‘No one’s going anywhere’: Peace forces see intertwined Israeli and Palestinian futures
The largest ceasefire rally held in Israel thus far took place in Haifa on Dec. 16. In the front row, first and third from the right, are Standing Together leaders Alon-Lee Green and Sally Abed. The two have just returned to Israel after touring the U.S. to build support for a ceasefire and long-term peace. | Photo via Standing Together

“Seven million Palestinians and seven million Israeli Jews are not going anywhere,” declared Alon-Lee Green, a Jewish Israeli of Standing Together. Despite the current war and the anti-Arab, apartheid-like, and ethnic cleansing policies of the extreme-right Netanyahu government, the two peoples live in the same geographic space. “Our futures are intertwined,” says Green.

Green and another Standing Together leader, Sally Abed, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, toured several U.S. cities in November, speaking before packed audiences and garnering national media attention. Their message of transforming a shared trauma that began long before Oct. 7 to a shared Jewish-Palestinian future of democracy and equality resonated deeply.

“None of us will be equal and safe unless the other is equal and safe,” said Abed. “Both peoples are hurting. We need to stop the bloodshed, and that starts from the realization that we all have equal rights to our homeland. We deserve freedom, and no one is going anywhere.”

Standing Together (founded eight years ago after another Israeli war on Gaza) and other Israeli peace and justice organizations staunchly oppose Netanyahu, his extreme-right governing coalition, and its religious nationalist mass base (including the settler bloc) and their effort to exploit the crisis to advance an undemocratic, anti-Arab, and ethnic cleansing agenda across what they consider “Greater Israel.”

The broader peace movement includes Combatants for Peace, Breaking the Silence, Peace Now, A Land for All, the parliamentary faction Hadash led by the Communist Party of Israel, and scores of other grassroots peace-oriented groups, kibbutzim, and human rights groups. Vivian Silver, a renowned peace activist slain at the Kibbutz Be’eri on Oct. 7, was a member of Women Wage Peace and B’Tselem, a human rights group.

These groups reflect one of the contending political currents in Israel. They work at the civil society level to build Jewish-Palestinian unity and forge a new majority consensus for a just peace. They advocate an end to indiscriminate killing of civilians, the siege of Gaza and occupation of the West Bank, settler expansionism and violence, winning recognition of equality and national rights of Palestinians, and security for all.

Expressions of Jewish–Palestinian solidarity, despite apartheid-like segregation and polarization, occurred during and in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 atrocities carried out by Hamas. Most Palestinians in Israel, which represent 20% of the population, were horrified. Mansour Abbas, who heads the United Arab List, denounced the attacks, and Bedouin Arabs in the Negev Desert, among those killed by Hamas, attempted to rescue Israeli Jews at significant risk to themselves.

This peace and democratic movement strongly believes the 100-year war against Palestinians is a failure, leaving both peoples less secure. Israel cannot destroy Hamas militarily nor ethnically cleanse Palestinians. Nor can Israeli Jews be driven out through armed struggle and terrorism.

“A military solution is a very dangerous fantasy,” says Avner Wishnitzer of Combatants for Peace. Only a political solution can create a path to peace, equality, and security for all.

“When people have to fight for their humanity or pick a side that cancels the humanity of the other, you need a different solution,” says Abed. “We need a new story and it’s difficult to shift. We need to stop the bloodshed and that starts from the realization that we all deserve equal rights to exist in our homeland and freedom and no one is going anywhere.”

Forging unity for peace after Oct. 7

Demonstrators walk with Israel’s national flags next to a banner showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against plans by his government to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 25, 2023. | Oded Balilty/AP

Prospects for peace, mutual security, and justice for Palestinians seem bleak after the gruesome massacre of almost 1,200 Israelis and foreign workers on Oct. 7 by Hamas, the taking of hostages and acts of sexual violence, and the horrific Israeli response which has killed over 20,000 Palestinians, destroyed 60% of Gaza, displaced nearly the entire population, and created a humanitarian catastrophe.

But in Israel and Palestine, the movement for Arab-Palestinian and Jewish unity to achieve a negotiated peace, to bring home all hostages and Palestinian prisoners, an end to the siege, occupation, and settlement expansion, and for a shared future of full equality for all remains alive.

Before Oct. 7, mass protests rocked Israel against Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing governing coalition, widely seen as the most corrupt, reactionary, undemocratic, and unpopular in Israeli history. Since Oct. 7, hatred toward Netanyahu has only grown. The Israeli public widely blames Netanyahu for the security lapse leading to the Oct. 7 massacre and want him gone immediately or at the war’s end.

