Peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict may seem like a distant dream, but even now there are those on the ground working to build understanding between the two peoples. The Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) is an umbrella organisation which helps bring together more than 170 groups across the region seeking dialogue and mutual understanding. ALLMEP this week helped organise a seminar, The Gaza War in Israel to amplify these voices. One of the largest grassroots Israeli-Palestinian groups is Standing Together which, according to its mission statement, mobilises Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel in pursuit of peace, equality and social and climate justice. Two of the speakers at the seminar, Sally Abed and Uri Weltmann, represented the organisation, whose members have been arrested in Jerusalem for putting up posters with the message: “Jews and Arabs, we will get through this together.” Weltmann warned of an increasingly authoritarian atmosphere in Israel following the 7 October atrocities. He pointed to comments by Israel’s police commissioner, Kobi Shabtai. who said: “Anyone who wants to sympathize with Gaza is welcome to get on a bus and go there.”
Index attended the seminar and has been given permission to print edited versions of one-minute monologues given by some of the expert panel members.
Sally Abed is a Palestinian leader of Standing Together (Omdim be’Yachad/ Naqef Ma’an), the largest Jewish-Arab grassroots movement in Israel. She is running for city council in Haifa as head of a Jewish-Arab list. She was recently profiled in a New York Times article about Israel’s peace movement in the shadow of war.
The first thing I want to say is to hold the people of Gaza in your prayers. It’s just heart-wrenching to see [what is happening] and to feel so hopeless and so helpless, and to not be able do something about it. Especially here from Israel as a Palestinian. I do want to say that I think a message for me as a Palestinian that is very important for me to portray to everyone in the world [is] there are Palestinians in Israel who are going through the experience and the humanitarian loss and the catastrophe that the Israeli public has gone through.
Our cause for Palestinian liberation is a very just cause. However, we cannot justify the extreme measures that Hamas has took to advance this cause and I think one of the most important things that we need to hold [onto] right now as a Palestinian liberation movement, and as Palestinians, is our rights, all of us as civilians, for life – to live securely. I really want to hold that very, very tight.
Listen to us, listen to the people on the ground here in Israel. We are often overlooked. We are seeing amazing cases of radical empathy of victims, Israeli victims who have lost dear ones, and who have people in captivity right now and who are still calling for a ceasefire, who are still calling for ending the occupation, who are still calling for peace. We need to join these people and we need to really hold our humanity together as people and isolate our leaderships at the moment.
Uri Weltmann is the national field organiser for Standing Together (Omdim be’Yachad/ Naqef Ma’an), and a member of its national leadership. He lives in Tel Aviv-Yafo.
Since 2005 there have been 16 major military operations carried out by the Israeli government against the population of the Gaza Strip. None of these military actions brought safety and security to Israelis. All of these military actions only wreaked havoc on the civic population in Gaza, causing many innocent lives [to be lost] including children, and each one of them merely planted the seed for the next major military operation. I fear we are going in the same direction. I fear our government is pushing us into yet another round of violent bloodletting, yet another round of taking a terrible toll of human life of Palestinians in Gaza, and yet another round of undermining the safety and security of us, the people who live in Israel. We need to go about it in an entirely different direction. We need to go for an Israeli-Palestinian peace based on UN resolutions. We need to go in the direction of ending the siege and ending the occupation, and securing the independence, freedom and justice of both peoples. This is what Standing Together is doing, and we are doing this not on the West Coast or the East Coast [of the USA], or Europe. We are doing this inside Israeli society, organising Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, which we think is the only way for us as an Israeli peace movement to go about it.