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Shahd Bishara: “Peace is not only the absence of war, but the recognition of the rights and dignity of all people who live here.”

An excerpt of a speech given by Palestinian activist Shahd Bishara, at Standing Together’s 4th National Congress on 2 February.

So, today I come with anger, with rage, and not only that, I feel a deep distress, and soon you will understand why.

So yes, I do define myself as a Palestinian Arab, and yes, I am also a citizen of the state of Israel. And since I was exposed to the reality, I was exposed to the fact that my people, the Palestinian people, suffer, suffer a prolonged suffering as a result of the “conflict”.

Do you understand what it is like to live under occupation? Under military rule for decades? Uprooting and denial of rights? This is less than a survival situation! In 1948, the Palestinian people went through the Nakba, the result of the Nakba we all know, millions of refugees around the world, countless deaths and a wound of collective trauma that does not heal, and how could it heal in a reality of superiority, oppression and repression.

And today? What do we see? I will not say the numbers but for me and for the Palestinians this is a second Nakba, you understand that they are talking about voluntary migration, that is, expulsion, and new settlement, that is, occupation. Add to that the total disregard for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

And also these things took me a few months to say out loud because I’m afraid… afraid to speak. And even now speaking with fear. Do you understand the lack of hope and helplessness of the Palestinians between the river and the sea from the situation?

But you know what, I as a Palestinian who sees the catastrophe that is happening to my people, I am also part of this country that experienced horrors on 7 October, and from this place I want to reach out and fight together for peace.

Peace that is not only the absence of war, but also the recognition of the rights and dignity of all the people who live here. For me, peace is not only political agreements, but also cooperation and listening to the needs and desires of all the groups involved. And no, peace is not just a dream, but also a real possibility if we work together for change.

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