Conversation: Turning possibility into power

Image courtesy of Dov Khenin
Interview with Dov Khenin, Israeli political scientist, lawyer, and one of the most prolific and progressive of Israel’s lawmakers.

By Libby Lenkinski  |  Jewish Currents  |  Dec 3, 2019

Fighting against the occupation is very central to our political activity in Israel—it has been and still is the main issue for my movement, and for me personally.
— Dov Khenin

Israel is stuck in parliamentary muck. After two elections in the span of six months, it’s now staring down the barrel of a third. This month marks a full year since the country has had a functioning government, while its prime minister-in-name-only—who was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust—is hanging on by a thread. In the midst of this political turmoil, I reached out to former parliamentarian and social activist Dov Khenin to discuss the past and future of the progressive movement in Israel.

After serving in the now-deeply-dysfunctional Knesset for a dozen years as a member of Hadash (Israel’s joint Arab-Jewish Communist Party), Dov chose not to seek re-election last January. In his time there, he made his legislative mark, passing over 100 pieces of legislation, including sweeping environmental protection legislation and increases in the minimum wage. He was also the sole Jewish member of the Joint List, the alliance of the four Arab-majority political parties.

Like many progressives who have lived in Tel Aviv in the last decade, I’ve been following Dov for years, with a particular interest in his intersectional approach to politics. I first sat down with Dov last summer when he was beginning to develop his new organization, Place for Change, which brings together activists and academics to cultivate new strategies for advancing progressive causes in Israel. Recently, as Dov prepared to return to the United States for the first time in 20 years for the premiere of Barak Heymann’s documentary film about Dov and his work, Comrade Dov, I reached out again. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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