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Between 2004 and 2010, Just Vision interviewed more than 80 Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders. The interviews in this archive represent a fraction of the civic leaders working in the field at a particular moment in time, and aim to provide audiences access to a range of perspectives and approaches.

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Kobi Snitz

Kobi Snitz is active in demonstrating in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank. His primary activity consists of joining other Israelis in supporting Palestinian-led nonviolent protests in villages harmed by the planned or existing separation barrier. Kobi first became an activist as a student in Canada and the United States, where he participated in organizing a graduate student union and joined the anti-war movement during the US-led invasion of Iraq.

  • Why don't we start with talking a little bit about your background?

    I was raised on a kibbutz in Israel. We had some background in activism, though it's hard for me to tell how much. The kibbutz would get everybody out to campaign for Mapam when there were elections. We handed out stickers and there would be canvassing, so this was second nature. That's very different from what I call more genuine political activism, where it's your decision and initiative to do it, rather than the kibbutz doing everything. My parents were definitely very committed politically. In some ways they made huge sacrifices. They changed their name and left North America to live on a kibbutz. If one of our friends did that today, we'd think they'd joined a cult. It's a commitment that we don't see very much. So that background was there. As far as my own political development, it's hard for me to tell how much it was related to that, and how much developed from my own experience in school and in Canada and in the United States. I think that's where I really got politicized.

  • Can you be more specific about how you got politicized during your studies in North America?

    My friends at University of Toronto, where I went to school, were all social democrats or more radical than that. Initially, I had no interest in Canadian politics, but eventually I realized that one reason that Canada is in its current state is that people are politicized, they pay attention to what goes on around them and get involved. The first thing, other than starting to read, was that we joined in supporting some strikes by provincial employees and then our own labor union, the Teaching Assistants. I continued when I moved to graduate school in the United States, grad student organizing, labor in general, death penalty stuff, Iraq, anti-sanctions, not very much Palestine. When I lived in the States I guess I thought Iraq was a bigger priority than Palestine. When it looked like I was moving [back] to Israel, I concentrated more on Palestine, and of course, while in Israel, it is almost all Palestine.

  • How did you decide what you wanted to be part of?

    Based on my assessment of what is more meaningful, what achieves more. I guess what suits me personally in terms of what I like doing, what I can do. There's a lot that can be done and maybe needs to be done with people just staying home and writing, I just think other people are better at it.

  • Could you please describe all the kinds of activities you're involved with?

    Since late 2003, I've started going to demonstrations and direct actions in Palestine with Anarchists Against the Wall. In late 2003, the first time I came was for direct action in Mas'ha. We cut the fence and opened the gate and it was made famous by the army shooting live rounds at us from a short distance. One of the guys got shot in both legs, nearly bled to death and nearly lost one of his legs.1 He's fine now. Direct action became a lot more dangerous after that. In late 2003, the first time I came was for direct action in Mas'ha. We cut the fence and opened the gate and it was made famous by the army shooting live rounds at us from a short distance. One of the guys got shot in both legs, nearly bled to death and nearly lost one of his legs.2 He's fine now. Direct action became a lot more dangerous after that.

    • 1Anarchists Against the Wall first became widely known in December of 2003 when one of their members was shot by the Israeli military at a demonstration against The Wall/Security Barrier. The event became major news story and led to an army inquiry because the Israeli army had shot an Israeli citizen who was protesting.
    • 2Anarchists Against the Wall first became widely known in December of 2003 when one of their members was shot by the Israeli military at a demonstration against The Wall/Security Barrier. The event became major news story and led to an army inquiry because the Israeli army had shot an Israeli citizen who was protesting.

  • Can you explain what Mas'ha camp was about?

