What is Yachab?
Yachab is a British Jewish organisation that advocates for peace and for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. We have various areas of work – within the community, with progressive mainstream representative organisations, the British Parliament and cross-party MPs.
We try to make sure that they understand there are multiple voices involved in the conflict and that many advocate for the end of the occupation of the Palestinian territories and want to see a two-state solution. We are also working with civil organisations in Israel who seek a long-term solution for the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.
Which are these organisations?
We work with Peace Now, Breaking the Silence and a broad range of Israeli and Palestinian organisations such as Palestinians in Gaza and Rabbis for Human Rights. We also work with individual campaigners in Palestine that cannot be named for security reasons.
Many voices around the world call Israel an apartheid state where Palestinians don’t have the same rights as Israelis. Do you recognise that?
We don’t particularly use or endorse that term but we engage with a lot of organisations that use that term and with that conversation. A lot of them are partners. But our focus is to highlight the injustice in the West Bank and Gaza where people don’t have access to the same human rights.
The occupation was supposed to be a short-term solution and has now become a long-term solution. We warned the government about the risk of annexation of those territories and what becomes of Palestinians should this happen. Would they be all offered Israeli citizenships? These are some of the questions we have.
Are you also working with any Palestinian organisations in the UK?
We don’t but we do work with organisations that are advocating for Palestinian rights in Israel.
The Netanyahu Government aims to eradicate Hamas. With thousands of civilians killed so far, what is Yachab’s stance?
We believe that Israel has the right to defend itself. However international laws have to be taken into account when a war is fought and civilian casualties have to be minimised. A ceasefire does not seem to be realistic at the moment especially with escalations on the northern border. However, a de-escalation seems more likely and that is what we called for.
We advocate for an increase of humanitarian aid. People don’t have enough access to water and food, to medicine, electricity for hospitals to run. We are also campaigning to free the hostages taken by Hamas.
Your stance is independent from the Israeli Government. Do you advocate for a ceasefire?
We support the de-escalation of the war. If the reality were to change, we might change our stance too. But there needs to be international interest on what is going to happen after the war has ended. What is the long-term solution?
For years we have seen people condemning Hamas but there hasn’t been enough pressure from the international community to solve the problem. There has been warning from the IDF [Israeli Defence Force] and the military intelligence that the management of this conflict is not viable but as a campaigning organisation, we want to see a long-term solution.
Why don’t you ask for a ceasefire?
It’s not that we oppose a ceasefire, it just feels like an incredibly unrealistic ask. De-escalation is a more realistic action for British MPs to push for, coupled with a humanitarian pause and increased aid.
Could there be a negotiation with Hamas for the liberation of the Israeli hostages through a release of the 5,000 Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel?
That is definitely a possibility and that has happened in the past. The families of the hostages want them released as soon as possible. This has to be a priority but the fight with Hamas will continue. I think Hamas is an ideology but ultimately Palestinians have to be offered an alternative. So far, the biggest fault of Netanyahu’s Government is that they have been strengthening Hamas instead. That has generated a lot of anger among many factions of Israel. So, the entire political policy has to shift from strengthening Hamas to strengthening a Palestinian authority to enter negotiations for a Palestinian state.
What is the situation in Israel with this current government?
This government does not support a two-state solution. At the moment, neither Israelis nor Palestinians are talking about peace, but we need to think about when this war ends. This government has not been very popular with Israelis. Over 1,000 Israelis had to leave their homes both in the south and in the north. People feel that this government has failed to protect its citizens and the longer the hostages are held, the more people get angry.
Obviously, the government is not going to say how they are planning to free the hostages for security reasons but people are angry about that. On a local level you see that the most help Israelis refugees have received was coming from private fundraising and not from the government. So, people are very angry at the current government as it is failing to manage the conflict, the relationship with the Palestinians, the situation of the hostages and safety for its citizens overall.
Do you fear an escalation in the wider Middle East region?
I do. We are in the middle of a wider war constantly with Lebanon and Hezbollah. We had several rockets fired from the north by Hezbollah which is an Iranian supported organisation. We also saw the Houthi, an organisation supported by Iran, firing missiles at Israel. The real concern is that there are multiple fronts in this conflict, and that is the reason we are calling for a de-escalation. If this is not managed, we have to be concerned not only about what happens in Israel and in Gaza, but also in the wider region of the Middle East.
There has been killing in the West Bank too. How do you see the situation in the West Bank?
People are scared that what happened in May 2021 – where Palestinians were killed by the IDF – could escalate. There has not been much violence from Palestinians in the West Bank but we have seen a lot of violence from Israelis settlers against Palestinians.
It is absolutely important that the international community doesn’t forget about the West Bank. So far, a lot of humanitarian organisations have been liaising with the international community to carefully watch the West Bank, but no major actions have been taken to address the problem.
So far in the past two weeks there have been 100 Palestinians also killed in the West Bank where there is no Hamas. How do you explain that?
Most of them have been casualties from military actions, but I believe seven or eight of them have been killed by Israelis settlers. As far as we know, none of the settlers have been arrested. It is difficult to know the exact number because no one is paying attention or managing the issue there. Not only have Palestinians been killed, many have been displaced from their homes by the settlers in the West Bank. This is concerning.
Why do you think the IDF is attacking the Palestinians in the West Bank?
There are some Hamas in the West Bank, but the wider stance of the current Israeli Government is to evict Palestinians and let settlers take over as much land as possible. This government is very powerful and has put pressure on other parties to support the take over and further occupation of the West Bank.
So as a charity you are against the occupation of the West Bank?
Absolutely, we are.
Is the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, children, hospitals, schools, refugee camps, mosques, water towers, the cutting of water, electricity, and the internet, and the displacement of 1.1 million people from the north consistent with humanitarian laws?
Would you say that the Israeli Government is carrying out ethnic cleansing? Do Israelis support that and do you support that as a charity?