On Saturday night April 1, thousands of Palestinians and Jews gathered in Jerusalem for an anti-occupation protest marking 50 years since the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights began. Breaking the Silence head Yuli Novak spoke to demonstrators about the importance of solidarity and resistance to the violence and racism of the Israeli government. Below is a transcript of the speech, translated from Hebrew.
These are dark, somber days. Our country is dominated by occupation, messianism, racism, ignorance, callousness, and violence. Blaming the right-wing government won’t help. Nor will sitting in our living rooms fantasizing about the day they’ll be replaced. And please, enough with the “Anyone but Bibi” rhetoric — Yair Lapid is no different.
The change we need to enact here requires courage, honesty, and the willingness to sacrifice something – the willingness to give up privileges and pay a price. Show me one politician – one! – who wants to be prime minister and is also willing to do this.
During dark days like these marked by daily violence, intensifying hatred, terrible racism, the occupation, there’s only one way to win: resistance. Struggle. Solidarity. That’s it. Resistance — that’s our strength and the regime’s weakness. Joining struggles is our hope, and what will bring about the collapse of the regime. Solidarity is our civil power, and the regime’s greatest fear. And there’s nothing more frightening for bad regimes than the moment when citizens stand up, resist, and fearlessly struggle.
When Palestinians do so in nonviolent demonstrations in the occupied territories — in Bil’in, in Hebron, in Sheikh Jarrah — the regime’s response will always involve violence and force. This is why we need to join forces. Because resistance and civilian struggles are the only means to challenge violent regimes. They’re the only means that cannot be suppressed with guns or clubs.
Solidarity is a state of mind. To be willing to sacrifice for the other and to understand that it’s the only act the regime can’t tolerate. Solidarity isn’t an empty slogan. It’s a tool which we’re neither sufficiently familiar with nor trained to use. This state of affairs is convenient for the regime, and has been fostered for decades by right- and left-wing governments – making sure we keep thinking solely of ourselves, keep living in existential fear, keep perceiving the occupation as necessary, and keep looking at racism as something that defines us.
Israelis hold signs calling to fight against racism, occupation, and for freedom of speech, in a march against the occupation in Jerusalem, April 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Solidarity is the only act capable of deconstructing such perceptions that have been instilled in us from birth. Solidarity is not only recognition of others’ pain and suffering. Solidarity is, first and foremost, recognition of one’s right to struggle for freedom, and recognition of our responsibility, and duty, to conduct this struggle together. And pay a price together. And be liberated together.
This is also the reason why the government invests the majority of its efforts into incitement, division, creation of hatred and fear.
For those who believe in freedom, equality, and life, we no longer have the privilege of sitting at home. Democratic public spheres are disappearing. Culture, academia, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, democracy, equality, morality and justice — all of them have become victims of the regime on the altar of occupation, settlements, and corruption.
This struggle is critical, and it doesn’t solely belong to Arabs, human rights organizations, the homeless, or Ethiopians. It’s the struggle of all those who wish to live in a liberal democracy. This struggle is against the nationalistic, messianic, racist, destructive regime of occupation.
To avert one’s eyes from the occupation is to cooperate with the wicked regime. To yield before violence is to strengthen it. To remain silent before racism is to legitimize it. To surrender to fear and intimidation is to accept this dark reality, allowing it to continue and intensify.
Each day that goes by without resistance is another day of deteriorating democracy. Each day that goes by without a struggle is another day of violence against Palestinian children. Each day that goes by without solidarity is another day in which racism and nationalism trump morality and justice.
Each day that goes by in which we neglect to merge our society’s tremendous forces — of all colors, ethnicities, and organizations — is another day which strengthens the violent nationalist occupying regime’s belief that nothing can stop it, and that they can carry on with their nationalist project of the occupation undisturbed. That they can continue to destroy, to injure, to harm, to kill.
Israelis hold signs calling to fight against racism, occupation, and for freedom of speech, in a march against the occupation at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem Old City, April 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Today alone, right here beyond these walls, the maintenance and preservation of the occupation continues to take its toll. The victims of this reality — the lives of both Jews and Palestinians — are not predestined. This is the price paid for Israeli governments’ ongoing policy of abandonment and lawlessness.
I say these things here, in Jerusalem. A city whose streets have been dominated by uninhibited, violent, racist, right-wing gangs. A city led by a racist, opportunistic mayor. A capital that bears no semblance to justice and equality.
So yes, I’m calling for us all to join forces in our struggle, here and now. To fight for our truths. To give our all for our future. And to give hope. Because when we struggle against evil in solidarity as a united front, in the end we also win. And yes, one day the occupation will end. And Jerusalem will be what it should be — the capital of a democratic, just, and equitable state.
We can no longer afford to hold on to our privileges. We no longer have the privilege to seek out easy, comfortable solutions for which we don’t have to pay a price.
It’s time to face our fears, the painful but liberating truth: It’s not just Netanyahu. It’s not just Naftali Bennett. It’s not just Yair Lapid. And it’s certainly not Isaac Herzog. It’s us. This struggle is about who we are and who we will be.
And remember: In times like these, the struggle isn’t only the path — it’s the essence. Opposition to the regime is our hope. Our dreams should guide us. Recognition of who we want to be, without senselessly, fruitlessly gripping to “who we were.” Dreams of another space — of equality, unity, and compassion — are the kryptonite of the racist regime of occupation.
Here and now, we say loud and clear: You’ll go on with your violence, and our solidarity will prevail. You’ll continue with your repression, and justice will prevail. You’ll continue to hate and intimidate, and we’ll persevere unflinchingly.
You’ll continue to occupy, and the occupation will end. The occupation will collapse. And then we’ll build a moral democratic society here, where we’ll all have the opportunity for true reform.