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Between 2004 and 2010, Just Vision interviewed more than 80 Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders. The interviews in this archive represent a fraction of the civic leaders working in the field at a particular moment in time, and aim to provide audiences access to a range of perspectives and approaches.

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Khulood Badawi

Khulood Badawi became active in the struggle to secure the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the 1990s when she was a student at the University of Haifa. She is involved on a leadership level in many Jewish-Palestinian organizations in Israel which hold meetings, demonstrations, and seek to raise awareness about Palestinian realities on both sides of the Green Line. As a field researcher for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Khulood consolidates information about appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court concerning the wall.Follow @KhuloodBadawi //

  • Can you give me a brief personal history and tell me how you came to work in this field?

    My Name is Khulood Badawi. I am from Nazareth. I studied the history of the Jewish people and the Arabic language at the University of Haifa. I am currently a field researcher focusing on the issue of the wall at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.1 I started my political activism in 1996 at the University of Haifa with the Arab students’ committee and then with the Union of Arab University Students in Israel. Now I am a member of Ta’ayush, which is a joint Arab-Jewish movement, and I am a member of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace and Bat Shalom. When I first became active, I was a member of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality which is an Arab-Jewish party that originally emerged out of the Israeli Communist Party. Being born in Nazareth, which is a city with a large Arab population inside Israel, gave me a huge amount of political awareness. The Democratic Front--which was in power most of the time in the municipality--was very active in raising political awareness among youth about their ethnic identity and humanity. They were also very effective in encouraging us to become aware and to take on an active role wherever we are--whether on the street or at school. They encouraged us to believe in our ability to make change.

    • 1(ACRI) "was founded in 1972 as a non-political and independent body, with the goal of protecting human and civil rights in Israel and in the territories under Israeli control...ACRI is Israel's largest and leading human rights organization, and the only body to address the full range of human rights: from the right to liberty through freedom of information; from the right to education through freedom of expression. ACRI works to protect the right of diverse individuals and sectors of society including men and women, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, those on the political right and left, new immigrants and veteran citizens, the unemployed, and foreign workers." Khulood Badawi is a field researcher in ACRI's Legal Department. See http://www.acri.org.il/english-acri/engine/index.asp.

  • In what ways are you involved in tackling the conflict now?

    I work with ACRI, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel. My work involves field research concerning the wall. Basically my job is to consolidate all the files concerning appeals to the Supreme Court that relate to the wall. I am an activist with a number of groups that oppose the Occupation. My life is mainly focused on activities in Israel and the West Bank against the Occupation. This is done through Israeli and Palestinian leftist groups that include Ta’ayush, the Coalition of Women for Peace, Bat Shalom, and other groups--like Anarchists Against the wall. I am also an activist with groups that perform civic activities within Palestinian and Israeli communities. My main volunteer work is related to the Occupation. I am in contact with Jewish groups that refuse military service. Our work with them is in the form of meetings and lectures. In addition to our local activities we do international activities. These activities include speaking tours and raising awareness about the wall and the status of the Palestinians inside Israel, and other issues related to racism.

  • How did you start working with these associations?

    There is a stage in life when one realizes that there are things that exist that one wasn’t aware of. In this stage one becomes more aware of one's environment and the conditions one lives in. My awareness of these activities and movements began during my time at the University of Haifa. I started my studies at the University when I was 19 years old. From the beginning, I was an activist with the Arab students movement and especially with the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality. I then became an activist with the Arab students committee that worked for improving the status of Arab students in the university. I was active in founding and electing the committee of Arab students at the university and its associations. An integral part of our agenda was conducting activities against the Occupation and raising awareness about the Occupation and Palestinians’ rights--among the Arab and Jewish students alike. I was elected head of the Committee of Arab Students at Haifa University in 1999. On March 31, 2000, during a Land Day demonstration in the town of Sakhnin, we were attacked with gas and firearms.

  • Who attacked you?

    Every year a demonstration is held in Sakhnin in memory of Land Day, to commemorate the events that took place in 1976 when the biggest resistance to the confiscation of the remaining Palestinian land inside Israel took place. There are demonstrations in memory of this day every year, and we always take part. In 2000 we took part in a demonstration in Sakhnin that was organized by the leadership of the Arab population in Israel. During this demonstration, all the demonstrators--including Arabs and Israeli leftists--were attacked. This resulted in the death of an elderly Arab woman and many demonstrators suffered from the gas and incurred different injuries.

  • Who attacked the demonstrators?

