palestinians i.e. the term was used but not as an expression of AJDS opinion but as an acknowledgement that this is the term favoured by the Palestinians. The statement is attached.


A section of the Jewish left (the hard left) claims that we cannot discuss the occupation without addressing the Nakba. However at least 5 human rights organisations, have done just that. Progressive Jews need to work for an end to the occupation without having to take a position on the validity of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

Reading the work of historian Benny Morris reveals that the dispossession of the Palestinians is not a straight forward issue. There is more than one explanation.

The hard left, while aware of the UN decision on partition and of the subsequent  war waged by 5 Arab states against the state of Israel, appears not to have fully absorbed these events and their implications.

Claims that the international community should have found a solution to the problem of Jewish refugees other than Palestine ignores the fact that two attempts were tried i.e. Uganda and the Kimberley but that both failed.

Jewish immigration to Palestine in the period 1922 to 1932 resulted in an increase in the Arab population.

During the 1948 war of independence atrocities were committed on both sides but the most important point to note is that the war was waged by 5 Arab states against the fledgling state of Israel.

It is suggested that young members of the Jewish hard left feel a sense of solidarity with Palestinians whom they see as the underdog. However they need to appreciate that in 1948 Jews in Israel may also be viewed as the underdog.


The following extracts have been selected by Robin Rothfield:



The Smoking Gun: Arab Immigration into Palestine, 1922-1931

by Fred M. Gottheil
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2003, pp. 53-64

The Arab Palestinian populations within those sub-districts that eventually became Israel increased from 321,866 in 1922 to 463,288 in 1931 or by 141,422. Applying the 2.5 per annum natural rate of population growth to the 1922 Arab Palestinian population generates an expected population size for 1931 of 398,498 or 64,790 less than the actual population recorded in the British census. By imputation, this unaccounted population increase must have been either illegal immigration not accounted for in the British census and/or registered Arab Palestinians moving from outside the Jewish-identified sub-districts to those sub-districts so identified. This 1922-31 Arab migration into the Jewish sub-districts represented 11.8 percent of the total 1931 Arab population residing in those sub-districts and as much as 36.8 percent of its 1922-31 growth.

That over 10 percent of the 1931 Arab Palestinian population in those sub-districts that eventually became Israel had immigrated to those sub-districts within the 1922-31 years is a datum of considerable significance. It is consistent with the fragmentary evidence of illegal migration to and within Palestine; it supports the idea of linkage between economic disparities and migratory impulses—a linkage universally accepted; it undercuts the thesis of “spatial stickiness” attributed by some scholars to the Arab Palestinian population of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; and it provides strong circumstantial evidence that the illegal Arab immigration into Palestine, like that within Palestine, was of consequence as well.


The following is an extract from Benny Morris’s The Origins of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (page numbers forthcoming):

Since 1948, two mutually exclusive, all-embracing explanations have dominated discussion of the Palestinian exodus. The traditional Arab explanation has been that the yishuv in 1948 carried out a pre-planned, systematic expulsion of the country’s Arab inhabitants. The official Jewish explanation, somewhat more complex, has been that the exodus occurred “voluntarily” – that is, not under Jewish compulsion – and on the orders or at the behest of Palestinian and external Arab leaders, in order to tarnish the emergent Israel’s image and to clear the way, as it were, for the invading Arab armies. However, the massive documentation now available in recently opened Israeli and British archives definitively demonstrates that both these single-cause explanations are fallacious or at least grossly insufficient and that the process by which some 700,000 Arabs departed Jewish/Israeli territory over 1947-49 was multi-staged, varied and complex.

The exodus occurred in four clearly identifiable stages, with an obvious chronology: December 1947-March 1948; April-June 1948; 9-18 July 1948; and October-November 1948. These stages were inextricably linked to the “stages” and development of the 1948 war. To them one may add the series of population transfers and expulsions that occurred along Israel’s borders during the immediate postwar period, November 1948-July 1949.

