From our Chief Executive

This weekend saw thousands of Israelis take to the streets of Jerusalem and elsewhere to protest against corruption and the insufficient government response to the terrible new wave of coronavirus.

For the last few weeks, Israelis have gathered in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and over other 200 towns and highway interchanges across the country to demand an end to government corruption and to protest the handling of Israel’s intensifying health crisis. [Often referred to as “Black Flag” protests – so-called for the ubiquitous black flags which came to symbolize a warning that democracy is in danger.]

Five months into this global crisis, nearly 25% of Israelis — nearly one million people – are unemployed or without income. They have received little help from Israel’s government to relieve their acute economic distress.
From the outset of this crisis, NIF grantees, the Berl Katznelson Foundation, alongside the Alliance for Israel’s Future and Rabbis for Human Rights, have advocated for an equitable and inclusive economic response which ensures that the most vulnerable and marginalised communities are provided for.

Israel’s civil society has been the backbone of the movement for responsive government and democracy. Omdim Beyachad (Standing Together), the Jewish-Arab grassroots movement, is a driving force in the current economic protests. Organising those who had lost their income due to COVID-19, Standing Together members launched the Unemployed Union to collectively demand income security and equitable economic solutions from the government. The Union has become an engine of activism, allowing individuals outside of professional unions to join their voice to the struggle.

Zazim – Community Action, Israel’s online mobilising platform, has run campaigns in support of the protest’s dual demands: defending democracy from crisis-time government overreach and equitable economic relief. Zazim’s posters hang throughout Jerusalem and their masks and signs calling to “end the plague of dictatorship” can be seen at the protests taking place around the country.

Attempts to shut down the public outcry through harsh police tactics, by some politicians trying to prohibit protests and conspiracy theories seem to only help the outcry grow louder and more sustained. At this time when the legitimacy of civil demonstration is under assault – in Israel and across the world – NIF and our grantees are at the forefront of defending the freedom to protest in Israel.

We have seen these tactics before. Conspiracy theories are the tool of populists who fabricate falsehoods to distract the people and sow distrust.

But they won’t succeed in diffusing Israelis’ collective demand for democracy and responsive, responsible government.

The New Israel Fund — as always — will make sure that those working for equality and democracy in Israel are equipped for the fight.