    I was still abroad when direct actions were first taken. There were a couple of times when gates were opened and the fence was cut in a couple of places. There were rubber bullets and tear gas but the basic assumption was that the army would never shoot live rounds at Israelis. I remember telling this to someone that was worried the morning of December 26, 2003. Someone was worried, I think it was my cousin who was with me and I told her, "Look the worse that's going to happen is that they will arrest some of us and we'll get some tear gas. They won't kill us." It was so hard to imagine that they would shoot live ammunition at us. Even after they started we just didn't believe it. I have a movie I can show you. We hear the shots and we're not running away. The reason is that we couldn't believe that it was live fire, even after we saw the guy being hit, I personally did not believe that it was live fire. Other people with more experience with rubber bullets could tell that it was probably not a rubber bullet. But that was that mindset, that whatever happens, the Israeli army will not shoot Israeli citizens-or Jews, because they've shot Israeli Arabs plenty of times-they would not shoot Jews with live ammunition. So after that happened the basic assumption for direct action changed and it became a lot harder. There were a couple more attempts, and there still are, it's just that I think the focus has changed. This sort of direct action became a lot harder, and most of the activity turned to supporting demonstrations against the wall. Around that time [residents of] Budrus, a village west of Ramallah, very close to the Green Line, were demonstrating. Over the course of six months, I think they counted something like close to sixty demonstrations. The planners decided to move the fence to the Green Line almost completely. It deviates from the Green Line at some point, but the significance was that it wasn't a court decision. It was the demonstrations that forced a rethinking of the route. That's quite an achievement because of course it's quite a problem for the Palestinians to depend on the Israeli court. Even when a Supreme Court decision is portrayed as a victory for Palestinians, if you actually look at what has been decided, it's a terrible decision.Just last week the court decision was to dismantle part of the fence around Alfei Menashe. The lawyer and the people of the village consider that a victory, and rightly so. But in the same decision the court declares that the International Court of Justice decision does not apply.1 It rejected their ruling, so yes, one part of the fence is going to locally change, but the larger significance is terrible. It's the first time they've ruled on the principal that Israel can build the wall inside Palestine, taking Palestinian land.It goes back to the late '70s when the court decided that you can't confiscate Palestinian land for the purpose of constructing Jewish settlements, but you could do it for security reasons.2 Well, it might look like some sort of victory, but it leaves the door wide open for various pretexts, and that's exactly what happened. All the settlements have been built on either one or the other pretext that has been opened by that decision.

    • 1Snitz is referring to an Israeli Supreme Court decision of September of 2005. The court ruled that the portion of the wall/security barrier surrounding the Jewish settlement of Alfei Menashe in the West Bank, which also encompassed several Palestinian villages thereby placing them on the Israeli side of the wall/security barrier, should be rerouted. In the same decision, the court also rejected the International Court of Justice ruling that the wall/security barrier is illegal and must be dismantled. For more information see, "Israel Court Urges Barrier Review," BBC News Online, 15 Sept. 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4247782.stm.
    • 2Snitz is referring to the 1979 Israeli Supreme Court ruling known as Elon Moreh. Until that ruling the state of Israel established Jewish settlements on privately owned Palestinian land which was expropriated for military use. The first planned site for the settlement of Elon Moreh near Nablus was expropriated under the excuse of military use but the Palestinian owners of the land appealed to the court saying that the establishment of a settlement was not a military use but a political use. The Supreme Court ruled that privately owned land could not be expropriated to establish civilian settlements. Consequently, the Israeli government decided to permit the establishment of Jewish settlements on lands that were not privately owned, which included land designated as "state land" under Jordanian rule, uncultivated land, or unregistered land (the land registry had not been functional since Ottoman times). Elon Moreh was built on a nearby site instead. For an explanation of this case and its implications, see the Peace Now brief: http://peacenow.org/briefs.asp?rid=&cid=1465 Information provided by Hagit Ofran of Peace Now.

  • In Budrus, were you working with the Palestinian organizers of those demonstrations?

    Oh, yes, definitely.

  • How did you work with the Palestinian organizers in Budrus?

    I don't want to give the impression that this particular group has invented Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, it's not true. Ta'ayush deserves a lot of the credit for that. They are a joint Palestinian-Jewish organization that developed contacts with Palestinians, they've had demonstrations at checkpoints, and they've had humanitarian envoys. I was abroad, so this is second hand information, but from what I know, during 2001-2002, most of the joint Palestinian-Israeli action was Ta'ayush. It was a slightly different focus from what goes on now: checkpoints, humanitarian efforts to deliver food to besieged towns and villages. So they had contacts in Budrus and the contacts developed from that and from relationships developed in the Mas'ha camp. Before the demonstration in Mas'ha that I told you about there was a joint camp on the route of the fence, a protest camp for I think four months. Contact developed there both between Israeli activists and themselves and with Palestinians. When Budrus started their protest, they knew they could call on Israelis to come and support the demonstrations. I guess because of the credibility built up by Ta'ayush and Mas'ha camp, I guess they felt that they could trust the Israelis, and that really is something that we should never take for granted. How hard it must be for Palestinians to trust Israelis, after so many empty gestures by the government and even by some in the so-called peace camp. It's quite a big step for them and quite big of them to give the Israeli activists a chance and to trust them far enough. But other people know better about that history in 2003, I came in late 2003.

  • What do you know about establishing that trust? What, in your experience, needs to happen?