The fight to protect and expand Israeli democracy, win political and racial equality and justice for Palestinians, and end the war in Gaza and the occupied West Bank are intertwined, say Abed and Green. The Netanyahu coalition and its MAGA-like base represent a minority. But they are driving the war and the assault on democracy, and little will change until Israelis oust them from government.

“It’s impossible to disconnect the areas of damage the right wing is causing Israeli society,” said Green, referring to the flawed pro-democracy protests that sacrificed demands for Palestinian equality and ending the occupation, settlement expansion, and siege of Gaza.

It’s also impossible, Green said, to “be against Netanyahu because of the corruption but blind to what Netanyahu is doing to the safety and security of the Israeli people and the pain he is causing the Palestinian people. Then you create a strategic problem. We can’t ignore that anymore. Everything is connected. The status quo is not maintainable any longer.”

Repression in Israel

The horrific war in Gaza, the dangerous extreme-right political atmosphere in Israel, and constant efforts to fuel a civil war between Jews and Palestinians make organizing and unity-building difficult. Peace activists face growing political repression and an armed movement of extreme right-wing religious zealots and settlers backed by the military. Israeli society is on constant edge from ongoing Hamas rocket barrages and threats to repeat the Oct. 7 attack.

Israeli police drag an injured demonstrator down the street in Tel Aviv during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. | Ariel Schalit / AP

The Netanyahu government is conducting intense repression against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are routinely fired from jobs and expelled from universities for simply expressing concern for Gaza’s civilian population. In addition, the government is repressing anti-occupation activists, and physical attacks are increasing on both Palestinian and Jewish citizens who speak out against the injustices of the war, says Standing Together.

“The right-wing government is trying to open another front in this war against Palestinian Israelis. They are accusing them of being with Hamas and are ‘traitors from within,’” said Green. “What’s at stake is either an internal war the right wing wants to take us to or an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.”

During a previous operation in Gaza, Netanyahu declared that “Israel will forever live on the sword.” Israel has conducted 16 military operations in Gaza in the last 15 years to destroy Hamas’s military capabilities. Each time, Netanyahu says it will be the last, but it never is, and Israelis and Palestinians aren’t any safer.

Military operations only strengthen Hamas, fill Israeli society with fear, hatred, and dehumanization of Palestinians, and remove restraints on the extreme right.

Peace activists say they “refuse to live on the sword,” dehumanization of Palestinians also dehumanizes Israelis, and constant war deepens the crisis in Israeli society. Instead, they are building a new political majority that values the lives of both peoples and sees ending the occupation, siege of Gaza, and social inequality as in the interests of both peoples.

Standing Together and other peace groups joined the marches for Netanyahu’s ouster. They have joined protests led by the families of hostages, including from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The families say the government is coldly sacrificing the lives of their loved ones to pursue its war aims. The killing of three hostages by IDF soldiers a few days ago brought renewed protests and a demand for an immediate release of all Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages.

In addition, Standing Together is organizing Jewish-Arab solidarity watches, mutual aid, helping open and publicize neighborhood bomb shelters, and lending solidarity to the victims and families of the Oct. 7 massacre. The aim is to counter the war hysteria and hate and de-escalate tension.

Netanyahu must go

The Israeli peace forces agree that no lasting peace or path to a two-state solution or any recognition of Palestinian self-determination is possible so long as Netanyahu and his coalition of extremist religious zealots are running the government.

“For the first time, the Israeli government includes a Kahanist Party, the most extremist part of the Israeli ultra-right,” said Uri Weltmann, another leader of Standing Together. “They are the mirror image of Hamas: Both dabble in genocidal rhetoric and are enemies of Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

A Palestinian girl wounded by the Israeli bombardment arrives at Khan Younis hospital in Gaza, Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. | AP

The peace and democracy groups envision a majority movement with sustainable power, “a movement uniting Jews and Palestinians and all marginalized groups in Israeli society that connect to the struggles for peace, equality, and social justice,” said Abed. Only a new Israeli political majority can create the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians living side by side with full equality, national and political rights, and security.

A successful peace process also requires the consolidation of a united national movement of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Israel under a joint program. A recent survey of Palestinians indicates that 51% still support a two-state solution but lack confidence in any political or governmental institution, including the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.

A growing movement in Israel for a two-state solution, a confederation, or recognition of Palestinian self-determination also encourages a new national democratic movement among Palestinians that sees possibilities to forge a path forward together.

