Grassroots Political Mobilization
"Public action is much more important, and in terms of democracy, even more powerful than legal means. The public is supposed to scream and the government should be afraid of that happening. That’s really what we’re trying to do."
Born in Jerusalem and raised in a politically-minded, Orthodox family, Hagit Ofran avidly studied and was concerned with the history and identity of the Israeli and Jewish people. Today, she is the Director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch team, where she coordinates the most comprehensive independent database on settlements, collects and publishes reports regarding settlement development and policy and has been involved in providing evidence for several appeals, the majority of which deal with illegal settlement and outpost construction.
“There are serious things taking place here, things that are done in my name, things that I am responsible for not only because they are done in my name, but because I pay taxes, vote in the elections, because I’m part of this collective called the State of Israel. I can’t live in peace and I can’t sleep at night if I am not . . . struggling against these things. Here I belong and here I am responsible.”
Born into a politically engaged family with very clear positions on human rights and democracy, today, Michael Sfard is a dedicated international human rights lawyer and activist. He represents Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, communities, committees and individuals. Sfard's cases deal directly with the Occupation, and range from those dealing with the route of the Separation Barrier to defending conscientious objectors and Palestinian prisoners.
"I don’t know what I would if I were in [the Palestinians'] shoes, if I experienced the humiliation they do at checkpoints. If you ask me, I think violence won’t lead us anywhere."
Amnon Sadovsky was born and lives in Jerusalem. His interest and experience in social involvement began in high school in the scouts, followed by a year of community service in Tel Mond. Amnon helped found the first non-professional high school in Beit Shemesh and later participated in dialog workshops for Israeli and Palestinian teachers in MECA. After 2000 Amnon joined Ta’ayush’s South Hebron committee and taught at the Hand in Hand Jewish-Arab School in Jerusalem. His various interests connect social, economic and political struggles.
"I want a country that will be able to contribute to humanity in general and to the well-being of its citizens in particular. This is what I care about. I'm not losing sleep over the Zionist dream. On the contrary, as a Palestinian, I have suffered because of the Zionist dream. But the situation that we are living in today forces me to think with my mind and not with my emotions. And this is what brings me to the goal of two states for two peoples."
With the People's Campaign for Peace and Democracy, Dimitri Diliani is involved in gathering over 400,000 (and growing) signatures of Palestinians and Israelis who support a set of principles for peace drafted by Sari Nusseibeh and Ami Ayalon. Dimitri is also the assistant of Dr. Nusseibeh, the president of Al Quds University and an outspoken peace advocate. Dimitri lives in Jerusalem and his family originally comes from the West part of the city. As a teenager, Dimitri participated in non-violent protest during the intifada that began in 1987.
"The origin of all success is the freedom of human beings. If any person can feel freedom from occupation, from fear, that is the most important success. Therefore, collective freedom starts with individual freedom."
Dr. Khuloud Dajani is a professor and one of the founders of Al-Quds University. She is active in the fields of public diplomacy, social work and peace activism. Since the beginning of the current intifada, Khuloud has been working with the Palestinian based People's Campaign for Peace and Democracy, which works along side the Israeli based Hamifkad Haleumi. Both are grassroots initiatives gathering signatures of Palestinians and Israelis in support of a set of principles to advance peace. Since the beginning of her career, Dr.
"Even ten Israelis at a demonstration can make a real difference. We know from the army's own declarations that their open fire regulations change as soon as they think there are Israelis around. For example, they are not to use live fire when there are Israelis around, and they are not to fire rubber bullets in a direction where they think there are Israelis."
Kobi Snitz is active in demonstrating in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank. His primary activity consists of joining other Israelis in supporting Palestinian-led nonviolent protests in villages harmed by the planned or existing separation barrier. Kobi first became an activist as a student in Canada and the United States, where he participated in organizing a graduate student union and joined the anti-war movement during the US-led invasion of Iraq.
"I had always been active in minorities' struggles for rights. In the Ukraine it was the Jewish minority. Now it's the minority that's changed, not me; the current minority is the Palestinians."
Yana Knopova immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine in 1996 through a Jewish youth program. She is the coordinator of Coalition of Women for Peace, an umbrella organization for nine Israel-based women's organizations working to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and emphasizing the importance of women in building peace. Through the Russian-speaking sector and organizations such as Ahoti [my sister], the Coalition also empowers women in Israel's minority social groups to work for peace and justice.