|Beit Hanina demolition.(Photo by: Meir Margalit)|
It’s time for civil disobedience
By MEIR MARGALIT
I was questioned under caution! Not in gloomy cellar, without blinding projectors like in movies, without Shin Bet.
I was questioned under caution! Not in a gloomy cellar, without blinding
projectors like in the movies, and without Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency)
interrogators who shouted and caressed alternately.
The questioning was
conducted by officials from the Interior Ministry’s Construction Inspection Unit
in Jerusalem. The suspicion – “illegal construction” that I allegedly carried
out in east Jerusalem, and on more than one occasion.
I was reasonably
treated, and was even offered a drink, but it was a charged situation – such
construction is a criminal offense. In the corridors of the Interior Ministry’s
Construction Inspection Unit in Jerusalem are quite a few officials who consider
me a thorn in their side, and who deeply long to convict me of criminal
offenses. I arrived for questioning with some curiosity that remained
unsatisfied, because ultimately I couldn’t say if I got polite treatment because
I’m a “public figure,” or whether Palestinians summoned questioning are
Whatever the case, I’m accused of direct involvement
in illegal construction in east Jerusalem, of buildings that had previously been
demolished by the Interior Ministry due to the lack of a permit. The
investigation’s goal was to assemble a case that the attorney- general will file
against me at some point.
I knew it was coming. For years I’ve been
active in the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and involved in
rebuilding homes that the state demolishes. The number of buildings that we’ve
helped rebuild is countless, both inside Israel’s borders and in the Occupied
What’s certain is that in the 15 years of ICAHD’s existence
the number of buildings exceeds a thousand. We never concealed our activities,
or acted like an “underground” movement.
Nor did we hide behind false
presentations like Gush Emunim’s “archaeological camp.”
We always acted
openly, uprightly, and not for philanthropic reasons.
We are motivated by
a combination of political, conscience- led considerations to express our civil
disobedience against a phenomenon we consider an act of oppression, and our
absolute denial of Israel’s right to demolish homes in the Occupied
A succession of Israeli governments have pushed the peace
camp to the margins, and now moral people must make conscience- driven
decisions. Seeing the massive and daily trampling of human rights in the
Occupied Territories, we needed more than demonstrations which, while permitted,
are devoid of power, and largely became efforts to let off steam but not much
The state crosses red lines daily, having lost the little shame it
once had, ever since pathetic figures like Liberman and his ilk came to power.
In the current patently immoral situation, people of conscience must take an
active position. As the saying goes: “when people disappear, you must be a human
being,” and we try to stay human in circumstances when humanity is becoming a
At this time when a black flag flies over us, civil
disobedience is the only option available to people of conscience, anywhere and
in whatever sphere.
Each and every one must do their best to stand up and
say “no more.” There are things that a decent person must refuse to do, and
rules that moral individuals must break even when they’re liable to pay the
Indeed, civil disobedience actions are performed every day –
activists who enter areas of the Palestinian Authority that Israelis are
forbidden to enter and meet Palestinian peace activists; youngsters who refuse
military service on grounds of conscience; women who bring Palestinian girls to
Israel to see for once in their lives what “the sea really looks like”; former
combatants who break their silence and report on the army’s violence in the
Territories; and a range of actions designed to erode the occupation’s
foundations from within.
In his book The Colonizer and the Colonized,
Albert Memmi writes – “Some are surprised by the occupiers’ violence against
those who endanger the occupation because opponents of the occupation threaten
all the values it purports to represent.”
And that explains exactly what
underlies the McCarthyist campaign now being waged against us.
indifferent establishment that knows no limits, sane people have formed a
movement that is digging beneath the occupation’s foundations and damaging the
legitimacy it ascribes to itself.
Against the trampling of human rights
throughout Israel, the answer is non-compliance.
When the country demands
discipline, we refuse to be disciplined, and state out loud our refusal to show
loyalty to a state that acts in this way. That is how we retain our
Historians will one day be able to say that in dark days, when
Israel acted like the worst countries in the world, there was a handful of
activists who went against the current, stayed sane and saved it from
And that’s how we’ll prepare the ground for better times, because
the murky right-wing wave will not endure. When it declines, we can raise our
heads and rebuild the ruins left by the rampaging Right. And by the way – we
didn’t invent this – the Prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah said so long before
The writer, who has a PhD and was active in the Israel Committee
Against House Demolitions, is a member of the Jerusalem City Council for Meretz
and currently holds the east Jerusalem portfolio in the municipality. He was
recently interrogated by the Ministry of Interior for re-building demolished
houses for Palestinians in east Jerusalem without a license.