Mobilizing the Peace Camp Online; Leveraging the Black Flag Protests
Even before the Gantz-Netanyahu coalition agreement to begin annexing parts of the West Bank on July 1, Peace Now has been firing up the peace camp and harnessing the viral pro-democracy protests to sound the national alarm on this critical issue. Our webinars have sharpened our base’s knowledge and arguments against annexation, and have made it an integral component at every Black Flag demonstration, from distributing hundreds of signs to garnering media recognition of the movement’s linkage between protecting democracy against a corrupt Prime Minister and preventing his attempts to pave the way for a permanent, undemocratic one-state reality.
In the past month we have sponsored several webinars, published numerous posters and press releases, participated in several black flag actions, and held a protest outside of Benny Gantz’s home. We have also delivered 3 English briefings on the situation and how Peace Now is responding.
How has the Coronavirus affected the campaign?
The new popularity of webinars has enabled us to reach more people, with more timely analysis, than ever before. This online activity has allowed us to expand our regular engagement beyond our activist core in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to thousands of eager listeners from around the country who otherwise would not have been able to attend our briefings. As for the protests, social distancing at the weekly Tel Aviv gatherings of 2,000 people has attracted world coverage, something typically possible only for demonstrations thirty times their size.
In the coming weeks we will plan to build momentum to spur single-issue demonstrations, media attention and parliamentary opposition on the issue of annexation. The public is right to focus on the economic fallout from the Coronavirus and Netanyahu’s political corruption, but Israel has just 64 days until this Frankenstein government is expected to press forward on annexation. We need this issue to be front and center, and are exploring new multimedia options and building a coalition for when we will need to capture the public’s undivided attention.
(These are in Hebrew. Scroll to the bottom for English briefings)
Expert Panel on Annexation
MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid), security expert Colonel (res) Shaul Arieli, J Street Israel’s Yael Patir and Peace Now Director Shaqued Morag appeared on an online panel titled, “Save Democracy – Oppose Annexation,” which attracted over 6,000 views. The panel emphasized the broad implications of annexation, from ending Israel’s democracy, to the economic and security ramifications of crippling the Palestinian Authority, to tarnishing our strategic relations with Arab states, to the implications on Palestinians in Area C.
- What do Israelis really think of annexation?, with Professor Gilad Hirschberger, sponsored by Peace Now university chapters at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University and IDC Herzliya
- Activist briefings on Annexation following the Coalition Agreement, with Shaqued Morag
- From Outposts to Annexation, featuring Settlement Watch director Shabtay Bendet, a former radical settler who founded an illegal settlement outpost
- Peacemaking by example of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, with Shaqued Morag
- On Occupation, Coronavirus and Annexation, featuring Shaqued Morag on a panel by Standing Together
- Apartheid? Us?, featuring Peace Now’s freelance attorney Michael Sfard, co-sponsored by Peace Now and Breaking the Silence
Below are some photos from several black flag direct actions, as well as a protest we held outside Benny Gantz’s house to pressure him on his supportive comments on annexation:
“Annexation = End to Democracy” at an early Black Flag protest in HaBima Square
Former Peace Now Director Avi Buskila speaks at Rabin Square, 25 April
Aerial view of the 19 April Black Flag protest in Rabin Square
The following are three briefings Peace Now delivered by Executive Director Shaqued Morag and External Relations Director Brian Reeves on annexation, the Coronavirus, and Peace Now’s activity (reverse chronological order):
- From Settlements to Annexation – sponsored by Canadian Friends of Peace Now.
- From Settlements to Annexation – sponsored by Americans for Peace Now.
- Covid-19 and West Bank Settlements – co-sponsored by Foundation for Middle East Peace and Americans for Peace Now.
- A grassroots and media campaign is essential to stop West Bank annexation. The public must be informed on its consequences for Israel’s democracy, foreign relations, security, economy, and moral character
- Three options for annexation – “consensus” settlements (Gush Etzion), large swaths of the West Bank, all settlements in the West Bank
- There will likely be a years’ lag between when legislation on annexation is passed and when it is fully implemented. This means annexation can be fought even years after the legislation is enacted, but also makes it easier for the government to pass since the all of the consequences won’t be immediate.
- Netanyahu has exploited the Coronavirus to subvert Israel’s democracy to ensure that he remains in power, while also using the issue of annexation as a balance to maintain right-wing support as he brings on parties to his left.
- Netanyahu is incentivized by the ideological right and the potential “closing window” of Trump’s presidency, but the international, security and economic fallout from annexation can hold him back.
- Settlement activity remains steady, despite Coronavirus restrictions
- Peace Now will keep fighting for the two-state regardless of what the government does on July 1. There may come a time when Peace Now will have to change paradigms on how a conflict-ending agreement will look, but the two-state solution remains the best option for Israel and the fastest feasible way for Palestinians to see an end to the occupation.
- Supporters of Israel abroad can help us in our information campaign and street protests by sharing our activities on social media, drawing media attention, pressuring impressionable politicians at home and in Israel, and of course by contributing to our activities themselves.