Jewish and Arab Israelis stand together for peace
Standing Together

Alon-Lee Green, is co-founder and national director of Standing Together, a grassroots movement uniting Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel. Standing Together is “guided by the principles of peace, equality, and social justice” and recognizes “the interconnections of the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories, the growing social and economic disparities within Israeli society, and the attacks by the government on democratic freedoms” and on the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel. “We cannot solve one of these problems without solving the other.”

Most Standing Together members support the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Alon-Lee told the Nation, “I believe that the safest thing is a sovereign Palestinian state next to Israel.” But, that does not mean he is satisfied with the slogan, ‘Two States for Two Peoples.’ “That mantra does not guarantee full equality for all peoples within Israel. We have to stress that goal as well.”

People’s World expresses its gratitude to Aliza Becker for facilitating the following interview with Green, April 28 in Tel Aviv. Becker is curator of the American-Jewish Peace Archive.

AB: The Labor Party took a beating in the recent Israeli elections. Is it dead?

No, not yet. They suffered damage from the new center-left-right Blue and White party headed by Benny Gantz. But they are still alive. They are based in the kibbutz communities and still have a large membership. But they are no longer relevant as a ruling party.

AB: Is BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) an appropriate response to Israel’s policies?

I think what the BDS movement fails to understand is that there is a difference between the Israeli people and Israeli government. There is an Israeli society and we also hold interests against our government. The government is not representing what we need. Israeli society is full of communities, and people with fears, hopes, aspirations, desires, and interests. And if we understand and acknowledge there is a society in Israel, we also acknowledge we need to encourage the society to change the government in Israel.

The Israeli military occupation over the Palestinian people will not end unless the Israeli society, the citizens of Israel, end it. That’s the only way. Pressure from outside will never work. It will not work because there is no one to pressure Israel. If you look at Eastern Europe you will see the best friends of Netanyahu are rising to power. If you look at the U.S. you will see Trump is in power. If you look in South America you will see Bolsonaro (is in power in Brazil). If you look at Russia you will see a good friend of Netanyahu.

So, who will boycott Israel? Who will put this pressure? The only way to end the occupation is to win the Israeli society and that’s the best strategy we have.

AB: What can democrats, socialists, and anti-occupation activists around the world do to help?

They should empower and tell the success stories about the forces working against the occupation, bigotry, racism, and separatism in Israel. And Israel is not an apartheid state yet. We are allowed to operate in Israel and to resist. We are not yet, and I hope we don’t get there, in a place where it is illegal to resist in Israel.

It’s very different in the West Bank and occupied territories and in the Gaza strip. There the few democratic freedoms we have as Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs, are being taken away. You can find yourself sitting in jail in the occupied territories without being sentenced because Israel has the power to do so. The army has the power just to invade your home and arrest you in the middle of the night without telling you why.

But telling the fact there is resistance in Israel, resistance in Palestine, supporting and encouraging those forces, telling those stories and how people from abroad can support them, I think is much more effective.

You should also work to put pressure on your government not to support the occupation. Because many governments, even though they say they support a two-state solution, actively support the occupation. When the U.S. government is giving a green light to Israel to do whatever, it’s actually interfering with our work here in Israel against the occupation.

AB: What do you think of the conflation of anti-Zionist or anti-Israel and anti-Semitism? If Israel is now defined as a state of the Jewish people does that not invite criticism of Jewish people as Jewish people? What does Israel expect from this?

I think it’s one of the biggest successes of Prime Minister Netanyahu and most effective strategies of the Israeli government to identify any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. It’s very effective because people are sensitive to anti-Semitism and remember the terrible things that have happened to the Jewish people in history. It’s completely wrong. It’s also making anti-Semitism cheaper in many ways.

I think this is also where the BDS movement is meeting the right-wing government of Israel because they are doing the same. (The boycott movement is) unifying the Israeli people, the Jewish people, with its government. They are not differentiating between us and our government. What they are saying in many ways is that all Jews in Israel are part of a terrible majority that is oppressing. This is not true. Not all Jews are right-wingers. Not all Jews are occupiers. Not all Jews support the occupation. We have a different interest than our government.

AB: What role is there for the Jewish community outside of Israel who dislike the direction Israel is going in?

I think a very good example is what If Not Now and New Israel Fund are doing. They are creating a progressive political space inside the Jewish community in the United States and around the world. They are saying, “we do not automatically support whatever the Israeli government is doing. We are a thinking people and community. We understand the Israel people have different interests than the government. There is diversity among the Jewish community. We don’t support the occupation. You can’t wave us as a card of automatic support for the occupation just because we are Jewish people in North America.”

AB: Is there a role for the United Nations?

I am not a big fan of outside pressure. I don’t believe it’s the most effective tool, as I said before. We are relying on Israeli society to change the reality in Israel. The occupation is part of the reality and it’s on us to change it. Sometimes people give you the example of apartheid in South Africa and say it was ended only because of the boycott and outside pressure. It’s a terrible mistake to forget such people as Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu or the progressive, courageous forces inside South African society that fought against apartheid. And that’s our role to struggle against the occupation from within our society.

AB: What will it take for Israelis to make the connection between the unraveling social structure at home within the 1967 borders and the enormous resources the state pours into the occupation?

This is what we are trying to show. (Israelis) are not benefiting from the occupation. It is not moral, which is something we say. But this is not very convincing. It is also not in our interest to allocate funds to isolated settlements or that only when you go to the big settlements can you find social housing, where you can live in a much more comfortable and economical way. It is not in our interest to see our funds going to buy new submarines, tanks, and airplanes. Instead we should divert these funds to social causes for everyone in Israel.

Sometimes people think moral politics can change the reality, where in truth only self-interest politics can change society. (People must) understand it’s influencing our lives and we don’t have an interest in maintaining the occupation. That is what will work eventually.


CONTRIBUTOR

People’s World
People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.

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