The Israel Green Movement is a vibrant new organisation which is launching as a political party in advance of the upcoming Israeli elections.
With British Green anti-Israel strategists’ arguments in mind (and consequently with apologies for this very singular British welcome to the political scene) I sent the following questions to Daniel Orenstein, a volunteer in the Israel Green Movement. He was good enough to find the time to answer them for Greens Engage.
1) Arabic is the joint official language of Israel. How come there is a link to an English version of your site, but not Arabic?
We are, in fact, currently working on an Arabic site (as well as a Russian site). We are a volunteer organization and, for the present, work at the pace of the volunteers. Incidentally, we have Arab members of the party who were drawn to the movement based on its principles and vision, and one very talented Arab individual running on our list. When party founder Alon Tal made his first statement to attract people to the party, it was translated and circulated in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
2) How would you respond to the statement “Zionism is incompatible with true Green values, because it is nationalist”?
Here I borrow from of my friend and colleague David Paran:
Zionism as a movement for the creation of a Jewish national state in the Land of Israel is no longer relevant since such a state already exists. In Israel and most Jewish discourses, Zionism usually refers to support and loyalty to the State of Israel, although not necessarily support of its government’s actions. Naturally, a political party working within the state’s political system supports and is loyal to the national entity.
Green values, as I understand them, do not necessarily advocate internationalism and the removal of national governments. “Think global, act local” requires maximum participation in decision-making by citizens which therefore requires strengthening local representative and participatory democratic structures at various levels from the municipal, national to the international.
Green Zionism in this sense does not contradict and in fact strongly supports equal rights and involvement for all citizens (and residents, for that matter). Israel is usually defined as Jewish and democratic – this raises challenges and obligations, which include an imperative to full democracy and equal rights – which the Green Israel Movement will continue to demand.
3) You are a “social environmental movement” – what is your programme for the welfare and engagement of minority social groups in Israel?
4) What are the particular challenges of an Israeli Green movement, and how do you meet them?
We understand that the roots of environmental problems lie in broader societal ills – our fundamental relationship with the earth and our fellow citizens, our economic systems and priorities, our consumption patterns, political conflict, social and economic disparities. In my opinion, our challenges are to refocus our priorities on people’s well being, invest in education/primary research/health care, protect the commons (coastlines, water sources, urban public space, natural landscapes) from damage and privatization, close economic disparities, eliminate political and economic discrimination, encourage environmentally sound modes of energy production and transportation… The list goes on.
5) How are you different from previous Israeli Green movements?
If you are speaking of the Green Party in Israel, there is nothing to compare. We see the Green Party in Israel as opportunists – politicians that were looking for a cause, where as we see ourselves as a cause realizing the need to express itself in politics. Our party leadership are from the ranks of the environmental movement; their’s are not. Rami Livni spoke eloquently about this in a recent interview at greenprophet.com
6) What effect does the international boycott campaign against Israel have on your work?
The Green Movement will continue our work here regardless – our politics are driven by our moral and ethical understanding of situation here, not by a boycott campaign. Speaking as someone historically associated with the left in Israel, the boycott makes our work harder because we lose the possibility to collaborate with Greens elsewhere, but it also makes our Israeli public less likely to choose to work and vote for us – the boycott justifies the misconception that “the world is against us.” Boycotts, I think, make people here more intransigent and less likely to work towards a cooperative solution. And having spoken to boycott advocates, I find many singularly dogmatic and narrow in their focus on Israel (rather than a focus on human rights), although many others who are sincerely pained by Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza and feel that they have no other tools to express their opposition. I hope the Greens in England and the US choose to engage Israel and our Green Movement rather than cut themselves off.
7) It is early days for you, but what international collaborations might you envision with British Greens?
Leaving discussion of boycotts aside, having a strong international support network would, I think, strengthen everyone’s home court advantage. Unity on issues that call for international cooperation (climate change policy, ozone policy, international treaties on hunting, GMOs, transportation) would help to influence policies. And a cultural and educational exchange would be exciting as well. The IGM hosted Danny the Red a couple months ago and the response was fantastic and empowering.
We wish the Israel Green Movement warm congratulations, מזל טוב and تهانينا and every success in their election campaign.