    Mainly the Israeli police, but the army also took part in the attack. Afterwards, we held demonstrations at the University of Haifa against the killing of an Arab citizen by the Israeli forces during a peaceful demonstration. The University authorities refused to give us a permit for the demonstration, but we demonstrated anyway. We thought it was important for the students that didn’t know what was happening outside the University... to make them aware that they play a part that’s no less important than that of any political leader. We felt we had to demonstrate in order to express an alternative political view to that of war and Occupation. During that demonstration we were violently attacked by right-wing students from the university and we were persecuted and expelled from the University. This event had many implications. Students were arrested and 15 students were expelled. I was expelled from the University for almost two years as a result of my participation in the demonstrations that had lasted for four months. I was also denied entrance to the University complex altogether.1 During that period we began to hear voices of people that hadn’t been heard before. These voices weren’t loud enough in the past to have had an effect on us. As a result of the suppression of the demonstrations at the University of Haifa, there were many protests by Arab students in universities across Israel. These activities became united across four universities--Haifa, Jerusalem, Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv--and lasted for a few months in every university. We began to hear from leftist Jewish lecturers who stood bravely by the side of the Arab students. They provided an alternative voice. They objected to decisions to issue expulsion orders and to decisions by the smaller committees in the university that were against the Arab students. They formed an international lobby to put pressure on the University management on issues related to the events. We started to hear the voice of members of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace through the lecturers in the University. We started to hear from leftist Jewish lecturers that later formed the Left Forum2 in the University. At the same time there were also many right wing lecturers who actively opposed us.At that time my view of the situation broadened. I realized there was a basis for cooperation between different groups that spoke different languages but had the same principles--even though there wasn’t a real movement that did this at the time. This transformed my views about work strategies and about who is an actual partner. Is the work confined to Arabs or is the success of the work measured by the extent of the participation of different people from different cultures? In the year 2000, two weeks after the October events, Ta’ayush was founded. The idea was to create a strong movement that would oppose Israeli violence in the West Bank, Gaza and inside Israel. Ta’ayush proved that it was capable of leading Arab and Jewish demonstrations, especially in the beginning. Ta’ayush satisfied my need for my protest to reach beyond the confines of the university complex or a geographical area like Nazareth or Haifa. I wanted my protest to have wider effects and reach areas that I couldn’t reach at the time. Ta’ayush gave a big ’push’ for joint Jewish-Arab activities. Due to the events at Haifa University I joined the Coalition,3 and through them I discovered other associations like Bat Shalom, which I joined. When Ta’ayush was founded that same year, I joined Ta’ayush. Since then I have been active in these three groups and others.

    • 1Badawi was barred from the University of Haifa campus by order of the university's security department on May 13, 2002 on the charge of having participated in two demonstrations at the university without the necessary permits. (See the Adalah Press Release of 26 Feb 2003, http://www.adalah.org/eng/pressreleases/pr.php?file=03_02_26-2.) With the help of Adalah, Ms. Badawi was able to re-enroll in the University of Haifa and is currently finishing her B.A.
    • 2The Left Forum or Forum Smol (meaning "left" in Hebrew) is an association of politically left-leaning professors at Haifa University.
    • 3"The Coalition" refers to the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace.

  • Tell me about the activities of these associations. What is the nature of the activities?

