NEARLY THREE DECADES AGO, a new Israeli protest group was launched, calling itself “The 21st Year” and declaring in its founding covenant that:
The 40th year of the independence of Israel is the 21st year of its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. For more than half of its years of statehood, Israel has been an occupying power . . . The Occupation is not only a deplorable situation affecting the lives of the Palestinians it has an equally pernicious effect on the very political and spiritual substance of Israeli society.I joined the 21st Year while I lived in Israel and I remember the urgency we felt to act after two decades of occupation. When the first Intifada erupted in 1987, we committed ourselves to resistance that would make clear our refusal to collaborate with the Occupation. We refused to call the territories Judea and Samaria; did not enter the Occupied Territories without an invitation from Palestinian residents; boycotted goods produced by Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories; supported acts of protest and peaceful resistance by Palestinians; and refused to do army service in the Occupied Territories. Many of us were arrested for peaceful protest and spent time in Israeli jails.
In the waning days of the Intifada, I went to work for B’Tselem, joining my friends who believed that if Israelis only knew more about what was being done in their name they would oppose the Occupation. Since then, I have made my work in the world of progressive philanthropy, seeking to strengthen Israeli peace and human rights organizations. These organizations merit our moral and financial support. And yet, despite the many efforts of individuals and organizations alike, the Occupation of over three million Palestinians continues. As Israel celebrates its sixty-ninth birthday, it has been an occupying power for fifty of those years. And the count continues.