    My personal experience has been that I find Palestinians almost too open. I guess part of it is the strong culture of hospitality. Almost without exception, everywhere we'd go, people were very welcoming and enthusiastic. I would think sometimes to myself, what have we done to earn this trust? We just showed up a couple of times. I used to wonder what the reception was for what I consider the less meaningful part of the Israeli peace movement. In the 90s, there was a big movement of dialogue groups and peace cafes. I'm not against it but I don't think it goes very far to meet and have tea together and eat. I don't think that it's a culture clash or a lack of personal contacts. I think there are political issues, and unless you confront them, the gesture doesn't mean very much.My impression of some dialogue groups is that sometimes the starting premise is that in order to get along and make this pleasant for everybody, we need to start from a position of parity: Palestinians suffer, Israelis suffer. If we start from that position, it will be easier to get along. But I think as far as relating to the political situation, it's quite misleading. Israelis and Palestinians are not in the same position. So the cynical part of me wondered if we would have been welcomed just the same if we came just to drink tea. That's one explanation for the initial reception, which may be a matter of the hospitality culture, and maybe it doesn't count for very much.

  • What do you think makes the difference? Why do you think there is a real partnership there?

    We actually participate in the resistance together; I think that counts more than anything. Even if it was a dialogue group and you got the most radical people from the university and they said the most radical things, it wouldn't count all that much. Actually, what's happening lately as a result of the success of this effort is that a wider and wider part of the Israeli Left is starting to show up to join the demonstrations in Palestine. This means that they're not all the hard-core anarchists that you had in the beginning, when 10 people would show up. Now it could be 100 or 200 Israelis that show up. A lot of them are not that hard-core. Some of them serve in the reserves. That has its own problems, but I appreciate it a lot more than the greatest radical in the world who does his radicalism in a cafe in Tel Aviv.

  • Can you talk about some of the problems that arise with Israelis going to participate in the demonstrations?

    Well, first there's a matter of cultural norms that Israelis need to learn while they're in Palestine. If you're a woman you have to wear a long sleeve shirt, or at least you can't wear a tank top. No skirt, no short pants. I find myself being fashion police on the bus to demonstrations sometimes. It's not something we like to do, but if you don't it can cause problems with the village. It's not that the people we know well are necessarily bothered by it, but it's a big village, and not everybody might be 100% thrilled about working with Israelis, so if some Israelis don't respect cultural norms, or mostly that they don't know about them, that's a potential problem. I think a deeper political issue is Israelis' position in organizing the demonstration. It is a partnership, and we do work together with Palestinians, and yet it is their village, and they should be leading the demonstration. It's not the Israelis' place to lecture Palestinians about how to conduct their struggle. With new people who don't have a lot of experience or sensitivity to this context, you'd see a tendency to take charge more than they ought to. Especially after the army attacks it, a demonstration becomes very chaotic and spread out. So it isn't that there is one clear leadership at any particular moment and place, so there are all sorts of opportunities for people to take charge and have their own initiative. I find that sometimes Israelis, especially those who are not experienced or aren't in close contact with the village, would take more charge than they should: go this way, don't throw stones. That's the sort of tension that can come up with larger groups that don't have a long history of joint action.

  • You mentioned reserve soldiers sometimes take part in the demonstrations. What's that like?

    Yes, we actually had not just reserve soldiers, but two soldiers in regular service while they were in active regular service. One of them wore a uniform. I thought it was stupid, I thought it was a terrible idea. That's an example of an Israeli making a decision for herself without consulting with the village. If she had consulted with the village, the village would have said, "Ahlan Wasahlan,1 please come to demonstrate with the village, but please do not wear your uniform in the village." In fact, the village had printed out a leaflet to soldiers, inviting them to come visit the village. It said, Leave your guns, and you are welcome to come to the village. We'll show you around, we're not your enemy. If you bring guns to our village, you are our enemy, but if you leave your guns, you will not be our enemy."So we had two people in active service arrested in the demonstration. The woman who came to the village wearing a uniform was actually supposed to be starting as a secretary to the chief of staff. As far as I know the army did nothing to them. They didn't want the story to get out because they didn't want the publicity. So active duty soldiers were there, and there are a good number of people who come to the demonstration who are not refuseniks. It certainly happens. Either because they don't believe that they should refuse, or they haven't gone through the process of telling the army that they won't serve.

    • 1Arabic greeting equivalent to "hello" or "welcome" in English.

  • Do you refuse your reserve service?

    I never served in the first place. I got out of regular service, so it's not an issue for me.

  • Do you see a problem with people in active duty or the reserves coming to demonstrate?

