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The crackdown on Israeli dissidents

It is not sensible to have any hope that the Israeli public will ever support ending the occupation, let alone support equal rights for Arabs, or return of Palestinians refugees. All the polling data says as much.

During the 2014 Israeli war against the civilian population of Gaza more than 90 percent of Israeli Jews supported the war. That assault claimed the lives of more than 2,200 Palestinians, including over 500 children.

In 2012, one infamous poll showed that most Israelis support the systemic structural racism of the state, and in fact want it to go further.

Almost half of Israeli Jews wanted Palestinian citizens of Israel (who in reality are already not equal citizens in law and in practice) to be stripped of their citizenship. Some 58 percent supported use of the term “apartheid” applied to Israel – and not disapprovingly. More than 40 percent wanted to see separate housing and classes for Jews and Arabs.

But even in the most oppressive settler-colonial societies, there are some brave individuals that go against the tide of racism. Here my focus is not the Palestinian citizens of Israel. For although they make up a minority (some 20 percent) of Israeli citizens, they are in fact part of a majority: the Palestinian people, who make up just over half of the population between the Jordan river and Mediterranean sea (and there would be a far clearer Palestinian majority if Israel had not violently gerrymandered the situation by expelling more than 750,000 in 1948).

My focus for this article is on those minority of Israelis who do actively support Palestinian rights, often engaging in direct action to join the struggle against occupation and for equality. Every oppressive regime has its dissidents, and Israel is no exception.

As in South Africa, where a small minority of whites joined the struggle against apartheid (even joining the ANC and the Communist Party) some Israeli Jews do join the struggle against Israeli apartheid. And they too can be forced to play a heavy price. Granted, they are still ultimately protected by the unasked-for privileges foisted on them by the Zionist state, which systematically grants rights to Jews from all over the world even while denying them to the native population.

Last month Israeli police arrested Ezra Nawi and Guy Butavia on a transparently false basis. The two were clearly targeted because they belong to Ta’ayush, a human rights group which acts on the ground in the West Bank hoping to protect local populations against the worst violence of Israeli settlers.

These two Jewish Israelis were arrested at the behest of Ad Kan, a settlers organization which infiltrated Ta’ayush with two spies who then invented a hoax “land deal.” They falsely claimed the family land of Nasser Nawaja, a Palestinian field worker for the human rights group B’Tselem would be sold to settlers (which would be a crime under Palestinian Authority law).

Video footage, melodramatically splashed all over a Panorama-style “investigative” TV show in Israel, claimed to showed Nawi responding to the “deal” with claims that the land dealer would be arrested, tortured and executed by the Palestinian Authority.

But Nawi knew Nasser and therefore knew the sale would be fraudulent. Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has had a moritorium on the death penalty since 2005. Although there was no land deal, Israel decided to arrest Nawi anyway. He has since been released on bail, but authorities are trying to bar him from the West Bank.

Nawaja himself was also arrested by Israeli police for a week, which exposes the concern authorities claimed to have for the (invented) land dealer as the blatant fiction that it was.

The crackdown against dissent in Israel has now also extended to the world of online media. Towards the start of February, a host of left-wing Israeli dissidents reported that the military censor had decreed that they will now have to submit their blog and social media postings to the censor for pre-approval. The censor already applies to Israeli print and broadcast media.

One of these dissidents was Yossi Gurvitz, a blogger writing in Hebrew and English, who is often critical of Israel and Zionism, the official state ideology. There were about 30 others; none of them seem to have been right wing, or pro-settler bloggers. No surprises there.

The pressure is such in Israel these days, that many dissidents are finding it hard to carry on and remain. Many are now leaving Israel. Ronnie Barkan, an activist with Anarchists Against the Wall, and a vocal campaigner for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign now lives in Italy.

He has been questioned by the Shin Bet (Israel’s secret police) many times, he told me in July. Other Israeli dissidents report the same.

Just as Israel targets Palestinian activists, leaders, thinkers and fighters for surveillance, sabotage, kidnap and assassination, so too Israel targets the allies of the Palestinians.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London and an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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