Americans for Peace Now (APN) joins its Israeli sister organization Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) in protesting yesterday’s demolition of the Sallehiya family’s home in the East Jerusalem flashpoint neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Ori Nir 0:10
Welcome back to PeaceCast. It's January 13th, 2022. I'm Ori Nir and with me is my colleague Claire Davidson Miller. Hi, Claire.
Claire Miller 0:17
Ori Nir 0:19
We are happy to have with us today our colleague and friend Dana Mills. She's the acting director of Israel's Peace Now- Shalom Achshav. Some of you may have heard Dana on PeaceCast, just a few weeks ago, she joined us for a webinar about Peace Now's new report on settler violence. We recorded that webinar and then published it on PeaceCast as episode 216. Today's episode, however, will be quite different. We talked to them a long ago about being our guest on PeaceCast, we thought it would be interesting to get to know her as a peace activist and explore some of her other really fascinating pursuits. Meanwhile, as I said, she was called to the helm to lead Peace Now and now it will be kind of a different posture, because it's sort of gives us a chance to also speak to her about the organization about its priorities for 2022, and chat, more generally about Israel's peace movement, and about the progressive politics in Israel. So we have quite a bit on our agenda going into this conversation, then, thanks for joining us on peace cast.
Dana Mills 1:30
Thank you very much for having me. It's lovely being with you, Ori and Claire.
Ori Nir 1:33
You know, to a large extent, the objective of this conversation today is to introduce you to our listeners, to our supporters and activists. So maybe, maybe this would be if you go ahead and do your own introduction. Just talk a bit about yourself.
Dana Mills 1:49
Okay, thank you. So my history with peace now goes back several decades. In 1995, I was a school girl in, in Israel. And after the assassination, like many youth of that period, I felt a huge, really existential crisis. I think for a lot of us, it's, it's a time of coming of age. It's a really formative age. I was 13 at the time. And it was the first time I saw my mother cry. It was the first time people around me who I looked up for authority had looked confused to me. And I followed the schoolfriend Patel, who told me this youth movement called Peace Now Youth and said you should come and join me. And I came with her. And I became completely enthralled and engrossed in the conversations that I ended up spending my entire high school years in Peace Now youth, which was very active at that time, we did a lot of radical actions of various sorts, we had the opportunity to meet some of the most formative voices of those years. And for me, it was political education. I learned how you organize a protest how you organize and sit-in, how do you speak to politicians, in which tone in which context. So it was really an extraordinary time for learning. Unfortunately, as we know, for Israel and Palestine, this was an incredibly big crisis. So the speed of my learning about politics was only matched by the speed of literary creation of any hopes for peace. I did my army service like all Israelis, there's an obligation to do that. And after that, I pursued two degrees in politics in Tel Aviv. I took a small career break and worked in dance for a little while. It's a very big passion of my life, and something that keeps me grounded or flying, depending on the exercise throughout everything I've done. And after a couple of years of doing that, I went to Oxford, UK, where I pursued my PhD. And I taught there for 13 years. And the story of my reconnect with peace now started 2021 When I returned to Israel to take on the position of External Relations Director, which I've been doing since March, as you probably know, this has been equally turbulent time in Israel in the sense of a lot of political changes a new government, new relationships between the US and Israel. Obviously, the escalation in May so a month and a bit after I started my job, there was a war raging around me. So it was a very quick learning curve. And it's really a great honor to be part of an organization that educated me and planted in me both the passion and knowledge of politics that have been the red thread of my life.
Claire Miller 4:37
It's really wonderful to see how you got such a young start in Israel's peace movement, and now have kind of come full circle back around to running that movement that still today gives hope and education to so many people, including young people like yourself but I also am really excited to learn a little bit more about the other steps on your journey to where you are now. So maybe since what came before Oxford, I think was your the time you spent working in dance?
Dana Mills 5:17
Claire Miller 5:18
Do you want to tell us a little bit more about that? And how dance is a part of your life?
Dana Mills 5:22
Yes. So I've been dancing since I was very young. It's something that I've done just as a practice without thinking a lot about it. My father really took me to dance shows since I was four or five without me understanding a lot of what I was seeing, but they just knew it was beautiful. And I wanted it to be part of my life. And when I started writing academically and thinking about dance, thinking about politics, rather, I started engaging in the question about the connection between politics and dance. And that was something that I wrote about two books, I published three books in total. And at the same time, as inquiring more about the practice of dance as a political pursuit, I also started doubting myself and I got to this position when the woman who ran my dance studio came up to me and said, you actually quite good, do you want to work for us for a bit. And then I ended up doing a few gigs with her and a few gigs elsewhere. And before I knew it, I was working professionally in the field, it's a field that is, for better or worse, quite open, you can come into it from various positions. I knew fairly early that I didn't want to be a performing artist, I know that my strengths lie elsewhere. But I really want you to understand and experience to the full, what it means to work in dance as a practice, and to really kind of work with the body. And I think one thing that has always engaged me in the field of dance, and I'm interested in intellectually, as well as in practice is, how do voices that are not always heard in the public sphere, how can they be heard through dance? Because obviously, you don't need language in order to dance, you don't have to talk about it, you can just do it. And it's a way for people to connect with each other. And I think there's something very deep about that, when people who have been dispossessed and take a lot of other mechanisms of expression have been taken from them, but something in the body can always be there for them to express themselves. So I think for me, that's something that really drew me to dance and to especially in in viewership, it's something that I always love that watching, you know, companies that come from places where people have overcome really many difficulties and yet, find their way for expression through dance.
Claire Miller 7:30
Thank you. I've also been a dancer all my life. And for me, I, I also see a lot of connections between my dance and social activism. And I think the the power of the body that you mentioned, is really important. I know that Shalom Achshav, in Israel participates in a lot of protests. And I really see that as such a somatic expression of our values in such a similar way that we can express ourselves through dance, and I love seeing how you draw that connection.
Dana Mills 8:09
Thank you. Yes, I think maybe that's interesting. I've never thought about that. But now you put it this way. I mean, I've been protesting, as I mentioned, since I was very young, since I was like 13, or 14. And there's something about the confidence of being in the public sphere and raising your voice that can be transmitted to other spheres of action as well. So, So I guess it also goes both ways. I've never thought of that. And, and I think there's something I mean, Israel/Palestine is a very- temperaments run high, we are very physical people, for better or worse, we are a hugging society I think COVID laws could force here is nearly impossible, because everyone hugs you when they first see you, you know, try to keep people to stay two meters apart is like near nearly impossible. And for us expression through dance, it's a very somatic culture. Actually, we have we have an exceptionally strong dance culture, and very strong import, you know, from whichever, which is the most famous dance company running, you know, years back, being first working with Martha Graham. Through current luminaries such as Talia Paz, who's now the artisitic advisor to the Kibbutz Seminal, she worked in Cullberg Ballet before, and many, many other wonderful people who travel around the world and come back so I think there's also the strength of a very embodied society that takes that on and brings that expression to the world. But I have to say in parenthesis the one thing that I do want to stress in my reading of dance, at least I don't know how you feel about it is that it's very dangerous to whitewash oppression and to sort of say, Oh, we can all connect and hold hands and dance Dabka together. There's actually a really great work by Hilo Cogan that is about that it's about like him trying to put put on a dance show with a Palestinian dancer but not knowing any Palestinians which is the reality for most Israelis we don't know Palestinians from across the border, we don't engage. So I am not of the camp of like, let's hold hands and dance and sing together. And then we'll have peace, but rather to think about how we can understand differences better through other modes of communication. So that's one thing I wanted to stress.
