« I am ashamed of what people in my country [Israël] can do to others. »

Photo: Vincent Verhaeren

January 2023… The state of Israel starts the year well: since a few days it is again led for the 6th time by the indecorous Benyamin Netanyahu, sitting on all his pots and pans, at the head of the most right-wing government in the history of Israel. Yes, yes, it is still possible: the historical right wing of the Likud, his party, embraces a coalition of the most extremist and ultra-Orthodox parties, such as Mr. Smotrich’s « Religious Zionism » party, and Mr. Ben Gvir’s « Jewish Power » (who was a disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahane and his « Kach » party, banned in 1994 for being terrorists in Israel, and placed on the official list of terrorist organizations in the USA). So an openly neo-fascist government of the extreme right…

This does not seem to bother our European politicians who only have the words democracy in their mouths: on February 2 at the Elysée Palace, Mrs. Macron and Netanyahu congratulated each other by firing red bullets at Iran, this country on the dark side of the force where human rights are violated …; which is not the case of Israel of course, this « only parliamentary democracy in the Middle East »!

Last week we attended the screening of Nicola Zambelli’s documentary, « SARURA »:

« At the gates of the Negev desert, a group of young Palestinians struggle against the Israeli military occupation. The « Youth of Sumud » — the youth of perseverance — are trying to give back to their people the land stolen from their families, by renovating the ancient cave village of Sarura. They face aggression with nonviolent actions, defending themselves from guns with their own cameras; they oppose desolation and death with hope and life. »

The screening was followed by a panel discussion with Eitan Bronstein Aparicio, an Israeli citizen. He is the founder of Zochrot, an Israeli organization that has been working since 2001 to raise awareness in Israel and around the world about the Nakba and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. In 2015, he founded the De-Colonizer Center with Eleonore Merza Bronstein, which demonstrates the colonial nature of the Israeli regime.

Eitan left Israel and now lives with his family in Belgium, in Brussels.

 » I’m ashamed, I’m ashamed of what people in my country can do to others… »

These first words that he said after the film moved me and I wanted to meet him so that he could tell us his feelings, his analysis and his hopes for his country.

Interview withEitan Bronstein Aparicio

Annie Thonon: What is your analysis of the current situation in Israel? 

Eitan Bronstein Aparicio: I think we are now in a new and very interesting moment, for me, an Israeli who has been involved in the situation for many years.

Since its creation, Israel has been a colonial and apartheid project. His policy towards the Palestinians has always remained the same, racist, colonialist and violent, but he has always managed to carry out this policy while saying: « We love peace, we seek peace ». Today there is a change: until two months ago, there was always at least one party in the Israeli coalition governments that had a facade of wanting peace, working for peace… Today this « façade of good conscience » has disappeared and this is very important. Why is this?

The western political world, Europe and the USA, liked this word because they had a sense of guilt about history, the genocide, the Shoah, etc., and wanted to help the Jews. But, of course, they could not openly support a pure colonial project. So they relied on this façade to support Israel as their partner for peace and democracy. Today, this Western discourse will have a hard time surviving in a government where Netanayhou is the most moderate!

Aware of this fact, Netanyahu, clever, will try not to embarrass Western opinion too much: For example, let’s take the case of the Palestinian village of Khan Al Ahmar, a small Bedouin village in the West Bank that is to be destroyed. This conflict has been going on for years, almost ten years; Netanyahu, in the opposition in the previous government, defended the demolition tooth and nail, along with the extreme right, relying on the opinion of the Supreme Court confirming the legality of the destruction. Of course legality from the point of view of Israel, which never respects international law. Therefore, there is no legal impediment in Israel to carry out this destruction now. But when the Supreme Court asked a few days ago what was going on, the government replied: « we still need four more months of reflection »… .

Of course this government will pursue an even more extreme policy of repression against the Palestinians, as in Jenin recently, but this example shows that Netanyahu, because it is obviously he who took this decision, is aware of the fact that the pretext of « peace » will no longer be able to play a role, and this gives us a new potentially dangerous situation for Israel.

Photo: Vincent Verhaeren

This extreme government, if it is consistent, will reject all the false words of peace, the myth of two states, etc… This can paradoxically have positive consequences by putting the international community, the United States and its Western allies, face to face with its hypocrisy in supporting a regime that flouts all international rules and UN resolutions.

Of course, one should not be too optimistic and have illusions. The recent statements of the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell make me angry: to say today that « it is not appropriate to use the term apartheid in relation to the State of Israel » and that « to call Israel a racist state is anti-Semitism » shows that international complacency will not disappear overnight. But one can feel the tremors and serious concerns of the pro-Israeli lobbies in front of certain extreme positions of the new government.

What do the recent demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in January mean? Has the treatment of the Palestinians planned by this new government been discussed?

