Dissenting voices for peace
An overwhelming majority of Israelis support their country’s assault on Lebanon, opinion polls suggest, but despite the clamour for military action, voices of dissent continue to be heard.
Arab-Israelis, many of whom live in northern areas under threat from Hezbollah rocket attacks, are some of the strongest critics of Israeli airstrikes that have left at least 270 Lebanese dead.
“We are very concerned about what is happening,” said Hassan Jabareen of Adalah – a body that campaigns for the legal rights of Arab-Israelis.
“I live in Haifa – but Haifa is a paradise compared to what is happening in Lebanon.
“This government has one policy – no negotiations – and if you have this policy then there is no room for diplomacy.”
Arab-Israelis – or Palestinian citizens of Israel – make up 20 per cent of the population yet have long complained of state-sanctioned discrimination against their people.
Some Arab-Israelis have said this week, that even while under rocket attack, they have not been given the same access to bomb shelters and information as Jewish Israelis.
Mainstream Jewish Israeli parties such as Ysrael Beytenu regularly call for their mass expulsion from Israel.
Last week, the Knesset passed a law – believed to be aimed at Arab parliamentarians – allowing the expulsion of any “disloyal” member who “supports terror organisations”.
And on Wednesday, the Israeli interior minister, Roni Bar-on, described Jamal Zahalkha, an Arab-Israeli parliamentarian, as “a snake born to a snake” after he criticised the government’s actions in Lebanon.
“I’d be happy if you would join some of your friends in Lebanon to enjoy what they are enjoying now,” he said in comments reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Despite long-running political differences, the Israeli media has largely portrayed the north of the country as being “united under fire”.
“Our lives and our hearts are in Beirut and Gaza – not in Haifa”
Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah
Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah, a coalition of Arab organisations based in Haifa, disagrees.
“We have been taking extra care because of the bombs but we have a very different feelings to that of Jewish Israelis,” he said.
“We are part of the Palestinian nation effort and are to trying to raise our voice to tell people what is happening in Lebanon.
“Our lives and our hearts are in Beirut and Gaza – not in Haifa.”
A small number of Jewish Israelis who are against military action in Lebanon are also struggling to make their voices heard.
On Sunday, about 500 people joined an anti-war protest through central Tel Aviv and more demonstrations are set to take place next week.
In the 1930s and 40s, Uri Avery was a member of the Irgun, a militant Jewish group that carried out attacks on British forces in its campaign to found the state of Israel.
Now Avery, also a former Israeli commando, is a peace activist who is a leading a member of Gush Shalom, a group that campaigns for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
“We want to explain to Israelis what is wrong about the operation in Lebanon,” Avery said.
“This whole crisis is rooted in the Palestinian problem. Hezbollah would not have made these attacks if Israel was not bombing Gaza.”
Avery believes that despite an uphill struggle against Israeli public opinion, groups such as Gush Shalom can have an influence.
“The longer this war goes on, the less it will be supported,” he said.