The Jewish Chronicle’s Ben Weich talked to Alon Lee-Green and Sally Abed of the Jewish-Arab grassroots movement of Israel, Standing Together. Yachad hosted Alon-Lee and Sally in the UK for a week-long campus-speaker tour.
November 22, 2019
It can sometimes feel as though there are as many newly-formed activist groups springing up to offer a new solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict as there are grains of sand in the world.
But the idea underpinning Standing Together (Omdim B’Yachad) is different in that it aims to ultimately end the conflict by talking about almost all issues besides the conflict.
Made up of Israeli Jewish and Arab members and activists, it wages its campaigns on issues that affect both communities, bringing people together through their shared economic and social issues.
Two of its most prominent activists — Alon-Lee Green, who is Jewish, and Sally Abed, an Arab — are midway through a week-long tour of UK university towns to discuss their work with Jewish and non-Jewish students.
After stopping at Oxford, Bristol, Cambridge, Manchester and Leeds, they were also due to speak at a public meeting at the LSE on Thursday.
“We try to highlight the shared interests of our members and activists, and try to connect the struggles which are not prominent in Israel,” Ms Abed told the JC.
“That’s our overarching philosophy. The way we do that is by mobilising and organising people locally and nationally, through our elected national leadership.
“We’re trying to empower the average Israeli citizen and provide them with a hub of activism that allows them to look at people around them — otherwise unlikely alliances and partners — for the struggles in Israel. We have so much in common and we can fight together.”
One of Standing Together’s greatest recent successes was in getting the Israeli government to back down over the deportation of African asylum seekers from south Tel Aviv.
Mr Green and Ms Abed also proudly pointed to their campaign against the Nation State law which, although officially unsuccessful, helped to draw international attention to controversial bill.
Others include campaigns to improve the national minimum wage and state pension, protection for Arab residents of the Negev and for increased disability benefits.
When Standing Together does address the conflict head-on, it is with the line that a long-lasting peace will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians — and only then can real political change on social take place.
Mr Green said: “We try to create a new politics in Israel, which looks at the people and asks who benefits from the current political situation. It’s a wide movement, it’s not a single-issue movement.
“The tools vary. There are lots of things we can do, like gatherings, demonstrations, presenting a solution and building a critical mass of support in parliament, in the media, a city council.
“We organise, to build strength in the movement, and mobilising — trying to get the wider public to be part of the actions and activities of the movement.”
Another method Standing Together pursues is to tackle subconscious biases by putting forward spokespeople from Arab communities to speak as experts in the media.
Usually, Mr Green and Ms Abed explained, Arab voices are only heard on issues such as the conflict and occupation, or those which only affect their community.
Mr Green said: “It’s a mission for us here in the UK to remind people that Israel is more than what it is doing to the Palestinians. We are a society, and like any society we have our worries and our fears, our needs and interests.
“It’s important to remember Israel doesn’t equal Netanyahu, doesn’t equal the settlements, doesn’t equal the right wing.”