Claire Miller 10:12
Absolutely. Thank you.
Ori Nir 10:14
So then we're still getting to know you in another aspect of things you do outside of your peace activism, or maybe it's related, is your academic work and your book writing? Yeah, so let's, let's talk a little bit about that.
Dana Mills 10:29
So I did my PhD at Oxford, which was a really interesting experience. In parenthesis, I can say, it's everything you think it is, it's more or less living in a Harry Potter world for a couple of years, for better or worse. So I did own a gown. I didn't own an owl, but nearly. And the one really interesting thing about Oxford is that the work is very intense. It's one on one. So you work in a system of tutorials where you work very closely with students and with mentors, so I got to know really extraordinary people. The principal of my college was Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, one of the most important voices on human rights in our world. And I got to know her again, one on one, which is fairly extraordinary. And I got to talk to her a lot. And during my time at Oxford, she founded the first ever Human Rights Institute at Mansfield, my college. So a lot of my writing and a lot of the things I was thinking about, and also connecting to my peace activism, as you mentioned, really became around human rights and around how do we understand human rights through various modes of thinking. And I'm really interested in the moment just before we get social democracy as we understand it today. So it's not often that the book changes your life. But that happened to me a couple of years back, I came across a biography of Eleanor Marx. She's Karl Marx's youngest daughter. She was a pioneer in many ways, she fought for the eight hour day, she fought to abolish child labor, and she fought for women's rights among the working class. Her biography was written by Rachel Holmes, who is really important feminist biographer, kind of socialist biographer in the UK. And I started reading ferociously around not only Eleanor, but women and men of her time who were fighting for the rights and freedom that we take for granted today. And one of those women I read about was Rosa Luxemburg, who is Jewish, revolutionary, born in Poland, but worked mostly in Germany. And she became the subject of my second books. So I think one thing that always interested me both in my book writing, and in academic work more broadly, is radical voices that are marginalized, women, especially, but also men that are not in the mainstream, who are dispossessed themselves and yet fight for freedom and equality of all. So after Eleanor Marx, who by the way knew Rosa Luxemburg, they both met in the International Congress of 1896 in London, and I found my way into Rosa and she became my entire world for several years. I should say that we're recording this episode on a really important weekend for both of them. So this Saturday, the 15th of January is the anniversary of Rosa Luxemburg's gruesome murder by proto-fascist organizations in Berlin in 1919. Predating the rise of the Third Reich, a lot of them were enabling in that process. She was a Jewish woman murdered by fascists there's more to this than an attack on socialists, I should say. And conversely, on a happier note, on the 16th of January, we'll be marking Elena Marx's birthday. So we're actually in a really interesting time in terms of socialist history in terms of radical history in terms of how we think about women and men, revolutionaries, who gave us basic rights that we take for granted today.
Ori Nir 13:51
What was the title of your PhD dissertation?
Dana Mills 13:54
My PhD was called act it's very similar to the my first book "Moving Beyond Boundaries an Exploration of the Relationship between Dance and Politics"
Ori Nir 14:03
Dana Mills 14:05
It was very interesting working on it in Oxford, because Oxford doesn't have a dance department. So I worked very much in conversation with Dance practitioners elsewhere. I spent a good time of my research in the US, I spent a lot of time in the Martha Graham Center in New York, in the archives in DC in the Library of Congress. So I worked very closely with Dance practitioners. But my PhD was in political theory. So it was focused on the philosophical side of things.
Ori Nir 14:32
It's interesting, you know, you you mentioned human rights and your focus on human rights. And I thought it would be a good peg to explore your thinking about the what's called now the rights agenda among peace activists, maybe versus what is used to be called, you know, what people call the separation agenda. And there seems to be a bit of a tension between the two and I wanted to also ask you, if you think is- that the two can meet?
Dana Mills 15:02
So thank you. That's a really important question. I don't see see those two as exclusive, I think they very much go hand in hand and that question of process versus final objective. And first of all, for me, this is again, coming from spending time with Helena and other human rights, lawyers, human rights about everything we do. They're about the right to protest. They're about the rights of free speech. They're about the right of people, we dislike to have their basic rights safeguarded. So it's really an overarching agenda. It's not just about one or two things that we might fight for, and see as human rights topics as close, as usually, sometimes the press defines, and there is a very basic claim that is, Israel sees itself as an occupying power, or at least is defined as such, which means that it has basic legal responsibilities towards the people that it occupies. We're talking about supposedly, you know, an over 54 year old occupation, so it's a bit ridiculous to call about to call it an occupation. At this point. It's very sad considering my own history that I'm shouting the same slogans when I was 15. As when I'm 40. And to say that this is temporary occupation, tells you a little bit about the arc of the timeline we're working with. But it's very clear that in the timeline that we're working and in the framework in terms of international relations and collaboration, the we're working, Israel has a moral and legal responsibility towards Palestinians as an occupying power. And me, I have to say, as an Israeli, but as a person, as a citizen, as a woman, I have responsibility towards people that my country is oppressing as a human being. And this is, besides any agenda beyond. The two state solution is what we see as the goal of ending the occupation and moving towards any other future that we is so far from us right now. But we don't even know what it would look like. So to talk about what rights we would have at that stage, is abstract. Rights are things that come out of the political reality, Law and Politics come hand in hand, and human rights have to be safeguarded in any position, they are not dependent on the political position, they are the basic thing that we have, as human beings, we exist in the world. And I mean, this was a very long, roundabout way to say that, whether we fight for the end goal, which is to end the occupation, and to create the separation of Israel and Palestine, is, besides the point that we have to be very aware of the consequences of inaction in the here now, which is severe and structural violation of human rights. So these two issues are really not exclusive to each other in my reading, at least.
Claire Miller 17:44
Thank you. So now that we're kind of transitioning back into the question of Israel/ Palestine, I would love to hear more about your transition back to Israel/Palestine, both in your work, but also your physical transition, you obviously moved from Oxford, back to Tel Aviv. You know, why did you make that decision?
Dana Mills 18:07
That's a great question. So I think for me, it was really interesting, because I didn't think that I wanted to go back. I mean, I knew I want to study and work a little bit in academia. And Oxford was a good place to do it for various reasons. But it didn't have like a grand plan. I didn't aim towards any academic position. And I just thought, you know, when the time is, right, I know I will want to go home. And, you know, there was a mix of things that happened. One of them is COVID, which I think changed the way that we see each other, see what home is, as someone who was very international used to fly a lot, I used to come to the US twice a year, I used to come to Israel three times a year, you know, the privilege of being an academic and on a flexible schedule, and being able to travel kind of meant that I didn't have to think about being distant from people I love. My father died on the second week of the COVID closure. And quarantine in Britain was very, very harsh. So I found myself in isolation for a very long time. And I didn't have a grand plan. Actually, I just saw the job ad for external relations director in Israel in Peace Now. And I thought, This is my job. And I need to apply for it. And actually, I applied for the job, the day of publication for my third book, so everyone was like texting me saying like, hey, congratulations, your book is out. And that kind of I was thinking about the interview, I was thinking about a completely different place.
