There are renewed tensions in Gaza in recent weeks in Gaza following the Sheikh Jarah evictions, and disproportionate use of violence by the state of Israel. However, beyond the lens of the mainstream media is a story of hope and peace, a movement of unison between Jews and Palestinians in Israel who are protesting for an end to the systemic violence.
At the forefront of this movement is Stav Shaffir, the 36 year old leader of Israel’s Green Party and former member of the Knesset, who spoke out on social media. “Israelis, Jews and Arabs, protesting together. Know that even if we did not choose to be like this – this is our life,” Shaffir said. Attaching photos of the protests, Shaffir said that the hundred or so people in the photo actually reflect a million participants. “In [the course of] the last week, more than ever, we realized that we have to make an alliance with others,” Shaffir said.
She describes this movement, this alliance, on social media as “a pact of sane people.” According to Shaffir, the use of violence on both sides of the conflict reflects a minority of the population, albeit an influential one she acknowledges, contrary to what the media portrays. “No matter how much noise they make in the media, the extremists who are trying to scare us, who are trying to spread destruction and violence here are only a handful, ” said Shaffir. “Those who choose violence are made of the same material, no matter which side of the conflict they come from,” Shaffir added. “In front of them, there is a large majority here who want calm, who still dream of peace.”
In another Facebook post, Shaffir described the multitude of small gestures of support and solidarity in this time of conflict that few manage to perceive because of the daily influx of violence. “Over the past nine days, in the shadow of the blockades and unrest that shocked us all, they shone with simple gestures – teachers who [dictated certain religious acts] to try to calm minds, or Jewish and Arab doctors who came to the anti-violence calls,” Shaffir described as “signs of humanity in clouds of fear.”
Shaffir’s involvement in the movement also reflects a long-standing criticism of the current Netanyahu government. In a 2015 article published in The Times of Israel, Shaffir, who worked in Israel’s Finance Committee, denounced the corruption of the Israeli government. The corruption detailed in these recent media posts has resurfaced in light of the conflict in Gaza. “Netanyahu’s government has provided budgets for right-wing NGOs and has brought [unstable] figures like Itamar Ben Gvir [to the forefront],” explains Shaffir. “Similarly, Netanyahu chose to strengthen the terrorist Hamas instead of working with the Palestinian Authority. “Have you wondered why the situation has remained relatively calm over the past week? Because with the Palestinian Authority, we have security agreements that have lasted for years and are relatively successful in preventing terrorist attacks despite the delicate situation. In contrast, in Gaza, the [Israeli] government hands Hamas a bribe of money every month in exchange for silence – and after every military operation, it brings us back to the same low point.”
Shaffir poignantly denounced the hidden alliance of extremists on both sides of the conflict and the Israeli government’s involvement in the current violence. “If [the government] wanted to eliminate Hamas, it would have happened by now – but falsely, they are serving the interests of Netanyahu and the settlers. As long as Hamas is there, agreements on a two-state solution cannot be reached. According to Shaffir, this extremist collaboration was deliberately chosen and maintained by the current government in order to delay peace agreements that could harm the far right’s vision of Israel. “In order to avoid a [diplomatic] solution, Netanyahu has strengthened two terrorist movements – Hamas from outside, and Jewish extremists from inside. The latter received money for their temporary silence, and the former received budgets for their activities.
Shaffir concluded by calling on “the sane majority” to mobilize, in order to present an alternative alliance to extremism and a political renewal within the State of Israel, which suggests a possible future for the Israeli Green Party. “The political story is not over yet,” Shaffir announced. “It’s time for a new term; Netanyahu still doesn’t have a majority to assemble a government, and if he drags us into the elections again, we’ll win them”.