BOYCOTT FROM WITHIN
Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta: I met Kobi Snitz back in 2008 when a mutual friend basically said he was going to be in town, he was with "Anarchists Against the Wall" and did anyone want to meet him. And I jumped at the opportunity to interview him for my book which there are copies out there: "Refusing to Be Enemies". And we've been in touch on and off since.
He is one of my informants on how things are progressing particularly with the struggle against the wall and the confiscation of Palestinian land for settlements, and the participation of Israelis along side with Palestinians in that struggle which you are going to hear more about.
So Kobi is also with a group called "Boycott From Within", and this is something you don't hear much about. It is Israelis, I guess .Is it all Jewish Israelis? Israelis. Israeli citizens who from inside Israel are supporting the Palestinians' call for boycott divestment sanctions.
Kobi Snitz: I want to start with the current negotiations you can hear a lot about. You might wonder what they are all about. Well, I think the most common answer you can hear in Israeli press and which is quite openly discussed is that the negotiations are about nothing. Here is how Chemi Shalev, "Haretz" reporter described that this last Friday. "At least some of the discussion makers have returned to the realization that pointless negotiations are also preferable to alternatives and to the unknown. Their importance is in their mere existence. It is to politically prevent dismantling the coalition and also diplomatically to prevent the isolation of Israel." You hear this and you'll hear it again, that the point of the negotiations has nothing to do with reaching an agreement. It is merely to buy more time and to perpetuate the current situation which allows for further expansion of Israeli tax on the ground. Again, the discussion is purely about who is going to be left blamed by the Americans for the end of the negotiations.
This translates into how much license Israel is going to be given by the Americans, the crucial sponsor of Israeli policies. How much license is Israel going to get to continue the current policies. The best information that I was able to find in the current negotiations is that one of the key issues is the presence of the I.D.F on the Eastern border of a possible Palestinian state- in the Jordan Valley. This is something that wasn't demanded in the Olmert proposal in 2008. So, the Israeli position since 2008 at this point has become more radical and more demands are being made of Palestinians at this stage of the negotiations. This is the most meaningful indication of what sort of pressure is actually applied to Israel.
And the result of this lack of pressure is a perpetuation of the current situation. And what it means to Palestinians is a situation as up today which is considered a relatively peaceful one. There isn't an official war going on, Gaza is not being bombed, and, as far as Israel is concerned, this is a peaceful situation. This peaceful situation means that the following kinds of incidents are a regular occurrence.
Take an example from a few weeks ago, the shooting of a 14 year old Yusuf Shwarme in South Hebron Hills. He and some of his friends were crossing over the separation barrier that has been built on their land to pick some edible plants. They were shot from an ambush by I.D.F forces and Yusuf bled to death on the spot. You might wonder what are going to be the ramifications, which is a more indicative point. Let's grant that soldiers might have been afraid, that they might have misinterpreted the situation. If we grant all of these things and say that the shooting was not completely deliberate, the crucial question is: What happens in the aftermath? An indication of that is easy to find in earlier cases. In Jan 15. 2003, 16 year old Samir Awad was shot also from an ambush in Budrus. A very similar situation. Awad and other young men from Budrus demonstrated at the wall. They might have crossed it, or damaged it. They were not threatening anyone. There is no claim that they were. Such as in the previous case, he was also shot to death. Reports have it that he was shot twice. After being injured and trying to escape, he was shot again at close range. Over a year later the Army Attorney General has not indicted any of the shooters or even announced that they are going to be indicted, or that they are going to drop the case. You'd think that a yea would be enough to form an indictment. The clear meaning of this is that there is not going to be an indictment and the Army Attorney General doesn't even bother to make the announcement to this affect, and they are just waving it out. In fact, an Israeli organization that has been kept very busy doing exactly just these things.
"Yesh Din" whose job it is to harass the military prosecutor and the police into just following up these cases, investigating the case, filing charges, prosecuting the shooters etc. It's a full time occupation for a very busy organization. There are other cases here, but the standard procedure is that for Palestinians' shooting there is almost never an investigation that leads to an indictment.
Another case. This is in Jan 23. 2013, near El-Arub refugee camp, a young woman 21 year old Lubna El-Hanash was shot while walking by the wall. Again, a year later no indictment and no announcement was made that the case is closed. This case is slightly different. There has, in fact, been an arrest related to this case. It's the arrest of an Israeli activist who during a demonstration in South Hebron Hills asked the officer who shot El-Hanash " How does it feel?" And he was arrested for insulting a public servant. So, it isn't true that the legal system in Israel isn't working. It is working in this case.