Ori Nir 19:28
Wait- Wait I want to ask, you said, this is my job. I have to apply for it.
Dana Mills 19:31
Ori Nir 19:32
I mean, you were immersed in a totally different suit. So you have to explain this.
Dana Mills 19:37
That's, that's a very fair question. I mean, in a way, I can't explain it. Sometimes you see something and you say, This is my destiny. I have to try for this. And I knew, I knew that I would be deeply disappointed if I didn't get it. But I also didn't think, you know, it's not that I would apply for like 10,000 other jobs in the public sector in Israel. You know, if I didn't get this job, I would probably go on being an academic in Oxford and you know, this conversation would never take place. And it just felt because you know, it was a position that appealed to me, being someone with international experience and bilingual and living in several countries, the position of External Relations Director is something that really is tailored for that. And as Claire mentioned earlier, having been educated myself in the movement, I thought, you know, this, this is kind of my home. This is where I learned about politics. And I'm ready to stop thinking about politics and going back to doing politics. So going back to your question about going about changing my life, I think the biggest change is moving from theorizing about politics, to doing politics. And you know, one thing I say to my fellow political theorists, I still have a very nice relationship with a lot of my former colleagues, who are somewhere from perplexed to, you know, amused by my life transition. Um, political theory has nothing to do with real life both. It's like, we think that we know everything when we teach in academia, and when we write a lot of clever books about various things. And then the first day, you have to go out to the street and organize a protest, you understand that? Nothing helps you in that. And I mean, for me, it was kind of different to my colleagues, because I've always been interested in practical politics. And I was, I was an activist. Also, throughout my academic life, I was very active politically in the UK, I'm a member of the Labour Party, or at least was until Keir Starmer, took over. I was active in my local labour branch, I was active in the trade union movements. So I continued doing activism really at the same time as being an academic. But I still understood that, you know, all the grand theories I had to teach to undergraduates had nothing to do with actual practical politics. And I think something in me burnt in coming back to the actual thing, and I felt I was a bit of a coward. And I was avoiding innovating the thing that matters, which is actually making a difference. And to an extent, I think, Rosa, I mentioned earlier, my writing on Rosa Luxemburg, the thing, she really kind of prepared the stage for me, because when you write about someone who was so immersed in organizing, and you know, she was one of the first people to connect the rise of global capitalism to colonialism and objective colonialism. Beyond the spheres of, beyond the spheres of Germany, she wrote about Africa, she wrote about Australia, she wrote about the south of the US before, you know, anyone knew what was going on there in Europe. She organized for the eight hour day as well, you know, she did so many practical and pragmatic things. There was a moment I was writing about her and I thought, I shouldn't be writing about this, I should be going out and doing the continuation of this. So thing in a way, she kind of sent me on my happy way towards actually doing politics and not writing about them.
Claire Miller 22:38
So now that you're back doing politics, and not only are you back doing politics, but you're back, now leading the charge for doing politics as the acting director of Shalom Achshav what are your grand plans? What, it's a new year, what what do you want to tackle this year?
Dana Mills 22:58
Well, I think not much has changed Sadly, in my life, since I was 13. And joined the movement, which is I want to end the occupation. And I want Israelis and Palestinians to have dignity and an equal chance for their possibility to flourish in this little place that I refer to as home. But I'm also very aware it's home to very many other people. I should say that the movement in its goals is flexible, but we do have a very ongoing and constant objective, which is we see the settlements as the main the main obstacle towards achieving any kind of peace plan or any kind of negotiations of a peace so we fight daily, the expansion of settlement plans be through territorial expansion will be through house evictions, especially in East Jerusalem, which is a severe and grave human rights violation in its own right is kicking out people who sometimes lived 20-30 years in the same house. And then some random settlers association comes up and says you can't live here anymore. You have to leave. So I mean, our goals as a movement are fairly stable, which is one of its powers as a movement. You know, we've been around for a long time the movement was founded in 1978. But at the same time, obviously, our reality has changed a lot because we now have a government that includes some of our partners and some people that we can talk to as peers for the first time actually since I was a teenager in the movement. So it's an interesting kind of full circle. And that way in the 90s was the last time that Meretz, members of Knesset and Labour Party, etc. We're sitting in a coalition, we're actively able to engage our agenda. So whereas our goals haven't changed at all the methods of how we achieve them have changed quite a bit and we're able to talk to politicians, we're able to, you know, work with coalition partners, which is a very big change for us as a movement and at the same time, there are still ongoing things that have always been ongoing which are demonstrations and marches and you know, everyday activity, educational activity, advocacy. So that really doesn't change a lot. And I mean, in my own position, I have to say, so first of all, as every woman, I think every day, I have an imposter syndrome. And I think, why did they tell me to do this, there's no way I can carry this on my shoulders. And because I have such a personal history here, and I feel really committed to what's going on, it really scares me in a very deep way. And at the same time, I think it goes goes back to something you said, which is, you know, I was educated here, there's a lot of young people I meet, who are, you know, who I see myself in them, like 20-30 years ago. And my responsibility is to help the younger generation do the thing that our generation has failed, which is to end the occupation and to achieve a two state solution. So again, this can be done in multi-fold way it can be done through demonstration can do can be done through lectures, or other kinds of activities, and a lot of it is just one on one advocacy and just talking to people and spreading the word really, I'm sort of working very, very consistently, with younger people. But I think for me, that's one thing that I'm very passionate about, again, because of my own background,
Ori Nir 26:12
You mentioned being able to work with- with like minded politicians, who are now members of the coalition members of the government. I wanted to ask you how- so you talked a little bit, and maybe you can just elaborate on how this has changed your modus operandi as Peace Now, but maybe also a little bit about how you see it impacting the kind of politics that we are interested in. Do you see a change is is you know, because some people say that Meretz and Labor joining the government has only created a situation where they're giving backing and legitimacy for policies that we obviously do not endorse. How do you see all those?
Dana Mills 26:53
So as everything is quite complicated, I mean, we published Peace Now published a report entitled "The Government of Change for the Worse". So spoiler alert, you know, what we think about that. It's really important to know that not only do we have partners in the coalition in terms of the kind of parties that are there, and we actually have four veterans of Peace Now, so that two executive directors, Mossi Raz and Gaby Lasky, who are now MKS, Naama Lazimi, who worked in Peace Now not too long ago, and Omer Bar Lev, who's the minister of interior security, and was a Peace Now activist. So beyond having the formal political arc move towards our agenda, we have people who understand very well the topics we work on and the things that we care about, which is in itself, a very big difference. Like you don't have to brief everyone from the start, you know that you have people who understand exactly what you're working on. Having said all of that, it's very clear that this government is conceding much more to the right than it is to the left. And we're seeing much more of I don't want to say compromise, but capitulation, really, to a settler agenda from the beginning of the outposts of Evyatar, which was one of the first crises in this government, where the left had achieved all sorts of vague, vague promises on paper, but it was clear that the right of the coalition would not concede all through, you know, conflict over East Jerusalem, through other outputs that have been founded, and there was refusal to evict as we speak, there's a big protest outside the Prime Minister's office about the outposts of Homesh one of the fifth, one of the five most violent outposts in the West Bank, where there is refusal to evict the outpost for various reasons. And I mean, it's really important to remember that Nefeli Bennett, who's our current prime minister was the head of Yeshua, he was the head of the settlers association. So you know, it's not that we're talking about the dovish government. However, having said all of that, as I said, it's complicated. And there's like four sides to every story. And this, I do think that the presence of our coalition partners in this coalition government is really important, not only for the things that we work on, but for various other issues in Israel, that have been in dire situation under Netanyahu for the past 12 years, we have to remind our listeners that Israel has been really taken hostage by Netanyahu for 12 years of consecutive governance, and a lot of just very basic things with standstill. So am I happy in the larger picture that we have this coalition? The government? Yes. Am I pleased with how it's handling the occupation and moving towards peace? No. And it's our job again, this is where we are not a partisan movement. We work with any party in any politician who will talk to us and is committed to the our goals. And we our job now is to push further and to push further the issues that we care about and to further the peace agenda and move towards a two state solution. So you know, the fact that there's more work doesn't mean that it's not important that we have someone to do it with.
