"Everything is okay"
I noticed this graffiti the other day. The call and response of it captured the schizophrenic reality here these days.
Everything is okay in Tel Aviv. You go to the beach and drink fresh squeezed orange juice or a milkshake made from Halva and dates, and everything is okay. You go to dinner, you laugh with friends. Everything is okay. You order another drink, everything is okay.
You get on a bus that goes straight to work, disappear in your office, answer emails, hit the commuter grind at the end of the day and go straight home, and you can pretend everything is okay.
But it is not okay here. Earlier this month a 15 year old Palestinian boy was shot and killed for being near to a group of boys who were throwing rocks at soldiers. He was just heading home from a pool party.
A 13 year old girl was sleeping in her home inside the settlement Kiryat Arba. A 19 year old Palestinian boy stabbed her to death. (Her family just held a memorial service on Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, which also is shaking the foundations of “okay”).
Then, less than 24 hours later, there was an attack in Netanya and a drive-by in the West Bank. The entire city of Hebron was put under curfew.
Al-Araqib, an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev, was demolished for the 100th time.
A crowd-funding campaign was launched to raise funds to pay the legal fees for the soldier, Elor Azaria, who shot a Palestinian in the head execution-style in Hebron in March. The campaign raised over 590,000NIS (over $150,000) in 3 days.
And today, the NGO Transparency Law was just passed. While the concept of transparency is generally viewed in a positive light, this law’s underlying aims may be far from benign. This law targets specific human rights organizations within Israeli borders that receive foreign funding. It was promoted at the Knesset by Members Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennet—far right wing members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition. The bill initially required that representatives of the targeted NGOs wear armbands when they entered the Knesset. This was dropped, as it was seen as too contentious a throwback to other times when people were required to wear armbands identifying them. The law that passed requires NGOs to report foreign funding—not private donors—just foreign funding. Who receives foreign funding here?
There are 27 NGOs listed as receiving half their money from abroad and who will be subjected to the new law. See the full list here. The list includes 25 human-rights organizations. (Read “left wing”). My personal favorites (truly, these are some of my favorite organizations):
- Coalition of Women for Peace (feminism at its finest),
- Yesh Din (a law organization specializing in legal assistance in the Palestinian territories),
- Who Profits (an amazing online site that compiles a list of which companies profit from continued occupation),
- Terrestrial Jerusalem (an organization that maps facts on the ground in East and West Jerusalem),
- Btselem (human rights watch group),
- Ir Amim (Jerusalem based organization documenting inequalities in the city),
- Breaking the Silence (the organization of soldiers which publishes testimonies from service that do not conform to the discourse of the IDF being the most “moral army in the world”),
- Gisha (an organization focused on accessibility in and out of the Gaza blockade and humanitarian needs in Gaza),
- and Sikuuy (an organization that promotes full equality and civil rights in Israeli borders).
Many writers are up in arms about this law as the first of many that are embedding fascist principles within Israeli democracy. (And not just writers in Israel. The UN and the US call this law an affront to democracy.)
This begins to feel routine. I turn off the news, I stop swiping through Twitter; it’s too much to read, too much to follow. How do you keep track of the pointless deaths, the demolished homes, the empty political speeches, and above all, the constant violence? The general cyclical continuation of humiliation, violence, suppression, and arrests under occupation continues.
But this routine is not okay. This sly slippery slope into fascism is not okay. The lived reality for Israelis and Palestinians is not okay. The rise in extremism, the rise in violence, the rise in fear, this is not okay. The moment when we begin to simply brush it aside and say "It's normal," that's not okay.
I begin to appreciate the person that wrote “No” in response to that spray-paint stencil: It is takes back the space. That “No” yells at the naivety and sweeps aside the sand which Jews living on this side of the Green Line bury their heads into. It wakes me up from my summertime haze and reverie in which I have hidden in myself, reading books at the beach and doing my best not to be present here. I look around, and all I can think to myself is “No. It’s not okay.”
At least this week, things are happening to push back against all this being routine. The Center for Jewish Nonviolence has officially kicked off their weeklong event “Occupation is Not My Judaism” in which over 50 Jews from 8 countries are currently here and participating in direct non-violent action against the occupation daily. They are working with Palestinian communities to plant, to build, and to reap justice. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.