The Palestinian Arab exodus began in December 1947-March 1948 with the departure of many of the country’s upper- and middle-class families, especially from Haifa and Jaffa, towns destined to be in, or at least at the mercy of, the Jewish state-to-be and from Jewish-dominated districts of western Jerusalem. Flight proved infectious. Household followed household; neighbour followed neighbour; street, street; and neighbourhood, neighbourhood (as, later, village was to follow neighbouring village). The prosperous and educated feared death or injury in the ever-spreading hostilities, the anarchy that attended the gradual withdrawal of the British administration and security forces, the brigandage and intimidation of Arab militias and irregulars, and more vaguely but generally, the unknown, probably dark future that awaited them under Jewish or, indeed, Husayni rule (the Husayni family and its supporters), Some of these considerations, as well as a variety of direct and indirect military pressures, also during these months, caused the almost complete evacuation of the Arab rural communities of the coastal plain, which was predominantly Jewish and which was to be the core of the Jewish state.

Most of the upper- and middle-class families who moved from Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem, Ramale, Acre, and Tiberias to Nablus, Amman, Beirut, Gaza, and Cairo probably thought their exile would be temporary. These families had the financial wherewithal to tide them over; many had wealthy relatives and accommodations outside the country. The urban masses and the fellahin (peasants), however, had nowhere to go, certainly not in comfort. For them, flight meant instant destitution; it was not a course readily adopted. But the daily spectacle of abandonment by their “betters”, the middle and upper classes, with the concomitant progressive closure of businesses, schools, law offices, and medical clinics and the abandonment of civil service and municipal posts led to a steady attrition of morale and a cumulative sapping of faith and trust in the world around them: their leaders were going or had gone; the British were packing. They had been left “alone” to face the Zionist enemy. Palestinian urban society began to disintegrate.

…To what extent was the Arab exodus up to July a product of yishuv or Arab policy? The answer is as complex as was the situation on the ground. Up to the beginning of April 1948, there was no yishuv plan or policy to expel the Arab inhabitants of Palestine, either from the area destined for Jewish statehood or from those areas lying outside it. The Haganah adopted a forceful retaliatory strategy against suspected bases of Arab irregular bands which triggered a certain amount of flight. But it was not a strategy designed to precipitate civilian flight.

The prospect and need to prepare for the invasion gave birth to the Haganah’s Plan D, prepared in early March. It was not a grand plan of expulsion (as Arab propagandists, such as Whalid Khalidi, have depicted it). However, it gave the Haganah brigade and battalion-level commanders carte blanche to completely clear vital areas; it allowed the expulsion of hostile or potentially hostile Arab villages (and “potentially hostile” was, indeed, open to a very liberal interpretation). Many villages were bases for bands of irregulars; most villages had armed militias and could serve as bases for hostile bands.

During April-May, the local Haganah commanders, sometimes with specific instruction from the Haganah General Staff, carried out elements of Plan D, each interpreting and implementing the plan in his area as he saw fit and in relation to the prevailing local circumstances. In general, the commanders saw fit to completely clear the vital roads and border areas of Arab communities – Allon in eastern Galilee, Carmel around Haifa and western Galilee, Avidan in the south. Most of the villagers fled before or during the fighting. Those who initially stayed put were almost invariably expelled.

There was never, during April-June, any national-political or General Staff decision to expel “the Arabs” from the Jewish state’s areas. There was no “plan” or policy decision. The matter was never discussed in the supreme, political decision-making bodies; but it was understood by all concerned that, militarily, in the struggle to survive, the fewer Arabs remaining behind and along the front lines, the better and, politically, the fewer Arabs remaining in the Jewish state, the better.

As to April and the start of the main stage of the exodus, I have found no evidence to show that the AHC issued blanket instructions, by radio or otherwise, to Palestine’s Arabs to flee. However, AHC and Husayni supporters in certain areas may have ordered or encouraged flight for various reasons and may have done so, on occasion, in the belief that they were doing what the AHC wanted or would have wanted them to do. Haifa affords an illustration of this.

While it is unlikely that Husayni or the AHC from outside Palestine on April 22 instructed the Haifa Arab leadership to opt for evacuation rather than surrender, Husayni’s local supporters, led by Sheikh Murad, did so. The lack of AHC and Husayni orders, appeals, or broadcasts against the departure during the following week-long Haifa exodus indicates that Husayni and the AHC did not dissent from their supporters’ decision. Silence was consent. The absence of clear, public instructions and broadcasts for or against the Haifa exodus over 23-30 April is extremely instructive concerning the ambivalence of Husayni and the AHC at this stage towards the exodus.