Worldwide call for ceasefire

The Biden administration, the leading military supporter of Israel, is under growing domestic and international pressure to end the conflict. The U.N. General Assembly voted 153-10 in favor of a ceasefire. Pope Francis, human rights and civic organizations, and NGOs demand a ceasefire.

Sixty-one percent of Americans, including 76% of Democrats, and nearly 60 U.S. Congressmembers, four U.S. Senators, city councils, trade unions, religious and civic organizations, cultural workers, and celebrities support a ceasefire. Many fear that Biden’s support for Israeli government policies is jeopardizing his own re-election and along with the effort to win Democratic Congressional majorities in 2024.

Publicly, the administration is increasingly critical of Israeli conduct in the war and West Bank settler expansion and continues pushing for the release of the remaining hostages and getting food, fuel, and medical supplies into Gaza.

On Dec. 12, Biden warned the Netanyahu government it was losing international support because of its indiscriminate killing of civilians and massive destruction in Gaza and told Netanyahu on Dec. 14 that the “high intensity” phase of the Gaza military operation must end within weeks.

But Biden’s words ring hollow without, at a minimum, imposing conditions on military aid or employing other means of leverage. Meanwhile, the Netanyahu coalition government, including virulent anti-Arab racists and Jewish religious nationalists, continues committing war crimes and ethnic cleansing with impunity, putting the two, along with the international community, on a collision course.

Ultimately, the Biden administration must break with Netanyahu’s right-wing extremism and over 50 years of U.S. imperialist policy toward Israel and Palestine forged in the Cold War that blocked Palestinian self-determination while tacitly supporting the ongoing “nakba,” the continuing expulsion of Palestinians from their native lands.

Israeli and Palestinian public opinion

Police cut a chain used by activists with Jewish Voice for Peace to chain themselves to the fence outside the White House during a ceasefire protest, Dec. 11, 2023, in Washington. | Susan Walsh / AP

Israeli public opinion is contradictory and divided, reflecting sharply contending political currents. Most Israelis despise Netanyahu and blame him for not keeping the country safe. They prioritize the safe return of the hostages, but a majority also support the military campaign against Hamas.

The Oct. 7 massacre traumatized Israeli society, shattered the illusion of security, and tapped into the painful collective memory, including centuries of oppression, pogroms, and the Holocaust. Israeli Jews see Oct. 7 and the attacks by Hezbollah from Lebanon and Houthis from Yemen as an existential threat.

Palestinians face a very different existential threat from this Israeli government: ethnic cleansing and devastation in Gaza, settler expulsions on the West Bank, and repression of Palestinian Israelis.

Not surprisingly, the Israeli reign of terror in Gaza fuels support for Hamas, which grew from 38% before Oct. 7 to 44% now. But support for Hamas has grown during every Israeli attack in the past. Many Palestinians turn to Hamas because they don’t see any other alternative to the Palestinian Authority, which is widely discredited, said Amaney Jamal co-founder and co-principal investigator at Arab Barometer.

However, before Oct. 7 Gazans were expressing widespread dissatisfaction with Hamas governance. According to Arab Barometer, 67% of Gazans had little or no trust in the Hamas-led government, and West Bank Palestinians had even less trust. 72% of Gazans said there was widespread corruption under Hamas.

The consensus support among Israelis for the war, which is already showing cracks with the actions of families of hostages, could erode further if the military campaign gets bogged down and Israeli causalities mount.

Everyone knows Netanyahu sees Hamas as an “asset” to prevent a united Palestinian movement and the Palestinian Authority from assuming power in Gaza and that he greenlighted funding them through Qatar. Netanyahu and his ilk vow there will be no Palestinian state so long as he is prime minister, and Israel will occupy Gaza after the war.

Recent polls suggest nearly half of Israelis oppose a two-state solution as a condition for future U.S. assistance (support is more robust among Israeli Arabs). Meanwhile, the same poll indicates that 45% support a two-state solution or a single state with equal rights for Palestinians. Only a hardcore 30% supports a single state with privileged status for Jews.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians are fighting to end the war and bring about a just peace, guaranteeing equality, national rights, self-determination, and security for both peoples.

“No human being should live under tyranny, and because no one’s blood is redder than any other,” said Avner Gaveryahu of Breaking the Silence. “Everyone in this land deserves to live a good, safe, and free life. This is why we struggle—and will continue to struggle—against collective punishment, killings, the dangerous policies to “maintain occupation” and the rounds of endless war.”

“Every human being deserves a life of safety and freedom. Palestinians and Israelis both,” he said.

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John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.