Fighting for Different Causes – United in the Call for Universal Human Rights

Photo by Tom RavivPhoto by Tom Raviv

Some 6,000 people marched last Friday (9 December 2011) in the annual Human Rights March that took place in Tel Aviv and in Haifa. The participants carried flags and a variety of signs – for rights to women, refugees, residents of the periphery, Palestinians, workers, members of the LGBT community, and more. In the rally after the march, author Sami Michael, President of ACRI, said that: “Democratic institutions, human rights organizations, social justice movements, and freedom of spiritual expression have all been marked as targets for persecution and elimination.”
The Human Rights March, marking International Human Rights Day, took place for the third time in Tel Aviv and for the first time in Haifa. Approximately 6,000 people from different groups and over 100 organizations marched under a wide range of struggles – all united in the call for all human rights to all human beings. See photos from the march (taken by Tom Raviv).
At the end of the march, a rally was held at Rabin Square, including a special musical performance by 20 musicians from the Mediterranean Andalusian Orchestra, with guest performers. Among the speakers at the rally were Sami Michael, President of ACRI; Avigail Hatzor-Sivan, Spokesperson of “Atidenu”, a movement that leads the social workers’ struggle; Abdelhamid, a refugee from Darfur, and Emmanuel, a refugee from Eritrea; Dr. Nabila Espanyoli, a social change activist and the Director of Al-Tufula Center in Nazareth for the improvement of early childhood education among the Palestinian society in Israel; Efrat Yardai, Spokesperson of the Israeli Association for Ethiopian Jews; and a speech sent by Nariman Tamimi, an activist from the Palestinian village Nabi Saleh and wife of prisoner Bassem Tamimi, was read on stage.
According to Hagai El-Ad, ACRI’s Executive Director, “thousands of Israelis voted today with their feet for a more humane future: social justice, an end to the occupation, substantive democracy, and human rights. The annual Human Rights March not only demands this future – it is part of its realization. The march has ended, but the struggles for the realization of human rights carry on in full force.”
Below is the speech made by Sami Michael, as well as excerpts from the speeches made by Emmanuel from Eritrea and by Efrat Yardai.
Sami Michael, President of ACRI:

“Peace be upon you, brave champions of democracy,

This year we are observing Human Rights Day in a unique atmosphere. On the one hand, we are witnessing an awakening and a decisive struggle for freedom and against corruption, from Morocco, through Yemen and Syria and all the way to Israel. Masses that have suffered from repression, racism and poverty are taking to city squares and standing proudly in the face of ruthless repression. On the other hand, a dark cloud is forming that threatens human rights. Evil forces are exploiting the spirit of social protest and are adopting only the outermost layer of democracy – majority rule. They incite against anyone foreign or different and seek to bring about a destructive tyranny of the majority in order to trample justice and freedom.

We will stand in their way.

Democratic institutions, human rights organizations, social justice movements, and freedom of spiritual expression have all been marked as targets for persecution and elimination.

We will stand in their way.

Forces of darkness are using deceptive tricks in our representative institutions in order to smash the fortresses of democracy. They want to undermine the High Court of Justice and we will stand in their way. They want to weaken human rights organizations and we will stand in their way. They want to demolish the organizations that work hard to bring peace and to end the corrupting occupation.

We will stand in their way.

They spread misinformation and nurture hatred of strangers in order to guide the people onto the destructive path of hating Arabs.

We will stand in their way.

Israel has one of the highest rates of poverty among the developed nations. They are plotting to continue policies that snatch a glass of milk and a slice of bread from the hands of poor children, so the rich can become richer. A third of Israeli children live in distress. Poverty is a tragedy for children and a catastrophe for the state.

We will stand in their way.

They create a fierce atmosphere of warmongering to drown out the bitter cries of the homeless, the unemployed, the social workers, the medical residents and the foreign workers who live in slave-like conditions.

We will stand in their way.

We are not against religion, but we are against religious coercion. We will not give in to the forces of darkness that use religion to humiliate women, to repress homosexuals and to intimidate members of other religions and free thinkers. Their objective is clear: To turn a democratic state into a state of halakha.

