Class struggle in Jerusalem
Jews and Arabs protest in Jerusalem. | AP

Founded by the Israeli Communist Party in 1977, Hadash seeks to unite Jews and Arabs along class lines. Its main principles are an end to the Israeli occupation of 1967 and the foundation of a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel; equality for ethnic minorities, and the advancement of women’s and worker’s rights.

Hadash is represented in the Israeli parliament by five Members of Knesset [parliament], who as part of the Joint List coalition form a substantial parliamentary force. In addition, Hadash is active in local government as well as throughout civil society, with branches in many Palestinian towns within Israel and increasingly in Jewish areas. Oren Feld, 28, is the branch secretary of Hadash Jerusalem and a member of the Israeli Communist Party.

Maor Yavetz: Can you introduce yourself please and tell us about your role as branch secretary and a little about the work you do in the Jerusalem branch of Hadash? Also, what is the significance of the joint (Arab-Jewish) struggle to your political work?

Oren Feld: I am the secretary of the Jerusalem district branch of Hadash and have been in the role for a year and a half. During this time, my comrades and I have faced an ongoing political crisis. This consisted of three national elections; an ongoing campaign of militarized police brutality in Isawiya — a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem; record breaking rates of house demolitions, including the destruction of 72 homes in the neighborhood of Wadi Al Hummus (East Jerusalem); forced evictions of Palestinian families in Silwan (East Jerusalem, bordering the Old City); the Covid-19 pandemic; and recently, the largest popular uprising in Israel in almost a decade.

In a so-called “unified Jerusalem” Palestinian Jerusalemites do not receive citizenship by birth. Jerusalemite Palestinians receive a residency permit, which can be taken away if they leave the area of Greater Jerusalem, or by a court order. They can only vote in local municipal elections but cannot be elected as this right is reserved for citizens.

As the policies affecting them are often decided at a national level, they have no control over them and therefore boycott local elections, as a means of defying Israeli rule in occupied East Jerusalem.

We as Hadash see East Jerusalem as an occupied territory (since 1967 and annexed in 1980). While our movement as a whole views the joint struggle as one which is based on citizenship – aspiring for equality and democratic participation for all citizens – the unique political situation in our city means that our joint struggle between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem is different.

As our organization is legally based in Israel, we are aware that we are representing the occupation whether we like it or not, and therefore refrain from official political activity in East Jerusalem and instead focus on solidarity. In West Jerusalem (which is predominantly Jewish), our work aims to raise class consciousness, through a range of social campaigns. For example, we are fighting against the outsourcing of jobs and the privatization of services, both in the municipality, as well as in academic institutions.

We do this alongside our Palestinian comrades who are Hebrew University students, who originate from the Palestinian towns of the Galilee, who are Israeli citizens. We also co-operate with our Palestinian comrades from the villages west of Jerusalem who are also Israeli citizens, such as the village of Abu Ghosh.

This has been the source of our strength in the last century. The joint struggle has existed in Jerusalem for nearly 100 years when our youth movement (YCLI – YCL Britain’s fraternal organization) was first established in the city. It experienced the oppression of the British occupation, which did not allow print shops to print leaflets in both Hebrew and Arabic, knowing its revolutionary power even back then.

Already in those days, the comrades predicted what we experience today and how the reactionary powers will only be defeated by the joint struggle of the working class – Jews and Arabs alike.

In Jerusalem, the united front that is Hadash was born in 1977. It unified the Communist Party with non-communist democratic organizations, as well as with the Israeli Black Panthers movement – who emerged from the impoverished neighborhoods of Jewish West Jerusalem.

Today we carry the same revolutionary ideas, which allows us to stay strong and united, even through such difficult times, until we will bring a just peace to this city and land.

MY: The recent protests have been drawing thousands of people, many of whom vary greatly in political opinion and affiliation – including those who are opposed to the annexation and occupation. Can you tell us more about this and where does Hadash fit into it?

OF: I think that in order to answer that question, it’s important to understand the current political movement and how it came to be.

Throughout the last four years, anti-corruption protests have been taking place, originally initiated by a non-partisan movement consisting mostly of older people.

The reason it erupted into what we now recognize as a popular uprising was because of the attempts on the part of Jerusalem municipality and the district police to shut the protests down. The protesters then began a campaign which was called “the siege of Balfour” and established a permanent protest — day and night — outside the Prime Minister’s state residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. In turn, the authorities brutally attacked a peaceful sit-in protest twice, leaving many injured.

As well as the sit-in protests, weekly demonstrations took place which gradually drew greater crowds. During one of these demonstrations, the police arrested key figures of the protest, in what have been widely recognized as politically motivated arrests.

This type of state repression is considered unprecedented, as far as sections of the Israeli population living within the 1948 borders are concerned. It naturally caused a shockwave among the Israeli public and this led to even greater numbers of people taking to the streets.

As if the crackdown on the protests and political repression were not enough, public anger reached a boiling point when the corrupt “unity” government between Netanyahu and Gantz exploited the Covid-19 crisis for their own profit and political gain.

Tax reductions were introduced specifically aimed at Netanyahu’s own property, 36 new ministerial positions were created to serve those closest to power and bailouts were being handed to the super-rich.

The recent wave of mass protests began to grow as the second wave of Covid-19 hit the country, itself caused by government inaction. In response to the second wave, the government passed the Authorization Act, which has been widely referred to in the media as the “great corona law.”

This is an authoritarian law that extends the government’s – and therefore the PM’s – ability to pass regulations without parliamentary scrutiny. The parliament can only challenge these regulations after they have already been passed.

The combination of draconian government actions and political repression of protests signifies to many a rise of a new authoritarian regime led by Netanyahu, which will see him weakening the judicial system and the parliament in order to avoid trial (he is charged with multiple accounts of corruption).

As Hadash, it was and remains difficult for us to join in with these protests, which are predominantly Zionist. Political repression is nothing new to us, but rather something we have witnessed and experienced throughout our movement’s existence.

What many Israelis saw as “unprecedented actions,” such as political arrests, is in fact a well-established strategy of the 53-year-long occupation regime. Consider for example the mass incarceration of Palestinians, or the routine arrests of left political activists in non-violent protests. During Netanyahu’s reign, he has vilified the left and labeled them traitors, which led many to fear being politically active and associated with the left.

We are a movement intent on appealing to the masses and so rather than ignore these growing protests, we arrived carrying our banner which read “democracy for all” in both Hebrew and Arabic. This was the first bilingual banner at the protests.

To begin with, our presence consisted of branch members as well as unaffiliated individuals, however, this soon grew to hundreds of demonstrators unified under our banner. Together, we call for equal democratic rights for everyone under Israeli rule; we call for a just peace, an end to the occupation, and for climate justice.

This method enabled many to find themselves in those protests and join the struggle, changing the existing Zionist narrative of “save democracy,” to the one which argues for the establishment of a true democracy for everyone.

This is the only way in which we will prevent further government corruption, which is fueled by those who profit from the occupation and its centers of power. We find our role as Hadash in Jerusalem to be about raising the voice of the class struggle, which is still not present enough in the protests, but we’re working on it.

Read the full interview in the YCL of Britain’s magazine Challengewww.challenge-magazine.org.

Morning Star


CONTRIBUTOR

Maor Yavetz
Maor Yavetz

Maor Yavetz grew up in Jerusalem and now resides in Liverpool. He is a member of the Communist Party of Britain and is active in his local branch of ACORN, the union for housing and community.

Oren Feld
Oren Feld

Oren Feld is the branch secretary of Hadash Jerusalem and a member of the Israeli Communist Party.

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