Advice from a Convicted Felon

Thirteen years ago, at the height of the Rabin-Peres regime, I started “Zo Artzeinu”, together with my dear friend Moshe Feiglin. The purpose of this movement was to protest the Olso Accords in a way that had not been done before. Up until that point, the demonstrations against Rabin-Peres had been orderly, quiet and 100% legal. They had drawn hundreds of thousands of protestors yet accomplished little, if anything at all. Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin called the protesters “propellers” and paid no attention to them. Busses continued blowing up, suicide bombers were everywhere and the land was given away to the enemy more and more each day…

I schlepped my family to dozens of these demonstrations. We stood in the rain, held signs and heard speeches by eloquent right wing politicians. When the Olso terror-process started we immediately jumped into the “protest mode” and made these demonstrations priority #1. Trust me when I say that there wasn’t an anti-Oslo rally my family didn’t attend…. but the busses continued blowing up and holy Jews were dying by the hour…

In August 1995, Moshe Feiglin and I decided that more had to be done. These “nice” rallies were getting us nowhere so we put our heads together and started a movement called “Zo Artzeinu” (This Is Our Land). The decision made was that we would “up the ante” a bit by introducing the concept of non-violent civil disobedience to the streets of Israel. Our first rally was held 3 days after Tisha B’av – the 12th of Av 5755 (August 8, ’95) – and, Baruch Hashem, it was an outstanding success. Over 100,000 protestors took to the streets and blocked 80 intersections across the country. Hundreds of these protestors were arrested! The media – generally silent up until this point – covered the event like never before. Even though all protestors were completely passive in their resistance and there was absolutely no violence (something the media usually hates) the event was blanketed by Israeli tv, radio and newspapers. In the next morning’s Yediot newspaper, seven of the first nine pages dealt with the nationwide roadblock.

I remember being live on Kol Yisrael radio that night. The massive roadblock had already been in effect for two hours and the radio interviewer asked that I call it off. “You are endangering lives”, the interviewer said, “call off the roadblock.” I insisted that we were actually saving lives! “How can that be?” asked the interviewer. “Simple”, I said. “Since no Israeli was able to drive for the last two hours, do you know how many lives we just saved?”

Moshe and I organized many more rallies during that time and the government responded by charging us with sedition and 11 counts of incitement. Even though every one of our protests was completely non-violent, the Rabin-Peres regime was embarrassed by the effectiveness and magnitude of these demonstrations. They ordered the police to search our homes at 5:00 in the morning, made sure we were physically assaulted and “threw the book” at us. Our trial lasted 18 months which cost us both our jobs and tons of money for legal expenses. In the end, Moshe and I were found innocent of all incitement charges yet guilty for the sedition charge. Moshe was sentenced to 16 months in prison and I received 12 months. We both became convicted felons.

After serving our time, mostly via community service, we re-entered the “normal” world. Our life of crime was behind us and – thanks to the Israeli prison service – we were fully rehabilitated ex-cons. We took a look at what was happening in the Israeli political scene and found out that while the Prime Ministers had changed (several times), the direction the country was headed did not! The “peace” process continued, land betrayals were being signed with Arafat and busses, coffee shops and Pesach seders in Netanya were still being blown up…

That is when we realized that we made a big mistake in Zo Artzeinu. Our goal at the time was to scream, “kvetch” and protest against something and while it worked – in the short term – it failed miserably in the long term. No changes were made and no alternatives were offered. All we did was yell at what was wrong… we didn’t provide the people of Israel with what was right.

And so, on Rosh Ha’Shanah 5761, Moshe Feiglin and I decided to correct our mistake – and make a real difference in Israel. We stopped protesting and started leading. We stopped screaming from the outside and started making our voices heard from the inside. How did we do this? We entered the only playing field in this country where decisions are made. We entered the world of Israeli politics.

Yes, politics is a dirty game… and Israeli politics is even dirtier but if you want to actually accomplish something that is where you must be. I must add one more important point. Unlike every other “right wing” activist up until this point who enters politics by starting his/her own political party (as if we don’t have more than enough already!), Moshe and I entered politics by joining the Likud. It is now almost eight years since that decision has been made and we are convinced – more than ever – that it was the right choice!

My advice to you is since you made aliyah to make a difference in this country, you too must join Likud. That is where the leadership comes from. That is where decisions are made! Up until now, many of those decisions have been the wrong ones so it is up to you – and me – to change the direction the country is headed and start making the right decisions!

You can continue your protests, if you like. You can hold signs, bang pots, fax the Prime Minister and even hunger strike. You can also join one of the new right wing parties that are sure to spring up, or join the new-united-right-wing that is being formed after the old-united-right-wing-party did nothing (except split into several non-united-right-wing-parties). Or you can join the party that leads, the party that decides and the party that sets policy.

I urge you to follow Moshe Feiglin and myself into Likud and become active members. That way, you will truly make a difference.