Statement about the women’s boat to Gaza

i Oct 17th 2016

Image result for women's flotilla to gazaOn October 5th 2016 13 pro-Palestine activists on board the ship Zaytouna-Oliva of the Women’s Boat to Gaza were stopped by the Israeli army in international waters and then detained and deported.   We send our support and solidarity to the women who sailed on the ship for their courage and commitment to bring attention to the dire situation in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli led blockade since 2007.

While the women on board the ship have now been released, the blockade of Gaza remains, leaving 1.9 million Palestinians effectively imprisoned.  Due to Israeli military measures, about one-third of Gaza’s arable land and 85 percent of its fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible (Olivier De Schutter, UN special rapporteur).  Last year, a United Nations report predicted that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020.  More than 70% of the population relies on humanitarian aid, 47% of the population suffer from food insecurity, and 95% of the tap water is unsafe for drinking.  The legality of the blockade has been disputed, with independent UN panels asserting it to be unlawful under international law as it constitutes collective punishment.

The captain of the Women’s Boat to Gaza was a woman from Hobart, Madeleine Habib.  Speaking on her involvement in the ship to Gaza, Ms Habib said: “Once you’ve been there and you understand the suffering and humiliation and the slow wasting away of a culture and of the people, it’s only then that you realise it’s something we need to stand together to stop.”

We call on Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to condemn Israel’s policies of occupation and to support steps to lifting the blockade on Gaza in recognising the principles of Palestinian self-determination.  We also call for measures to be taken to ensure that all parties adhere to ceasefire conditions and that the easing of the blockade on Gaza is met with the cessation of rockets fired into Israel.  There can be no peaceful solution while Israel and Egypt maintain their blockades leading to the siege of Gaza which is producing unlivable conditions for Palestinians in Gaza.

This statement was issued by the AJDS Executive Committee October 17, 2016


B’tselem and Peace Now (US) adress the UN: The Settlements

i Oct 17th 2016

‘Illegal Israeli Settlements are obstacles to peace and the Two-State Solution’, heard members of the UN Security Council. In a powerful condemnation of Israel’s Settlement expansion policy, Lara Friedman of Peace Now (US), and B’tselem‘s executive director, Hagai El-Ad, addressed the UN last week in a session organized by The Permanent Missions of Malaysia, Egypt, Senegal, Angola, and Venezuela.

The session was filmed and transcribed. Friedman starts her talk at about 7 minutes in, and El-Ad follows:

The Settlements are obstacles to peace, claim B'tselem and Peace Now (US).

Hagai El-Ad: “Israel has systematically legalized human rights violations in the occupied territories through the establishment of permanent settlements, punitive home demolitions, a biased building and planning mechanism, taking over Palestinian land and much, much more. Israel’s military law enforcement system – if one can call it that – routinely whitewashes hundreds of cases in which Palestinians were killed or abused.”

Watch the full UN webcadst

Lara Friedman stated:

We have all also heard Israeli government spokespeople claim that Israel is not establishing new settlements or expanding settlements beyond their current areas. But hidden behind that claim is the fact that just between 2009 and 2015, under Netanyahu, the government of Israel authorized or worked to give legal authorization to at least 26[xi] [xii] settlement sites established by settlers in contravention of Israeli law – often referred to as illegal outposts. These sites are thus being transformed into new official settlements, or into new and often remote “neighborhoods” of existing settlements, dramatically expanding the footprint of those settlements.

Read the full transcript of Lara Friedman’s speech: http://peacenow.org/entry.php?id=20994#.WAMEkXry2T_

Hagai El-Ad’s speech was equally important:

What does it mean, in practical terms, to spend 49 years, a lifetime, under military rule? When violence breaks out, or when particular incidents attract global attention, you get a glimpse into certain aspects of life under occupation. But what about the rest of the time? What about the many “ordinary” days of a 17,898-day-long occupation, which is still going strong? Living under military rule mostly means invisible, bureaucratic, daily, violence. It means living under an endless permit regime, which controls Palestinian life from cradle to grave: Israel controls the population registry; Israel controls work permits; Israel controls who can travel abroad – and who cannot; Israel controls who can visit from abroad – and who cannot; in some villages, Israel maintains lists of who can visit the village, or who is allowed to farm which fields. Permits can sometimes be denied; permits must always be renewed. Thus with every breath they take, Palestinians breathe in occupation. Make a wrong move, and you can lose your freedom of movement, your livelihood, or even the opportunity to marry and build a family with your beloved.