    The basic, main activities are traditional demonstrations. Despite the doubts about their effectiveness and necessity, there is always a need to demonstrate and express a collective cry of protest. The demonstration is an old and traditional method, but it is irreplaceable and we are determined to preserve it. It is a challenge, and a well-organized demonstration is a big success, especially in the current conditions that prevent any connection between the two peoples on either side of the Green Line. Our activities aren't limited to demonstrations. We have done many demonstrations inside Israel against the wall, the war in Iraq1 and the incursion that took place in 2001.2 We think it is important for the Israelis to face the same risks while demonstrating as the Palestinians in the West Bank. The demonstrations shouldn't take place only in areas that are comfortable for Israelis. Therefore, most of our demonstrations are in the West Bank. We don't neglect the demonstrations inside Israel because it is important for our voices to be heard inside Israel too. Other important activities of Ta'ayush and the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace are organizing alternative trips about the issues of the occupation and the Apartheid wall in the West Bank. These activities are also performed inside Israel because the occupation and Israeli racism also affect the Palestinian minority inside Israel. Ta'ayush and the Women's Coalition organize tours that aim to attract Israelis from the mainstream who have never seen the other face of Israel. The tours are organized under the name "Another Perspective." We take university students from Hebrew University on weekly tours. The only thing these students know about the wall is that it is a means to stop terrorists and provide security. They don't know that it has other human consequences. We take these students and arrange meetings between them and their Arab neighbors in Al-Ram3 who are affected by the wall. For the first time, as civilians and not soldiers, they see and listen to Palestinians. This project is seven months old and we have been working intensively on it. So far 1500 Israelis have taken part in this project. Many of them don't belong to leftist political groups; they identify with the Center or with the Right. This is a very important project.There are Ta’ayush projects in mixed Israeli cities in which the Palestinians are a minority, like Acre, Haifa, Lod, Ramle and Jaffa, where the living conditions are very hard. Our goal in these projects is to convey the message that in addition to the walls that separate the Israelis from the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, there are walls that separate the Israelis and the Palestinians inside Israel. These walls are the walls of poverty, discrimination and racism.4 We try to present the real situation of the Palestinians inside Israel, because there are many false perceptions about the Arabs inside Israel: for example, that they enjoy a high standard of living and that Israel treats them well. We invite people who aren’t involved in the situation to see things that are close to them, which they wouldn’t have seen on their own. Ta’ayush has many activities in the area of southern Hebron. These activities are related to the Palestinians who live in caves, and to the abuses that the inhabitants of the south Hebron area suffer at the hands of the settlers. The settlers in that region have poisoned drinking water, wells and fields in the area as a means of driving the Palestinians from their homes.5 Ta’ayush is active in raising money to buy drinking water for the Palestinians in the area so that they aren’t forced to leave their homes. Another activity we do in association with other Israeli groups is helping the Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest season. The wall aims to separate the farmers from their land in order for it to be confiscated.6 Another aim of the "Wall Project," in addition to consolidating the "Settlement Project," is to prevent farmers from reaching their land.7 Because we have the privilege of being on the western side of the wall and reaching areas that the Palestinians aren’t able to reach, we help in the process of olive collection to speed up the harvest. The olive harvesting effort is also connected to the permits that the Palestinians need to get from the Israeli authorities.8 The Coalition of Women feels a need to connect with Palestinian women, so they specialize in joint meetings and activities between women from both sides. The Palestinian women have a significant roll in the intifada and in all social issues, a roll that is undermined by different male authorities and patriarchal leadership. The women’s movement tries to strengthen joint activities through direct work with the rural and local women and not through activities that are forced upon women by the male leadership. The motivation for these activities is mutual support between women from both sides and not only Israeli support for Palestinian women, because the Israeli women are also in need of a partner in the form of women and mothers for a joint future.The Coalition of Women regards the connection between women as very important. Only the women should determine the nature of this connection. There are many joint activities in the form of meetings, demonstrations, olive harvesting and political discussions. Despite the repetition of the activities, they have developed their own specialty and vision. The specialty of these movements is that they are joint Israeli Palestinian movements inside Israel. They aren’t Israeli Jewish founded movements; they have been joint movements since they were founded. From the beginning, Ta’ayush was founded by Israelis and Palestinians.9 It wasn’t founded by an Israeli and then imposed upon Palestinians; it was jointly founded by people who aimed to create a joint movement, and it is still a joint movement because it was founded on a joint basis. Ta’ayush doesn’t mimic traditional Israeli leftist groups that were imposed upon Palestinians by Israelis, where Palestinians only filled in a gap. In our situation, there was recognition and fundamental work so that we would not replicate that model. We want to provide something alternative so that we won’t collapse if there are future events like those of October 2000. The Women’s movement is founded according to the same principle. When an Israeli participates in the international activities of a Ta’ayush talk against the wall, and the world hears an Israeli voice against the current situation, we are breaking an Israeli taboo about the issue of security. It is very important to show the world that the security of Israel isn’t taboo, and that there are two voices that need to be heard. There should be an alternative to the Israeli government's voice. This alternative voice should be an Israeli Jewish voice that presents the situation in a different way and supports the Palestinian voice. This is why we need these organizations. The challenge is to convey the same message that is conveyed to the Israelis here, to Israel's supporters abroad. As an organization, we have succeeded in this challenge.

    • 1Refers to the US led invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003.
    • 2In October of 2001, the Israel army began a series of incursions into the West Bank (including towns such as Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Bethlehem, Nablus, and Hebron) following earlier incursions and the eventual sieges of Jenin and Ramallah.
    • 3A Palestinian town in the West Bank located just north of the environs of East Jerusalem. In February 2005, the Israeli cabinet approved a route of The Wall/Separation Barrier that would enclose the town of Al-Ram from the west and south, thus separating it from the greater East Jerusalem area. For a map of The Wall/Security Barrier following the 2005 cabinet decision see B'tselem: http://www.btselem.org/Download/Separation_Barrier_Map_Eng.pdf.
    • 4See: The Mossawa Center (Advocacy for Arab Citizens of Israel) at http://www.mossawacenter.org/.
    • 5According to Al-Jazeera, people in the northern West Bank village of Madama have accused settlers from the Yetzhar settlement, near Nablus, of repeatedly sabotaging, vandalizing, and poisoning the village's water supply. See Khalid Amayreh. "Settlers Poison Palestinian Well," Al Jazeera, 21 Feb 2005. http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/C7359420-4A5D-4069-973F-D056B0DB543C.htm.
    • 6In November of 2004, Ta'ayush (along with members from the organizations Peace Now and Courage to Refuse) assisted in harvesting the olives of five villages in the West Bank where farmers are separated from their farmland by the Wall/Security Barrier.
    • 7According to B'tselem, "[f]arming is a primary source of income in the Palestinian communities situated along the barrier's route, an area that constitutes one of the most fertile areas in the West Bank. The harm to the farming sector is liable to have drastic economic effects on the residents - whose economic situation is already very difficult - and drive many families into poverty." For example, farmers in the northern West Bank village of Jayous are separated from three-fourths of their 3,000 acre farmland. See Lara Sukhtian. "Israel's Barrier Turns Usually Joyous Olive Harvest into Ordeal for Palestinian Farmers," The Associated Press, International News, 27 Oct 2003. For more information on The Wall/Security Barrier, see B'tselem: http://www.btselem.org/English/Separation_Barrier/.
    • 8Since the beginning of the Second intifada in the fall of 2000, scores of Palestinian olive farmers have been prevented from harvesting their crops due to separation from their farmland and/or fear of being attacked by Jewish settlers. Since 2000, two West Bank olive farmers have been killed and dozens have been wounded from attacks blamed on Jewish settlers. During the first month of the olive harvest in October 2004, Israeli police detained 50 settlers for questioning related to 23 attacks on olive pickers. See Steve Weizman. "With Army Assurances and Escorts, Palestinian Farmers Warily Harvest Their Olives," The Associated Press, International News, 3 Nov 2004.
    • 9Ta'ayush was founded by Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel in the fall of 2000. For information on their founding and aims see the "Who We Are" section at http://www.taayush.org.

