In our Annual Report 2019, we already published a detailed article on the exciting follow-up work of the partner organization with whom we organized the Allgenders seminar in 2018. After staying in regular contact, we decided to enter into a long-term partnership starting in 2021. The core of their work is the trialogue between Jewish Israelis, Palestinians from the West Bank and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship; they work primarily with theater and media pedagogical approaches in mostly two-year programs. In this interview, coordinators Karim A.* (Palestine) and Sarah T.* (Israel) (names changed) talk about the current political situation and their plans for the partnership with Vacation from War.
Vacation from War: How do you assess the current political situation and to what extent does it influence your work as an organization?
K.A.: Especially in the current pandemic times, the world doesn’t pay attention to Palestine – there are clearly more arrests, demolitions of houses, shooting of farmers and more evictions of whole communities, especially in the Jordan Valley. An extreme settler organization that has been making attacks on Palestinians for years is now more aggressive and better organized than ever before. Because of the increased aggression by the Israeli army and settlers, people who move between cities and have to pass through Israeli checkpoints are now even more afraid. In addition, anger, frustration and refusal to meet with Israelis are growing.
Israel’s so-called „peace agreements“ with Arab states, which are a normalization of economic, military and political relations create a feeling of having been betrayed and left alone among Palestinians. Israel feels encouraged by the agreements to occupy even more land, and despair grows in Palestine as independence becomes increasingly unlikely and fears of annexation by Israel become more real.
The pandemic once again highlighted Palestine’s dependence on Israel and further weakened the state: fewer people were able to enter Israel to pursue their work and, conversely, far fewer Israelis came to the West Bank to shop – a major factor for the Palestinian economy.
Beyond the general social situation, for our work all this means that the participants of our programs had virtually no possibility to meet further – meetings that could have given an opportunity to process feelings and transform them into constructive action. Last but not least, political developments have made it even more difficult for youth and young adults to participate in our programs, also due to defamation and rejection by family and friends.
FvK: Sarah, what is the situation in Israel?
S.T.: The general Israeli public is not interested in the Palestinian public. This is the result of years of presenting the Palestinians as a monolithic group who wishes to destroy “us” only because we are Jewish, and who, since 1947, always refused our “generous peace offers”.
Right now in the pandemic, the “average Jewish Israeli” couldn’t care less about the situation of Palestine.
The Israeli mainstream has accepted sympathetically the normalization of relations with some Arab states without understanding the political motivations behind it. Netanyahu’s ties with other political leaders are sweepingly chalked up as success, regardless of whether they are brutal dictators who use Israeli weapons and security technology to oppress their populations.
Netanyahu is busy with his corruption trial, and his inability to govern the country properly results in infection rates remaining very high in spite of the vaccination campaign. The education system has barely functioned for a year now, and many people are in financial crises. The gap between rich and poor continues to widen.
The anger over all this led to a huge wave of protests throughout the country, and I am not at all excited about voting for the 4th time in in two years. With these growing schisms in the Israeli Jewish society, meeting with Palestinians is seen as unimportant at best or as being anti-patriotic treason at worst.
On the other hand, there are small, yet committed circles of activists who are not giving up on the hope to end occupation and continue to work despite the crises, doing what can be done and wanting to do more once Covid-19 is over. We remain in contact with team members and former participants and will use 2021 to evaluate and further develop our programs, also with taking into consideration the changed political conditions. We want to expand our team and organize facilitation workshops in order to start dialogue programs again in 2022. We are constantly receiving inquiries from young people who have heard about our programs and want to participate, and younger siblings of former participants are also coming forward and want to join.