Claire Miller 30:04
While the government isn't necessarily giving us all very much hope right now, something that really is providing a source of hope, is increasing collaboration between different Israeli anti-occupation groups. How do you see that playing out?
Dana Mills 30:23
I think one of the greatest privileges of working in civil society in Israel is just this very strong solidarity of various organizations, and the ability also to collaborate across the border when possible. And I mean, that's something that living in Israel, I kind of took for granted. And then I lived elsewhere. And I realized that it's not always the case. And there is really very strong solidarity and a lot of collaboration between different organizations. And I think we all know what our niche is and what we set on and what is our agenda. And very often I would get texts with from colleagues saying, you know, this is something that is very clearly Peace Now, do you want to take that on, I will get something that is very, fairly, obviously not something to do with our agenda directly. And I will be like, Oh, this is interesting for B'tselem, for Breaking the Silence or for Standing Together. And we're also just I have to say, personally, people are very nice to each other, and are very friendly and kind of care for each other. When I started out, a lot of people just texted and said, if you need something, let us know what you need. Which makes a big difference, because it's-it's very hard work. And it can be very lonely in, you know, furthering an agenda. That is anything but consensus right now. And I think one thing that I've always believed in, is that having a strong civil society and a strong commitment to human rights amongst all those organizations, is something that can really counteract imbalances of power within the government itself. So you know, I appreciate your juxtaposition of like the hopelessness and hopefulness. And I've always found a lot of hope of this, in this sector, even when I didn't belong to it and now that I belong to it, I feel very proud to belong to it. And I think there's also a knowledge of how much we can learn from each other. So we very often will find time to talk and see, you know, there's a lot of things that we know that other organizations might not, and vice versa. So we all sit and talk and see how we can nourish each other and learn from each other. And, of course, there are ideological differences. It's not all rainbows and unicorns, and we don't hold hands and dance towards the sunset. But we know that there's a shared cause, and that we are committed to it. And we work very closely together really towards it.
Ori Nir 32:31
So we have- we have a few questions about this issue of outreach and collaboration and so on. And one thing that occurred to me is that, you know, there's interim but still at the helm now with Peace Now, someone who was an Anglo, what some of the founders of Peace Now, were Anglos. And so I was gonna ask you about the added value? In other words, what does it what does it give? What does it add to have someone who like you, who is an Anglo speaks the language, both figuratively and then actually, how does it add to you to your outreach efforts?
Dana Mills 33:08
I mean, I think for me, thinking internationally, it's part of who I am, my father was British, my mom is Israeli, I've always spoken two languages, literally and figuratively. And living abroad, both in the US and the UK, I have to say, I lived in New York during 2016, and the rise of Trump to power. I was in New York, the night of the election. And then I participated in several of the women's marches. And I organized one of them. And so I learned a lot about activism really, in different places. So very often, I will intervene in conversations and say, Oh, but this is like, issue X that was handled in this context in a different country. And I should say in parenthesis that when I lived in the UK, most of my very close friends were South Africans. And there was a lot in the shared heritage and conversations, and processes that really taught me a lot about the things that we are engaging with now. So, you know, we can go into the apartheid discussion, if you like. But beyond the actual term, there's a lot to be said about a people that had lived in very stark ethnic segregation, and then managed to reach a point of freedom in some capacity or another. And, you know, we can talk about Africa also, which for me, was very educational. So when I came back, I didn't just think about Israel/Palestine is this very singular issue that it's usually presented that, but I thought about here are two people that have a long standing argument, one people clearly occupying another, clearly dispossessing another, clearly violating another's human rights. This is not unique. You know, this is something that has happened in other places in the world, and other places in the world have managed to come through this. So our duty is to really learn and to look out and to think about how we can mobilize drawing on international examples. And I mean, I'm still in very close contact with comrades from around the world. And very often we'll consult them and ask, you know, we have to do this thing, how do you think I should go about it. And very often, they will come with ideas that we don't think about locally, because they come from elsewhere. And they give us, you know, a different perspective. So I think having that international perspective can be really helpful in sort of taking things into the bigger picture. Because things are so dire here and the everyday and the work is so hard and so depressing. And you know, it is really very hard, you know, we we have so many big battles that we can't afford to lose, because a lot of human lives depend on them. So just having this bigger picture and saying there is something to learn from, and there are other people we can engage with. And we're not in this alone is nice to singular people who are fighting for the entire world is just a really helpful perspective.
Ori Nir 35:44
I'll just say from an egocentric, APN perspective, having someone at the helm who, you know, is who said speaks the language is very, very beneficial for us.
Dana Mills 35:56
I'm sure. I also speak Welsh, but I don't know if you have any Welsh supporters.
Claire Miller 36:01
You never know. So what about your work with Palestinian organizations? I know, we've also seen some solidarity between Israeli and Palestinian organizations this year, I think most notably, when six Palestinian NGOs were declared terrorist organizations by the Israeli government, we saw some really beautiful solidarity from Israeli NGOs. How have you been working with Palestinian activists? And how do you hope to continue doing that?