Lastly, another indicative case is that of Arafat Jaradat. He died in custody. This is February 2013. A young man died in custody. The Israeli pathologist, now disgraced, the Israeli pathologist Yehuda Hiss led the pathological exam and concluded that the death was caused from natural causes. A young man died in custody and the autopsy declares that it is a natural cause. So, no investigation follows. However, the Association for Stopping Torture in Israel invited an independent forensic pathologist to examine the case, and she determined that he suffered torture and that the torture led to his death in the Megido Prison.
Again, this is the state of affairs not in the case of emergency. This is a peaceful period in Israel. These things occur regularly and the lack of ramification, prosecution or compatibility is more indicative than anything. It indicates a permanent policy and one that needs to be opposed systematically. To turn to the opposition to it, it's broad ranging and it has been a long struggle to this point.
I want to focus on one particular obstacle that is encountered by the opposition and note the association of Israel with the Jewish community in general. It's a well used rhetorical and ideological device, and I think that it should be considered more closely, especially now that it is beginning to be undermined and noticed by the Israeli government and the movement that supports it.
Well, the most clear expression of this identification is the principle that Israel is the state of the Jewish People, not just the Jewish people who live in it but the Jewish people everywhere. Now, the first implication is the one for Palestinians. The Palestinian refugees who are not allowed to come back, the Palestinian citizens who are systematically discriminated against and the Palestinians living under occupation who aren't even citizens. The implication to them is clear. It's not their state and it's a State that is not interested in their welfare, and in fact, is interested in the perpetuation of their state as refugees and a stateless people.
But there is another implication to this position and that is one which instrumentalizes the Jewish community and puts the needs of the state in opposition to the needs of the Jewish community.
Here is how this is described by Natan Sharansky, a human rights' icon, to some, and the Foreign Minister of Diaspora Affairs in Jerusalem. He is speaking about the bombing of the Jewish Centre in Argentina. Actually, just on the way here I heard of a shooting in Kansas City in some Jewish centre. So this is a similar case.
This is how Natan Sharansky describes a situation such as this. The State of Israel was born to be a national home for all the Jewish People. Zionist leaders have always declared that the Jewish State belongs not just to its citizens but to the Jewish people as a whole. For example, Argentinean Jews paid a heavy price for an Israeli decision when in revenge for the elimination of a leader of Hezbollah, that organization blew up the Jewish community centre and murdered hundreds of Jews.
Now, Sharansky, I think, he must think that this thing is a fine thing. He does not mean the bombing. I'm sure he is opposed to the bombing, but he just sees it as it is only right that Jews would be associated with Israel, even if that means that they are considered responsible for actions of Israel in Lebanon. When Israel is fighting Hezbollah, every Jewish Argentinean is fighting Hezbollah, according to Sharansky whether they like it or not. In that he shares the assumption with the people who presumably carried out the attack.
So these are two consequences of this position. One at the expense of Palestinians and also at the expense of the Jewish community everywhere.
Kobi Snitz "SUPPORT FROM WITHIN ISRAEL"
In Israel, the anti Zionist camp is particularly all descendants from Matzpen, and the people who weren't in Matzpen now will say that they were. And one formation that takes shape around the beginning of the first Intifada around 2001, is a group of anarchists first acting without even bothering with the name for the group. It was a loose collection of people that would pick different name for different actions. One week it was "Jews Against Ghettos", and the next week it was "Anarchists Against the Wall". The name "Anarchists Against the Wall" stuck because on that day that that name was picked an Israeli activist was shot in both legs and nearly bled to death. And in the subsequent rush of a wave of media attention, the name stuck and remained with it.
This group had some of its social roots in punk culture and animal rights movements, which, I guess, have their overlap internationally and this is another common feature for the anti-Zionist politics in Israel. Much of it is rooted outside. Much of the anarchists in Israel consists of people who got their political education abroad, including myself, who got it in U.N.C
In that sense, I think, the anarchist movement in Israel is more a continuation of the international movement in Israel than a descendant of the Israeli movement, with the exception of Matzpen connections and some inspiration by Matzpen, and some Matzpen members who are still in their seventies very active.
And the type of work that this anarchist group, that stuck with the name "Anarchists Against the Wall" was involved with, is different from Matzpen, although it shares with it its anti-Bolshevism and its anti-Zionism. It isn't at all an intellectual movement. The effort and the work is done, as much as possible, on the ground. And the work on the ground was to join a Palestinian movement that started to resist around the construction of the separation wall around early 2003.
It was predicted then, and turned out to be true, that there was never any intention to complete this wall. The wall was constructed as an instrument of confiscating more Palestinian land and separating Palestinians from their land.