  • What are the most significant difficulties you face doing this kind of work?

    If you want to deal with politics, you should understand that politics are basically principles. If my work is based on the principles of equality and human rights, then politics is only part of a wider perspective. If you want to work in this field you have to be optimistic in nature, because pessimism will prevent you from being able to or wanting to contribute. I don’t think I have the right to be pessimistic or to say that I am tired of my work. However, I am not living under a direct occupation. I am part of a Palestinian minority that is the subject of an Israeli plan of deportation, discrimination etc.,1 but at least I have the privilege of living in a home that isn’t threatened by demolition and there is no tank in front of my house and no checkpoint in the middle of my town. The situation I live in doesn’t give me the right to despair and give up. If I were a Palestinian that lived under the difficult conditions of the Occupation, then I could say that my situation is difficult and I don’t have the power to continue my work, but I have means that aren’t available to other people who live under the Occupation, therefore I can’t talk about personal difficulties. As Palestinians inside Israel we have a big roll in the conflict and should be the link between the two sides. We should be more active because we are part of a society that struggles for its freedom and at the same time we are citizens of Israel. We enjoy the geographical position and the unique possibility to be part of a pioneering leadership for a better future and real peace. We speak two languages and have two voices. I face a problem in convincing the Palestinian youth inside Israel that political activism isn’t confined to reading political books or participating in political debates within closed forums. Political activism and awareness isn’t confined to national pride either, because you don’t choose your nationality. We can be proud of our nationality because we are a struggling people. There is no contradiction between that and our work with leftist Israeli groups. The measure of our success is the amount of people from the other side that we conscript and convince of our cause. The difficulty is convincing people to join us and participate in our activities. It isn’t necessary for everyone to demonstrate; there are people that don’t like to demonstrate. However, those people should be part of the network and take part in other activities in order to influence the situation. An encouraging phenomenon has developed in the Israeli Left after the year 2000 and the intifada. A different kind of political stream has developed in the Israeli Left. They are a minority within a rightist society, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t exist, according to the same principle that the existence of the Israeli Arabs as a minority doesn’t mean they don’t exist. This stream consists of young Israelis that refuse to serve in the military and be part of an occupying force. They take this stance from the beginning because they are politically aware, not after they serve in the military and see that the Palestinians are nice people. These are the people that don’t have a problem visiting the West Bank and that view the Palestinians from a different perspective. They don’t view the liberation of the Palestinians as a means to ensure the survival of Israel, but as a basic human right of the Palestinians. This is comforting despite all the problems and difficulties. Despite our closeness to the Israelis, we are different from them in many ways. We should learn to accept the differences. People shouldn’t force their differences on others. There are two groups that may have common political views, but are different in many ways. We should accept each other's differences.

    • 1See: The Mossawa Center (Advocacy for Arab Citizens of Israel) at http://www.mossawacenter.org/.

  • Are you supported or opposed by the people around you?

