Israeli civil society is extremely frustrated by the failed peace processes and the ongoing and severe violations of human rights, and there is a growing feeling that new practices must be used to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict closer to its end. Zochrot has been active for more than a decade in an attempt to expose the Jewish society in Israel to knowledge about the ongoing Nakba, and has therefore begun to adopt and adapt transitional justice mechanisms to reveal the silenced information about the events Nakba in new ways, and encourage that society to take responsibility for it. The Truth Commission Project has grown out of this conceptual framework.
Transitional justice mechanisms address the needs of communities and countries in conflict to cope with systematic abuses and structural injustices in order to facilitate reconciliation. Communities in conflict, both victims and victimizers, have developed a variety of innovative approaches to addressing the needs that result from ongoing conflicts. Hitherto, practices informed by the transitional justice paradigm have been used mainly to accompany and heal societies and communities in political transitions such as from totalitarian to democratic rule, or from an apartheid regime as in South Africa to an egalitarian democratic regime. Usually, these practices have been applied after a violent conflict had ended in a peace agreement, as in the former Yugoslavia, or in an armistice, as in Cyprus or Northern Ireland.
Many activists around the world have demonstrated time and again that silencing and ignoring the past prevent conflict resolution and the attainment of true reconciliation. Therefore, even in situations of seemingly intractable conflicts, several initiatives by civil society organizations, trade union or social religious organizations similar to state-sponsored mechanisms of transitional justice have sprung around the world. For the past 40 years, these initiatives have acted without government backing to bring resolve violent conflicts.
The Truth Commission established by Zochrot now joins these initiatives. The first of its kind in Israel/Palestine, the Commission is unique in that, as mentioned, it is active while the conflict is still ongoing, and against the background of the regime’s evasion of responsibility to the events of the Nakba, which began in 1948 and is still ongoing. The Truth Commission for Exposing Israeli Society's Responsibility for the Events of 1948-1960 in the South which started its deliberations in late October 2014, after two years of thorough research and intensive work done by many volunteers. The commission has seven members, Israeli Jews and Palestinians, all active in civil society and academia: Huda Abu-Obaid, Prof. Avner Ben-Amos, Wasim Biroumi, Adv. Shahda Ibn Bari, Dr. Munir Nuseibah, Dr. Nura Resh and Dr. Erella Shadmi.
The Commission seeks to expose the events of the Nakba during those years – events that have profound implications for the ongoing Nakba experienced by the Palestinian Bedouins to this day. The Commission examines testimonies by Palestinian displaced persons and refugees, as well as Jews who lived in the south and Jewish fighters who took part in displacement and expulsion operations in the area. In addition, the Commission peruses relevant archive materials. The Commission’s report will be designed to encourage the Jewish society in Israel to accept responsibility for past injustices in the south, with reference to the ongoing Nakba, and for redressing them.
On International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2014, the Commission held an open discussion in Be'er-Sheva/Bi'r a-Saba', in the presence of more than 200 members of the public, high school and preparatory students who arrived from all over Israel and the world. On this day, seven witnesses testified: Palestinian Bedouins displaced in 1948, Jewish fighters and expert witnesses. You may watch their testimonies in Arabic, Hebrew and English using the links provided below. This public event is unique in that the Commission is active while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still raging, and is nevertheless determined to expose silenced information and encourage the Jewish society in Israel to accept responsibility for the events of the Nakba in the south.
The Commission continues to convene and hear testimonies about the events of 1948-1960. Palestinians and Jews interested in testifying before it are welcome to contact Jessica Nevo at Jessica@zochrot.org or call Zochrot at +972-3-695-3255.
Call for volunteers for the Truth Commission – For more information