… Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam organizing for the future.
Once again the Middle East has exploded, yet, on Saturday some 400 Jews and Arab citizens of Israel gathered in the Arab city of Tira for a rally organized by Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom, in collaboration with other peace organizations and the City of Tira, to promote Arab-Jewish partnership. The motto of the day was that “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”; making a stand against the escalating violence of the past few weeks by “saying no to racism, yes to peaceful equal existence, and yes to a shared destiny”. Only last week the police told Jewish Israelis not to visit Tira’s famous Saturday market. This Saturday, just down the road from that market, a representative from Kfar Saba City Council (a neighboring Jewish community), a representative from Tira City Council and others were addressing a mixed Arab-Jewish crowd about their shared future.
The idea of the rally grew out of a strategy meeting held for human rights, and peace organizations and left wing movements at Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom last Sunday. Representatives from Peace Now, Hadash, Meretz, Rabbis for Human Rights, Psychoactive, FoeMe, Allmep and others all took part, both in Sunday’s meeting and in the rally itself. WASNS general manager Eyas Shbeta, who grew up in Tira, and Dr. Nava Sonnenschein, Director of the School for Peace, worked together with all these representatives, and contacts in Tira, to make this rally possible.
Speakers at the rally included village members Dr. Nava Sonnenschien and Dr. Maram Masarwi, as well as Knesset Members Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Muhammed Barcha (Hadas), and Dov Hanin (Hadas). As reported in Maariv Daily Newspaper, and Ynet News Service, MK Zandberg spoke of the escalation of violence and racism on the streets in the past few weeks and how “most of us want to live together”; MK Barcha drew attention to the role of the occupation in perpetuating violence and the need to end it as “occupation is a tragedy for Israelis and for Palestinians”; and MK Hanin spoke of the cycle of violence that has been occurring for years and that it was “time to find another way, not madness and hatred, but of peace and justice for both sides.”
The conviction of all those gathered to work together was clear. This rally is the beginning and marks the first of many collaborative actions, between Jews and Arabs, and across organizations, that Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam will continue to take part in organizing.
A letter from Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom Municipal Manager Eyas Shbeta:
MK Dov Khenin: “Stop the cycle of horror. The time has come for a different path.”
This Saturday afternoon a rally was held in Tira in support of Jewish-Arab partnership, it was attended by Knesset Members Dov Khenin and Mohammad Barakeh from Hadash, and Tamar Zandberg from Meretz. The rally, entitled “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”, was attended by about 400 activists. Its aim was to call for Jewish-Arab partnership to continue despite difficult circumstances. The rally was carried out in a peaceful atmosphere without any disturbances.
MK Tamar Zandberg called on the government to reconsider its way of dealing with the difficult conflict in Gaza, and to start up a diplomatic track: “the use of military means cannot subdue terror, and cannot subdue the struggle against the occupation, and we all know this and we know it will end and we know how it will end.”
MK Tamar Zandberg warned against difficult conflicts within the Israeli community: “We have just seen weeks of violence and racism spreading and increasing across the stress and that seem to be going out of control. On both sides the citizens are captives at the hands of extremists who are opposed to what most of us want. Most of us want to live here together. Most of us do not want more violence, we want peace, reconciliation, and solidarity.” MK Zandberg called on the government to intervene to prevent an escalation in current relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
MK Muhammad Barakeh “I participated in a discussion on Channel 2, and participants held a cultural discussion, almost academic, about the question of a ground incursion in Gaza. I told myself that I am not ready to take part in an academic discussion about the murder of my people. The statistics presented in the media have presented the number of rockets, the number of operations, and the number of launches, but the balance of terror has just one number, the number of those killed. There is a reason for the conflict. The occupation is producing swamps that are cultivating violence. We are gathered here to call for an end to the war and to remove the current government. The occupation is a tragedy for Israelis and for the Palestinians.”
MK Barakeh added “This gathering is a defiant call that shows another way is possible: not to shoot, to live. We want to be together. We want to live together.”
MK Dov Khenin “We are in terrible days. In a cycle of horror in which more and more families mourn. Remember the history: there was operation Summer Rains, after that operation Cast Lead, after that operation Pillar of Defense and now operation Protective Edge. Time after time, the same insane horror movie, in which Gaza gets a terrible hit losing men, women and children, and Israel is hit by missiles and children live here in terrible distress. And from round to round the threat to civilians just grows. Do we not know how to end this madness? The time has come for a different path, not of madness and hatred but of peace and justice for both sides.”
Dr. Nava Sonnenschein, director of the School for Peace at Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom: “this land is a land of two peoples, not one. Netanyahu, acknowledge this. The Palestinians are our partners here. We built this country with them. We have no future if we do not act according to this concept. There will not be peace here through aggression. And now we have reached the bottom of despair and have crossed all the red lines. We need another discourse, of dialogue, understanding and mutual respect. The time has come for a different discourse that sees, in Arabs, not enemies but human beings like us, residents like us. We will not achieve peace through aggression and the control of another people and military operations, because you cannot kill the hope for freedom with bombs. In the past weeks we have witnessed incessant displays of hatred and racism between Jewish and Palestinian citizens everywhere. It has to stop. For years we have witnessed actions by Price Tag and for some reason these operations have never been caught. The time has come to rethink the dangerous route on which we are progressing, we need to change the route.”
Mr Ron Gerlitz, co-director of the “Sikkuy” association: “There was never before a situation in which attacks against Arab citizens were seen every day. Arabs are being threatened and verbally and physically attacked in the streets, on public transport, in work places and shopping malls. In July 2014 there has been an unprecedented wave of attacks against Arab citizens and it brings us down to a level we have not known the likes of. The Israeli society imposes a daily fear on a very large section of Arab citizens. Both the attempted lynching of Arabs and throwing of stones at busses by Arabs must be condemned. This wave of violence and racism may plunge us into further escalation and bloodshed. The police failed to supply the required protection of Arab citizens. Instead of trying to prevent the situation from deteriorating further, some Ministers are engaging in incitement against the Arab citizens.”
Dr. Nava Sonnenschein, Director of the School for Peace at Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom: 050-8557594
Mr. Eyas Shebta, General Manager of the village Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom: 050-8221383