    I am usually strongly supported. I don’t know about others, but personally I receive strong support. This is because I became involved in political activities at a very early age, and I was widely exposed to the Israeli public through the Israeli media. This had a positive effect on the Arab public in Israel, which strongly supported me. My history at the University of Haifa started when I was 19 and laid the groundwork for trust between the people and me. I chose a course in 1996. This course hasn’t changed--in fact, it has widened. The language and the thinking are still the same, but the range of issues that we need to discuss has widened. Generally there is strong support. There are certain voices that aren’t against me personally, but are against the idea of Arab-Jewish cooperation and communication. Because of their bitter historical experience, the Palestinian people have the right to have doubts about joint work. These experiences include Oslo and experience with political movements that were fashionable after Oslo. It was easy to found an Israeli-Palestinian organization that wasn’t based on an equal or shared foundation. This failed model scared many people. This raised the question "what is co-existence"-- Israelis and Palestinians eating a meal together, or Israelis and Palestinians together resisting the uprooting of olive trees? This is understandable. I don’t understand resistance from intellectuals who are aware of the situation and know that we work in an alternative way, that Palestinians set our course and that it’s for the benefit of the Palestinian people, and yet they still reject our work. These people understand that the liberation of Palestinians and the founding of the Palestinian State must be achieved by movements that include Israelis, Palestinians and internationals who resist the Occupation. The intellectuals that oppose our work are a minority, but nevertheless they exist. It is easier for them not to cooperate with our activities and claim that we are misleading the people. There aren’t any nationalist movements inside Israel that resist the Occupation. There are joint Palestinian-Israeli movements that are based on the same political principles and foundations. The Palestinians need these movements more than other movements; these movements' activities are more significant than those of other movements in issues related to the wall and to the [overall] situation. The people in the West Bank know that we need to work with real leftist Israeli movements. The majority supports the joint activities, because the activities aren’t limited to spending pleasurable time together. The activities include risking participants' lives during demonstrations and defending the Palestinians’ land and existence. These joint activities indicate that part of the Israeli population recognizes the Palestinians’ right to exist, and we need this.

  • Who do you work with from the Palestinian side, and how do you choose your partners?

    We work with popular committees that resist the wall and the Occupation in every town. We don’t agree on an activity within Ta’ayush without involving a Palestinian partner in the decision. On the Israeli side, we aren’t willing to take responsibility for unilateral decisions that concern Palestinians because we don’t believe we have the right to impose anything on our partners. We believe that both sides should take part in the decision making process. We maintain communication with politically active movements in the towns we want to work with. These movements include the Committee for Defending the Land, the committees against the wall and the local councils or the leftist activists that are interested in working with us. Usually we are able to find a partner, and lately many initiatives and proposals for activities have been coming from the West Bank, in addition to our proposals and initiatives. Our Palestinian partners come forward and say that they are in need of a certain activity and want us to work with them. We sit with our partners in every area and agree on the nature of the activities. One of our principles is to avoid making decisions by majority rules; we make decisions by consensus. If there are two people out of 100 who don’t agree, their voices are considered, not negated. We usually try to listen to all the opinions and reach a decision that is agreed upon by consensus. This principle is basically implemented in meetings and activities in the West Bank.

  • You mentioned that Oslo and many of the activities that followed it failed. Why do you think that the past peace initiatives didn't work?

    Israel, as a state and an administration, doesn’t negotiate for peace; it negotiates to place the foundations for a future war. For example, in the Israeli road plans in the West Bank, the roads are based upon providing free access for the settlers and are not accessible for the Palestinians. According to Israeli government, the wall has a security purpose in addition to allowing settlement expansion. The purpose of the wall is to consolidate a defensive position in case of a war. Israel controls most of the hilltops in the West Bank, not for the purpose of building a state, but for the purpose of building a strategy for a future war.1 I don’t think that Israel plans for peace. Israel plans and negotiates for placing the foundations for a future war. Oslo failed because of the Israeli patronization of the Palestinian side. The Israeli war strategy is part of the Israeli patronization of the Palestinians. For example, most of the peace proposals were formed by the Israelis, and were ready when proposed by Israel. The Palestinians only negotiated around or rejected what was proposed. Israel has an agreement that suits every stage it is in. None of the negotiations were based on shared principles between the two sides. The negotiations were actually held within one side [the Israeli side], which then forced the agreement that suited them onto the Palestinian side. The measure of these agreements’ success is the extent to which Palestinians accept them. If this Israeli attitude doesn’t change, it will be one of the main reasons that any future peace plans fail. As a field researcher I reveal terrifying information about Israel’s plans in the West Bank. It sometimes seems like Israel isn’t building a state at all-- it is building settlements, military strongholds and military roads as preparation for a future war. These Israeli activities aim to capture the most important strategic locations in the West Bank, in order to ensure Israeli security interests in the future. In light of all these things it is hard for me to talk about Israel as a state that wants peace. I am aware that there are many Israelis who want peace. There are many Israelis who want peace and still vote for Sharon --that I can’t understand! Many Israelis need and want real peace so that they can be relieved of this conflict. It affects Israel economically and socially. These are the people that may understand the meaning of peace; the elected Israeli government has very different intentions. It is interested in peace for the Israelis, not for Palestinians. This is a known fact.

