The Olga Appeal: Israeli scholars and activists recognize the right of return

Satellite image of the area between the Mediterranean Sea, the Dead Sea and the Jordan River.

A few weeks ago, Israeli scholars and activists appealed to Jewish-Israeli public opinion through a compelling document. Entitled “For Truth and Reconciliation, For Equality and Partnership” the appeal aimed at changing the political discourse in Israel, particularly “the historical dimension of the conflict and noting the structural political, ideological and cultural changes required to reach, in the future, a true reconciliation.”

The Olga document is the result of a series of discussions between Israeli scholars and activists in Givat Olga, one of the largest neighborhoods in Hadera overlooking the Mediterranean coastline.

In the appeal, scholars and activists demand “the immediate annullment of all laws, regulations and practices that discriminate between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, and the dissolution of all institutions, organizations and authorities based on discriminatory laws, regulations and practices.”

“We are united in the belief that peace and reconciliation are contingent upon Israel’s recognition of its responsibility for the injustices done to the indigenous people, the Palestinians, and on its willingness to redress them.”

Intentionally, the initiators wanted their first appeal to be a call by Israeli Jews. In their view, “an internal Jewish-Israeli debate is a first important step.” The initiators, Anat Biletzki, Andre Draznin, Haim Hanegbi, Yehudith Harel, Oren Medicks, and Michael (Mikado) Warschawski hope that Palestinian participation and contribution will be the next step.

In the first ten days, the Olga appeal received support from more than one hundred Israeli Jews, including Prof. Baruch Kimmerling and scholar and former Vice-Mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti. A debate has developed among dozens of supporters of the appeal around the right of return, historical responsibility, and bi-nationalism.

The “Olga appeal” marks not the start of another movement or the emergence of a new group against the occupation or another party or platform. The endorsers seek “to initiate a genuine public discussion about the Israeli dead-end in which we live and the profound changes needed in order to break out of it. Every Israeli knows that this is not a matter of political trifles, but a matter of deep concern for the fate of the peoples of this country.”

In a letter sent to their Palestinian friends and allies the initiators ask for comments and criticismm, inviting them to discuss the principles of the appeal.

Related Links

  • The Olga Document (Hebrew)