Meretz lawmaker faces internal pushback for rejecting use of term ‘occupation’

Senior official says it’s ‘very sad that comments like these came from’ an elected representative in the left-wing party

Meretz party MK Yair Golan during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 31, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Meretz party MK Yair Golan during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 31, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz lawmaker Yair Golan faced internal pushback from a senior official in the left-wing party, after saying he refuses to use the word “occupation” to describe Israel’s military control over the West Bank.

“What Golan does not understand is that the ‘occupation’ doesn’t refer to the capture of the land but the situation in which 3.5 million Palestinians have been in for 54 years,” Uri Zaki, a member of Meretz’s leadership, wrote Saturday on Twitter.

He added: “Living under a military occupation, without basic rights or citizenship, while alongside them more and more Israeli citizens in the same territory have full democratic rights.”

Zaki, who is the partner of Meretz Minister Tamar Zandberg, said it was “very sad that comments like these came from a MK included on the Meretz [electoral] list.”

The criticism of Golan came a day after he made the remark in an interview with Channel 12 news, which noted that the term “occupation” appears numerous times in the party’s platform.

“This word has a connotation of a callous act, as if we took a piece of land that we have nothing to do with. Ultimately our roots are in the territory of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem,” Golan said, using the biblical names for the West Bank.

“I dream of the land of the bible,” he added. “I tell my friends on the right, my connection to every clump of the Land of Israel is no less than yours.”

Then-head of the Meretz party, Tamar Zandberg (R) casts her vote alongside her partner Uri Zaki at a Meretz party polling station in Jerusalem, on February 14, 2019. (Flash90)

Golan, a former IDF deputy chief of staff, now serving as deputy public security minister, also said it would be a “terrible decree” to evacuate many settlers from their homes.

The comments came a day after Golan was one of several dovish lawmakers to walk back their support for a letter signed 90 Knesset members to Unilever criticizing Ben & Jerry’s for the decision to stop selling ice cream “in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

“I understood that the letter does not represent my position,” Golan tweeted only after he signed the letter. He said he objected to the description of West Bank settlements as “towns and cities in Israel,” and asked to have his signature removed.

Golan was the only Meretz MK whose signature was on the letter, which was spearheaded by Yesh Atid MK Merav Ben-Ari in response to the announcement last week by Ben & Jerry’s.

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