    • 1Unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank are often built on hilltops, many of which were founded in protest following the Oslo Accords of 1993. The settlers who live in illegal settlements on hilltops are considered to be idelogically extreme relative to the majority of the settler community, associated with such organizations as the "hilltop youth." The "hilltop youth" are a group of young Jewish militant settlers living in illegal settlement outposts who have been known to confront and battle Israeli police assigned to dismantle illegal outposts as well as Palestinians. In 2005, an Israeli government sponsored report found that 105 unauthorized hilltop outposts in the West Bank received illegal state funding and services from the Israeli government for over ten years. See Karin Laub. "Israeli Government Helped Finance 105 Illegal West Bank Settlement Outposts, Inquiry Finds," The Associated Press, International News, 9 Mar 2005. For more information on outposts, including an interactive map with their locations and descriptions, see Peace Now http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=51.

  • What does the word peace mean to you?

    For me, the word peace means existing in security, not only physical existence. Peace means existence without threats. Without peace you can’t ensure your existence. Peace doesn’t mean loving the other side, but first of all recognizing the others existence.

  • What are your expectations for the next few years?

    Despite my optimism, I am sometimes confronted by reality. I don’t think that Israel will continue to be a leading state in the world in the long term. Great empires of the past that lasted for hundreds of years eventually collapsed. The balance of power in the world will eventually change. In the near future I think the Occupation will continue. The encouraging thing, which can accelerate the peace process, is our continuing of our current work without veering from our course. I have no optimism about Israeli society. I live within it and have an Israeli side because I am a citizen of the State of Israel. I think Israeli society is heading in a dangerous direction. It isn’t aware of the fact that the direct occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has many indirect implications on Israeli society. Some human values within Israeli society have disappeared, and this causes me to lose my optimism about Israeli society. A large portion of Israeli society consists of people who are or were occupying soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza. The military mentality has a long lasting effect on these soldiers, and has a strong effect on them in their civilian life. In addition to the responsibility I feel towards the Palestinian people, I have a responsibility towards the Israeli society that I am a part of and care about. I feel I have a big responsibility towards a minority people in the society and also towards the broader society, which-- despite my reluctance to be a part of-- I am forced to live with. I have no alternative other than to be part of it. My optimism about Palestinians and the Palestinian State is challenged by my pessimism about Israeli society, which has lost basic and simple human values as a result of the Occupation. They have brought this upon themselves. Examples of this are the issues of violence against women, rape, verbal violence and the number of weapons used within the society.1 These issues are becoming normal for the society I live in. Some think that if we, as Palestinian citizens of Israel, separate ourselves from this negative society, we will be liberated. This is a mistake. We are two peoples that live together, and all the negativity of one group negatively influences the other. Despite all these hard facts, the internationalization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is encouraging. The conflict isn’t confined to the Israeli and Palestinian playing field. Joint Israeli-Palestinian activities and the international community have an effect on the conflict. Many groups and societies share the responsibility. I am encouraged that many people around the world are concerned with the Palestinian issue. It's encouraging that I am not alone in my work and that there are many voices around the world that unite in support of the just cause of the Palestinian people.

    • 1According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, 387,458 investigation files were opened by Israel police in 2003 compared to 379,546 in the year 2000 and 247,084 in 1980. Of those cases, 3,425 related to sexual offenses (4,057 in 2000 and 1,802 in 1980) and 29,492 of those cases related to bodily harm (32,203 in 2000 and 11,768 in 1980). See http://www1.cbs.gov.il/shnaton55/st11_07.pdf.

  • What do you think is the ideal solution to the conflict?

    I try to distance myself from the old-fashioned slogans that call for an end to the Occupation, etc., but there can be no peace between two unequal sides. The most important condition for peace or a solution is equality, equality not in terms of civil rights but equality in the basic recognition of the other side’s right to exist. The Palestinian people and the PA recognize Israel’s right to exist.1 > While there is no equality in the recognition of existence there will be no peace or coexistence. The recognition of the other’s right to exist is a very important beginning, and ending the Occupation is essential for reaching a solution. It is impossible to build peace while one side is under occupation. You can’t even negotiate while under occupation. This situation is absurd, and it's an absurdity that we often forget. We can’t negotiate ways to achieve peace while under occupation. Another change that is essential is in mentality, especially on the Israeli side. Education is critical in this issue. Education should be an integral part of the peace and leftist activities. The Israelis should be educated that the Palestinians are humans and not inferior to them. This is important in order to start working on an equitable solution. Awareness among the Palestinians that the internationalization of the conflict is beneficial for them is a positive thing. I think one of our main drawbacks is that we don’t properly communicate with the Israelis. The Israelis gather their information and form their opinions about us through the information they receive from the Israeli media and information channels. We don’t offer alternative information channels for delivering our message to the Israelis. One of the important things about the Just Vision website is that it is displayed in English and is available to the Israeli public. We don’t take advantage of the open communication channels we have with Israelis. We have many satellite channels, but we don’t have a single channel that broadcasts in a language Israelis know. We don’t have websites or media devices that appeal directly to the Israelis. We don’t need to wait for the approval of the Israeli government to broadcast inside Israel! We don’t have a common language with the Israelis and we don’t offer alternative ways of reaching that other side that is an integral part of the Occupation.

