Theater of Cruelty

Anarchists against the wall

TEL AVIV / It is becoming harder and harder to oppose the system as Israel moves to the right.


We hit Kobi Snitz in southern Tel Aviv, where he lives. It is the socially heavy part of the city and he is committed to the work of the many refugees from Sudan and Eritrea who live there. At the beginning of the year, Snitz attended a political meeting. The participants came from the anarchist environment in Tel Aviv and it was no big event. He knew most people: "But I especially noticed that I was one of the youngest, and after all, I'm 47 years old," he says. "There were quite a few men with gray hair!"

The description is characteristic. The election to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, last spring was yet another victory for Benyamin Netanyahu and the country's nationalist right wing, and the right-wing turnaround, which has been on for many years, seems to continue. Against this, the political spectrum to the left of the center is greatly reduced. The once mighty Labor Party just came in with 6 out of those 120 mandates.

"We also notice the tendency of the groups working extra-parliamentarily," says Kobi.

Punk and the progressive movements of the 1960s. We are in the process of taking the pulse of the Israeli anarchist movement. It has never been a mass phenomenon, but it has been present. The anarchists have previously made their mark in the peace movement and in the protests against the occupation and the continued repression of the Palestinians, and the case is not least interesting because parts of Israel in their day started as a socialist and collective experiment.

Before the founding of Israel in 1948, a number of kibbutzim considered
themselves as anarchist municipalities, and both Kropotkin and

The idea, of course, is on the kibbutz. Kobi was born and raised in Barkai, which is one of them, but he quickly shuts the air out of the illusions. He may well view the kibbutz with his collective way of life as a form of anarchism. In each case in the early years, that is, in the time before the state's founding in 1948, a number of kibbutzim considered themselves anarchist municipalities, and both Kropotkin and Tolstoy were read.

"But the kibbutz also showed considerable commitment to building the state and, not least, it actively participated in the crimes against the Palestinians," he explains.

Barkai is a good example in itself. It was founded in May 1949 on land that had previously belonged to a Palestinian village. The only remaining building from the village today serves as an entrance to the kibbutz's swimming pool.

"I would call it a highly compromised anarchism," he smiles.

Anarchists against the wall

But the counterculture existed in Israel, and it is Jonathan Pollak perhaps the best expression of. He grew up in Tel Aviv, where his parents were active on the left. One of his earliest memories is from a demonstration in Tel Aviv, which was disbanded by horseback police.

"I got involved in animal welfare," says Pollak. "I've been a vegetarian since I was seven, and I joined the movement as a young teenager. At the time, 99,9 percent of the movement was anarchists, so it was through anarchism and punk my political identity evolved. ”

When he was fifteen years old, he stopped going to school. The parents should just get used to the idea as he puts it, but they had no choice and accepted it. The next big decision came when he turned 18 and like all young Israelis were called into the military.

He chose to become a military denier. Especially then it was very unusual. There was, and still is, great social pressure, which is perhaps one of the reasons why there are so few Israelis with Jonathan Pollak's attitude. The election cost him several stays in military prison, and when the military authorities finally let him go, it was with a note in the papers that he was mentally unstable. This is important when going out and looking for work. Instead of becoming a soldier, he traveled to Amsterdam, where he was part of the autonomous environment for a few years. He describes that time as a happy feeling of freedom.

Nevertheless, he returned home, for he saw that he was needed. He became one of the key figures in the Anarchists Against the Wall movement, which demonstrated every Friday along Israel's so-called security fence in the West Bank. Jonathan still goes to the demonstration every Friday, but the group no longer exists. They became fewer and fewer.

Like the Nazis

Another from this circle is Ben, who does not want his last name in print. He, too, grew up in a kibbutz that his grandparents helped found in the post-World War II era. His grandmother, whom he has never met because she committed suicide shortly after arriving in the new country, plays a special role. She was the only survivor of a small group of young Jews who took part in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

When Ben was in high school, he took the trip to Poland, which all Israeli high school students are offered.

"We visited Warsaw and we saw Auschwitz, and I saw how my grandmother's story was transformed into Zionist propaganda," he says. "On that trip, I caught sight of the fact that we Israelis, in fact, behave in the same way as the Nazis, in maintaining the occupation of the Palestinians."

Ben became a military denier in 2001, when the Palestinian Al Aqsa Intifada was at its peak. At the time, he lived in Kramim, a newly started kibbutz in the northern Negev desert. It was a small farming community where it was no easy decision to go his own way as he did. He was labeled as "weird," so in many ways he found a new community in Anarchists against the Wall.

housing market

For most of the protagonists, this is a long time ago. Tel Aviv has always been the city that was spacious enough for countercultures and alternative ways of life, but even that has changed. The few anarchist collectives that existed are long gone.

In today's Israel it is easier to have respect for the animals than for the Palestinians

"Anarchists against the Wall emerged almost at the same time as the anti-globalization movement around the world, and that motivated many people," Jonathan Pollak remembers. But again and again, he points out that Israel has lived with the right-wing governments almost constantly for the last 45 years. In almost 5 years, the Labor Party has been at the helm. During this long period, the country has been steadily moving to the right, and even the parliamentary left has been moving in the same direction. He sees this as a pragmatic attempt to maintain a core group of voters, but as a result, a gap has arisen between the left and where he is.

"We stand in isolation and many have lost the desire to be," he says.

Ben has another explanation. He left Tel Aviv three years ago because it has become too expensive to live in the city: "Israel has become an extremely competitive society, and housing prices are particularly high in Tel Aviv," he says. "There are no longer empty properties that we can occupy, so many Israeli anarchists have traveled to Amsterdam or Berlin, where there is still room for our way of life."

Veganism as fig leaf

Nevertheless, Tel Aviv appears to be a liberal metropolis. It is extremely accommodating to gays and lesbians, and Gay Pride is by far the biggest event of the year in the city. It is also home to an unparalleled vegan culture. About five percent of the Israeli population consider themselves vegans, which is one of the highest numbers in the Western world, and many of them live in Tel Aviv.

Kobi shakes his head: "We are vegans, everyone, because it is part of our view of life," he says. "But in today's Israel, respect for animals is easier than for Palestinians. The veganism we see around us is a fashion phenomenon and it is not a trace of politics. Netanyahu's own son is vegan, and Israel's new chief of staff, Avi Kochavi, is vegan! ”

His last words seem to say it all. In his eyes, veganism is an integral part of a political agenda. It is not just a selection of animal products on the dining table, but part of something bigger. As veganism has become mainstream, he also feels abused.

"Veganism has become a fig leaf for the Israeli establishment," he says. "It is used to portray Israel as an open and liberal society, while in reality it is a police state. But right now we are too few to seriously put anything up! "

In July, Jonathan Pollak received a physical reminder of the lack of openness in Israeli society. One late afternoon, he was assaulted on the streets of Tel Aviv. A man walked up to him with his bare fists, loudly accusing Pollak of being "a dirty leftist."

The perpetrator has never been found.

Hans Henrik Fafner
Hans Henrik Fafner
Fafner is a regular critic in Ny Tid. Residing in Tel Aviv.

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