An indication of this can be seen in a rare case where you can get a test case to see what the political meaning of something is and that's the case of the wall around Jerusalem. In that case, Israel has the opportunity to build a wall, to complete the wall around Jerusalem, cutting off Jerusalem from Maale Adumim, a settlement built to the East of it. And the other option that Israel has is not to close the wall around Jerusalem but leave it open for the future opportunity to extend the wall around Maale Adumim. So, there is a test. If Israel is interested in protecting from terror attack, you would think that you would want to protect Jerusalem the most. It was, after all, attacked the most, and if the first objective of the wall is to protect against attack, you would close down the Eastern gap in the wall around Jerusalem. But if a more important objective is to grab more land, then, you'd leave that open and wait for the opportunity where you get permission from the Americans to do that, presumably after a particular horrendous terror attack. This would be a good time to announce that now we are extending the wall east, or just wait for an American permission to do that some other way So far, the Americans have not allowed this construction, but the wall has not been closed off around Jerusalem as well.
The movement, the Palestinian movement that started to resist this wall had several new features compared to the second Intifadda. First of all, it was based in the village, because that's where the wall was built. More, the people who led the resistance were mostly the ones directly affected by it. Villagers whose own land was being confiscated are the ones who initiated the demonstrations and participated in them.
Another new feature was that it was opened for internationals. Perhaps the new feature was in the international movement that was finally showed up in Palestine to support it. It's hard to say what came first, but it is true that this movement was opened for outsiders. First the international solidarity movement and later on, through them, and I think, in a way, as an extension of them also individual Israelis. And then larger numbers, starting from one, eventually came together to form a group with its own identity.
The strategy for the Israelis is simple. The Palestinians are demonstrating and they initiate the struggle and make the important decisions, such as when and how to resist. The job for Israelis is relatively simple when we are invited to show up.
Although the anarchist group is not an intellectual one, there is, I think, in this respect, an important meaning to the politics of anarchism, and that is the emphasis on power dynamic and the sensitivity to them and to questions of privilege. And working across lines of privilege is something that is emphasized more in the anarchist tradition than in the Leninist tradition or other, to say nothing of the Zionist movement.
Anarchists, I think, are particularly suited to be outsiders joining the movement led by indigenous people. Because we are aware of this power dynamic and, I think, understand better than other political tendencies the role that outsiders should play in such a situation.
I think that this combination has proved that quite successful in the sense that, given the resources that were available, the popular struggle against the wall in the second Intifadda was nothing like the scale of popular resistance in the first Intifadda. In the first Intifadda there could be hundreds of demonstrators on the same day. This movement is nothing on that scale. However, it has proven itself to be very resilient. It has been ten years now of constant attempt by Israel to crush this movement. After all, Israel has managed to crush the popular struggle in the first Intifada in less than ten years, much less than ten years.
This movement, may be is in the form of jiu-jitsu, it's smaller and that makes it harder to crush. But, I also think, the fact that outsiders have finally joined it, also contributes to its resilience. Another, I think, indication of the success of this movement is that in the beginning there was a particular role and a particular need for internationals and Israelis and certain, what used to be, more skilled staff that came with political capital that outsiders would have. Simple things such as giving reports out to the press, video photography, stills photography, contact with diplomats or legal support. The mechanics of politics that are, like many other things, are easier for people with more political capital. This is less and less the case, and I think, is that we are not needed so much anymore. Palestinians shoot their own videos, some of them are nominated for "Oscars", they have their social media and their own reporters and legal support. I think that that's an indication of the help of the movement. If outsiders were needed in the past, that's less so the case now.
On top of this. In addition to just being resilient, it has also managed to gain on the ground. In Budrus the wall was pushed back thanks to the demonstrations of the people of Budrus. In Bil'in and Beit Surif, the wall was pushed back thanks to court decisions. Those court decisions were undoubtedly influenced by the fact that a popular struggle existed and was very well known even in Israel. That's another achievement of this struggle that has been able to become visible, and not the press has made it visible.
The other part of the work, I think, grew out of anti Zionist left in Israel, and the anarchist group had something to do with, was recent work in the BDS movement. In 2009 a group was formed in Israel with the purpose of supporting the Palestinian call for boycott divestment sanctions issued in 2005 by the boycott international community.
Again, the arch of this story is that the Israeli group is becoming less essential for the global movement, and, I think, this is good news. The work that the Israeli group was required to do in the beginning was to help protect groups around the world who were afraid of backlash for their BDS work. They found it necessary to have support from an Israeli group against backlash. That is less and less the case these days. The movement is matured and strong enough that the backlash is no longer seen as a threat to much of it around the world. And, I think, that it's really an opportunity where the solidarity movement has an advantage and it's making progress along these lines. And, I think, it's a good opportunity and it should be followed up on these lines.