Stav Shaffir

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Stav Shaffir
Stav shaffir new.jpg
Date of birth (1985-05-17) 17 May 1985 (age 31)
Place of birth Netanya, Israel
Knessets 19, 20
Faction represented in Knesset
2013–2015 Labor Party
2015– Zionist Union

Stav Shaffir (Hebrew: סתיו שפיר‎‎; born 17 May 1985) is the youngest female Knesset member in Israel's history, outspoken for demanding fiscal oversight of settlement funding and supporting a wide array of social justice-related issues—from affordable housing for young Israelis to the rights of Women of the Wall. Shaffir placed second in the 13 January 2015, primaries of the Labor Party and holds the third place in the internal Labor list (or alternatively the fourth place on the combined Labor–Hatnuah list). Shaffir was one of a small group of leaders of the 2011 Israeli social justice protests, Israel's biggest-ever protest, focusing on housing, public services, income inequality and democracy – and would eventually rise to become spokesperson of the movement.

A video of Shaffir's 21 January 2015, Knesset speech went viral. In it, Shaffir sharply attacks Israel's right wing politicians, saying, "Don't preach to us about Zionism, because real Zionism means dividing the budget equally among all the citizens of the country. Real Zionism is taking care of the weak. Real Zionism is solidarity, not only in battle but in everyday life." [1]

Biography[edit]

Shaffir was born in Netanya and is of Iraqi, Lithuanian, Polish and Romanian Jewish heritage. At the age of 11, Shaffir and her family moved to Pardesiya, a small town in the Sharon area, where her parents own an accounting firm. In Pardesiya, Shaffir became a member of the youth movement Ha’noar Ha’oved Vehalomed — The Federation of Working and Studying Youth. After finishing high school, Shaffir worked for a year with underprivileged children in Tiberias as part of a volunteer group affiliated with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. She then began her service with the Israel Defense Forces, as a cadet in the flight academy of the Israeli Air Force.After five months, she was transferred to a position as a military journalist for the IDF magazine, Bamahane.[2] Her coverage of IDF activity included the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and the 2006 Lebanon war.[2]

Upon completion of her military service, Shaffir was accepted into the Olive Tree Scholarship Program[3][4] by the City University of London, a unique initiative to support future leaders who desire to change the status quo of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She studied with a small cohort of Israeli and Palestinian students who were engaged in dialogue across the lines of confrontation and distrust that frame their relations in the Middle East. During her studies in London, Shaffir worked as an intern in the British Parliament as part of the Undergraduate ParliaMentors program[5] and was awarded runner up in the JRS Competition for Student Journalists in 2008 for her piece covering Iraqi refugees in England.[6][7] Stav Shaffir received a B.A in Sociology and Journalism in 2009.[8] Shaffir, who plays the piano, drums, guitar, violin and oud,[9] continued her studies in Israel at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Ramat-HaSharon for a year. She then enrolled in the M.A program at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University.[8] During that time, Shaffir volunteered with Dror-Israel running after-school enrichment programs for children from disadvantaged families. For seven years, Shaffir worked as freelance journalist and editor for various publications including National Geographic, the Ha'ir weekly newspaper, Mako Magazine, and the Yedioth Ahronoth[10][11] internet site Xnet where she published the first article to appear in the Israeli media about the 2011 Israeli social justice protests.[12]

Social activism[edit]

Stav Shaffir, along with Daphni Leef, Itzik Shmuli, and others, was a founder, organizer and unofficial leader [11][13] of the 2011 Israeli social justice protests in which more than half a million Israelis took to the streets in a series of public demonstrations. Shaffir also became spokesperson of the movement. Stav Shaffir's 17 July 2011 televised debate with MK Miri Regev on the television show Erev Hadash catapulted her to national prominence. In the following months, Shaffir helped found over 120 tent camps throughout Israel, led hundreds of thousands of Israelis in demonstrations, including the March of the Million,[14] and lobbied with members of the Knesset to pursue a social justice agenda. In addition to serving as spokesperson for the Israeli media, she represented the protest movement in foreign media outlets.[15][16] In 2012, Shaffir was a keynote speaker [17][18] at three national U.S.-based conferences: J-Street, together with Israeli writer Amos Oz,[19] the Jewish Federation of North America's TribeFest [20] and the Personal Democracy Forum.[21]

In February 2012, Shaffir along with fellow tent protesters Alon Lee-Green and Yonatan Levi, founded the Israeli Social Movement in order to provide leadership for the disparate groups comprising the Israeli social justice movement. In August 2012, Shaffir and her colleagues embarked on a cross-country tour from the southern sea port of Eilat to Kiryat Shmona on the Lebanese border, to listen to activists and ordinary citizens regarding their concerns.[22] The group was disbanded when Shaffir announced her intent to run for the Knesset.