We will stand in their way.

Freedom of expression is the vital sign of a real democracy. Whoever plots to impose narrow-mindedness, whoever preaches to blindly follow one ideology to the exclusion of all others, or one historical ethos barring all others, is simply preaching for spiritual fascism.

We will stand in their way.

The clouds are dark and the atmosphere is bleak, which is why the brave contributions and the blessed actions of human rights organizations and organizations struggling for equality and for peace with the Arab peoples – particularly with the Palestinian people- are so immeasurably outstanding.

To my brothers and sisters, the Arab citizens of Israel, I say: “Your struggle for a just society is our struggle too”. Your fate is our fate. The right to live in dignity makes no distinction between men and women, between religions and nationalities. We all wish for a better and more humane society for our children and our grandchildren. Together, only together, can we strive to build a more just future for you and for us.

Our adversaries are weaker than they seem and we are stronger than our adversaries think we are. Through the joint efforts of human rights organizations we have proven that we can block the forces of darkness. We defeated the initiative to establish investigative committees in the Knesset. But plenty of work remains. The forces of darkness have not despaired. They seek to silence us, but we will not be silenced and we will not let them violate human rights, the freedom to demonstrate, and the right to protest against injustices. And if we must again take to the streets and the city squares, we will do so. We will do so throughout the country, in cities and villages, in the center and the periphery, among the majority and among the minorities.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my city, Haifa, which at this very moment is holding for the first time its own march for human rights. I hope that next year more and more communities will join in this democratic celebration.”


An excerpt from a speech made by Emmanuel, a refugee from Eritrea:

“There are 26,000 Eritrean refugees in Israel. We paid a lot of money and risked our lives on the Sinai border to get to Israel. Do you think all this was because we wanted to find work? None of us would risk his life so much only for work. We were running for our lives. Huldai, do you think that the 5,000 Eritreans now in Yemen also went there to look for work? And the 65,000 Eritreans in Ethiopia, are they work migrants, too?

Just like you, we want to live in our own country, with our family and our children. I miss my ten-years-old son so much. We ask Huldai, the Israeli government, and all the citizens of Israel – let us live in Israel until the situation in Eritrea changes and becomes safe for us. When our country will become a place where we can live freely and safely, we’ll go back immediately. Until then, we would like to live here with dignity and in good neighborhood. And as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”


An excerpt from a speech made by Efrat Yardai, Spokesperson of the Israeli Association for Ethiopian Jews:

“Human rights are an interest of each and every one of us. It is in all our interest that women will not suffer from violence, that the poor will receive adequate healthcare services, that the periphery will no longer be neglected, that Ethiopian children will no longer get kicked out of school only because they are Ethiopians, dammit! Until the prisons are not populated by members of specific communities, our duty as organizations and as social activists is to protest against discrimination – any discrimination, of any kind. From this stage, I call upon all of you to raise your heads and to work for equality to all: the workers, unemployed, poor, discriminated.”


An excerpt from a speech written by Nariman Tamimi from the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh that was read on the stage:

“During my visits to my husband, Bassem asked that the hearts of our sons be purified from any and all hatred and for the seeds of love to be planted there. Now we are waiting for redemption, joy, justice, and freedom. With your help we can cross the bridge of optimism with our heads raised high. Your massive presence, believers in justice, democracy, equality and in all of the disappearing values will redeem us. You are free people in the world. Release us from the occupation and bring us freedom, justice and peace, for you and for us. Let there be peace for you and also for us.

I am filled with hope that my voice will be heard among you on this day on which you are gathered to emphasize the fact that human rights belong to every human being. Remember! We are human beings and the ugly occupation has not succeeded in wiping out our aspirations for freedom. It has not prevented us from continuing the struggle to its end – to the end of the occupation.”

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Categories: East Jerusalem, Anti-Democratic Initiatives, Arab Citizens of Israel, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Human Rights Education, Migrant Workers, Provision of Services, Publications and Campaigns, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers, Social and Economic Rights, The Occupied Territories, The Right to Equality

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