A speech by Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka of WAC workers’ union, delivered during an anti-occupation demonstration in Tel Aviv on June 9, 2012.
It may well be that many Israelis are wondering and cannot understand what this demonstration is all about. The Occupation has become something vague, abstract, unseen; even anachronistic. It isn’t on the public agenda anymore; not in the media; certainly not on the streets. Ramallah is also silent, and in Gaza they stick to (???), fearful of another all out war. They don’t bother us anymore, those Arabs. The Security Fence and the Siege have done their work, made them disappear. And if, nonetheless, the Government needs to come up with a threat (since how else can it scare the masses into unity?), then it can always talk about Iran or the Sudanese refugees. And if it weren’t for the odd media report about illegal Jewish settlements on private Palestinian land, or about skirmishes between gangs of young Jewish settlers and the IDF, Israelis could be forgiven for thinking that the Occupation is no more.
Meanwhile, as the Government effectively encourages this collective oblivion, as Israeli public opinion remains deafeningly silent, and as the Palestinian Authority, which has become a subcontractor for the Occupation, stands helpless and impotent, the possibility of a Palestinian state disappears. There’s simply not enough land left, nor is there enough hope to end the conflict. We are witnessing the formation of a disastrous reality, the reality of one state, Israel, running an apartheid regime, oppressing with its rule five million Palestinians and preferring to dream that they do not exist, do not live, do not kick, do not insist on their right to freedom.
In the Arab world, rulers have also thought in the past that it was possible to trample on the masses, to deny their right for respect, for a livelihood, for freedom, for democracy. This Occupation of Arabs by Arabs also lasted too many decades until the great fury of the Arab peoples, of the workers and of the poor, came and swept away tyranny and with it corruption. And we, those of us who fight for freedom for the Palestinian people, cannot remain unmoved as we witness the horrendous slaughter taking place in Syria by the dictator Bashar El Assad. From this stage, this joint Arab and Jewish platform, we call upon him to cease the slaughter at once; and we send a message of solidarity to our revolutionary brothers in Syria.
Do not imagine for one moment that this deep-seated and costly revolution, taking place in the Arab world, will pass over Palestine. Palestine is the natural continuation of the same environment, the same history, the same culture. The day is near when the question of a Palestinian state will again loom large in the face of the Israeli public.
Last summer the Israeli public was at last able to recognise the direct responsibility of its leaders for the continuing deterioration in our standard of living. It made the connection between wealth and governance. It protested and went out onto the streets to demand social justice. However, the public insists on remaining apolitical. By doing so, it cannot produce a political alternative, certainly not a governmental one, to challenge the status quo. No wonder Bibi isn’t worried. No wonder the Israeli Summer came to nothing.
Israel demands an Israeli Spring, a joint Jewish and Arab Israeli Spring, that will pose the fundamental questions: the social question that threatens our standard of living, and the question of the bloody conflict that threatens our lives. The policy that rejects peace and embraces the rich, sending us all into a downward spiral, lies with the government. This massive coalition, holding 94 of 120 parliamentary seats, is a dictatorship which demands an answer. And the answer must be demonstrations, political organisation and trade unionism for Arabs and Jews together. The nation cannot demand social justice in isolation; this is not a struggle for cheaper housing. It is a struggle for the very nature of our society, for progressiveness, equality and enlightenment.
Therefore, the people should demand freedom as well as social justice, because an occupying nation can never be free. And we are here to call for freedom both for the Palestinians and for the Jews.
- Translated from the Hebrew by Ya’ara Gregory