    • 1The Palestinian National Charter, PLO Charter, or the Palestinian Covenant was originally adopted by the Palestine National Council in 1968. In 1996, the Palestinian National Council passed the following amendment to the charter: "The Palestinian National Charter is hereby amended by canceling the articles that are contrary to the letters exchanged the P.L.O. and the Government of Israel 9-10 September 1993." The letters being referred to are those exchanged between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat leading up to the Oslo Peace Accords. In one of the letters to Rabin, Arafat stated that the articles in the Palestinian National Charter which denied Israel's right to exist were inconsistent with the PLO's "new commitment to Israel" following mutual recognition. See The Palestinian National Charter at http://www.pna.gov.ps/Government/gov/plo_Charter.asp. For a text of the letters see: http://www.palestine-un.org/peace/p_d.html

  • What are the most important lessons you have learned?

    I have learned many lessons. I have learned that I shouldn’t be supercilious because I am a Palestinian. My national identity shouldn’t overshadow my human values. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that my personal identity is more important than my national identity, and that one should never divide his personal identity under any circumstances. I should always preserve my personal identity despite the situation and the conflict. Israeli violence and the negative treatment we are exposed to often threatens to erase our personal identities. We sometimes become harsh and empty towards ourselves, not only towards the Israelis. I am careful in this respect because I have my humanity inside of me. This humanity consists of values and principles that should be given top priority. This strengthens my identity and my sense of belonging to my people.

  • What is the biggest misunderstanding among the people about the conflict and the nature of your work?

    The biggest misunderstanding about the conflict is that people think the conflict is national. It looks like a conflict between two peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians, but this conflict was started and forced upon one side by another. The Palestinians didn’t create the State of Israel in 1948 and didn’t suggest it to the Zionist Movement. The conflict was forced upon the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people have been violently suppressed and their lands have been confiscated since the 1930s. The conflict is wider than merely a national conflict between two peoples; it is an imperialistic conflict. This conflict is planned to serve imperialistic interests that are much wider than the borders of Israel, Palestine and the Arab world, which the Western world aims to exploit. One of the most important strategic areas for Israeli and American imperialistic expansion is Palestine. The Zionist plan and dream is basically imperialistic and was backed by the Western world in order to serve primarily economic interests and also imperialistic interests. The Zionist Movement served these interests and therefore got support to found the Jewish State that serves as a base for the Western world in the Middle East. The motive for the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza isn’t religious. They aren’t interested in founding the complete State of Israel on all of the Palestinian Territories. The motive for the Occupation is economic. They are interested in exploiting cheap Palestinian labor. The Israelis claim that the conflict is national in order to conscript the Israeli public to the Occupation effort. The easiest way to conscript the Israeli public against the Palestinians is to highlight the national and religious nature of the conflict and claim that the Palestinians are a threat to the Jews’ existence. What disturbs me is our failure to see the complete picture. It is wrong that we as Palestinians don’t see the complete picture of the Israeli occupation in Palestine and the American occupation of Iraq1 as part of a wider plan for the future occupation of the Middle East. We should consider this. This is the biggest misunderstanding among the people that we need to overcome. This could sound like a conspiracy theory. Can you tell me what you base your judgment on regarding your assertion about their shared interests in the occupation in the Middle East? I base it on Bush’s agenda and his foreign policies to re-draw a new map of the Middle East. He’s starting with Palestine and then Iraq and Kuwait; Syria and Lebanon are next. It is hard for the people that don’t live in the Middle East to understand the implications of those policies because they are part of the system that is implementing them. It is clearer for the people from the Middle East to see the West’s interests in the region because they are the ones that are directly impacted by it. People outside are told that it is all about spreading peace and democracy in the Arab countries because that is what their government wants them to know. America is trying to control the Arabs’ main natural resource, which is oil. The reason the Arabs perceive America this way is because of the contradiction of claiming to spread democracy and freedom in the Arab countries while supporting Israel, which is an occupying country. This led to Arab disappointment in the American people because Americans were always perceived as modeling freedom, respect for values and support for oppressed people. Furthermore, it created the animosity Arabs feel towards Americans, as well as a consensus that Americans are not smart enough to realize what is being done in their name outside their country.A misunderstanding about the type of work I do is that this kind of work isn’t productive, and that this kind of work exists only in order to demonstrate and create activities. I sometimes understand these people because they have never taken part in this kind of work. But people need to know that every opportunity one has to present an alternative perspective or to prove one’s existence on the ground, despite the consensus to the contrary, is a historic opportunity. It is important for people to know that we are in the midst of a chapter in history. If we, as resistors of the Occupation, don’t take part in all issues, large and small, we won’t be mentioned in the chapters of history and won’t be able to change anything. The contempt for this kind of work and for direct action against the Occupation will result in the long-term in maintaining the Occupation and its effects militarily and mentally. We shouldn’t disregard ourselves and underestimate our ability to contribute. The history of struggling people in South Africa and in the Civil Rights Movement in the US have proven that the popular movements that began within a minority are the movements that managed to break norms that were seen as unbreakable. This history is proven and is still taught today. This is relevant for us as Israelis and Palestinians. We shouldn’t reach a point in which the policies or governments undermine our confidence in offering an alternative as civilians.

