UK Friends of Standing Together @omdimbeyachadUK

Notts Friends of Standing Together at Nottingham May Day

Dr. Farheen Khan, an activist in Notts Friends of Standing Together, spoke at the May Day (international workers’ day) rally in Nottingham on 4 May. We republish Farheen’s speech below.

I am so proud to be here at the International Workers’ Day Rally on behalf of Notts Friends of Standing Together. My name is Farheen Khan, for the past decade I have been involved in education, before that I was a civil servant, and before that I was a scientist. I am familiar with the work of a few of the unions represented here, and I am grateful for what you do to represent and give voice to workers who may feel like small cogs in a large machine.

So who are Standing Together? Standing Together (Omdim Be’Yachad) is a grassroots movement, mobilising Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel in pursuit of peace, equality, social and climate justice.

Within Israel, on the back of the trauma of the October 7th massacre, the people of Israel have been sold a lie. They have been sold on war. Within Israel, Palestinians have been dehumanised to such an extent that too many Jewish Israelis feel no shame or remorse for the thousands of children that have been and continue to be killed and maimed in Gaza, whereas there has been justified anger and anguish over the 36 Israeli children killed on October 7th.

Why, then, should we be supporting this organisation? Change needs to come from within. We  believe it is our duty to help end the cycle of violence, despair and dehumanisation that enables the extremists to gain power and stay in power. This is what Standing Together is working towards. Standing Together seeks to end the occupation, replacing the politics of fear and hatred with the politics of hope.

Unless you are fighting for your very survival, war is deceit, and what is being visited on Gaza right now is the ultimate deceit.  

The lie is that the IDF can free the Israeli hostages and bring them home. They can’t

The truth is that mediated negotiations between Hamas and the Israeli government released the half of the hostages[released so far], and the IDF has managed to kill more hostages than it has managed to rescue. 

The lie is that Hamas will be destroyed militarily. It won’t.

The truth is that Israel’s policy of attempting to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities every few years has only led to Hamas getting stronger. No military operation has ever produced lasting  safety and security for Israelis.

The lie is that creating a Greater Israel, with the violent expansion of settlements and the unending occupation of Palestinians of the West Bank can bring security and prosperity to the  Israeli people. It cannot.

The truth is that the occupation of the West Bank must end, not only because it is brutal and oppressive for Palestinians, but also because it does not guarantee any long-term security for anyone. A negotiated peace agreement will gradually cut off the supply of desperate young people willing to commit violence for the cause of a free Palestine. A political solution is the only way to ensure freedom, equality, and safety for both peoples.

Standing Together in Israel is working against the lies, changing the popular narrative for a country that has brought violent extremists into the heart of its government. It is dangerous  work. Within Israel, Standing Together report an intense crackdown against Palestinian citizens,  anti-occupation activists, and any anti-war sentiment. Palestinian citizens are routinely fired  from their jobs and expelled from their universities for simply expressing concern for Gazan  civilians. In addition, they are seeing increasing physical attacks on both Palestinian and Jewish citizens who speak out against the injustices of this war. 

It is important work. Israelis, unlike Palestinians in the occupied territories, get to elect their leaders, they can choose to have representatives who will be partners for peace and work constructively with Palestinians to imagine a future far removed from the current politics of supremacy, revenge and retribution that we are currently bearing witness to. 

Standing Together needs international support, hence UK Friends of Standing Together and within that Notts Friends of Standing Together. Rula Daood and Alon-Lee Green, national co-directors of  Standing Together, have said that external pressure alone will not be enough to effect change in Israeli society. The pressure needs to come from within, the public discourse needs to change, Jewish Israelis in particular need to be given another narrative to embrace. This is what Standing Together are doing and their movement is building. 

I feel privileged to have been able to share this message with you, and I am privileged. Increasingly we are seeing governments across the world cracking down on dissenting voices. It is the direction of travel for this country as well, under this government. We have a small window in which we can push back on the destructive dehumanising narratives that are being sold to us in the UK. One of the lies that we are being sold is that our concern for the  Palestinian people comes from a place of hate. Don’t let this stop you from speaking out, pushing back on the lies. And if you face aggression and more lies, then I would urge you to respond with care and with compassion, because that is our truth. We are what we say and what we do. You may feel like a small cog in a big machine, but when we are together like we are today, we are the machine. Together, we can make many of the changes we want to see.

Thank you.