As the new co-director of Standing Together, how would you describe this movement?
Standing Together is based on intersectionality, meaning that it tackles a variety of issues and tries to unite different struggles as they are all related, like against racism and sexism, pro women’s rights, asylum seekers, workers’ rights, LGBT-rights etc. it’s also defined as a Jewish-Arab movement from the outset. We choose to be identified primarily by the Jewish-Arab characteristic as a key distinction because it is a space in which you cannot find unity anywhere else in the Israeli society. This partnership is considered the most politically improbable within this political separation that is so deeply rooted. Therefore, this is our way of showing courage and announcing our intention to create sweeping change.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What's your background, what's your story?
I’m from a small Palestinian village in the upper Galilee, Kufr Yaseef. I was born in a very non-political home. My dad and my mom were the generations who lived under the military regime between 1945 and 1967. So, when they were kids, they viewed the world in a different way. This is the bubble you live in, and this is how your parents see things and because they want to protect you, they decide on what you can and cannot engage in. That’s why most of us are born as apolitical members in this society. When you grow up in a house with such parents it is very hard for you to become political, because there is always this fear that you can be black-listed. We come from a parent generation that believes that the Shabak, the Israeli intelligence, is very strong, deep within the Palestinian-Arab communities and so you can’t say anything, and you can’t argue, and you can’t be political in any way. But, when you encounter so much racism, people who erase your own identity, who humiliate you just because of being a minority, a Palestinian minority inside of Israel, it accumulates. And when it accumulates there is a point when it becomes too much and then you have to choose which side or which road to take. For me, it was all those small moments of how I’ve been treated … you know, as most minorities are treated in countries where there is basically no equality. There came a point in which I asked myself: “Is this the society I want to live in?” Or “am I going to choose a different path?”
When that moment came it became much clearer for me that I want to fight for my own rights and that this land is mine too. This is how I want to do things. I’m not going to be silenced. I’m not going to be sitting on the side and just wait for things to happen. I’m going to be playing a more positive role in this history.
So, how did you join Standing Together?
I met Standing Together in 2017. There was a big demonstration in Jerusalem and I saw someone going up the stairs. Everybody was holding their own mic and were speaking as if people were fighting.
And then I saw this woman – purple shirt – she had taken the stairs and was standing higher than anyone else. She took her megaphone and started speaking to people in both, Arabic and Hebrew. Something touched me at that moment.
I reached her and talked to her asking: “Who are you?” and “What do you do?” She started speaking to me in Arabic. Sometime later, there was this very big demonstration against the Nation State Law. Standing Together was able to mobilize so many people from so many areas of the country. This was basically the first big, mass demonstration I have been in. And, people were holding signs and shouting in both languages.
There was something very powerful in that moment, in a demonstration where you have like 30,000 people shouting in Arabic and in Hebrew for social justice and peace. It made me feel that there is more to this grassroots movement than I thought of before, so then I applied for a job as a community organizer.
Now, one-and-a-half years later, you have become a leader! What would you like to do as co-director of Standing Together?
The first thing I thought of and the main reason why I wanted to become a national co-director of Standing Together was to build up and bring out leaders in Palestinian communities inside Israel that can take initiative! There is a lack of leaders in Palestinian communities. If we find a strong persona for the people, someone who is not scared to talk the politics of the marginalized groups, then maybe we can make a change. Then maybe people will be more courageous to take a stand and get out of this bubble of being apolitical.
And what is your vision for the future of Standing Together?
That 30 to 40% of the people are members of Standing Together! I want to see more engaged Palestinians from Israel. There are gaps. Education, politics, daily life, economic status are all very different in Palestinian society and the Jewish society. To get that engagement, you need to build a space in which people, the youth, can have an alternative platform to learn and to get the information they need. There is a huge lack of those kinds of platforms and institutions in the Palestinian community inside of Israel, for many reasons. But I would like to have a place for people to go to when they have a problem in order to discuss what they can do and to whom to talk to. For example, if you want to solve a problem in your village right the first address you think of is Standing Together, because you know that this movement will come and fight for you, for equal rights… It`s going to take some time. I think it is going to take more than five years [laughs]. But people need change!
Standing Together is a Jewish-Arab movement in Israel dedicated to peace, equality, and social justice that was formed in the winter of 2015. forumZFD is working with them since 2017 by supporting the national conventions and working together on different topics such as organizing trainings and how to increase diversity within the movement and the organization.
If you want to know more about Standing Together, check out their Facebook page and watch this video.