Political career[edit]

Standing within the Labor Party[edit]

Shaffir was approached by the Labor Party in May 2012 to join its ranks[23] in preparation for the 2013 general elections held on 22 January 2013. She officially declared her candidacy for the Labor Party list on 12 October 2012.[24] Shaffir placed 9th[25] (moving up to 8th after Amir Peretz's resignation[26]) as a result of the 29 November 2012 primaries readily securing her a seat in the Knesset following the 22 January 2013 general elections. After the recent 13 January 2015 primaries Shaffir placed second,[27][28] and so holds the third place on the internal party list (after party leader Isaac Herzog and Shelly Yachimovich). In the combined Labor-Hatnuah party, Shaffir holds the fourth place due to Hatnuah Leader Tzipi Livni's placement behind Herzog.

Initially elected at age 27, she was the youngest female Knesset member of all time. Shaffir is also the MK with the lowest net worth - a total of only $20,000 – and neither owns an apartment nor a car.[29] She was one of only eight MKs to forgo their 2015 pay raise calling it "distasteful" in light of wage stagnation in the Israeli job market.[30]

Financial transparency[edit]

Shaffir's landmark accomplishment during her first term was instituting greater financial transparency in the Israeli State budget as a member of the Knesset Finance Committee. For the first time in 30 years, the Ministry of Finance agreed to publish budgetary transfers online in advance of meetings, so that both Members of Knesset and voters can follow the cash flow. Previously, the Finance Committee leadership expected members to vote on budgetary transfers in the billions of shekels without proper advance notice nor adequate documentation.

In May 2012, Shaffir joined 10,000 protestors demanding that the proposed 2013 Israeli State Budget be made more favorable to middle and lower income Israelis.[31] She was to soon learn that this was only the first step in creating the real budget. Almost immediately after the 2013 State budget was passed, the Finance Committee pushed through changes that largely benefited West Bank settlements and right wing ideological projects, while chipping away at social benefits.[32] Shaffir learned that while the Finance Committee process is in theory meant to fill in the bits and pieces the national budget failed to account for, it quietly shifts line items by as much as 87%, dramatically altering the original budget.[33] Shaffir appointed a team of volunteers to investigate the budgetary transfers and eventually brought her concerns to the Supreme Court which ruled that the Finance Ministry must reach a compromise with Shaffir on a new method for budget transfers by February 2015.[34]

Shaffir was a strong advocate of fair compensation for residents of southern Israel who were most impacted by the 2014 Operation Protective Shield in Gaza. She strongly objected to a political deal proposed by the Finance Committee under the cover of war to transfer millions of shekels to settlements and nothing to the South.[35]

Shaffir succeeded in getting funds allocated to local authorities impacted by rocket fire in the South, but a full 73 days after Operation Protective Shield began, the funds had yet to be transferred. In response, Shaffir wrote a letter to the Finance Committee signed by other opposition lawmakers calling for a meeting to address the lack of action.[36][37][38][39][40]

Shaffir was particularly vociferous in her objection to the transfer of millions of shekels to the World Zionist Organization Settlement Division, which circumvents oversight[41] because legally it is under no obligation to report what it does with government funding.[42] Shaffir wrote a letter signed by several other MKs to Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon complaining that Finance Committee Chair Slomiansky has a conflict of interest and should not be allowed to conduct meetings on the World Zionist Organization Settlement Division’s budget. The letter referred to research stating that the Settlement Division has ties to right-wing NGOs, which, in turn, are connected to The Jewish Home Party (Bayit Yehudi), Slomiansky’s party.[43] Shaffir also argued against funding for the Jewish Identity Administration which she considered a ploy to promote a right wing political agenda.[44]

Following the dismissal of Finance Minister Yair Lapid by Prime Minister Netanyahu on 2 December 2014, the Finance Committee transferred millions of shekels to the settlements, despite vociferous objections by Shaffir. She was repeatedly forcibly removed from Committee meetings for complaining about the lack of clear information about what was being voted on.[45][46]

Shaffir's efforts paid off when on 19 February 2015, the World Zionist Organization (WZO) announced that it would end the Prime Minister Office's oversight over the controversial Settlement Division. Shaffir had publicly criticized their secret dealings that included extensive indirect funding for building West Bank settlements. "Coupled with reports of possibly illegal abuse of funds, the division has faced calls for reform from both the left and center, especially ahead of the March 17 election."[47] The WZO also vowed to increase transparency and make its records public starting with the appointment of a special comptroller to look into the division's workings.

Special Committee for the Transparency and Accessibility of Government Information[edit]

in July 2015 it was decided that Shaffir will start and chair a new semi permanent committee in parliament, The Special Committee for the Transparency and Accessibility of Government Information (also known as the 'Transparency committee'). The committee deals with transparency and accountability, open government, open data and e-gov in all branches of government in Israel.

Women's rights and freedom of religious practice[edit]

As a member of the Knesset, Shaffir never left her roots in the protest movement far behind. She donned a tallit and joined Women of the Wall in prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in March 2013. Shaffir and her fellow parliamentarians were initially barred from attending — according to the police, women wearing tallit were a "disturbance of public order" – but their legal status as legislators forced the police to let them pray.[48] She joined the women in solidarity with their equal right to pray, but also for[49] the broader struggle for freedom of religion in Israel — "our freedom to live how we want to live, with our own beliefs and our own personal way of practicing Judaism or other religions."[50]

In spring 2014, Shaffir traveled to the U.S. again as a member of a delegation of female Knesset members studying the role of women in legislatures.[51]

When it was reported during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict that shelters in the hard hit city of Ashdod, were excluding women from so-called "men only" shelters, Shaffir filed an urgent complaint with the Religious Affairs Ministry, demanding to put an immediate halt to the segregation. It was promptly ended.[52]

LGBT rights[edit]

Shaffir proposed legislation in May 2013 that would allow same-sex couples to get government recognition for civil unions. Despite getting wide support within the Labor Party and from individual Knesset members from Likud and Hatnua, Yesh Atid blocked the bill in favor of their own civil unions bill – legislation which has had no traction whatsoever.[53][54]

After a Haaretz poll showed support from 70% of Israelis for full and equal rights for the gay community, Shaffir with the help of attorneys and community activists, compiled a list of 12 ways to benefit the LGBTQ community through ministerial regulatory action, sidestepping the need for legislation. These include rules making it easier for same-sex couples to adopt and to enter into surrogacy arrangements.[55]

Socioeconomic justice and peace[edit]

Shaffir’s message connecting socioeconomic issues with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process resonated strongly with activists attending the Fall 2013 J Street Conference in Washington, DC. She also spoke to the need for cautious exploration of non-violent means for Israel to resolve its conflict with Iran.[56] In her keynote speech at the 2015 J Street Conference, Shaffir spoke of her vision of an Israel that celebrates diversity and treats the poor with compassion but above all "an Israel that does not control millions of Palestinians.” [57][58]

Shaffir with MKs Yehiel Bar and Orly Levi launched a lobby for the advancement of fair rent after a report prepared by the Knesset Research and Information Center found that rents across Israel had increased by 49% since 2007. On 13 February 2014, Shaffir proposed the first legislation in Israel’s history to regulate the rental housing market. The Housing Cabinet adopted her proposed fair rental law. In accordance with the new law, Landlords are restricted to a maximum increase of 2% every three years. [59][60]

Shaffir has put "front and center the issue of the link between the situation of the settlement enterprise and the situation of the typical, hard-pressed Israeli. Fewer than 5% of Israel’s residents live in settlements, but get four times more funding than their share of the population: in construction, in tax and fees exemptions, in extra budgets for education, in public transportation and grants from the Ministry of Interior. Shaffir contends that they get at least an additional billion shekels ($250 million) annually from the state through a hidden slush fund, while the local councils and businesses in southern Israel have not even received full compensation for the war in Gaza."[61]

Asylum policy[edit]

Shaffir advocated for Israel to adopt a formal asylum policy that distinguishes between refugees and migrants with quotas based on Israel’s capacity for absorption. She supported the Supreme Court’s quashing of the 2012 Law for the Prevention of Infiltration (Amendment no. 3) (temporary order), which mandated an almost automatic three-year detention of ‘infiltrators.’[62] After all, she says, "We are a country based on refugees. My grandmother escaped from Iraq and my grandfather escaped during the Holocaust. It is a country that knows what it means to escape with your life." [63]

References[edit]

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  57. ^ Template:"MK Stav Shaffir at J Street's 2015 National Conference"
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