Read Hagai El-Ad’s full speech: http://www.btselem.org/se…/20161014_security_council_address.


“Plant Peace, Harvest Justice” / The Centre for Jewish Nonviolence

i Jul 21st 2016

The following is taken from the campaign page of the Centre for Jewish Nonviolence:

This summer, Jews from around the world are working with Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activists to end the occupation and build a just future for all.

We’re invited to stand in solidarity with Palestinians living under daily threat of displacement.

Help us stand up to injustice with courage, so that we can plant hope for a future grounded in dignity and justice.

We need your support to:

  • Purchase 5,000 seedlings to plant in threatened Palestinian communities
  • Invest in 10 wheelbarrows, 20 shovels & 50 pairs of work gloves for use in Hebron & the South Hebron Hills
  • Secure the long-term sustainability of this grassroots, nonviolent movement

We’re thrilled to announce that we have a matching grant of $1,000! During the first week of this fundraising campaign every dollar raised up to $1,000 will be matched by our Israeli partners in All That’s Left.

“The situation in Susiya is only one of many such situations in Area C of the West Bank. Several villages near ours have pending demolition orders as well. If Susiya is destroyed and its residents expelled, it will serve as a precedent for further demolitions and expulsions through the South Hebron Hills and Area C of the West Bank. This must not be allowed to happen.”

Nassar Nawaja, New York Times, ‘Israel, Don’t Level My Village’ 

For years, Jews around the world have commemorated significant life events such as bar and bat mitzvahs or weddings by giving money to plant trees in Israel. The planting of a tree symbolizes life, growth, hope and steadfastness. This summer, the Center for Jewish Nonviolence is carrying these values into the fight against the injustices of Israeli occupation. Alongside our Palestinian partners we will be planting Za’atar herbs and helping to build infrastructure for future agricultural projects in communities that are struggling under Israel’s military occupation.

Agriculture is the economic life-blood of these communities, but Israeli policy and settler violence and intimidation prevent and suppress efforts made by community members to plant and harvest their fields.

Planting is not just about securing economic livelihood, it is also an important form of resistance to the Occupation. Our partners in the South Hebron Hills endure unending threats ofdisplacement as a direct result of Israeli governmental policy which has often resulted in home demolitions (for more information see Ma’an, Haaretz or +972mag). Planting trees and working the land demonstrate rootedness (Sumud) and a firm stand against the occupation, solidifying these communities’ ongoing presence on their lands.

* Donations to the Center for Jewish Nonviolence are tax-deductible under US law.

The Center for Jewish Nonviolence is a fiscally sponsored project of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call For Human Rights.

*All handicrafts the CJNV offers at various Donation Levels come from socially-conscious  Palestinian artisans and crafts-makers, such as the Women in Hebron embroidery cooperative.

Recent Media:

The young Jewish campaigners calling time on the Israeli occupation of Palestine — Oriel Eisner

Beinart and Rosen sign up for Occupation Is Not Our Judaism— Ilana Sumka

Top Ten Reasons to Join the Center for Jewish Nonviolence this Summer — Erez Bleicher

Who are we?

The Center for Jewish Nonviolence organizes international Jewish support for Palestinian & Israeli nonviolent resistance activists working to end the unjust occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Our campaign this summer, Occupation Is Not Our Judaism, will bring Jews from around the world to engage in direct action and nonviolent opposition to the occupation. We will spend 10 days with our partners in Hebron and the South Hebron Hills engaging in solidarity activism, standing with Palestinians being evicted from their homes and pushed off their land. As Jews from across the anti-occupation spectrum, we say to our own communities, to the Israeli government, and to the world that the occupation must not continue.

Will you help us stand in solidarity with the people of Hebron & the South Hebron Hills?

Answer the call and support this growing movement by contributing to our campaign.

Help us build a more just future for Palestinians, and for all the people who live between the River and the Sea.

Please give generously and Share this campaign with your networks!

Get to know the Center for Jewish Nonviolence’s Leadership team here

Get more information and check out these Top 10 reasons to support the movement.

Donate to Plant Peace, Harvest Justice


“What I saw last Friday in Hebron”

i Jul 21st 2016

By Peter Beinart. Published in Haaretz 19/7/16.

