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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Notations From the Grid (Weekly Edition): On Israel

As part of our commitment to help to change the conversation about our World, we hereby present the Alternative View to help with providing insights on our World as we support the work of Breaking the Silence as what is turning out to be quite an election season gathers steam in Israel with Former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Former Chief of Staff Benny Ganz join forces: 

I can't count the number of times I've heard from people that our tours have changed their lives. Each year we take thousands of people on tours of Hebron and the South Hebron Hills, and each tour always has one person, at least one, who has been deeply touched by the encounter with the contested reality of Israeli control over the occupied territories. Many of them also write about what they've seen, trying to somehow convey to others what's so hard to grasp in words. But recently, two journalists, Masha Gessen of The New Yorker, and Gideon Levy from Ha'aretz, attended our tours, and I think that the articles that emerged are the closest thing to the tour itself.

Even those who work overtime to suppress the reality in Hebron, can't ignore the writing of Masha Gessen, winner of the 2017 National Book Award. Gessen joined one of our tours of Hebron and described in depth what remains of one of the largest and most important cities in the West Bank. It is a highly recommended read, even if you've already been on our tour:
"You can recognize the houses in which Palestinians still live because they have cages-steel bars covered with fine chicken wire-on the windows, to protect the residents from stones thrown by settlers. When settlers squat in a house, they remove the cages. Unlike the Palestinians, they are here under the protection of hundreds of troops stationed at dozens of checkpoints."

Expanding the Limits of Jewish Sovereignty

Gideon Levy accompanied us on a tour that is still in its preparatory stages, and which depicts the history of the occupation from 1967 to date. Levy, who joined a tour with one of the founders of Breaking the Silence, Yehuda Shaul, returned with a fascinating article on the process that Israeli control over the occupied territories has undergone over the course of 51 years. He describes with gentle precision the transition from settlements to outposts, and from outposts to infrastructure, in order to prevent Palestinian territorial contiguity and to hide the price of decades of control over another nation from Israeli citizens. This is a must-read for anyone who seeks to understand how the occupation has become what it is on the ground today.
"Yehuda Shaul, 36, one of the founders of Breaking the Silence, a former Haredi and an ex-combat soldier, worked for about a year and a half planning the tour, writing the texts and preparing the maps, drawing on some 40 books about the settlements and other materials found while burrowing in archives. Shaul is a superb guide along the trails of the occupation – businesslike and brimming with knowledge, not given to sloganizing."

When the IDF Whitewashes the Occupation, the Right Wins

Last week I also wrote a piece for Haaretz on something that has been stewing for quite some time, and that ripened into an article when the new chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, took office. For years the army has not only carried out the task of occupying Palestinian territories. It also takes pains to cooperate with supporters of the occupation by blurring and eliminating the violence necessary to preserve the occupation. I wrote, "The role of the army is not to hide from the public the fact that the mission it was sent to implement involves violence and the denial of permanent basic rights. Its role as a body sent to carry out missions on behalf of Israeli society is to report the truth and say - yes, that's the way it is. This is occupation and this is its price."

To read the full article » 

In addition, NPR has reintroduced a program that addresses the benefits of meeting people who are different from you. In the 32nd minute you can also hear an interview that the NPR team conducted with me, in which I tell about the experience that led me to join Breaking the Silence, and speak a bit about the possibility of creating change within Israeli society.

To listen to the full program »

This email is also an opportunity for me to thank you again, to thank everyone who contributed, attended our tours, and shared our testimonies. Without you we could not do what we do. Thank you.

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