As I write this, many in Israel and the West Bank are on edge. The violence and bloodshed of recent days have raised fears that we are once again on the brink of a terrible escalation of violence. It shouldn’t have to be said, but I will say it anyway: there is never any justification for attacks on civilians. Ever. Anywhere.
Sadly, attacks on civilians and fears of a deterioration to war are part of the reality of Israel and the occupied territories.
Just a moment ago we were celebrating the unprecedented mobilization of Israelis who came out to stand up for the rights of women and to say “enough” to the abuse of women at the hands of their family members or partners. They were also saying “enough” to the inaction of their government, which keeps talking about taking steps to address the situation, but which, time and again, fails to follow through.
But now, a series of bloody attacks have left us in mourning. Talk of social change and of equality has been replaced with the language of bloodshed, of deterrence, and of war.
You and I know that, for things to get better in Israel, we cannot allow progress on equality to be set aside with every escalation in violence. We also know that it is critical that the discourse around Israeli national security be broadened to include progressive perspectives.
It is not enough to ask, “how should Israel respond to a terrorist attack.” Israelis must also ask what their leaders can do to stop the next attack. A strategy based on military actions alone is doomed to fail. How does Israel get back on a trajectory where peace agreements – and an end to Israeli military rule over millions of Palestinians – is possible?
I’m very proud of NIF’s investments in the women’s movement, investments which helped to lay the groundwork for last week’s immense mobilization. We’ve been there for decades, supporting rape crisis centers, civil rights litigators, grassroots organizers, and more. And we’ll be with them every step of the way going forward as they translate grassroots strength into meaningful progress.
Staying present is especially important in a place like Israel, where violence can so easily grip the attention of the nation.
I also know – especially in uncertain moments like this – that NIF’s deep partnership with the Israeli human rights community and our investments in elevating progressive approaches to national security are essential to Israel’s future. The former plays a key role, holding up a mirror to Israeli society and acting as a check on excesses by the military or other parts of the government. The latter is absolutely necessary to changing the equation, so that that Israel’s leaders will not keep falling into the trap of thinking only about short-term “conflict management,” but will also put into place policies that address Israel’s long-term security needs, including seeing an end to the occupation.
Today, in this moment of uncertainty and fear, I promise you that NIF is not going anywhere. We will be there advocating for equality for women (just as we advocate for everybody in Israel), standing by Israel’s human rights champions, and pressing for the types of approaches that can provide long-term security and, ultimately, the peace we all pray for.