It is hard to see how life for Israelis or Jewish people can be the same after the horror Hamas unleashed on 7 October. Anger. Disgust. A visceral desire for vengeance. All are understandable feelings. We are reeling from the largest massacre of Jewish people since the Shoah.
Almost daily since, I’ve received heartbreaking news from family, friends and Jewish and Arab colleagues. Our community heard testimonies when over 550 of us came together in solidarity for a memorial.
My friends and colleagues, the many volunteers, and the heroic people of Israel offer glimmers of hope for the society that will recover and emerge from this devastating reality.
“After Hamas burned their homes, we built them a town.” This is how my New Israel Fund colleagues refer to partners Givat Haviva, Tzedek Centres and Hashomer Hatzair who are housing, helping and educating the families and children of Ashkelon, Ofakim, Sderot, and Nativot.
Raising millions around the world, we have already released hundreds of thousands of shekels to provide shelter, safety and immediate assistance for those fleeing the kibbutzim, towns and Bedouin villages attacked by Hamas.
We are supporting the groups and leaders working to avoid bloodshed on the streets of Israel’s mixed cities. Our grantee ‘Standing Together‘ have joint unarmed patrols of Arabs and Jews, working with residents, calming tensions and cleaning out shelters.
Facing a barrage of disinformation and hate, another NIF grantee, ‘FakeReporter‘, are combatting incitement. Cases are forwarded to authorities, such as gangs in Bat Yam and Netanya planning violence.
FakeReporter launched a platform allowing anyone to report misinformation and are working to remove inaccurate and overly graphic content. They are training Palestinian citizens of Israel to monitor and counter fake news.
Standing with Israel during these darkest of days also requires us to support Israelis contending with dangerous extremists and autocrats undermining the rule of law.
Itamar Ben Gvir called for relaxing licensing to arm more civilians. Instead of doing his job as national security minister, he staged a stunt handing out weapons, only for the police to immediately collected them. More guns in the hands of Ben Gvir’s supporters could cause carnage. Following the outbreak of war, over 60 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, many by settlers.
The authoritarian aspirations that prompted forty weeks of mass protests have not disappeared. Leaders from Standing Together were recently arrested and their posters pulled down. When there are attempts to limit expressing a simple slogan – “Jews and Arabs, we’ll get through it together” (in Hebrew and Arabic) – we should all be concerned.
Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer specialising in Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem, described East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents being “asked to give the police their cell phones” without search warrants.
If the police find “anything objectionable – like an expression of concern regarding people in Gaza, the individual is arrested for two or three days, and then released.” None of those detained have subsequently faced charges. Israeli news reported the Cabinet was told East Jerusalem Palestinians are being “deterred”.
As well as abandoning the values of democracy and freedom Israel is fighting for, these actions aggravate an already combustible security situation.
Israeli civil society shows us the best of what Israel is and can be. As well as housing, helping and protecting victims of terror, they try to ensure Israel’s democracy prevails and minorities are protected.
Our flagship grantee, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel [ACRI], support those whose rights are infringed. Currently they are handling cases of students suspended because of social media posts.
ACRI are also working with various government departments, demanding the deployment of sirens and defences throughout the Negev for all communities attacked by rockets.
Until 7 October, Israelis have been demonstrating weekly to preserve their country’s democracy and soul. They continue to defend democracy and civil rights even as they fight Hamas’ terror.
We must stand with Israel and Israelis, and we must stand for justice as they bravely fight against terror and for democracy.
- David Davidi-Brown is the CEO of the New Israel Fund
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