SISO, a new umbrella-movement in the Israeli landscape

by Manuela Borraccino |  April 15, 2016

The new movement's logo.

Save Israel-Stop the Occupation (SISO) aims to serve as an umbrella-movement for individuals and organizations who consider Israel’s on-going rule over occupied Palestinian territory disastrous.

Its name is Save Israel-Stop the Occupation (SISO) and it aims to serve as an umbrella-movement for individuals and organizations who consider “Israel’s on-going rule over occupied Palestinian territory disastrous not just for Palestinians but for Israelis as well”. The movement, which calls on the Israeli government to end the occupation to secure Israel’s security, democracy, prosperity and world standing, came into the light yesterday night (14th April) at the Film Festival organized by the NGO Solidarity at the Tel Aviv cinematheque.

“The initiative was established during Fall 2015 by a group of prominent Israelis and peace NGOs with the backing of concerned Jews from around the world” Daniel Bar-Tal, professor emeritus of Social Psychology at Tel Aviv University's School of Education and leader of the SISO movement, told A website will be up and running very shortly. “After having studied for decades what makes this conflict intractable and resistant to a pacific solution, we decided to enter into action personally to bring about social change” he affirms.

The founders of SISO include prominent personalities from the political and diplomatic scene of the State of Israel such as the ambassador and historian Eli Barnavi, the professor and former general director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alon Liel, the author and academic Menachem Klein. A prominent activist for peace such as Jessica Montell, former executive director of B’Tselem between 2001 and 2104, has also joined the movement.

Globally very well known in the field of political psychology, author of essays about the social dynamics of the intractable conflicts and about the effects of the occupation on the Israeli society, Daniel Bar-Tal is trying today to convince the majority of Israelis that putting an end to the occupation is a strategic and economic vital issue for Israel, as well as a moral duty. “The failure of countless international peace initiatives and the continuing encroachment of settlements on their land are destroying all hope among Palestinians for a dignified future” Bar-Tal says. “Israelis are also gripped by despair in the face of the never-ending cycle of violence and will soon suffer the consequences of a series of distinctly undemocratic measures initiated by the Netanyahu government. The current situation is causing great harm to Israel, suffocating the Palestinians, fanning anti-Jewish sentiment everywhere, and seriously damaging Israel’s standing in the international community. In carrying out its expansionist policies, the government is not only violating international law, but at times also breaking Israeli laws, thus seriously undermining the very foundation of Israeli democracy. Moreover, the continuing occupation leads to more bloodshed and cycles of violence and thus undermines the needed security and prosperity. If not halted soon, this will render a desirable two-state solution impossible and then Israel must grant equal rights for all”.

The movement calls for individuals, both Jews and non-Jews, communities, NGOs, institutions or organizations to organize and carry out public events of different kinds before 2017, “climaxing on June 5, 2017 and continuing them until the goal is achieved”.

The political situation in Israel, with the most far-right government Israel has ever had, and the regional context are not at all favourable to such a campaign. As the writer and peace activist Uri Avnery put it in the past months, “in Israel the government belongs to the extreme Right, with some elements that would be called "fascist" anywhere else. The Center and Left are impotent. The only real political fight is between the radical Right and the even more radical extreme Right”.

Daniel Bar-Tal is certainly not naive. He has analysed in several essays the causes and effects of the “siege mentality” and the refusal of the majority of Israeli public to accept any kind of pressure from the outside. Despite everything, Bar-Tal is convinced that true patriotism today means to get involved personally to put an end to a phenomenon considered the “greatest march of folly Israel has ever started” as the former minister of Foreign Affairs Shlomo Ben Ami defined it. The movement, which has the support of several Jewish organizations, aims at creating “a dominant public voice and political will that together will motivate the Israeli leadership and public to take the steps required to end the occupation”, also showing the international community that not all Israelis support the government's policies on the occupation.

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