Peace activists clean around Palestinian houses as Israeli army soldiers stand guard in Tal Rumaida, Hebron, West Bank, July 15, 2016. Credit: Mussa Qawasma, Reuters. Found here.

Jawad Abu Aisha owns a cluttered yard in H2, the sector of Hebron that falls under direct Israeli control. He’d like to turn it into a cinema. Many local Palestinians — lacking recreational opportunities — would like to help him. But Abu Aisha says that Jewish settlers, and the Israeli military, prevent him from developing the space. In a democracy, if your neighbors impede construction on your property, you can appeal to local authorities. But for Palestinians in Hebron, Israel is not a democracy. They can’t vote for its government. They live under military law. So when settlers disrupt Palestinian construction on privately owned Palestinian land — as part of their effort to make Palestinian life in H2 so unbearable that Palestinians leave — the army and police do their bidding. The army and police, after all, are accountable to Israeli citizens. And in Hebron, as throughout the West Bank, Jewish settlers are citizens. Palestinians are subjects.
I saw this firsthand last Friday when I left a family vacation in Israel to join 52 Jewish activists, mostly from the Diaspora, on a trip to Hebron organized by the Center for Jewish Nonviolence and the anti-occupation collective, All That’s Left. We came at the request of a group called Youth Against Settlements. It’s burly, charismatic leader, a student of Gandhi and Martin Luther King named Issa Amro, asked Diaspora Jews to come and help clear Abu Aisha’s yard. He didn’t need American Jewish muscle. He needed American Jewish privilege, the privilege that gives American Jews protection from the Israeli state. Issa hoped that privilege would buy his group a few hours of uninterrupted yard work. He also hoped it would bring them publicity.
Think of Issa as a Palestinian Robert Moses. By 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had been working for years to register African Americans in Mississippi to vote. But local whites brutalized them, often aided by the police. So Moses recruited northern white kids to come south for “Freedom Summer.” He hoped the media would follow, and that once white Americans saw segregation’s true face, they’d push their politicians to support civil rights. Among the more than 1,000 activists who heeded Moses’ call were Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, college students from New York whose murder, alongside African American James Chaney, has become American Jewish legend.
I’ll never know what it felt like to be in Mississippi in 1964. But last Friday, watching dozens of twenty-something American Jewish kids (and a few older activists) haul junk in Abu Aisha’s yard in Hebron, I felt an unusual sensation: hope.
I felt hope because American Jewish Millennials are different. My generation, which came of age in the 1990s, didn’t build a single organization that challenged the American Jewish establishment on Israel. That’s partly because, during the Oslo era, we thought American, Israeli and Palestinian leaders would create a two-state solution on their own. But it’s also because the 1990s were a lost decade for the American activist left, an “ice age,” in Cornel West’s words.
That ice age is now clearly over. From Occupy to Black Lives Matter to the immigrant “dreamers” whose protests forced U.S. President Barack Obama to change his policies on deportation, Millennials have brought street activism back to life. What happened last Friday in Hebron is part of that. Over the last few years, young American Jews have created three new organizations: Open Hillel, which challenges Hillel’s limitations on who can speak about Israel in Jewish spaces on campus, If Not Now, which protests American Jewish complicity with the occupation, and the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, which organizes peaceful resistance to it. Many of the young activists I met in Hebron were products of these groups and talking to them, I realized how formidable a challenge they’re likely to pose to the American Jewish establishment in the years to come.
They’re formidable because these kids don’t come from the margins of the American Jewish community. They come from its bosom. In Hebron, I met the son of a cantor, an alumna of the Orthodox youth movement Bnei Akiva, an Orthodox young woman who studied in a yeshiva not far where we were protesting, a Jewish day school graduate whose mother was connected to the yeshiva with Baruch Goldstein, a former activist in the century-old Zionist youth group Young Judaea, several former members of the socialist Zionist youth group Hashomer Hatzair, a young woman who grew up in Chabad, a young woman who taught Hebrew school at Chabad, a young woman whose right-wing Moroccan-Israeli parents immigrated to California, and a young man who until a few months ago worked at a prominent establishment American Jewish organization, until he couldn’t live with himself anymore.