    I see a problem with people doing reserve service in the first place. I think they should all refuse. This is a decision of the village, and the village - I'm talking about Biliin now - they understand that and it's okay with them. They realize that some of the Israelis probably serve in the reserve, and they have not asked that they not come. Again, they gave a leaflet to the soldiers who invaded their village and said you're welcome as guests if you just leave your guns behind. Do they also say don't come in uniform? In that flyer I think it just says leave your guns. It's sort of interesting that some of the soldiers stationed that are there for a while get to know the village committee, there's a sort of grudging respect for each other. It is sort of fascinating. I guess the psychology of the soldiers who can speak to people and then two minutes later shoot at them sort of goes against the assumptions you make about the psychology of soldiers that says they can only do this when they dehumanize people; they can just do it anyway. There is also a discussion about what our approach as Israeli demonstrators should be regarding talking to soldiers. Is it more effective or is it politically right to try to convince the soldiers, or is it more effective or politically correct - I use the word politically correct in a non-sarcastic sense - to ignore the soldiers. My personal opinion is that we should not talk to the soldiers unless the Palestinians ask us to do it, and we should let the Palestinians talk to the soldiers. Many times the Palestinians are completely fluent in Hebrew.

  • Why would it be your strategy to ignore the soldiers?

    If Israelis talk to the soldiers when the Palestinians are there and are also talking to soldiers, then it's not such a big problem. If Israelis talk to the soldiers when they are separated from Palestinians... it could be that in certain situations the Israelis are left in front because it's more dangerous for Palestinians so we get separated from them, because the army would also shoot at Palestinians. They have orders that allow them to shoot at Palestinians but not at Israelis. So it could be a situation where we're isolated from the Palestinians but standing near the soldiers. In that situation I think the problem is that even if we're arguing with or yelling at the soldiers, it could still be that our body language in relating to the soldiers transmits to someone looking on, a familiarity, an ease that might look bad. It compromises our position as standing with the Palestinians I think. That's one possible problem. That also applies to the time after you are arrested. There is a phenomenon that after you are arrested and soldiers are guarding you, there is always a big outpouring of dialogue between the guards and the people that are arrested, especially when they arrest Israelis. I think the psychology of it is that there is a conflict and then the drop in tension brings on some sort of closeness. I'm very against it. I think that talking to the soldiers in that context gives them psychological support. They feel that the hostility drops and they're not resented for being there, they get psychological support from it, and that is greater than the effect of the political message you can impress on them. The people that are in favor of these discussions say, "Well you wouldn't believe what I got them to admit, you wouldn't believe that they listened to what I told them." I doubt very much that you can impress very many political points on someone in such a situation, whereas I think it amounts to psychological support for the soldiers, which I don't want to give them - not in that situation.

  • You mentioned suppressing stone throwing as an example of an Israeli taking charge in a negative way. I wonder if there is an agreed upon philosophy about that.

    Just about everywhere, the organizing committees - especially when they invite us - have made a commitment to nonviolent demonstrations, which means that they march, and typically what we do is try to get to a work site and sit in front of a bulldozer to try to prevent the construction. Now, this commitment to nonviolence does not include policing the shabab1 to the point that they won't respond to army provocations. They are not committed to being an extension of the police who are going to chase them [the youth] and prevent them from responding to army provocation. They do typically urge the shabab not to throw stones and not to place themselves at risk that way and not to respond to army provocation. It's clearly army provocation, whether it's shooting tear gas or invading the village at night or just random patrols through the village. There are soldier testimonies that describe these missions as provocation missions. They're told, go into the village, draw some fire and then you know who to catch, or draw some stones and then chase after those guys, because you know they must be up to something. So yes, there is a commitment to nonviolence, but even with this commitment the army can usually cause the situation to deteriorate into a battle of stones and tear gas and rubber bullets, which is how almost every demonstration ends.

    • 1Arabic meaning "youth".

  • When you say the organizing committee is not committed to that level of nonviolence, is that the Palestinian organizers, or a joint organizing committee?

    Well, me as an Israeli, I don't think that I should have a say in that decision. I think that's a Palestinian decision. I have a say in the sense that if there is stone throwing, I will not stand by the stone throwers. It's personally dangerous. I can do other things, I do have other options and I will try to use them. There are other things that I could be doing.

  • What are the other things you as an Israeli can be doing during a demonstration?

    For example, trying to approach the soldiers with a line of Israelis, which would prevent them from shooting. Or yelling at the soldiers with a megaphone from a distance, or doing presswork from the scene.

  • So you consider yourself a participant in the demonstrations?