Dana Mills 36:35
I should say, actually, personally, my main contact was exactly what you mentioned. So I went to Ramallah with a bunch of other Israeli NGOs to show solidarity, which actually feels very special, because we just weren't at the middle of this big, big crisis. And it was harrowing, you know, you had people who have been working in human rights organizations for decades, who just came to me, and shook my hands and said, thank you for coming, and just gave me a perspective of what the stakes of what we're doing and our position and what we can do by simply crossing the border and saying, We stand with you, which is, you know, the most basic action of solidarity has always been, and I think, you know, we're living in a time in which being a human rights activist in Palestine is very hard, and is very dangerous. And you can encounter dangers of many kinds. And it's our duty to help in what we can from across the border, and support our comrades really, who are fighting the same battle. But I think one of the most interesting places we have long standing collaboration, it's actually very timely, is one in East Jerusalem, where there's a lot of eviction claims and a mass disposition, really of Palestinian families, done by settlers associations, sometimes with the help of the state itself. And we have a very strong community engagement. There we go on tours, there very often our we work very closely with activists there just last year, it's actually a year ago, exactly next month, there was a mass march from Silwan to Balfour, which is where the Prime Minister's office is, and where there was a mass movement against Netenyahu. So I think you can look at things like that. And our position is to be sharing the struggle, I think, you know, for me, and going back to my own history, when I was a kid in Peace, Now, we did a lot of dialogues. So we would go across the border, and we would talk about our lives. And very often what stayed with me was the difference, not the similarities. So for us to cross the border was very easy, we would sit on the bus and you know, go over quite swiftly. Whereas for our Palestinian friends to come over the border was somewhere between hard to impossible. And very often things were canceled when they had to come over. Again, I'm putting in perspective, this is the 90s. Now you couldn't even think about something like that. So for us, when we collaborate with Palestinian organizations or individuals, we work together and struggle to end the occupation. We don't just, you know, hold hands for the sake of it, which sometimes is the temptation. So that's something that we've been really putting at the center of what we do for the past few years, and I think has proved very important for both sides. Another example of something we did recently that I was proud to be part of was the olive harvest. So this was an especially violent olive harvest season where settlers sabotaged olive trees, olive groves, and Palestinian villages, and I should send parenthesis when we talk about settler violence, when we talk about attacks, we don't even think about attacks towards you know, it can be trees and can be sheep can be livelihood, really of people and that's that's an attack on human rights. If your livelihood has been attacked, you cannot survive. So going and working on olive harvest has just being helping hands and just doing the actual physical work together was really one of the most transformational things I've done in my entire life. It kind of made a difference. It was very you know, it was a very simple thing that I did, I went and I picked olives, but I made a difference to someone's life that was otherwise under attack. I should say also in parenthesis that Israelis going to harvest is also a way to safeguard Palestinians who do the harvest because settlers tend to attack them less. So it's also a way to become some kind of human shields in those instances of violence. So this is a kind of a glimpse of how we collaborate with Palestinians in a way that is meaningful, and is not just performative, but also enable us to engage and to see what's going on on the other side of the border. Many Israelis just don't get that image and just don't know what's going on. And you know, life can be very complicated in other ways in Israel, but you can just go through your life and not know what's going on on the other side of the border. So it's our responsibility has always been to really expose the most people we can in Israel, and see what it's like and why it is our obligation to fight for this cause.
Ori Nir 40:54
Dan, thank you so much, you know that this this conversation is a little bit of a kind of foreshadowing, we're going to have you as a guest more often on, on on PeaceCasts. So our listeners, I'm sure would would be happy with that.
Dana Mills 41:10
Ori Nir 41:10
And we are happy with that. Thanks so much for joining us.
Dana Mills 41:14
Thank you very much.
Claire Miller 41:15
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.
with Maysoon Zayid and Dr. Hanna Hanania
Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.
Just when you thought the worst that could happen from indulging in Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia or Rocky Road ice cream was a few extra pounds, an obscure Illinois government body has branded this popular treat off-limits.
So far off-limits that on Dec. 22 the seven unelected men and women who comprise the Illinois Policy Investment Board voted unanimously to bar the state’s employee pension funds, representing the diverse interests of hundreds of thousands of people, from investing in Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company.
The company’s crime? Ben & Jerry’s announcement last summer to no longer sell its ice cream in the West Bank, or as it also known by both its residents and rest of the world, the “Occupied Palestinian Territory”—occupied by Israel since 1967. The board’s little-noticed decision derives from an equally obscure (and unnoticed by most) Illinois law passed in 2015 that prohibits state employee pension funds from investing in any company that boycotts Israel.
What’s wrong here? Where to begin? Leaving aside the First Amendment issues involved, there is the fact that Ben & Jerry’s is not boycotting Israel. As Ben & Jerry’s, and its parent company Unilever, have repeatedly stated, their ice cream is still available in Israel, just not in Israeli settlements outside the state of Israel.
This, of course, raises the question, where exactly is Israel? While Israelis have occupied and ruled this territory since 1967 and have created “settlements” (from two trailers to places with 30,000 settlers) on the occupied lands, no nation, including Israel and the United States, has considered the West Bank part of the state of Israel.
While controlled and surrounded by Israel, the Palestinians living in the West Bank (as they have for centuries) are not Israeli citizens, cannot vote in Israel’s elections, cannot travel to Israeli cities (or even to the beaches a few miles from their homes) without permission from Israeli military authorities, are subject to Israeli military (but not civil) courts, and do not have Israeli passports nor access to the Israeli airport. The only persons in the West Bank with full Israeli rights are Jewish and live in the settlements that are considered illegal by all international bodies and treaties, including the Geneva Conventions.
Finally, if the West Bank were part of Israel, then Israel would have to treat all residents equally—from free movement and access to vaccines, to passports and travel protocols, and a singular court system— none of which is the case. By applying the same standard to both the settlements in the occupied territories and the state of Israel, both the board’s action and the underlying Act wrongly ignore the legal and practical distinctions between the two.
Adding insult to injury is that this tiny unelected body has taken this outsized action with little or no input from those most knowledgeable or affected. It failed at the most basic of its responsibilities—to seek knowledgeable testimony to inform its decision. Members or staff did not reach out to any of the dozens of active Jewish organizations in the state or any organization representing Palestinian-Americans, even though Illinois boasts the largest Palestinian community of any state.
While some may find this a tempest in an ice cream cone, the danger the law and board pose to Illinois is real. While this specific decision may have little impact on Illinois or Ben & Jerry’s sales, other upcoming ill-conceived actions might.
For its meeting in March, the board has now trained its sights on Morningstar, the Chicago-based company responsible for thousands of jobs in Illinois (and throughout the nation). In the board’s view, Morningstar’s crime is that it purchased two European companies that do not purchase products produced in the occupied West Bank, which in the eyes of the board makes the company also guilty of “boycotting” Israel.
In a city and state where too many individuals and companies are already reconsidering their location, raising the specter of McCarthy-like scrutiny of legitimate corporate decisions may provide them with yet another reason to find a more welcome clime.
If ever there were a law that needed immediate repeal, it is the 2015 Illinois law that penalizes companies that “boycott Israel.” If ever there were a governing body that needed dismantling, it is this tiny board known by and accountable to virtually no one. If there were ever a time for action, it is now.
Jim Klutznick is a developer and board president of Americans for Peace Now. Bill Singer is an attorney and board member of J Street. Marilyn Katz is president of MK Communications.
This article was originally published in Crain's Chicago Business.
Washington, DC -- Americans for Peace Now (APN) welcomes the decision to indefinitely postpone plans for settlement construction in the strategic West Bank area known as E-1.
Listen to the podcast episode here.
Ori Nir 0:10
Welcome back to PeaceCast Americans for Peace Now's Podcast. I'm Ori Nir it's January 4 2022, our first podcast this year. So Happy New Year to everyone! In recent months as anti-Palestinian and at times anti-IDF settler violence intensifies, we're focusing on this issue of settler violence and shedding light on it as best we can. Today we'll examine this phenomenon from a somewhat unusual perspective, the perspective of the Israeli military, the IDF. To illustrate it, we're using a new report by the Israeli anti-occupation organization Breaking the Silence report titled "On Duty". It's a collection of soldier testimonies collected between 2012 and 2020. These testimonies focus on the phenomenon of settler violence through the eyes of soldiers who were on the ground, saw it and sometimes were on the receiving end of it, and were willing to share their impressions with Breaking the Silence. You will find the link to the report in the show notes. In the course of this episode, you will hear quotes from some of these testimonies, which I am reading in my voice from the report. The testimonies are anonymous, but they do indicate the rank, unit, and location. And the general period of the testimony refers to the testimonies were given in the form of conversations between or sort of an interview between Breaking the Silence staff member and the soldier. So there will be some q&a as well. These snippets will be woven into the conversation with our guest. And now finally, it's time to introduce our guest. And our guest is Ori Givati, yes, another Ori. And he is the advocacy director of Breaking the Silence. Hi, Ori, welcome to PeaceCast.
