May 20th, 2013
Jerusalem – On Monday afternoon, at the MASA Israel closing ceremony held in the International Convention Center, a group of 30 young Jews interrupted Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett’s keynote address by chanting, “Diaspora Jews say ‘end the occupation,’ Diaspora Jews say ‘no to annexation.’” Participants simultaneously distributed hundreds of flyers throughout the audience highlighting Bennett’s staunch opposition to a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The group, members of “All That’s Left: Anti-Occupation Collective” and Hashomer Hatzair World Movement, persisted with the action until they were escorted out of the auditorium.
Outside, hundreds of MASA participants flowed out of the auditorium and engaged in conversations with the demonstrators. The dialogue following the action led to frank and open discussions that aren’t being held enough in Diaspora Jewish communities. The action was a success because the young Jewish activists were able to disrupt Bennett’s speech and engage with MASA participants in critical discussion.
The action was coordinated in response to MASA’s decision to select Minister Bennett as the keynote speaker at an event for young Diaspora Jewry. MASA is a joint project of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency that brings thousands of young Diaspora Jews to Israel for gap year and study abroad programs. Naftali Bennett, director of the Yesha Settlements Council from 2010 to 2012 and current Economy Minister, has stated numerous times that he is “vehemently against a Palestinian state” and has called for the annexation of 60% of the West Bank. Bennett not only supports but has also planned settlement building in the West Bank, in violation of international law.
The ideology that motivates Bennett’s political party, the Jewish Home, is a dangerous merger of racism, militarism and colonialism. In just one instance of racist rhetoric, Bennett told Arab Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al), “When you were still climbing trees… we had here a Jewish state.” The young Jews who interrupted Bennett’s speech demonstrated that his policy proposals and political positions fundamentally contradict Diaspora Jews’ belief in equality, democracy and a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The normalization of Bennett’s extremist discourse in the context of a MASA event was so deeply problematic that the young MASA participants considered it unacceptable. “MASA’s choice to invite Naftali Bennett as a keynote speaker to the event does not reflect my Zionism and reasons for coming to Israel,” remarked demonstrator Isabel Frey. “It was necessary to make clear that there also are young Zionists that do not support the occupation, Bennett and his position.” Deeply disturbed by Israel’s turn to the right, the rise of racist violence, and the continued occupation of the West Bank, Isabel and other young Jewish activists decided to stand up in defense of the age-old Jewish commitment to social justice.
VIDEO OF THE PROTEST: https://vimeo.com/66574324
All That’s Left is a collective unequivocally committed to ending the occupation and focused on building the diaspora angle of resistance.