    I think it is fair to call us partners, but I think we ought to realize- and we do- that even as partners we are in a different position. It isn't my village being invaded and I have a million other things that I could do. I could stay in Tel Aviv and write on my computer. It's an option and it's even a useful thing to do. When your village is invaded you don't quite have the same option. You can also send email to the Prime Minister, it's just that he's more likely to pay attention to mine, not that he gives a s---. As Israelis there is obviously a lot more that we can do than a Palestinian to resist Israeli policy.

  • You said it's not your place to influence the way the demonstration is run.

    Oh, we have an influence. As partners we have an influence, I just think we ought to be conscious of our role there and not try to dictate.

  • Even given your commitment not to dictate what happens in a demonstration, how do you feel about kids throwing stones in a demonstration?

    I actually don't even have an urge to stop the kids from throwing stones. I wouldn't know what to tell them. I say look, we tried to have a nonviolent demonstration and it's always broken up violently, what shall I tell them? Try another nonviolent demonstration? I think they're pretty well aware of their situation. My decision not to throw stones, or not to support it, is a result of the fact that I have other things to do. If that was the only thing I could do, maybe I would.

  • But isn't the core of nonviolent resistance using nonviolence even in the face of violence? Where do you draw the line?

    Yes, it is the core, but a commitment to nonviolence is not necessarily a religious one. It does not have to be total; it could be up to a point, such as up to a certain number of casualties. So to answer your question, I do consider a demonstration to be nonviolent even if some of the participants are not above being provoked. As far as the demonstrations in Palestine, the shabab who respond with stones are not exactly part of the demonstration. They have their own tactics, which they pursue mostly separately from the rest of the demonstration, and even the army sort of understands that distinction.

  • How useful is a non-violent demonstration if it turns violent, no matter who provoked it?

    I think that the more we can resist provocation the better. I don't think that the rubber bullets versus stones confrontation achieves very much.

  • You say a lot of the Israelis that are coming now are not "hard core activists" or anarchists? What does that mean?

    There was a smaller group of hard-core anarchists that would carry the Israeli support of the demonstrations starting I guess in late 2003 up until now. There would be demonstrations during the week, at some points virtually every day. A core of about 50-100 Israeli activists would try to support that, so that's pretty hard-core. It's a lot of demonstrating for a small group of people. Every demonstration takes up a whole day. You have to travel to Palestine, which can take up to a couple of hours, and then the demonstration, and then the battle afterwards - some people are arrested and it takes the whole day. So there was a core of people who kept that up for about a year and a half going on two years, and lately the resistance has been steadier and more concentrated on a weekly demonstration in Biliin and some other, scattered places. When it's a weekly demonstration in the same place over and over again, it's possible to get larger and larger numbers of Israelis. It's quite a change from the time when this core of activists would get 10 people to a demonstration on a good day. Now on a good day it's 200. Mind you that even ten Israelis at a demonstration can make a real difference. We know from the army's own declarations that their open fire regulations change as soon as they think there are Israelis around. For example, they are not to use live fire when there are Israelis around, and they are not to fire rubber bullets in a direction where they think there are Israelis. So even a small number of Israelis can make a difference, and a large number obviously can make a big difference.

  • So you mean hard-core in the frequency of their actions more than ideologically?

    Ideologically they are probably also more anti-status, anti-Zionist, whatever that means. What does it mean? Well, it means different things to different people. I guess many of the anarchists are anti-status altogether anti-state.

  • What does anti-state mean in this context?

    It means being opposed to the existence of the State in general-the State of Israel. And actually a Palestinian state as well, except that as far as the day-to-day struggle, it makes little difference. Whether it's a Palestinian state or just a Palestinian anarchist federation, in order for that to exist you first need to get rid of the Israeli occupation and the wall. We have a disagreement: a bunch of us are not keen on marching with a flag, even a Palestinian flag. There will be a flag at demonstrations. I am not keen on holding up a flag.

  • Why don't you like to hold a Palestinian flag in demonstrations?

    I'm an anarchist. I'm not in favor of states. I'd rather societies be organized in a different way. But it's almost completely irrelevant as far as political work or political priorities right now. Before we talk about getting rid of states, there's a long, long way to go organizing and dismantling the occupation and the wall. So it's not very relevant, even though I think politically the hard core of the activists would be against a state. A lot of them, though not myself, are vegans, but that's not usually a political priority either. You'd have to ask the vegans, because I think for some people there could be a real conflict.

  • What's the conflict with veganism?

    With veganism? Well, if you go to support olive picking, and they use a donkey to carry the olives, and if you're against using animals, then you're in conflict. For me it's a non-issue. Yes, there is animal suffering, but when it comes to human rights it becomes a non-issue for me. So there are various political commitments, but as far as the current priorities or objectives, I don't think it has much of an effect.

