In November 2022 the Right returned to power, more extreme than ever, burning with desire for revenge, and led by a coalition of messianic-conservative-religious Jewish supremacists whose goal is to trample on liberal and democratic values and human rights.
For over a decade the Right strived to introduce dangerous and racist ideas from the fringes of the religious-revolutionary camp into the mainstream of Israel’s discourse. It worked toward delegitimizing organizations and individuals who promoted concepts of equality and human rights; toward advancing libertarian concepts and tearing society apart; toward promoting the normalization of the occupation and Jewish supremacy in the West Bank; toward suppressing and denying Judaism’s longstanding tradition of humanism and love of mankind as expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
As a result of the Right’s relentless activity, exposure to voices promoting a humanist agenda has been unprecedentedly reduced. We must not allow this voice to be absent from Israel’s public discourse. Our role is to present a vision that is based on partnership and equality of all the people living in this country, Jews and Arabs alike.
The State of Israel is in the throes of the most serious democratic and social crisis in its history. After five election campaigns within three years, which in and of itself eroded its democratic foundation, voters in the democratic camp feel abandoned, traumatized, and fearful that liberal democracy is on the verge of collapse.
The threat to Israel’s democratic infrastructure largely stems from actions to undermine liberal democracy undertaken by right-wing organizations, led by the ultra-conservative Kohelet Forum. The victory in the 2022 elections raises concerns that with the help of Kohelet Forum, the Right might carry out a regime coup similar to those staged in Hungary and Poland, transfer control over the Palestinians in the territories to the settlers, and lead to a de facto annexation of the West Bank.
Established in 2020 by Zehava Galon, former leader of Meretz and B’Tselem’s founding executive director, Zulat sets a humane and liberal research institute against Kohelet Forum and similar organizations, and provides the liberal camp with tools to reconstitute the struggle for Israel’s democratic identity. Pseudo Democracy: State of the Regime in Israel, a groundbreaking report by attorney Eitay Mack we published in 2022, shows that Israel has never been a model of liberal democracy and that its regime has been a hybrid of democratic and authoritarian components, which at different periods has tilted toward one of those extremes. The formation of the new Netanyahu government and the initiatives raised by its members are taking us in an authoritarian direction.
The real regime coup will be carried out in Knesset committee discussions about legislative moves. It is imperative that this coup be met head-on by an organization that will expose their dreary, tedious, but fateful processes. Zulat will tenaciously, resolutely, and fearlessly perform this role.
In the face of this imminent regime coup, Zulat offers a series of essential and unique tools. First, we see human rights as a whole comprising universal, private, collective, and social rights, all of them crucial and interdependent. The idea that the poor have the right to sleep under bridges is a travesty that detracts from all rights. Our vision will bring them together.
We specialize in collecting, analyzing, and providing data to promote advocacy of our goals. We are currently working with MKs in the opposition, drafting for them opinions, reports, and policy papers to be used as the basis for tackling anti-democratic legislation and promoting progressive legislation. We work in close cooperation with former MKs, government ministers, and other civil society organizations to promote our vision. We conduct educational training courses and are active in social media and the mainstream media.
While other research institutes conduct important studies that generally describe a given situation, our goal is to act toward policy change in the parliamentary arena based on the data we gather. Zulat offers innovative reforms, alternatives to existing policies, and cutting-edge campaigns.
We strive to revive the long-forgotten concept that Israel must be a light unto the nations. We firmly challenge the notion, primarily promoted by Netanyahu, that power is the be-all and end-all. Israel has forgotten what its own Declaration of Independence states, to the effect that the state “will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice, and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed, or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education, and culture.”
Even if the earth is burning under our feet, it is our duty to remind all and sundry that we have no other country and that it is our obligation to nurse it back to health and to save it.
The progressive camp in Israel has been under attack for far too long, but we have not lost sight of the fact that all human beings are entitled to human rights, whether they are Jewish or Palestinian, male or female, heteronormative or gay. Thus, we are duty-bound to protect the rights of all human beings and to strive to eradicate the occupation, which is a flagrant manufacturer of human rights abuses. Accordingly, Zulat believes that it is the duty of the progressive camp to move from the defensive to the offensive.
We believe that the Right has crossed one too many bridges, that as soon as it makes a mistake we should take advantage of its intoxication with power, and that there are enough supporters of freedom and equality in Israel to do just that. We must reach out to these people and provide them with the tools for this struggle.
Zulat will focus in the coming years on two action plans, one short-term and one long-term. In the short term, we will not walk with our heads bowed and we will not give up, we will fight with all our might for our beliefs and values and against the new coalition’s efforts to stage a regime coup. We will go to war to uphold rights and foil their infringement. We will intensify the resistance to the government’s initiatives, both in Knesset debates and in the public arena.
During the tenure of the Bennet-Lapid government, the Netanyahu-led opposition broke the parliamentary rules of the game by boycotting the Knesset’s committees and plenum. We have no intention of relinquishing this important arena, and we will work in close cooperation with the opposition to reinforce and strengthen its activity in the face of the emerging regime coup.
In the long term, we will go on the offensive to defend our positions and values and to fortify the foundations of equality, democracy, and human rights. We will work to educate public opinion in order to promote a human rights discourse; we will promote alliances with progressive partners in Israel and abroad, including pluralist Judaism and the international community; we will shift from efforts to erode racist and discriminatory laws to the enactment of basic laws that ultimately, after what we know will be a years-long struggle, will be integrated into a pluralistic and egalitarian constitution.
Dark clouds are hanging over our heads, but we cannot afford to despair. We are here to stay: Come stand with us!
Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.
Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.
Dr. Rawia Aburabia
Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.
Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.
With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.