Haggai Matar, executive director of +972 Magazine, hosted by ICAHD UK, PSE UK and the NEU spoke at P21 Gallery in London on 22 November about Israel and the Palestinians two years into Trump’s administration
ICAHD UK, with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – UK and the National Education Union had the pleasure of hosting a fascinating talk by Haggai Matar – executive director of +972 Magazine and co-executive director of its Hebrew sibling, Local Call (alongside Suhad Baba of Just Viosion), on Thursday 22 November. Despite the hostile November weather, and a last minute change of venue, an enthusiastic and engaged audience of a hundred filled the space of Gallery P21 in Euston to hear what Matar makes of Israel and the Palestinians at the wake of the third year of Donald Trump’s administration.
Louise Regan chaired the meeting on behalf of the NEU. ICAHD UK’s Director, Daphna Baram, said a few introductory words and the PSC’s Director Ben Jamal, closed the evening.
Haggai Matar opened with the plain realities of the day: In moving its embassy to Jerusalem and in a succession of declarations and actions, the US administration supports all Israel’s current policies, including The Nationality Law which dismissed Arabic as an official language, limits Palestinians ability to seek remedies from the courts, and in essence declares Israel to be a mono-ethnicity.
There is no real threat to Netanyahu’s continuous rein, and no real cost to the gradual expansion and annexation policies. Less Israelis get killed, which is of course a positive, but creates no motivation for change.
International pressure is on the decline. The hope for it was based on an old Europe that no longer exists. Netanyahu was early to realise that the word is going to look more like Israel rather than the other way round. More and more European countries – Hungary, Poland – are taking the lead from Netanyahu.
Sheldon Adelson supports both Netanyahu and Trump. They share consultants, and share a vision of new authoritarianism. We now recognize that resisting this line is not just the case of supporting Palestine. It is now the business of anybody who supports democracy around the world.
In the last 18 months, said Matar we at +972 Magazine had more of the people working for us get shot or arrested and harassed than in all the previous 8 years of our existence. Times are indeed grim.
There were a few recent victories, he recognised: Air BNB took off their listings posts advertising homes in settlements. Also, there was a strong international backlash to Israel’s attempts to stop activists from coming through its airport, as in the case of Laura Al Qasem.
In Khan Al-Ahmar, after the Israeli High Court of Justice failed the residents – the people of the village still received international solidarity. Israeli activists came to show their support, senior political leaders raised a voice against the demolition of the village. I believe there is a good chance that it will survive.
It is extremely important for us in +972 that you would read our stories and distribute them in the context of an international campaign for justice, he said.
Answering questions from the audience Matar said that despite his criticism of the Palestinian Authority for its human rights violation and coordination with Israel, it should be noted that the PA has stood up to US President Donald Trump and the Saudi regime who push them to “give up on everything”. Abbas, despite his weakness, proves that you cannot sideline the Palestinians completely, he said.
This is particularly notable in a reality where all the Arab states keep measuring themselves against each other in terms of how close to Israel they can get, while being aware of the internal resistance they might face.
Speaking about the Israeli peace movement, Matar noted that less and less Israelis seem to actively resist the occupation. There are fewer demonstrations, much less resistance in the streets. Some of it, he assessed, was a reflection of people’s feelings that the battle is lost, but a significant part is due to people acknowledging that their very livelihood might be compromised by political activity. Activists have lost jobs, and violent attacks on activists are more and more prevalent.
When asked about the positive impact of +972 Magazine and its Hebrew language sibling, Local Call, he mentioned an article about Gazan activists which inspired a young refusnik who declined to take part in the attack on demonstrators on the Gaza border. Another source of pride is the investigative piece +972 carried on AirBNB, which led to their change of policy regarding listing homes in settlements.
All this attracted new audiences to +972 and Local Call: “People come to us to read about Gaza not necessarily because they agree with us, but because they want to know what is going on there. Some people come to read about the Palestinian football league because they are interested in sports, but then discover that Jerusalem can’t play against Gaza. For some, this is a first realisation of the day to day implications of the walls, checkpoints and curfew policies of Israel.
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