  • How did you choose the name Anarchists Against the Wall?

    The group was so loose that the name would be changed every couple of weeks. Whenever there was a press release to be made, someone would pick a name. At one point it was Jews Against Ghettos. And then Anarchists Against the Wall. I guess Anarchists Against the Wall might have stuck because it was the name used on a press release from the Mas'ha action. That got so much press that the name just stuck and became recognized. The question has always been why not switch to a name that doesn't have a political cost to it? To some people, if you've declared yourself an anarchist it's as much as if you've declared yourself insane. In favor of the name is that it is known and recognized, including by Palestinians. And second, if you have a name that is taken to declare that you're insane, it frees you from worrying about public relations, which I think is quite an asset to someone who wants to actually do stuff on the ground. There are a lot of political organizations and movements that are held hostage by public relations and they cannot move or speak without consulting or thinking about public relations implications. We're free of that.

  • So you don't consider part of your goal to influence public opinion?

    We do, but not by making ourselves look good. Those are separate things. One is to make us look respectable and sane, the other is to get Israelis and the Israeli press to talk about the wall and those issues. In some ways, perversely, if you're less respectable, you can get some attention that way: here are crazy people who are doing this thing, or here is this thing done by crazy people. Of course, people would tell us, well, your action is discounted because it's written off as the action of crazy people. It's not necessarily so. I think even in the most hostile press coverage, there is a degree of reality that cannot be suppressed. The fact that there are Israelis that are against this thing, the fact that they are demonstrating with Palestinians, the fact that they are arrested and injured, that, even if we are described as crazy - and it's getting harder and harder to do that because there are more and more Israelis joining demonstrations - even in that situation, part of the reality is still transmitted. And I think quite effectively. There is a lot of press to these demonstrations, and even before the larger number of Israelis, there was a large amount of press for a small amount of Israeli participation. The result of it is that whereas in the middle of 2003, if you told Israelis that you are against the wall they could not understand what you were talking about - you could have said that you're against water fluoridation, or just anything - they couldn't understand what you were talking about. Now at least they know what the issue is.

  • How are the goals of Anarchists Against the Wall different from the goals of Ta'ayush?

    I don't think they are different. Some of my friends will disagree, because they'll say that an anarchist commitment and long term goals makes a big difference. I don't think so. I think that for the foreseeable future, there is no real difference between the goals of Ta'ayush, Gush Shalom, the Anarchists, or the Women's Coalition. Any Palestinian solidarity basically would agree on Israeli withdrawal to the '67 borders, dismantling the wall, there would be some disagreement about the right of return, but a lot more agreement than disagreement. If we are different from Ta'ayush, I think it is in the pace and type of work. Ta'ayush was a lot more organized, better committees, better process, but that also meant that everything had to be planned further in advance. There was a longer planning process and slower response. With us, because we are so loose, we can get a call the day before and turn some people out for a demonstration. As I mentioned, there is a downside to being this loose. I don't know how much detail you want to get into about internal movement politics, but there are issues there. The point of having a structure of a committee and a whole democratic structure is to ensure democracy, to build it into the procedure of how you operate. If you don't have that, then you get informal hierarchies being created, and we suffer from that. For all sorts of reasons, social hierarchies from the society we live in are incorporated, and we haven't rooted them out from our own group.

  • What are your long-term goals?

    Israeli withdrawal to the '67 borders, dismantling the wall. I personally am in favor of the right of return to everywhere. It has to be worked out, but it can be worked out. If there is room for a million Soviet immigrants, then there is room for lots of Palestinians. If they found another million Soviet Jews, or relatives of Jews, as is the case with recent immigrants,1 then there's no doubt that there would be room for them, and money to house them. So the same money can be used to house and accommodate Palestinians. There is a technical issue, but there it can be solved.

    • 1Since 1989, Israel has absorbed 1.2 million immigrants, a majority of whom are from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. For a brief history of immigrants in Israel see the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs at http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2002/10/Aliyah.

  • In terms of statehood, how do you balance the practicality with your ideology?

    I think any effort towards ending oppression and increasing democracy could potentially lead to eliminating the state. It's just very far away; it's not that relevant. And as far as increasing democracy, and ending oppression, you don't need to be an anarchist to support that. There's no conflict there.

  • Do you think there is a place for statehood in contributing to stability here?

    Oh, sure. The Palestinians state could very well be a real contribution to ending Israeli oppression, and as far as that I would support it, but eventually I'd like to see it go away.

  • What is your vision for the future here?

