Courtesy of Shatil staff

Mass expulsions from unrecognized villages, Muslims barred from Al-Aqsa Mosque, and free reign given to Jewish militant vigilantes.

These are some of the worst-case scenarios that shared society NGO CEOs envisioned in a Shatil-guided simulation at NIFC-funded “Shared Society Directors’ Forum” meeting earlier this month. As Israel’s most hardline, ethno-nationalist, fundamentalist government in Israel’s history takes power, one of Shatil’s first orders of business has been to convene the Shared Society Directors’ Forum. Following November 2022 elections, the directors’ requests of Shatil had been clear: to arrange time and space to discuss the ramifications of new draconian government policies, and prepare to respond as a community.

Yet entering the meeting on February 1 — a rainy morning at NIF grantee Tishreen’s headquarters in  Tayibe — felt more like arriving at a family reunion than an urgent call to action. CEOs from NGOS including NIFC project partner Abraham initiatives, as well as Itach-Maaki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice, Abraham Initiatives, Sikkuy-Aufoq, Neve Shalom, and the Alliance for Israel’s Future drank coffee and caught up with each other. Some of them have worked together for decades, others recent additions to the arena.

Shatil advocacy expert Leehee Goldenberg preceded the simulation with an analysis of the coalition agreements, and a group discussion of their impact on the NGOs’ ongoing work. In addition, the meeting provided crucial openings for exchanges around more sensitive and complex issues, such as the many fractures that exist between Jews and Palestinians within Israel, and the differences in how they are experiencing what is happening. Israel Director of the Alliance for Israel’s Future Mikhael Manekin encapsulated sentiments expressed by Palestinian colleagues:

In the eyes of the Jewish left, the current government is categorically different from what it was before. In the eyes of Palestinian society, the current government is the realization of principles that already existed — only in a more radical way.” 

The discussion also related to the painful alienation of Palestinian young adults — an outgrowth of both mistrust of the government and the weakening of their own political parties — and the divisiveness among them.

Shatil Haifa Director Fida Nara Tabony said: In addition to an opportunity for an open and frank discussion, the day enabled us to examine ourselves as organizations and in the context of our shared work.

The Shatil-led simulation provided a framework for organizations to investigate what they might be up against, and how to leverage their collaborative power to support their communities. Shatil advocacy expert Eran Klein presented three potential scenarios that postulated the possible consequences of the intersection of inter-communal violence and government responses: One in which the level of violence would remain static; a second in which the increase in violence would escalate moderately; and the third in which violence would erupt dramatically. Divided into groups, participants were directed to map one of these potential scenarios and its outcome. The groups predicted outcomes ranging from increased legitimacy for police violence and racism to mass home demolitions and prohibitions on demonstrating and self-expression.

Phase two of the simulation instructed the groups to strategize their responses — including modes of action and necessary preparation, as well as identifying partners and their roles and responsibilities. One of the strategies that emerged involved establishing constellations of intersecting support networks including: parent-teacher communities from Hand-in-Hand schools; hi-tech and local businesses; influencers and champions; regional clusters; local authorities; neighbourhoods; and even residential building committees. The groups related to the need for both protection and for building political power. They emphasized the requirement for separate shared society and Palestinian networks, and for northern, southern, and central Israel situation rooms. These ideas resonate with NIF and Shatil’s broader plans to create a safe space for civil society organizations and activists in the current political climate.

Participant feedback testified to the significance of the day’s work. Ofer Dagan Co-CEO Sikkuy-Aufoq remarked: “We need to begin implementing today’s ideas tomorrow morning.“

And in fact, co-CEO Arab-Jewish Center for Empowerment and Employment (AJEEC-NISPED) Ariel Dloomy sent the following message to Shatil staff after the day together:

Good morning, I just wanted to let you know that following the meeting last week, we started preparing scenarios for the deterioration of the situation according to the simulation model that you presented. Thank you.