The Young Fabian International Network held a discussion with Jess Manville, who was previously an officer on the Network and is currently a Journalist for the Israeli TV station I24 News, covering her previous work at the YF, what she does now, and the current social and political climate within Israel.
Firstly Jess started by talking about some of her activities at the Network over 2015-16, including taking part in the delegation to Israel, including a one-day visit to the West Bank, and how she subsequently took part in a panel event at the Israeli Embassy in the UK on her experiences.
In the years since, she has begun working as a Journalist and Web news editor in Tel-Aviv for the rolling news network I24, where she has covered a range of international and domestic Israeli issues. In this role she said that she worked alongside both Jewish Israeli and Israeli-Arab citizens, and often found herself covering a range of complex social issues.
ERITREAN AND SUDANESE ASYLUM CONTROVERSY
One issue she said that she focused a lot on was the ongoing controversy of 30,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers who were threatened with deportation from the country. Many made it to Israel by crossing the Egyptian border to escape conflict and poverty, settling in a southern district of Tel-Aviv.
However many local residents have called for them to be repatriated and the Israeli government has made efforts to deport them to third countries such as Rwanda, Uganda or more recently Western Europe, which prompted 20,000 strong street protests in the city. Driven by this increasingly contentious domestic topic, Jess said that the government had also recently brought in a controversial new ‘Deposit Law’, meaning that the pay of any asylum seeker would be automatically taxed by 15% as a disincentive to those remaining in the country.
CURRENT PERCEPTION OF THE LABOUR PARTY
Jess said that she previously worked in the House of Commons for a Jewish Labour MP and held a number of meetings with the former Israeli Labour Party leader Issac Herzog. At the time she said connections with sister organisations in Israel used to be strong, however that is no longer the case.
The slow-burning anti-Semitism scandal within Labour, which she has recently written about, has been noticed in Israel and Jeremy Corbyn is now consistently portrayed as an anti-Semite in Israeli media. She also noted that the current leader of the Israeli Labour party has formally cut ties with Jeremy Corbyn (but not Labour) as a sign of the current untenable relationship between the two.
In terms of domestic politics, it seems likely that there will be a general election next spring, and that going by the polls Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to be re-elected unless he is indicted on potential corruption charges. If he can’t run, Jess said that former IDF head Benny Gantz has been talked of as his potential successor as leader, and may get elected as the Israeli left remains weak and fractured.
GENERAL SOCIAL SITUATION IN ISRAEL
Jess said that Israel is in many ways a country of great contrasts and contra dictions. For instance, it is a young country yet it is experiencing an aging population and a growing demographic challenge. The issue of rights for Israeli-Arabs was also an issue that she saw coming up a number of times, as they struggled in many spheres of public life to exercise the same civic rights as Jewish Israelis.
She said that Israel was a country with a western diplomatic mentality, with strong ties to Europe and America, yet much of its internal domestic discourse was focused around defence and security issues, partly down the ongoing tensions with the Palestinian people, but also with Iran and groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. There are however many burgeoning social movements in the country attempting to address issues, such as the issue of plastic waste, but positive change is taking time to come through.