No, absolutely not. Unfortunately, this is not central for the Israelis; one can say that they are used to discrimination, violence, annexations, always presented as a justified defense…

No, but these large demonstrations do demonstrate a certain fracture within Israeli society. They are challenging the new government’s plan to reform the judicial system, which would limit the powers of the Supreme Court, including the introduction of a so-called « notwithstanding clause » that would allow Parliament, with a simple majority vote, to overturn a Supreme Court decision. Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara recently expressed concern about reforms that would reduce the power of judges and « politicize law enforcement » that would « seriously undermine the most basic principles of the rule of law.

These spectacular events have repercussions in the business world. Israel’s image as a « safe and sound place to invest » appears to be shaky: international financial firms and credit rating agencies, such as JP Morgan, have expressed concerns about how the judicial overhaul could negatively impact the economy. Major Israeli companies are reportedly considering leaving the country.

In this field too, things are moving that could bring positive changes…

How do you see the future and how do you hope for it?

What do I expect?

Obviously the liberation from everything, from the colonial regime, from Zionism; it is a fundamental struggle that will be long, but as I said, there is perhaps now a chance for change.

I think that the principle of two states is no longer possible today: in the West Bank, there are 700,000 settlers today, it is no longer possible to envisage a separation by expelling the illegal settlers from what should have been a Palestinian state; we must remember Gaza and the expulsion in 2005 of 4000 settlers which is still considered as a betrayal by some settlers and remains a trauma in Israeli society I also think of the Palestinians who must be able to return to their homes.

I don’t like the idea of separation anyway.

Again, I would like to see people living together, not apart. The principle must be equal rights, people must be able to live together, not separately in two states. The country must be decolonized, which means distributing the land throughout the country; it is not possible for the settlers, who are about 30% of the population, to hold 80% of the land, so a redistribution of land is necessary. The colonial system must be destroyed; from time immemorial, in Latin America, in Africa, it is the possession of the land, and of resources such as water, that is the basis of the colonial system.

All this must be changed profoundly, and not only in the West Bank, but in all of Israel. I hope that we would have the possibility to live there with justice, with democracy, with equality

Faced with the responsibility of the Western world, how can we, simple citizens of this Western world, act to make these changes happen?

I see several levels:

Of course, there is the Western world and its political leaders…

Of course Europe has a great responsibility in the creation of the Jewish state. After the genocide of the Jews during the Second World War, Europe wanted to help the Jews by promoting the creation of the Jewish state on the territory of Palestine, perhaps with a good intention… but today it is no longer possible with this ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from the very beginning… Europe must change its policy towards Israel, and make Israel change its policy. We can see now that Europe can take sanctions very quickly against certain countries, so why not against Israel? So I’m waiting for this… a clear condemnation with sanctions against the apartheid regime of Israel instead of Borell’s statements! I am very angry…

But there are also the Jews.

Israel presents itself as the state of the world’s Jews, saying « we are the state of the Jews », but this is not true. It is the state of the Zionists carrying out since its creation in 1948 policies of apartheid, domination, destruction and ethnic cleansing towards another people. Unfortunately Israel has succeeded in imposing this version and the whole world sees Israel as THE country of the Jews, a symbiosis between the state of Israel and the Jews of the whole world. This is a problem for the Jews because the policy of Israel can encourage anti-Semitism that still exists.

It is very important that Jews fight this image.

As a Jew, I am very shocked.

 » Not in my name « … Totally opposed to what this country does in my name, I expect something from the Jews today. In France, in the USA, there are communities of French, American, Jewish citizens, very powerful, very influential, who would be able to influence Western and Israeli politics.

And what about the citizens?

I think that it is fundamental to disseminate as widely as possible an enlightenment, an information of what is really happening. This of course poses the problem that we always come up against, of the information of the big media which are only the official spokespersons and broadcast biased, one-way and false stories.

It is also very important to support the BDS campaign against Israel. Its undeniable success can be measured by the relentlessness with which this campaign is fought by Israel and its supporters. We must denounce companies like Hewlett Packard, banks like BNP Paribas that invest and make profits (hopefully not for much longer) in a colonial and apartheid state as recognized by Amnesty International. They are thus complicit in a violation of public international law, a grave violation of human rights guaranteed by international law, and a crime against humanity under international criminal law.

This makes activist networks and their work for justice and recognition of Palestinian rights all the more important

Work, which, I am convinced, can only be positive for the future of this beautiful land and for the two peoples who must be able to live together and inhabit it in harmony…

Interview by Annie Thonon

Just ninety years ago, a democratically elected regime stigmatized, hunted down, terrorized, murdered, and gassed millions of men and women for belonging to a culture, a religion, a history… Hitler and Nazism implemented the genocide of the Jews, and caused the exile of many German citizens of Jewish origin. Today, a horrible stammering of History and a few generations later, it is again Jews, Israeli citizens, who leave a country where it is no longer possible for them to fight, to work, or to raise their children without disavowing all their values…


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