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 Sikkuy’s actions during these challenging days are making a difference
Sikkuy Newsletter – 7/2015 October 21, 2015

Sikkuy’s actions during these challenging days are making a difference


Rawnak Natour                                     Ron Gerlitz
Co-Executive Directors, Sikkuy

Dear Sikkuy Friends and Supporters,

We are living in a time of fear and anguish. For the staff of Sikkuy, Arabs and Jews working in a shared organization, the challenge is two-fold.  There is the personal fear that each of us faces coping with the lack of security and the violence on the streets alongside the challenge of continuing our joint Jewish-Arab work for equality at a time of increased tension and even violent confrontations between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel.

This is a time when the gaps between the Jewish and Arab narratives widens and becomes more acute and we too in Sikkuy, a shared organization, are facing this challenge.

At this difficult time and because we face this critical juncture in our joint work, we have decided to send you this message.

The picture of the current reality that Jewish and Arab citizens are being exposed to in the traditional and social media is diametrically different.  This situation leads to a huge difficulty in creating a shared language for reducing the violence.  Over the last two weeks we have made significant and also successful efforts to convey though the media and on our Facebook page (Hebrew and Arabic) a shared Jewish-Arab message that would broaden the awareness of each side of the other.  In interviews to newspapers such as “Calcalist” (Hebrew), “Haaretz” (English) and “The Marker” (Hebrew), we exposed the readers to an in-depth analysis of the situation and awareness of the reality as seen by the Arab citizens. 

At the peak of the violence our Facebook page prominently featured the act of bravery by Maimon Chimi who rescued an Arab citizen from a lynching in Netanya; we explained why the Arab public held a one-day strike when incitement on Jewish social networks labeled it a “terror strike” and we continued to implement positive initiatives in the field.  We publicized the brave opposition of Jewish and Arab mayors to the discourse of fear and hate and came out forthrightly in the Arabic language media against violence and in favor of just solutions to the issues facing us.  We did not fail to express our outspoken opposition (Hebrew) to the murderous violence perpetrated by citizens against other citizens.

Through all of this it was important for us to make clear at every opportunity that it wasn’t enough to call for “easing the tensions” and that it was essential to deal with the root causes that led to this wave of violence and to strengthen the actions and the voices opposed to the incitement including incitement coming from the highest levels of Israel’s leadership.  We also challenged the incitement by both sides in the media and the social networks while expressing the need to end discrimination and racism directed at the Arab citizens from within Israeli society.  We were outspoken in our call to action to find a solution to the open wound of the occupation of Palestinian territories.  Only through bravely confronting the problems that led to the current wave of violence will it be possible to prevent the continuation of the violence in the future.

Moreover, we have not rested for a moment in our efforts to advance equality between the Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel at every level.

In recent weeks we continued to work vis a vis the Ministries of Finance and Economy along with Knesset committees and we are proud to report that even at the height of these difficult days we succeeded in advancing a number of important initiatives for budgetary equality.

It is important to emphasize that we are not alone in our efforts.  Along with other important efforts by other Jewish-Arab civil society organizations, many important initiatives by private citizens are flooding the social networks with creative ways for Jews and Arabs to work together in the face of the current situation.  We were particularly moved by the stand taken by dozens of Jewish and Arab mayors against violence and for partnership, against boycotts of Arab businesses and against the illegal and immoral dismissals of Arabs by their employers.  This is the time to examine the actions of our elected officials – are they working against equality and against shared society or have they taken responsibility as leaders for acting against hatred and incitement.

  Sikkuy’s public campaign opposing the illegal, immoral and countereducational firing of Arab employees in Jewish schools

We are now hearing more and more public calls to fire Arab employees and have already seen actual dismissals.  So we have initiated a broad effort to prevent such unjustified firing of Arab workers. We sent an urgent appeal (English) to Aryeh Deri, Economy Minister, calling upon him to stand squarely against the illegal dismissal of Arabs from their jobs simply because they are Arabs or because they expressed opinions on Facebook, even when these are upsetting or tasteless.  We see Minister Deri as directly responsible for speaking out and preventing these unjustified and illegal actions before they reach unacceptable levels.

In the last few days we took action to oppose the exclusion of Arabs working in Jewish schools.  We sent an urgent message to the Attorney-General, our Facebook call received hundreds of “likes” and “shares” and we published a joint article in Haaretz labeling these actions illegal, immoral and countereducational.  We published information for Arab workers on how to get effective assistance from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in the Ministry of Economy and all of these efforts were broadly covered in the Hebrew and Arabic media.

The violent reality confronting us will not end by itself.  We therefore have called upon all of our fellow citizens, Arabs and Jews alike, to speak out and act to advance shared and equal society.  In recent days we have joined in a new initiative, “Standing Together” working to create a new joint voice. 

"Standing Together” protest in Jerusalem
– Rawnak was of the key speakers

Stand Together held its first demonstration in Jerusalem last Saturday night with thousands of Arab and Jewish participants who were addressed by (among others) Sikkuy’s co-executive director, Rawnak Natour, who said: “It is especially at this time that we have to look at each other, to see each other in the light of our desire for shared life and shared citizenship and to continue to strive for equality between the Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel – and a society in which each of us shares our common humanity.”  (Rawnak’s speech in Hebrew and Arabic).

These are days in which the situation is deteriorating. Arab citizens of Israel continue to suffer discrimination in many fields and the occupation by Israel of millions of Palestinians continues to explode in our faces.  But we should not relinquish our right, our obligation and our commitment to work from today onward for a better shared future – Arabs and Jews together.

We are strengthened by the many phone calls, emails and messages of support we have received from our friends in the USA, Canada and Europe and are certain that, with your assistance, we will continue on to better days for all of us.

Rawnak speaks at “Standing Together” demonstration in Jerusalem

As many of you know, we will be in Berlin (Ron only), New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Toronto from November 3-14.  We look forward to meeting with as many of you as possible and to seeing you at the various public events being organized by the New Israel Fund, the New Israel Fund of Canada and the Inter Agency Task Force.  Please be in touch with us if you would like to meet or participate in one of the public sessions.

Rawnak Natour and Ron Gerlitz
Co-Executive Directors

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