The Mossawa Center – the Advocacy Center for Arab citizens of Israel led a delegation of activists to the US in late December of 2022, in order to address the recent political developments in Israel, especially the rise of the far-right coalition built on anti-Arab, misogynistic, and racist promises and slogans. The delegation met with American think tanks, foundations, and political leaders and included Palestinian Arab, Mizrahi, Russian and Ethiopian activists.
The rise of the new far-right government, which includes the radical Religious Zionism, Jewish Power, and Noam parties, poses a real threat to Israel’s minority populations, as well as the Palestinians living in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
The delegation, led by Mossawa Center Executive Director Suha Salman Mousa, was a part of the organization’s “Solidarity” program, which aims to build a multi-ethnic coalition in Israel. While the largest minority group in Israel is the Palestinian Arab community, making up 21% of the total population, there are other marginalized groups.
The Solidarity program seeks to bridge between what the Mossawa Center calls the HAMER communities: Haredi (ultra-orthodox Jews), Arab, Mizrahi (Jews of Arab descent), Ethiopian, and Russian-speaking communities, which represent 10%, 21%, 35%, 1.5%, and 12% of the total population in Israel, respectively.
According to the Mossawa Center’s Executive Director, Suha Salman Mousa, who led the delegation, the overwhelming feedback from the Congress members, think tanks, and foundations that they met with was that the Solidarity program was innovative and critically needed in Israel today. It was agreed to follow up on the discussions and explore avenues for cooperation in the future.
“We want to redefine the discourse in the coming years of Netanyahu’s far-right administration as a time when multi-ethnic collaboration can grow between different marginalized communities,” she said. “We successfully recruited key figures from the HAMER communities to begin facilitating dialogue and solidarity between the groups. These groups are currently split by identity politics, rather than by democratic redistribution of national resources, and tend to vote along ethnic lines in the national elections. Some communities, like the Mizrahi and the Arab communities have low voting turn out,”Salman Mousa added.
Palestinian Arabs are the largest minority group in Israel and live under unique circumstances within the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as they are the only group with access to both the Jewish population in Israel and the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories. “They know both societies intimately and have deep insight into the socio-political dynamics impacting each society. They can and must work to bridge gaps and bring other marginalized communities together as times get harder for everyone who does not fit the current extreme ruling group that will be in control,” says the Mossawa Center, adding, “we want to garner greater understanding between groups in a couple of key ways to build a diverse peace camp and work to shift discourses as different communities prepare for the difficult years to come, as the right solidifies power and will likely retain it until the next election.”
Today, there are very few initiatives in Israel that seek to enable Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel to outreach to their HAMER counterparts. The Mossawa Center is the only Arab-led organization that aims to promote social, political, and cultural solidarity through a grassroots initiative.
Through this initiative, the Mossawa Center intends to take steps toward creating a reassuring atmosphere for the marginalized population throughout the next administration in Israel by raising awareness and empowering marginalized groups. According to the organization, it is working to “see a shift in the conflict by enhancing social solidarity and increase partnerships and coalitions. Social change can bring about a greater political change that will improve the lives of all populations living in the region.”
It is important to note that Sowtna was launched thanks to the Solidarity program as a new multi-linguistic media platform offering news coverage in Arabic, Hebrew, Russian and English.