Last summer’s tented protests in Israel, called (like another famous revolution) after the 14th July date on which they sprang into life, have grown up in just five months and have now thrown down a challenge to the basic credo of their country. Their statement does not just demand a state for all its inhabitants, it proclaims that they will create one. The video of this manifesto’s launch survived just a day or two on YouTube, but you can read the text on our Documents page, and watch the video on J14’s own site here.
There is in fact no shortage of plans, constitutions, declarations and manifestos offering plans and road maps for solving the “intractable” problem of Palestine and Israel. One Democracy has one ourselves (see the 12 Principles at the foot of the About page).
J14’s manifesto for a “New Israel”, unveiled in an exciting flashmob invasion of the heartland of Israel’s establishment, is different in several respects.
First, it addresses principles, not arrangements. As Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has written, “Peace is not a demographic change, nor a redrawing of maps: it is the elimination of racist ideologies and apartheid policies.” This Manifesto envisages a new state where human values and needs come first, and where all humans are of equal worth. It may not be comprehensive or word-perfect, but you really can’t go far wrong if you have those sentiments at the core.
The Manifesto does not specify who would be the inhabitants of the New Israel, nor does it say where its borders would lie. But the “just, fair and sane society” it envisages, undivided between “Jews and Arabs” should be an honourable and trustworthy partner for designing arrangements for fruitful, prosperous and peaceful coexistence, whatever its territorial borders.
Second, other manifestos are designed by devotees of an idea, who may themselves be part of a mass movement but whose ideas are not the common currency of such movements. One Democracy is itself one such, so we are not about to decry these efforts. But where we and others of like mind are faced with the task of getting our big idea taken up by a mass movement, the J14 Manifesto has emerged from such a movement as its own expression.
Moveover, it has emerged from a mass movement that started out by ring-fencing itself from many of these ideas, which was dismissed by some on the left for thinking that Social Justice could be achieved without confronting the racial division within Israeli society.
On August 15 we wrote “There seems little chance that the movement as a whole will question any of the fundamentals of the Israeli state”. In just five months it has turned this around. Mainly, because no fence or wall could keep these issues apart for long. But it also speaks volumes that while at first the scope of the J14 movement was self-limited for fear of losing support, there is now the confidence to call for a radical re-design of Israel that junks Zionism, while still keeping their forces together.
Third, and most promising, is that the Palestinian (or “Arab”) issue has not been tacked on as an extra: it is an inseparable and organic element seamlessly connected to all the cruelty and insanity of the Israeli society which gave such force to the J14 protests that erupted in the summer. So this Manifesto is not only gaining power from the huge numbers who were mobilised, but from their own pressing everyday concerns, and the sense that their own problems will only be solved by a regime change that applies to “all inhabitants” of the country.
Fourth, whereas most of the documents of constitutional and peace proposals have come from Palestinians or internationals or ex-pat and exiled Israelis, this Manifesto is purely an “inside job”. It’s about how large numbers of Israelis are now wanting to see their country change. An Israel-led politics may not be as appealing as an “Israel & Palestine” or “Palestinian liberation” thrust. But it is an absolutely essential pre-requisite for a just outcome entered into willingly and sincerely by a majority on both “sides” of the equation. So de-Zionising from within is a necessary task for any progress from the status quo. It is also, even regardless of size, proportionately many times more potent and effective for having come from within, and will also be hugely enabling for the international BDS and solidarity movement.
Fifth, a strong de-zionising movement in Israel would remove the one argument against the single inclusive democratic state, which is that Israel’s Jews would supposedly never give up their “right to self-determination”: that the Jewish state is non-negotiable for the vast majority of Israeli Jews. This Manifesto coincides with a growing swell of doubts among Israel’s international backers (e.g. a fourteen-to-one Security Council vote to condemn settlement expansion; a report-back from Europe’s diplomats in Israel condemning the treatment of its Arab citizens; and statements from leading, mainstream American pro-Zionists decrying gender segregation and the Knesset’s bulldozing of democratic rights), and could help to cremate the last mortal remains of the Two State solution and put something better in its place.
One Democracy will be happy to publicise and support the New Israel Manifesto. We very much hope that its authors will now take the step of creating a campaigning party to carry their message to the heart of Israel’s establishment in a more sustained way than a five-minute flash-mob: otherwise they may find, as did the Egyptian revolutionaries, that you cannot expect your sworn enemies to carry out your programme.
An electoral and campaigning party run democratically by its members could retain the free creative ferment of exemplary action and ideas at its base and affiliate together forces such as Israel’s 130 human rights groups in one alliance. It could be a powerful tool to take the J14 message into every corner of Israeli society, including schools, professions, trade unions and serving soldiers; to gain endorsement and form connections internationally where it could represent an alternative Israel, depriving Israel’s establishment of political and financial supporters; and to gain an electoral mandate for its manifesto.
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