Ori Givati 2:06
Hi Ori, it's really nice to be here. And thank you for inviting me and us.
Ori Nir 2:11
Sure, sure. You know, I was named Ori, when this name was still very rare in Israeli society. I you know, there were my parents knew only one Ori at the time. And I didn't like my name that much because it was so unusual. Today, it's ubiquitous. So as we usually do on PeaceCast, I'm going to ask you to say a few words about yourself. And for the handful of listeners who don't know about Breaking the Silence, maybe also a few words about the organization.
Ori Givati 2:41
Okay, great. Yeah, so my name is Ori Givati. I'm 30 years old. I live in Tel Aviv today grew up in a village in the center of Israel, called Kfar Monash. I've been I've served in the Army Corps of the IDF from 2010 to 2013. Last service in the occupied territories, for me was on reserve duty in 2016. I joined Breaking the Silence almost five years ago, I started as a researcher basically conducting interviews with the soldiers for about two and a half years. And then I moved on to this position that I am in today, the advocacy director, in which I'm responsible for our international relations in our political work abroad and in Israel. Breaking the Silence is an organization of former soldiers served, who served in the IDF in the occupied territories, meaning in the West Bank, or Gaza, in what we basically do is we bring our testimonies from our experiences for what we saw what we did what we experienced as soldiers enacting the occupation. So checkpoints, invasions to villages, sexual violence, patrols, you name it. And we bring those testimonies to the public, I want to expose this reality of a 55 year old military rule over the Palestinian people. And we do it basically, because we believe that any person that will truly understand what it means to control people with a military force, we want this occupation to end. And this is our aim, end occupation. Not as many people would would be mistaken to think that we're trying to improve certain elements by shedding light on some practices. This is not true. What we're trying to do is to bring the occupation to an end because the occupation is morally indefensible. There isn't any way to rule people with the military force and do it morally or in any legitimate way.
Ori Nir 4:58
Thanks. Okay, so let's talk a little bit about the topic of the report. The impression that I think many people have, is that IDF soldiers in the West Bank aid and abet settler violence. That does happen sometimes. But as we see in the testimonies that we have here, the reality is very complex. The soldiers find themselves in a very complex situation, what I thought we could do in this conversation between us is sort of explore those complexities. So the first one, I think, is the kind of confusion that soldiers have about what their mission is, they seem a little confused as it relates to what what their role is, what their mission is, in this conflict between settlers and Palestinians, they- are they guarding the settlers or serving as a buffer between them and the Palestinians? How do you see it? And what is your experience with talking to soldiers about this topic?
Ori Givati 5:59
Yeah. So look, I think I will actually take it even a step further from what you said, because the reason that is so that it appears from the testimonies and of course, it's true that the soldiers themselves are in a complex situation, right? Because they see, for example, when a soldier sees a settler throwing stones, on a policy and in the area of Nablus, or in the area of the South Hebron Hills, of course, this in and of itself is a very complex situation. But and here is where I take it a step further from what you said, from the testimonies from, from so many soldiers, and including myself, by the way, who received all the details of how to operate in the West Bank, it's not complex at all. Our mission is to protect the settlers when I served in Hebron 2011-12. I was there for a short period of time for 10 days, our mission was, and it was written in the order to protect the Jewish settlement of Hebron. From testimonies we receive all the time. Yeah, this is one of the most, you know, one of the most usual testimonies we received until today, the order that we receive as soldiers doesn't matter where is always protect the settlements protect the Israelis, there is never an order to protect everyone around you. It's not an order. As a soldier, you never hear the order, protect Palestinians if they are attacked by settlers. Yeah. And that's why from again, of course, on the ground, the soldier that is there because he's a human being because he is a young Israeli, most of them, I would definitely believe they are they don't support this type of violence, they are in a complex situation. But the orders that we are given are not complex at all, are protected settlers, doesn't matter what.
Ori Nir 8:05
So that really leads me to the next question that I wanted to ask you that that has to do with this sense of cognitive dissonance that many of the soldiers feel the soldiers are conditioned to think of the settlers as being on their side, they're there to protect them. But that's not the way, sometimes, that the settlers behave, either toward the soldiers or more often toward the Palestinians. In other words, their behavior sometimes sort of violates the values and the morals of the soldiers and what they're conditioned to think, of how Israelis should behave, or human beings should behave. How does that come into play? Testimony of a First Sergeant armored corps who served in Yitzhar around 2012. "If Jews are involved in something, like we said, arson or something, it always ends in more significant incidents, because then the military gets like, entangled. What's the entanglement? What's the entanglement that you there are Jews that you're allegedly supposed to protect, but in practice, the Jews started this wrong thing. But now the Palestinians are heading out and you as an army, you're totally programmed that you need to drive the Palestinians back to their village. And you need to like, speak to the Jews nicely, politely. Ask them to go back. And the guys in Yitzhar are really difficult guys. It's truly the bottom of the right wing barrel in Israel. It's all kinds of guys who come to the yeshiva who came from broken families, I don't know and they're also people with a very violent character, and who also have extreme opinions. And that's it when it comes to such cases with them even though they're really dangerous people, you treat them more gently because they're like, the ones you're supposed to protect."
Ori Givati 10:10
Look, the, the relationship between soldiers and settlers, I think is what determines this kind of reception, right? Because we have so many layers of relationships, we have the first layer that that is the day to day life. intertwining every single day, every single hour between soldiers and settlers, right when we are invited to settlers home for dinner on Friday, or when sector children come to our, our military posts and play with the soldiers and so forth.
Ori Nir 10:47
Is that very common? By the way, this thing of being invited to let's say, Friday dinner or something like that?
Ori Givati 10:53
Yeah, ofcourse, of course, I can tell you, it's very prominent in say most most soldiers. It's all about relationship with settlers speak about this. So in Hebron in the area of in the area of Nablus, when I served in Qalqilya, five, six years ago now, settlers came to our military base and brought us snacks and dinner on Friday. So it's extremely prominent. And this is only one part of the day to day life intertwining because there is also military cooperation, security cooperation between the soldiers and settlers between the IDF. And right, every settlement has a settler that is designated by the Ministry of Defense, you receive a weapon and a salary. And we team a few volunteers that receive a weapon from the Ministry of Defense. And these people are meant to protect the settlement. Okay. This on its own, you know, we see this type of stuff in other places in the world, right, like Civil Guard of neighborhoods and so forth. Right? It's not working like that here. Here. We see, we have testimonies of soldiers talking about how a those heads of security from the settlement sometimes take charge, right, we have a soldier serving in lately that said, the talks about how the settler, the head of security was considered the fort command, the fourth officer in the company. And when a soldier you know, is at someone's home, in dinner, and his children play with with him in the military post. And then he is also or the settlers are one of the visitors is also part of his day-to-day military activity. Right? And by the way, we don't need to look so far away only about seven months ago, in the area of Nablus, where there are videos of settlers and soldiers invading Palestinian villages together, right to understand how far this phenomenon has grown. Yeah. So when, when this is how the relationship between settlers and soldiers look like. I'm not surprised at all, that the perception by soldiers and settlers are on their side, because it's not only it's not only a you know, it's not a mistake, in the eyes of the soldier. It's actually what the system directs them to do, to cooperate with the settlers in all levels in all fronts.