    You know, the party that my parents belong to, Mapam, were not only opposed to a Jewish state, but to a state altogether. In fact, the Jewish yishuv, a pre-state organization, was pretty much a working model for an anarchist society. Take away the fact that it was based on a lot of racism and exploitation, you had whole communities organized together to supply anything from health services to infrastructure, social welfare, and even an army-- all of that without a state. So it was already there. There's nothing that happened on the night of May 15, 19481 that suddenly all these organizations popped up and you had a working state. They were there already. The most meaningful result of calling it a state was centralizing the control of the army in the hands, essentially, of one guy. But other than that, all the institutions were already there.

    • 1Refers to the date Israel declared statehood.

  • So there was the structure in place already to support an army. How does that fit into your vision?

    Well, I'd rather not have an army to begin with. An anarchist movement might need an army. I wasn't around, but I think the Spanish anarchists were completely justified in having militias trying to protect the republic.

  • So you are saying you prefer organization of society on a more local level?

    No, they had local organizations but they were coordinated together. In the Spanish republic and in the pre-state Jewish community in Israel, they were organized on a very wide scale. Spain is bigger than Israel, but you can have it on a large scale too. I guess I don't understand quite what is the difference between that and a state except in name. In an anarchist organization, the control of the institution is a lot more democratic. Once there was a state, the state took control of all these institutions, so healthcare, the army, welfare, it's all controlled by a bureaucracy that is supposedly controlled by elected representatives, but even if you believe that this gives you some kind of democratic control, it's a lot less direct and democratic than a spontaneous organization of communities that just do their thing, which was how it was in pre-state Israel and in the Spanish republic.

  • So your parents came in support of the ideals of the kibbutz movement?

    That was the party line. How sincere it was is a different question. They were living on stolen Palestinian land, so that sort of negates all the anarchist principals in the kibbutz movement, which is actually quite an achievement. You have a large-scale cooperative society, which is not an experiment, it's not a bunch of hippies in Maine. It's 100,000 people and they've been there for a hundred years. It's a society, and it's a communal society that's run more democratically than anything ever. They are racist because Arabs cannot be members of a kibbutz, and they are on stolen Palestinian land. But within the society they have had some real achievements.

  • How do the members of your community react to the work that you do?

    They're fine. I know they don't agree with my political positions, but I think they are open enough that they can respect the fact that I am committed to something. It's an open enough society that that can happen, people can disagree with your line and still respect or even accept your commitment to it. And your family? Same way. I think my family is closer to me politically than the rest of the community.

  • What's the biggest challenge that you face in your activism?

    I think getting more people involved in organizing is a constant challenge and I don't think we're doing it very well. We have sustained it over a long period, and I think that's a success, and there are new people coming in, and taking on a lot of responsibility, but I think not nearly as well as we can do it. If only we had regular meetings and a culture of working and meeting and a collective, we'd be in a lot better shape.

  • What drives you to be so committed to this?

    I think if you have a feeling that what you do has meaning and has an effect, then you're more committed to it. I think that's the case in this struggle. I really think that it's an important thing to do and also I get the feeling that there is some effect- in the Israeli coverage that we get, in some successes on the ground, in our recognition in Palestine and the acceptance of us and the idea of working with Israelis. If that takes hold in Palestine - which I think it has, more so than in Israel - the idea that the way to resist the occupation is on the ground in Palestine, then that is quite significant, and if that happens then I think we would have had something to do with it. So there is satisfaction in that, you feel that something has a purpose.

  • What do you think are the roots of the conflict?

    Longstanding Israeli policy of Palestinian dispossession. As much land with as few Palestinians as possible. This is explicitly stated, even by the so-called Israeli Left. The debate doesn't seem to be about that idea, but only on the question of what is the most effective way to do it, whether it's with the wall, by annexing the whole West Bank, or outright expulsion of Palestinians. That's the debate as far as Israeli goals and wishes. Other than the radical groups there is no real disagreement.

  • Do you see what you are doing as peace work?

    That sounds like a trick question. Of course we all want peace, and of course peace means different things to different people. Shimon Peres says he wants peace, except that in the peace he is proposing, Palestinians would be effectively under Israeli control, so maybe he envisions there being no conflict, but also no real self-determination for Palestine. So it's peace work, but we have to be clear about what we mean by it, that it is genuine, self-determination for people and no Israeli domination of Palestine.

  • Aside from being an anarchist and not believing in states, how do you feel about Israel's being a Jewish state?

