What we're doing, given the current conflict - New Israel Fund Australia

What we're doing, given the current conflict

During this terrible conflict in Gaza, we wait with hope not just for a pause to the immediate hostilities but for a permanent end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We continue to mourn for the civilians and Israeli soldiers who have been killed and fear for those still in the line of fire.

The situation on the ground remains fluid. So far it seems that more than 650 Palestinians - the majority civilians, and more than 100 children - and 35 Israelis - including 32 IDF soldiers - have been killed in this round of fighting. In the Gaza suburb of Shejaiya, at least 30 women and children were killed in tragic circumstances. On Saturday, a Bedouin man, Auda al-Wadj, was killed by a Hamas rocket in an area with no shelters, and no protection from Iron Dome.

What is certain is that no resolution to this conflict can occur through military power alone. This conflict is a result of reliance on the status quo, built on ceasefires, hudnas, and ‘sustainable quiet’. It is a dangerous situation in which a permanent resolution remains so far away and which will fuel greater tragedy and loss of life.

On the ground, there have been a number of crucial and inspiring stories coming from NIF’s grantees. We thought we would share some of them with you. The work of NIF and its grantees aims to empower Israelis to implement solutions to aid those most deeply affected. Other grantees monitor, document and analyse the impact of the conflict on civilians in both Gaza and Israel.

This work is challenging, and often unpopular. But, as New Israel Fund President Rabbi Brian Lurie wrote in a Haaretz op-ed:

“Moments like this one test the character of society. When human rights groups are ignored, silenced or are not allowed to do their work, societies fail the test. Nations like Russia, Egypt and Iran prohibit, limit or defund human rights activities, and that behavior is an infallible signal of anti-democratic and authoritarian intent. Israel aims higher than that.”

Here is an update of some of the work of NIF and its grantees in the past two weeks:

  • A number of NIF grantees, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and B’tselem, have been documenting the horrific impact on civilians in Gaza and in Israel as victims of rocket attacks.

  • Last Thursday, a group of human rights organisations launched a petition to the High Court of Justice to obtain urgent protective facilities for the 80,000-100,000 citizens living in unrecognised Bedouin villages in the Negev. The Iron Dome system does not protect them because the IDF considers the areas unpopulated, and already a number of rockets have landed in the area, tragically killing one man and injuring a number of children, two of them critically. On Sunday, the High Court refused to require the state the immediately provide protection in the villages, but did demand the state report back within 30 days on long-term plans for the protection of the villages.

  • Shatil is assisting the Trauma Coalition to mobilise mental health professionals who speak Arabic in order to assist trauma victims following the rocket attacks in the Bedouin villages.

  • The Center for Citizens’ Empowerment in Yerucham is acting against cases of racism and incitement in the area. In one instance, a number of Arabs were denied entrance to a community bomb shelter. As a result, the Center then asked the municipal rabbi to issue a statement saying it is against halacha to prevent Arabs from entering shelters.

  • The Jerusalem Movement created special activities in the city for children from the south of Israel for a day of relaxation and fun further away from the rocket attacks.

  • An emergency grant to the Rape Crisis Center in the Negev. In a time of war, there is an increase in the number of people who turn to the center for help. In order to deal with this, the centre is expanding its services, mostly the number of volunteers who meet with victims and escort them to the police or hospital.

  • The Forum for Immigrant Families formed a hotline, staffed by professional therapists, to serve Russian speaking families living under rocket attack. The hotline was formed during 2012’s Pillar of Smoke campaign, and an emergency NIF grant allowed it to hire professionals, coordinate the hotline, and publicise it.

  • Tag Meir, which was seed-funded with an NIF grant, organised two events in Jerusalem, as well as a condolence visit by 350 Jewish-Israelis to the family of murdered Palestinian boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

  • Israeli Children, a project housed by ACRI, distributed information to refugees and migrant workers instructions on how to protect themselves from Hamas rockets, as well as an explanation of the situation. They are also organising a community event for these groups with the Tel Aviv municipality.

  • “Shutafut Sharakah”, a project of which Shatil is a leading member, launched the “Kifaya” website, which monitors reports of racism across Israel and tracks how they are dealt with, so as to promote progress in the handling of the incidents.

  • A number of Palestinian-Israeli organisations are providing specialised training in nonviolent conflict transformation, especially in light of violent demonstrations by some Palestinian youths.

  • Shatil field organisers and consultants are reaching out to a range of organisations that deal with marginalised populations (including Bedouin, Ethiopian, Russian and African asylum seekers) to understand any special needs they may have, and to push for government services to be made available to them.

  • Shatil is assisting with the translation of instructional materials from the “Home Front Command” into ten languages.

  • Thanks to the activity of Shatil’s Center for Policy Change, the Ministry of Justice translated into Arabic marketing material which publicised the opening of a hotline to report instances of incitement. Shatil also then distributed this advertising through the Arab community.

You can see a complete list of the emergency grants NIF issues on our website, and follow our Facebook and Twitter profiles for constant updates.

Continuing to work together under fire

All over the country the situation is tense. In Israel, sirens can be heard from southern Israel to Nahariya. But, even when the rockets are landing all around, Shatil, NIF’s capacity building and advocacy arm, is continuing its important work. Here is part of an interview with Sultan Abu Abaid, head of the Shatil branch in Beer Sheva, on how the staff are managing to do their work while under fire.

Can you tell me about your work during this time? “As always, SHATIL continues to deal with issues of shared society and social justice. An extra issue now is the protection and defense of the Bedouin. Most of the Bedouin villages are in open areas which are not covered by the Iron Dome, and don’t have protection or shelter at home. We are trying to create media interest in this issue, and to solve the problem by lobbying the government.”

Continue reading this interview on our website…

In case you missed it...

As we have so far, we will continue to keep you updated on developments on the ground, and how NIF is reacting to protect Israel’s most at-risk populations.

Kind regards,

Irving Wallach

Liam Getreu
Executive Director 

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