Ori Nir 13:37
Testimony by a sergeant of an infantry unit who served in Hebron around 2016. "Ideally, a soldier isn't supposed to have an emotional connection, either with the Palestinians or with the Jews, who are there in Hebron, he comes to do a job that really needs separation in order to do it. Well. In practice, the feeling is that you're coming to live with them with the Hebron settlers for six months. Do you understand? We like, eat at their houses? And we do Kabbalat Shabbats. And why does this happen? Like why? Because in the end, who are you going to want to protect? Is the Arab who you feel because of the demonization? Is the reason your life is shit? The one who you should be protected? Which is surreal, of course, because the situation is that because the Jews decided to live there, you were there. But no, this Arab who's walking on the street, you have to guard because of him? Are you going to want to protect him according to your principles? Or a person you had Friday Night Dinner with a second ago? And this person might just be creating a provocation to irritate Arabs, so that soldiers come and there's going to be chaos because of it. But you've had Friday dinner with him. You know, and by name, like there are 800 people settlers there. There are about 10 very prominent people there that everyone knows, like, you know him by name. You had dinner with him two days ago? Who are you going to protect? Even if he's doing the worst thing in the world, you won't even know it's a terrible thing. And that's really the issue." So some of the testimonies indicate that the settlers try to co-op the soldiers and to cajole them, including through giving them giving them some gifts and so on, to behave aggressively, sometimes more aggressively than needed, perhaps, toward the Palestinians. But they create sort of a material incentive, if you will, for the soldiers to brutalize Palestinians. What impact does that have? How the soldiers cope with this kind of behavior?
Ori Givati 15:57
Look, because we don't receive basically, if you will go to you know, most soldiers, they will tell you that we don't receive any tools to deal with settler aggressions of violence in any form. Okay. And by the way, what you mentioned is also a type of aggression type of violence towards the soldiers, right? So, basically there isn't any, so you can either, you know, try to resist it, but then you are, you're in a, you're in a twilight zone, because you're operating in a place where you don't know the orders. And this for a soldier is very weird, right? The system is in complete denial of giving soldiers tools to deal with this kind of situation. So if a soldier decides to confront the settlers to do something against the settlers in any way, yeah, is operating in a place where it only depends on his own, you know, instinct, I don't know gut feeling or whatever. And it will be extremely rare to see something like this, because there is nothing in the system that prevents us from acting violently towards Palestinians. Right. So what would I prefer? Would I prefer to confront the settler doing something extremely controversial that I've never been told to do? Or just, you know, act a little bit more aggressively towards the Palestinians to calm the settlers down. I would also I was never in this type of situation. But I still did as a soldier, I would also choose that.
Ori Nir 17:36
Testimony by first sergeant infantry who was serving in Hebron around 2016. He's telling the story about the Palestinians who came to complain that settler kids stole his donkey. "I remember that one of the settler kids mothers joined them, and told me, are you the Israeli Defense Forces or the Palestinian defense forces? You're supposed to protect us? Why are you even listening to him? He's not one of your people. You're supposed to protect your people. That's your job here. And we, like tried to stop the commotion, we realized that we weren't succeeding. And we called our officer on the two way radio. He got there. And I said that, like all of us just wanted things to be quiet. And we'll try for a second to understand what's right and and try to resolve the problem somehow. He arrived wasn't really interested. Of course, he was of the crew, one of the friends of a well known settler in Hebron. And so he like, tried to resolve it, listen to the Palestinians for a second mostly listen to the settlers. And then he said, Okay, listen, just tell tell them tell him to go to the police or I don't know, he should get out of here quick. We're standing there like, unsure what to do. Like, what do you mean, quick, the Palestinians here, he's here saying that this donkey was stolen. What am I going to tell him go? It's your problem. And also this kind of thinking of like, I'm in the military, and I'm here. Who am I protecting here? And what does it mean to protect and what am I supposed to be doing? After all, most of the things I do are like the job of a police officer, but if something criminal happens, and I'm not a police officer, what can I do about it? I don't know."
So you talked earlier about the relationship between the soldiers and the security officers in the settlement, the civilian security officers in the settlements, the soldiers actually sometimes receive orders from them do they report to them or how does that work?
Ori Givati 19:47
So officially, officially, no, officially, official, if you look at the orders, and if you will ask military, head military commanders, they will tell you no, this is not legal. The Center of security as we never we're not allowed to give orders and so forth. But again, when you look at the reality on the ground when you look at so there was testimonies definitely happens, right? Because think about it, you go to serving in the South Hebron Hills for three months, or four months or one week doesn't matter. One of the one of the tasks is to protect the settlement in the area. So when a guy that is the settler, head of the head of security of column L, or PIO or SOC, doesn't matter, which is doing that job for five or 10 years is usually at least 10 or 10 years older than you. Yeah. Comes and tells you, you see that Palestinian over there, they are in a place there where they shouldn't be. So go and arrest them, or go and push them away, and so forth. There is again, no reason that he will not do it. Because this guy, for example, again, I'll go back to, to our testimonies, we have dozens of testimonies of how a new unit comes to an area. One of the meetings that they do one of one of the first meetings is to meet the settlers head of security, but to give them a lecture about this area. Yeah. And again, I go back to testimony from earlier, consider the fort officer of the unit by the soldiers, right. We know about meetings between a high military commanders like brigade commanders, battalion commanders, meeting with settlers, head of security, in you know, also for dinners and so forth. It's not only the soldiers on the ground, like the last soldier on the ground that is part of that.
Ori Nir 21:51
Testimony of a First Sergeant infantry who's served around Nablus in 2014, he talks about the relationship that the soldiers have with the security officials of the settlement inside the settlement of Kedumim in the area there. "Question, tell me in this operation room in Kedumim? What's your relationship with them? Like, if they say that you have to kick those Palestinians out of there? Do you do what they say? Or how does it work? Yes, I don't think it was that clear. Ultimately, they're not your commanders. But they're kind of understood as, I don't know, as locals who know the area better than we do. We arrived for a few months, you know, and learn the area and leave. I think we were just told you have to listen to them. Even though they weren't really you know, our direct commanders."
So Ori when soldiers do see settlers attack Palestinians. I mean, you- you said earlier that the mission is to protect the settlers, they know that that's what they should do. But still sometimes, you know, they face situations where they see settlers attack Palestinian, sometimes it's lethal even. What are they supposed to do? What's it, what are they supposed to do? What are the orders and how does it play out? In practice? What ends up happening in practice?