    You don't have to be an anarchist to be against a Jewish state. A lot of people are against a Christian state in the US but they're not anarchists. I have a quote by Ben Gurion where he's against a Jewish state. He's not an anarchist and everybody considers him a Zionist. He was considered a Zionist when he made that statement. Ben Gurion describes a bi-national state,1 he says a state that has cultural and educational autonomy for Jews and Palestinians, a two house parliamentary system that prevents one group from dominating the other, and the political system should be such that Jews will not dominate Palestinians and Palestinians will not dominate Jews. That's Ben Gurion, and again, he's not an anarchist and he was considered a Zionist when he made that statement.

    • 1Refers to the idea of having only one state on the land of Israel/Palestine with equal rights for all citizens.

  • What does peace mean to you?

    Genuine self-determination, human rights, and no Israeli domination of Palestine in the various ways that it has been proposed, such as the autonomy proposals in the '80s for limited Palestinian autonomy but still Israeli occupation, or what's being attempted now, which is to draw a map of Palestine which leaves Palestine divided and effectively under Israeli control, and also economically dependant on Israel and serving as a cheap labor pool for Israel with industrial areas on the seam. That's not peace.

  • Do you think there is a need for what it says it is set up to do?

    Not right now. I don't think that the Jewish community in the world is under serious threat. It's doing just fine. And in fact the one place where you can make the strongest case for where a Jewish community is in need of support is exactly the place where the government is refusing to help them, and that's the Falasha Mura left behind in Ethiopia. End.

  • Is it important to you to have a place, or a country in the world, for Jews, if not only for Jews?

    Sure, I think that I'd be happy if a state had a commitment to Jewish culture and Jewish institutions. In that sense I think it's legitimate to have a Jewish state. Like the United States, which has all sorts of state supported Jewish institutions, that's fine, as long as it's done on an equitable basis. That's the legitimate part of a Jewish state. Israel can do that too, as long as it doesn't do so at the expense of anybody else. I don't think there is a reason for Israel to supply the legitimate needs of the Jewish community at the expense of anyone else. And mind you, the situation has not been for a long time that Israel is satisfying the demands or the needs of the world Jewish community. It's the other way around: the Jewish community in the world has mobilized itself to support the needs of the state. That's completely the opposite of what the state advertises itself as doing. And many people would tell you that Israel's political liability has a cost for Jewish communities abroad. Again, the opposite of what the state declares itself as being set up to do.

  • Follow up interview - July 2009

    What has changed in the past four years since your interview with Just Vision in 2005? I think there has been a slow but steady growth in the Israeli resistance against the wall. There are now more people supporting the struggle and it has changed a bit also. In 2004 and 2005, there was more direct action. At the time, there was a lot of construction being done to the wall and we could show up during construction. The struggle now is steady, there are demonstrations in Biliin and another village in the Bethlehem area, Al-Maasarah, and sometimes in the Qalqilia area. It's a long term struggle, even when it's highly intensive.

  • I want to talk about Budrus. Are you still in touch with the people in the village?

    We're in touch with them, especially with Abu Ahmad. Many people respect his opinion and his advice and sometimes when we encounter complicated situations we go to him. Alternatively, we go to him with new ideas of things we can try because a lot of experience has been accumulated in Budrus. Many people started their activism there and it is a model of what resistance should look like and what to strive for. Other villages are measured against this model.

  • Have you tested the activities in a specific village according to the model in Budrus?

    Yes. We look to see if the whole village is involved, if in fact people from the various factions are involved, if women also join. Budrus is a model that is difficult to replicate in terms how of a good committee conducts itself, functions well and how the connection with us [Israelis] is managed. I think that when resistance is really a popular resistance and natural it is based on basic human principles. Once the resistance becomes a struggle dictated from higher up, it becomes open to much more corruption; not only in terms of money but also in terms of compromises and distortion of goals. When resistance is popular, transparent and open, the motives are common to everyone and tend to be humane and moral.

  • Other than Biliin, Ni'ilin, Al-Maasarah, and Qalqilia, are there other sites of nonviolent resistance?

    There are a few places that are trying to get organized, such as Azun Atme, a village south of Qalqilia surrounded by the wall. The situation is really impossible. There are attempts there to protest in front of the checkpoint and the wall that surrounds the village. There are places that the oppression is strong and people can't create a real resistance, such as Izbat Tabib, another very small village that suffers from the constant threat of demolition. People there currently don't have the strength to create a real opposition. The threat of revoking work permits is actually greater than the threat of the arrests. If you're arrested its for a one, two, three, six months but when it comes to the work permit, there's no discussion. End

  • On September 21st, 2009, after refusing to pay a fine imposed on him for a charge for resisting the occupation, Kobi was sentenced to 20 days in prison.