Doron Meinert - The voice of an Israeli activist
Updated: Apr 23
My name is Doron Meinert. I was born in 1960 in Kibbutz Beit Hashita in the Yizrael Valley. Both of my parents were pioneers who worked in the establishment of the kibbutz. They were proud Zionists, but were also socialists devoted to peace, human love, and respect for every human being.
Since early childhood I have known that Beit Hashita was built on the ruins of the Arab village of Shatta. I remember the sheikh's house that survived, several other ruins and orchards of Arab villages, whose lands was forcefully taken away from them. I used to listen to the stories of the veterans about the relationship with the neighboring villagers, that were at times peaceful and at times violent. Some conflicts over pasture and crop were conducted with cold weapons, some were bloody fights with guns.
When I was 7 years old, me and my mother heard the radio announcement on the capturing of the old city of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War. Despite the collective euphoria – the words of Yitzhak ben Aharon, who was then one of the leaders of the kibbutz and one of the first to oppose Israeli occupation, influenced me and made me an opponent of the occupation ever since.
I kept on the track with the kibbutz like – school and youth movement, a year of community service. Then enlistment in the Armored Corps. I served the required Regular period and then continued to a permanent position, a service of all together 5 years, and by the end was ranked a company commander. At this capacity, I participated in the 1982 Lebanon War, where I tried as much as I could to conduct fairly with the diverse Lebanese population. During these years of service, I was never stationed in the West Bank, and was not familiar the reality there.
From 1983 to 1990, I served in the reserve duty. These were the years of the first intifada, during which I was stationed in the West Bank in several positions. I saw myself as a representative of the "enlightened conquest" approach that uses force proportionately only against those who use force against me, without harming civilians and without killing, for example, stone throwers and tire burners, whom we tried and sometimes even succeeded in stopping. Of course, I was also involved in actual combat, both in the West Bank and in Lebanon.
In 1990 I reenlisted in the army service and was appointed a battalion commander. In this capacity I continued to serve periods of operational activity. The most morally difficult period was my four months of service as a battalion commander in the city of Hebron. There, alongside the effort to maintain security, I had to constantly deal with violence and vandalism committed by settlers against the Palestinian population. Raby Levinger led the settlers in the city, and alongside him were figures who have become well-known – Itamar Ben Gvir (today the Minister of National Security), Orit Strook (today the Minister of Settlements), Baruch Marzel, Noam Federman and others. During this period, I realized how antithetical was my worldview from that of the settlers. I realized how far they were willing to go to realize their worldview and how competent and organized they were in spreading their ideology. As part of my job, I had to constrict their power as much as possible, and I knew that in the future I would have to fight against them even harder.
After finishing my duties as a battalion commander, I held several other senior positions in the army. My contact with the occupied Palestinian territories was minimal, and I was happy about that. In all my positions, I tried to ensure, as much as possible, a proportionate use of force and a fair treatment of the civilian population. But I was an army officer for all intents and purposes, one who knows how to use force and speak the language of force. The most important and positive task I performed was leading the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, mainly the removal of the settlers and the dismantling of the settlements.
I completed my army service in 2010. Alongside developing a career in a hi-tech company, I gradually began efforts to promote helping Palestinians. For several years I participated in the olives harvest during the autumn months. It was then that I became associated with the veteran activist Yaakov Manor, who is one of the first members and founder of the "Peace Now" movement, a figure of inspiration and admiration. After several years, Yaakov asked me to become a partner in the Harvest Coalition and take responsibilities in the organization. During this period, I started expressing my opinions against the occupation and against the settlements on Facebook and sometimes in the newspapers. Posting my criticism resulted in my exemption from reserve duty. I wasn't officially discharged from the reserves, but I was never called up to duty again.
In 2021, I felt that my participation in the harvest activity, which lasted only two months a year, was not enough. So, I started accompanying shepherds in the Jordan Valley where I was involved in leading several operations of protecting the Palestinians against the settlers. In January 2022, on Tu Bishvat (Jewish Holiday for the trees), I co-organized a group of activists who went out to plant olive trees in the Palestinian village of Burin. A group of settlers from Givat Ronen, a nearby outpost, showed up and attacked us with clubs, threw stones at us, and burned the car of one of the activists. About eight elderly people were injured. I suffered a head injury and a broken arm. I had to undergo a surgery and had platinum implanted in my arm.
This event encouraged me to continue my activism and to lead various more actions. I joined the organization "Looking the Occupation in the Eye". As a member of the leading team of the organization we operate a wide range of activities for making the Israeli public understand that the occupation cannot be ignored or accepted, because it corrupts us all and destroys the State of Israel. Our activities are held in the occupied Palestinian territories and within Israel. In Palestine we continue to accompany shepherds and protect them from the abuse of settlers, the army, and the police. We guarantee the supply of water to farmers, help harvest the olives in season, and more. All our activities are in full cooperation with the Palestinians. Inside Israel, we carry out protests and activities that discredit the occupation, and that educate Israelis about the lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
At the same time, I express my harsh criticism, on Facebook and sometimes in the press, of the settlers as well as of the security forces who, to my regret and shame, widely cooperate with settlers and often avoid fulfilling their responsibility as an occupying force to protect the lives of the Palestinian residents. In my writings, I try to stay close to the facts while analyzing the situation dispassionately, without arguing. Nevertheless, my activism and my writings are accompanied with deep pain for the lost track of the State of Israel and of Zionism – to which I am still connected, and still try as much as I can to correct. These days we have joined the general protest, along with other anti-occupation organizations, against the judicial overhaul that will make Israel a dictatorship. We emphasize the message that a nation controlling another nation for years is not a democracy. More and more people understand that this is the root of the problem.
Alongside the difficulties and hard feelings we experience these days, I have found in "Looking the Occupation in the Eye" comrades who have also become personal friends. Together we try to cultivate hope for a better future.