Ori Givati 23:20
Okay, so first and foremost, we have to understand that the system the military system is in complete denial. Okay, so many, many soldiers don't even realize at all there is for to do with violence. I can tell you, for example, I was in my mandatory service. Most of the service I was a an instructor of "How to become a tank commanders". Tank commander is after the course after the tank commanders course, they go in serving occupied territories, okay. So it's not like they go and serve only on times. And in this course, that I've done, that I was a commander in for seven times, but seven courses. We never there was not even one minutes that we spoke with the with the trainees about the option of settler violence.
Ori Nir 24:12
Ori Givati 24:13
Okay. So sometimes after when soldiers finish that course, and they go to serving in the territories, they have a week of a week or a day or two days of preparation to the to the service. And sometimes there in that week, there is one class or something like that, that they talk about settler violence. Yeah. And we're talking about a phenomena that is extremely likely to happen. And we're not talking about something that you can cover in one hour that firstly, and that's also extremely rare. Okay, I'm just I'm stating something that is like most likely that no soldier was taught. But a so let's go back I go back to a question. When we do hear about orders when we do hear about instructions from the soldiers from the testamonies, most soldiers talk about calling the police. Yeah. Calling the police, because, as I assume, we know, we have two separate law systems in the West Bank. Right, the military law over the Palestinians, the Israeli criminal law over everyone else. That's an Israeli decision, first and foremost. But this is also a justification for the military to say we don't want the military to enforce the law on settlers. Because we can call the police it makes more sense because the Israeli police should enforce the law, because we're talking about Israeli criminal law because settlers are Israeli civilians. Yeah, this is part of the part of the reality in the West Bank, that is two separate law systems for two different people are on the same geographic area. So the soldiers, in many cases call the police. Okay. Some soldiers We also heard talking about, that they're told that they can send between the Palestinians and the settlers, but they are not allowed to touch the citizens. Okay. So what do we know, best how to do is to act against Palestinians. Right. So in many cases, and it's not coming, usually from a bad place by the soliders, no, it's coming from a place of the soldier on the ground, the only thing you want to reach is silence. So you know that even if the Palestinians are the victims, you can throw a stun grenade or the gas grenade on the victims on them, they will run away or walk away. And by that, you will be able to stop the settler violence. Because this is something you know for sure that you're allowed to do. We are always allowed to us, at our own discretion, stun grenades and gas grenades on Palestinians. And this is why even if the soldier is 100,000% against it with violence, and he's, you know, after his service, he will come to testify for Breaking the Silence, it doesn't matter. Yeah, because he doesn't have any order to act against the settlers. And he has basically all free permission to act against the Palestinians. Now, another thing that's important to mention is what happens when the police arrives? Because in many cases, the police arrive. But this usually also doesn't help. Yeah, we have dozens of videos, if not hundreds of police also present it during settler violence, doing nothing exactly like the soldiers are doing nothing if the good case or doing something against the Palestinians, like we just mentioned.
I was present myself in a in a few situations where police was present, while settlers were attacking Palestinians or, or us as activists, and the police didn't do anything. And this and you know, we don't have testimonies from police. But but this is very simple to understand. Because the police in the West Bank, also live with the settlers, like the soldiers live with a setter. Right? And we have where we need to have here another layer, which is the political reality today in Israel, and the political reality today in Israel, is that extremely rarely, even the Minister of Defense says something about settler violence and it usually ends there. There is no action being taken against violence. So if the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Internal Security, you know, today's many guns, but still doesn't matter. It's true for all these last 55 years, don't do anything to stop the violence. Why would the policeman that lives with settlers do something about it, there is zero incentive for me as police to do something in favor of Palestinians, zero.
Ori Nir 29:13
We need to end and I wanted to ask you a question. And I'm asking it because I know that you have opinions about it, because I just listened to a another podcast that you were on recently, an Israeli Hebrew language podcast. So the question and the question that I asked myself all the time is, to what end? I mean, we're investing all these efforts at trying to bring the occupation to an end. And it just seems like it's getting deeper and deeper and that the goal is getting farther and farther. What What keeps you in this what what gives you hope?
Ori Givati 29:49
Good question. Yeah, I have to say, I'm asked this a lot. And unfortunately, the situation we're in today, it's I understand why am I asked this a lot, because it's very easy to lose all hope. And before I will start sounding optimistic, I will say yes, we're in a terrible situation. Now we are, we are in terrible situation, we are seeing the occupation a getting deeper and deeper. We are seeing violence and violence rising on all fronts, settler violence, military violence, and, and we are seeing that deepened that the deepening of the occupation everyday also with new technologies, like surveillance and so forth, definitely. But with all of this, there are a few things that, that motivate me. And I think that we should all be aware, first of all, there isn't another option, like the option of giving up is just illegitimate, I will even say, because what does it what does it mean that we just continue leaving our lives as people who are part of this, you know, either were soldiers or just Israeli citizens or citizens of the world, it doesn't really matter. Knowing everything we know, and just deciding No, it's too difficult. So we will stop this is, I think, very basically, the first, the first thing that must, we all must remember that not doing anything is not an option. And second, is the fact that big changes, sometime happened really fast, and sometimes happen when they're at least expected. And we know this from South Africa, we know this from France and Algiers. And we know this from many other examples in history. And our job is to understand that to work and to understand that we work on the long term not be disappointed from every day that passes by without a change, but understand that it's a long game, and gathers even if it's slowly even if it's one person every day, gather the as many people in Israel in the world understand that this must end. And when we do that, even if it's low, let's say in the last 17 years of Breaking the Silence operate, we took you know, 10s of 1000s of people to see this reality, some of them will never do anything about it. But some of them will and some of them did, I can tell you about myself that one of the things that made me start doing something is Breaking the Silence story. It doesn't have to be a Breaking the Silence, but we can be any other way to, to understand this reality. And when we gather people step-by-step, to, to understand the situation, we bring that day we bring the day that everything will change a step closer, and we have to be prepared, we have to make as many people as possible in Israel and in the world preparing in the Jewish Diaspora specifically prepared for the moment for that moment, because this will allow us to to grasp this moment right, to recognize it, and have a lot of people that will help us to take it and use it. The other let's say major motivation that I received that that and the major factor that I think that is crucial to bring the occupation to an end is the growing a cooperation between us, Israeli activists against occupation, organizations, activists, and Palestinians. And this has been growing, it's I can even say exponentially in the next in the last two or three years. Many Palestinians that want to cooperate, that we do stuff together, we are cooperating our tours with Palestinians way activism, you know, on other fronts is also in cooperation with Palestinians. And this is so significant for us, for them, and also for the entire movement, because we have to understand that the forces that will drive the occupation to an end are not us. Yeah, are also us, but not only us, Palestinians and the joint efforts, that can be a created by cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis. It's one of the, I think, major factors that that it gives me a lot of motivation, because it's also we are not even close to maximize its abilities. Let's say in the organizational part, you know, in the civil society, of course, we have a lot more work, but it's very established. You're working for many years here cooperation with Palestinians and Israelis. We have so much room to grow. And I think it's another very important element.
Ori Nir 34:46
Wonderful. Ori, thank you so much. Keep up the good work. And hopefully we'll you know, we have a lot of returnees on on PeaceCast. So hopefully we'll hear from you again sometime soon.
Ori Givati 34:59
Thank you so much
Ori Nir 35:01