Mairav Zonszein is a bilingual and bi-cultural American Israeli who worked for our organization nearly a decade ago, for about a year. She returned to Israel shortly afterwards, where she’s made her mark as a passionate activist and journalist, especially as a regular blogger for the +972 magazine.
She’s reached an important milestone in her career with this NY Times op-ed, “How Israel silences dissent.” She cites some alarming instances of intolerance and repression in the wake of this summer’s Gaza war, concluding harshly:
After so many years of repressing those who stand in the way, the transition to targeting ‘one of your own’ isn’t so difficult. Now it is the few Jewish Israelis who speak the language of human rights who are branded as enemies. . . .
This drew a critical response from Noah Efron, in Ha’aretz, “Israel really hasn’t silenced dissent.” He does not dispute the incidents of intimidation and repression mentioned by Zonszein, but draws different conclusions:
. . . My stomach churned when I watched, heard and read all these things, just as Zonszein’s did.
But then, that’s the point: . . . The criticisms reached me. The criticisms of the criticisms reached me. Discussion of the criticism and of the criticisms of the criticisms reached me. No one was silenced. The week after thugs punched three demonstrators, there was another demonstration, this one larger, and protected by more police. The actress, the comedian and the journalist received hours of airtime and hundreds of column inches. The murder of the Palestinian kid in Jerusalem was condemned by multitudes, including the parents of the three Israeli boys who were murdered weeks earlier. . . .
He writes about Zonszein being part of a phenomenon of elements of the Israeli left giving up on Israel and the struggle for peace:
But we haven’t been silenced. We’ve just failed to make our case. For a dozen years, we have failed to win a majority in the Knesset. We have failed to convince other Israelis that the cost of holding onto the occupied territories is greater than the dangers of relinquishing them. In Zonszein’s analysis, this is because a right-wing cabal has shut us up, and there’s little we can do about it.
. . . we need to figure out how to speak to other Israelis so that they will listen. . . . The answer is to accept that Israel is a democracy, and that democracy demands that we speak to our fellow citizens and listen to them, that we persuade them rather than dismiss them. Zonszein argues that democratic politics in Israel are hopeless. The fact is, it is in Israeli democracy that our greatest hope lies.