RAMALLAH, January 4 (JMCC) - A new alliance is emerging between a small but growing number of Israeli leftists and Palestinians engaging in unarmed mass-protest action. This is highlighted with the actions following the death of Palestinian protestor Jawaher Abu Rahmah on Jan. 1, who died reportedly from the fumes of tear gas cannisters fired by Israeli troops at a protest in the West Bank
village of Bilin
.Scores of Israeli activists had actually joined the Dec. 31 demonstration, and they challenged the IDF claim that tear gas was fired only after stones were thrown by protesters. The news that Abu Rahmah had died brought hundreds of Israeli Jews to a protest in Tel Aviv on the night of Jan. 1 outside Israel's Defense Ministry, where a handful were arrested. More were held later by the police after 25 protesters converged on the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Israel and allegedly threw some of the U.S.-made tear-gas canisters collected in Bil'in onto his lawn.
The self-described leftists and anarchists engaged in direct action in concert with unarmed Palestinian protests are a negligible presence on an Israeli political spectrum whose median has moved steadily to the right over the past decade. But their actions may be directed less at the Israeli political mainstream than at international civil society. The Israeli protesters often use English rather than Hebrew in placards and slogans, and explicitly connect Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories with South Africa's apartheid system. That's intended as a signal to international civil society, which helped end the apartheid regime through its support for boycotts and economic sanctions in the 1980s.
Joseph Dana, an Israeli activist and the media coordinator for the Palestinian Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, says these Israeli leftists are seeking to use the privileged access their voice carries in North America and Europe to add power to the voice of the Palestinians they struggle alongside, sidestepping engagement with [an Israeli] society that is unwilling to listen.
The growing assertiveness of Israel's leftists has the authorities worried. A number have reported being questioned by the Jewish department of Israel's Shin Bet security services. And the Knesset is considering legislation, likely to pass, that would make it a criminal offense for Israelis to call for international sanctions or boycotts of their state. That may be because the symbolic weight of leftist protest in Israel is potentially far greater than its numbers. The image of Israeli police arresting Jewish Israelis dissenting from policies that the state insists are essential for security undermines government p.r. efforts to portray foreign criticism as part of an anti-Semitic campaign to delegitimize Israel.
more at Time magazine…