    • 1Refers to the US occupation of Iraq (2003-present) following the US-led invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003.

  • What role do you think religion plays in the conflict?

    Israel uses religion to disguise the true nature of the conflict. It is easy for Israel to present the conflict as religious. I don’t think the conflict is religious. Unfortunately, we helped Israel disguise the conflict as religious. The conflict has been disguised as a nationalist-religious conflict. The conflict is often viewed as Islamic-Jewish or Israeli-Palestinian only. I think this is the easiest way to describe the conflict. The involvement of religion in the conflict has negatively affected religion's reputation. The politicization of religion-especially of Islam, which has been involved in the militarization of the intifada -and the disguising of the military struggle as a religious struggle is a great tragedy for the Islamic religion. Islam is a religion that is innocent of the Israelis’ accusations. It is clear that Israel and the Americans have a joint interest and a clear plan to harm Islam’s reputation. However, we also have a part in harming Islam’s reputation. We involved religion in the conflict. Israel is responsible for many things, but it is easy to accuse Israel and acquit ourselves of responsibility and blame. I am against acquitting ourselves because we also made mistakes and should examine ourselves. We had an indirect part in allowing Israel to reach this situation. Hamas, when it disguised the military struggle as religious, helped the Israelis harm religion. This is a big mistake that will require many years to correct. In the western mentality the word Islam is associated with arms and terror. Israel and America created these terms through their political view of the region, but we also had a part in the creation of these terms. The religions should have been used to create a common basis for dialogue between their followers. One of this region's unique aspects is that the three religions were born here. Religion wasn’t properly used in the conflict. The Israeli side was given all the opportunities to determine the rules of the game regarding religion.

  • Does fear have a part in the conflict?

    Fear is one of the most important elements driving the conflict. Israel has succeeded in making Israelis fear the Palestinians and the Arabs. This is how the Israeli leadership manages to obtain the support of the frightened public. I studied the history of the Israelites from the period of the Romans who destroyed the Temple Mount until today. The word fear has special meaning for the Israelis. After the Holocaust the word fear and the sensation of fear is widely used among Israeli society. They are paranoid and obsessive about their fears and ensuring their existence. They are in constant need of a source of fear so that they can prove they have the legitimacy to defend their existence using all means necessary including occupation and suppression. The Israeli leadership uses this fundamental fear in order to maintain its position. If you maintain the Arabs or Palestinians as a source of fear, you ensure support and your position as leader.

  • You say the Jews are paranoid and obsessive about their fears. Do you think that their fears are not legitimate?

    I think that every nation fears for its existence, but the way the Israelis have dealt with it has created a psychological barrier that prevents them from dealing with facts on the ground. They feel the need to continuously remind themselves of those fears. Israeli policies and education are centered on the catastrophe that hit them. This leads them to constantly feel threatened and that’s why they are always afraid of the “Arab world,” which they have difficulty perceiving in any other way than as the enemy. It’s not that the Jews’ fears are illegitimate. As a Palestinian I have my own fears, too; I’ve been through the Nakba, the Naksa, the Occupation, and attempts-- which are failing-- to wipe out my identity, but my past does not hold me back. One must move on.

  • What mistakes did you make which you like others to avoid?

    When I look back I wonder why I was involved in such activity. Sometimes I regret that I have not learned music for example, or that I have not sought to marry a man who travels a lot. I like cooking. I like to be in a position considering what dress to wear for a soiree. I would like to give a piece of advice to all those who get involved in this field urging them never to ignore their private life. There is always room for political activities, but one can't always find room for private matters and self development. We should understand that we can't help our society if we fail to help ourselves. Personally, I ignored my private life to the degree that I was dismissed from college and failed to finish undergraduate study, and I am endeavoring to finish that currently. I do not regret what I did, and I believe everyone should be willing to pay a personal toll for the things he loves, namely things that are meant to be beneficial for the public rather than individuals. Such activities should always be present. It is important that we realize that we have responsibilities towards our private lives and towards our society. This piece of advice I always give to youth who demonstrate readiness to give all they can to make change in the world. I would like them to know that the world could change one day, but nobody will help you change yourself because that is something only you can do. End.