Israeli protest movement must dismantle the foundations of society to be successful

Rachel Beit Arie

Mondoweis  /  March 26, 2023

For the Palestinian people to achieve justice, Zionism must be dismantled. And for Jewish Israelis to achieve peace, we too must free ourselves from this project of Jewish supremacy.

The Israeli protest movement against planned judicial reforms is entering its 12th week, with little sign of slowing down. The Netanyahu government has passed its initial plans, and the protest movement is redoubling its efforts with growing support from Jewish communities in the United States. In many ways, this is an extraordinary moment for Israel and Jewish communities’ connection to it around the world. 

Still, in the midst of the struggle against the current government, we must remember that the root of the problem lies with the colonialist regime as a whole rather than bemoan a democracy that has never existed here. As the Jewish supremacist militias grow stronger, as the dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians grow deeper, we keep staring directly at the roots of racism and violence and insisting on a vision of a shared society that respects the rights of all the country’s inhabitants and the refugees who seek to return. 

Sadly, even though the protest against the current government is energetic, committed, and quite unprecedented in Israeli history, it’s still clear that it and the Israeli opposition have little to offer and no way out so long as they refuse to look at those roots, at the violence upon which the state of Israel is founded. 

Time and again, protesters and opposition leaders stress democratic values while refusing to even mention the occupation and refusing to work together or even recognize Palestinian citizens of Israel and their representatives, even though simple math shows the so-called “center-left” will never be able to form a government without them.

This internal crisis, the protest movement, and its limitations reveal a simple truth: the Jewish state as it is cannot tolerate Palestinians because it is built on the logic of their elimination. This was not only carried out by way of expulsion and murder during the Nakba in 1948. The ongoing displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people continues today as we also see the complete denial of Palestinian existence (“There is no Palestinian People”), the erasure of history, and the continued dehumanization of Palestinians throughout Israeli society. For the Palestinian people to achieve justice, the Zionist project itself must be dismantled. For Jewish Israelis to achieve peace, we too, must free ourselves from this project of Jewish supremacy.

It is time to call on more and more people to learn, think, dare imagine a different reality, and choose real change. Today, more than ever, we remember that things can be different. 

Zochrot has been active since the beginning of the millennium in raising the issue of the Nakba and the right of return within the political consciousness of the Jewish public in Israel while promoting recognition, accountability, and a just solution. Inspired by this vision, we have created the most extensive database about the Nakba in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. We have led thousands of tours to depopulated Palestinian towns and villages and developed the iReturn app for navigating ethnically cleansed Palestinian lands. We have produced hundreds of publications, learning materials, maps, and exhibitions. We have trained and supported hundreds of educators, tour guides, and activists. We are proud to have created a community of courageous Israelis who want to live in a truly just and equal society and believe that a better reality is attainable. Zochrot has led this way for over two decades.

Zochrot has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to support our efforts to crack the walls of denial about the ongoing Nakba and drive a profound change in Israeli political culture to achieve true reform.

When most Palestinians and most Israelis have long despaired of the possibility of reconciliation, we know that despair is not an option and that reconciliation can only come from acknowledgment and redress of the harm that was done. This is a pivotal moment when the Israeli state, which was built on so much violence and denial, is destabilizing. This is when as many of us as possible need to re-imagine life in Palestine beyond Zionism and work towards it. 

Rachel Beit Arie is the Director of Zochrot, an NGO that has been working since 2002 to expose and disseminate historical information about the Palestinian Nakba in Hebrew, to promote accountability for the Nakba among the Jewish public of Israel and the implementation of the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees