Standing Together (@omdimbeyachad) is a left-wing social movement in Israel, involving Palestinian Arab and Jewish citizens. In the past week, it has been organising cross-communal demonstrations across Israel, demanding an immediate ceasefire, opposing occupation, racism, and war, and supporting equality and solidarity between Arabs and Jews. Some of its protests have been attacked by far-right Jewish chauvinists. It issued this statement on 14 May. Below that are some voices from Israel's Arab-Jewish left-wing resistance.
These are dark days, full of violence and escalation, incitement and hatred. But something truly inspiring happened here yesterday, which showed that there can be light after all this darkness. In the early hours of the morning, we sent out a call for our supporters to hold joint Jewish-Arab protests and stands all across the country, and within hours we had received thousands of responses.
“So yesterday evening, in dozens of locations up and down Israel, thousands of Arabs and Jews stood together and proved that there is another way and that a different future here is possible. We proved that, while our government is igniting a fire and taking us further and further away from peace, there is a huge Arab-Jewish majority in our society that opposes violence, that knows and insists that children in both Gaza and Sderot want to live full, secure lives. And we are not going to stop.
“At Standing Together, we understand that we need a critical mass of organised people who see the interconnectedness of their struggles. That’s why we don’t only demand a ceasefire; we protest against a right-wing government and elitist settler groups that do not serve our interests. We don’t just want to go back to the situation before the escalation started; we’re demanding a much more fundamental change in our society.
“We organise day-in and day-out, so that precisely in these difficult moments, we are able to mobilise thousands to the streets and change the national conversation. We organise so that after this nightmare ends, we can continue our work towards a better reality for all of us” — from their Facebook statement
“We will not go to war for a nationalistic agenda”
The following statement was published by the Refuser Solidarity Network, which works to build support for Israelis refusing compulsory national service in the country’s military. (More: refuser.org)
What started a month ago with the ban on sitting at Damascus Gate [in Jerusalem] during Ramadan, continued with brawling in Jaffa, settlers rampaging in south Hebron mountain, the court decision to evict dozens of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah (backed by a racist law that perpetuates the Israeli occupation), and the Israeli police’s extreme acts of violence have now deteriorated to an exchange of fire. It has brought the death of dozens of people between the river and the sea — most of which are in Gaza, some of which are children.
Our heart aches. This war could have been avoided. It could’ve ended before it had begun if only the Israeli government and military would have let the Palestinian people be. This is not only about the past month. If the heads of the state and army cared about the people or, dare we imagine, about basic human rights — they would understand that there is no way to live with four hours of electricity a day and without clean drinking water. The people in Gaza are in survival mode — a way of living none of us can imagine. We are dealing with decision makers that are not interested in peace, justice, or in stopping the cycle of death. They are interested in political and economic power and this reality serves their interests.
Inside Israel there are riots and attacks on businesses, homes, and people. Some local businesses in mixed cities have had no choice but to close down in fear of riots destroying their property; we are on the brink of a civil war. The Israeli media serves hatred and does nothing to report solidarity protests organized by Palestinians and Jewish people together. The police violently arrest Palestinians, including minors, while doing almost nothing to stop attacks by extreme right wingers.
We will not go on operations and wars that give us nothing but death in the name of an archaic nationalistic agenda. We will not hold a weapon, press a button, or wear a uniform that brings death and breaks a family apart. Not when we were eighteen, not ever. This land is drowning in blood.
We stand in solidarity with the citizens of southern Israel and with Gaza and Sheikh Jarrah. We oppose this pre-orchestrated war and call for the immediate end of the Israeli occupation and demand recognition of the Palestinian pain. Only then will we start to see anything different from this grim reality.
“Freedom for all of us”
Palestinian socialist-feminist activist Sally Abed, a leading activist in Standing Together, spoke at a demonstration outside the Tel Aviv HQ of Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party. This is an excerpt from her speech
My name is Sally Abed... I’m a Palestinian, and I’m an Israeli citizen. I’m scared, and I’m hurting. The fact that we are all gathered here helps me remain hopeful. We have to struggle together. When I call for freedom, it’s not only that of the Palestinians, but freedom for all of us.
We all pay the horrible price of occupation — all of us are victims of a right-wing government, a government that serves settlers, a government that is filled with racist policies, a government that couldn’t care less about us. We are enslaved as Palestinians, and also as citizens, as women, as youth. The children in Sderot [an Israeli town near Gaza which has been targeted by rocket attacks] are enslaved by this government. We are here to demand freedom, freedom for us all — especially for Palestinians, but not only for them. Freedom for all of us, Jews and Arabs...
“No winners in escalation”
Muhammad Shehada is a Palestinian from Gaza, who is a contributing columnist for Forward. The following is an excerpt from his latest article
If your home is destroyed, you will forever feel a sense of oppression and defeat, even if you get another one,” a childhood friend told me Friday afternoon while contemplating what would become of him if his house were next. Becoming homeless after an airstrike, losing everything in a glimpse of an eye, would still be a less grim fate than ending up under the rubble, like the Abu Hatab family, which lost ten members — eight of them children — when Israel attacked the al-Shati refugee camp overnight Friday. A five-month-old baby, now parentless, survived.
And there’s virtually no way to tell when the next air strike hits if my family and friends will be the spectators watching the frightening smoke, the ones just rendered homeless, or the tragic casualties. Bombing towers and civilian infrastructure, rendering people homeless, inflicting traumas on Gaza’s entire population, deliberately or incidentally, might offer future campaign material for [Israeli defence minister Benny] Gantz or [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to announce that they’d sent parts of Gaza “back to the Stone Age”. But it won’t make Israelis any safer.
It would only “punish, humiliate and terrorise” Gaza’s civilian population, as the famous Goldstone Report about Israel’s 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead put it. And that would only fuel more hate and vengeance, entrapping us and Israelis in an endless yet preventable cycle of pain and grief. There are no winners in this escalation, and civilians are certainly the ultimate bearers of the heaviest price.
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• UK solidarity campaign in support of Israel’s Jewish-Arab grassroots movement for peace, equality and social justice, on twitter: @omdimbeyachadUK