The young people I met are also formidable because they’re learning things that American Jewish leaders don’t know. The dirty little secret of the American Jewish establishment is that its officials know little about Palestinian life under Israeli control. That’s by design. Mainstream American Jewish officials talk incessantly about Palestinians, but they rarely talk to them, in large measure because Hillel-style guidelines inhibit their interaction with people who cross their ideological red lines. Most American Jewish leaders have never met nonviolent Palestinian activists like Issa Amro. Nor have they personally experienced life under Israeli military law. The Jewish kids in Hebron have. On Friday, they got a tiny taste when the Israeli army declared Abu Aisha’s backyard a closed military zone, and then, after some activists retreated to Amro’s house, the army declared that a closed military zone too.
Finally, the young activists I met are formidable because they’re brave. Several said they hadn’t told their parents what they were doing because they’d be disowned. The officials who populate establishment American Jewish organizations are, in large measure, careerists. I’ve lost count of the number of staffers at mainstream Jewish groups who have told me they privately disagree with their organization’s stance on Israel. There are true believers on the American Jewish right, especially from the Orthodox world. But, today, the American Jewish establishment is composed of many people who know in their gut that they’re defending the indefensible. In a confrontation between them and the young activists I met on Friday, I’d bet on the latter.
To be clear, I don’t think protests like last Friday’s will have a direct impact on Israelis. The protests are too American. It’s hard to imagine Israelis interspersing religious songs like “Kol ha’olam kulo, gesher tzar me’od” (“All the world is a very narrow bridge,” from Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav) with civil rights anthems like “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” But the protests aren’t meant to change Israeli opinion. They’re meant to change American Jewish opinion, which could in turn change American government policy. And curiously, it was the very Americanism of the protest that made it so Jewish.
Standing in Abu Aisha’s yard, the American-Israeli activist Moriel Rothman-Zecher explained it this way. The Israeli left, he argued, contains many people alienated by Judaism. They’re alienated because they identify Judaism with Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, which controls subjects like marriage, burial and divorce, and with right-wing hyper-nationalists like Naftali Bennett. By contrast, American Jews, who live in a country where Judaism is not intertwined with the state, lack that hostility. As a result, they are more likely to see their activism as an outgrowth of their Jewish identity rather than as an attempt to overcome it.
That was certainly the case last Friday. The activists I met weren’t speaking, and singing, about Judaism because they thought it was savvy public relations. They were doing so because Judaism is the language of their lives. At one point during the day, I heard several heatedly discussing whether the Talmud has anything meaningful to say about how to administer a Jewish state. At another, an activist told me about his experience studying Chayei Sarah, the Torah portion that describes Abraham’s burial of Sarah in Hebron.
Over the course of my life, I can remember several moments when contemporary events made me experience Jewish texts or tunes in a new way. I’ll never forget sitting in shul on the Shabbat after 9/11 and hearing the shaliach tzibbur sing Adon Olam to the tune of America the Beautiful. After last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris, I heard it sung to the tune of La Marseillaise. And I’ll never forget last Friday afternoon, when we stood outside the settlement that housed the prison where Rothman-Zecher and five other activists had been detained, and welcomed Shabbat by singing Shalom Aleichem and Lecha Dodi. The soldiers and settlers standing in front of us looked at us like we were mad. The Palestinians standing behind us looked confused too, but a Palestinian boy, smiling broadly, nonetheless ran over to us with cups of water.
Why were we performing Kabbalat Shabbat? I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it was partly to remind myself of who I am. I had spent the day working alongside Palestinians and being protected by them. I had spent the day fearing Jewish soldiers and police. It was a jarring experience. The normal order of things, as I had learned them since childhood, had been turned upside down. Welcoming Shabbat was a way of centering myself. It was a reminder that no matter how many people tell me I hate Judaism, the Jewish people and the Jewish state — no matter how many people tell me I hate myself — I know who I am. I know when I’m living in truth. And nothing feels more Jewish than that.
I’m not an activist by nature. I couldn’t organize a protest to save my life. But leaving Hebron last Friday, I vowed to come back next year, for the fiftieth anniversary of Israel’s takeover of the West Bank. Instead of 50 Jews, I hope we bring 500. I hope you’re one of them.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said that when he marched for civil rights in Selma, Alabama, he was “praying with his feet.” I now know what he meant. And I know that, to be the Jew I want to be, I must pray that way again.

Originally published in Haaretz