Grassroots Israeli group seeking to unite Jews and Palestinians stage UK launch

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Grassroots Israeli group seeking to unite Jews and Palestinians stage UK launch

Standing Together - Omdim Beyachad - have staged rallies across Israel in which hundreds of Jews and Palestinians have marched together against racism and for hope

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Israel grassroots organisation Standing Together stage meeting in Westminster
Israel grassroots organisation Standing Together stage meeting in Westminster

The launch of a UK branch of the grassroots Israeli organisation Standing Together, which was founded to foster closer relations and mutual support for both Jewish and Palestinian citizens, has attracted significant support from the community here at two events held in London this week.

Standing Together – Omdim Beyachad – was founded partly in response to the collapse in influence of traditional left-wing political parties in Israel  and began in 2015 mounting campaigns against racism, against settler evictions and around issues such as low-pay.

But since the Hamas terror attacks of October 7th, organisers say the group has attempted to provide “a beacon of hope in these dark times”  staging rallies inside Israel at which hundreds of Jews and Palestinians have come together to discuss “shared grief” and the impact of violence as a result of the terror attacks and the military response in Gaza.

On Wednesday, around 250 people attending a Standing Together UK meeting held at New North London Synagogue, while a meeting in parliament on Monday, also filled a Committee Room to hear the group’s founders, who had flown in from Israel, speak.

At the Westminster event, in which Labour MPs Nadia Whittome and Alex Sobel also spoke, Rula Daood, national co-director of Standing Together, told attendees that most of the work done by the group since 2015 had been inside Israel, but post-October it had been noted that “our conflict , a very complicated reality, has become the talk of so many people.”

The Israeli-Palestinian  born campaigner added that many of the demonstrations taking place in response to the conflict in Gaza had seen people “radicalised. and not in the positive way of radicalisation.”

She said:” We understand at times of war people are afraid, people choose one side. But our first aim is to convince you that you should choose the right side. When i say the right side mean with  people living in Israel and people living in Palestine.

“There is one truth that will always come back to us – in Israel Palestine we have two peoples living and nobody  going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere. Millions of Palestinians, millions of Jews are living there.

“In order for us to have safety and peace we need to take a different discourse. We all deserve peace, justice and liberty.”

Over the past two month  Standing Together has been staging joint Israeli/Palestinian rallies across the country and has  established 12 solidarity networks across the country, and over 5000 activists  have taken part in wide ranging actions, including patrols for people who are fearful of leaving their homes.

The group’s leaders say members have been detained by the police in Israel for hanging posters in Hebrew and Arabic reading “Jews and Arabs We Will Get Through This Together”.

Standing Together rally in Israel

Standing Together ‘s Uri Weltmann, a Jewish Israeli citizen, and the group’s national field organiser, told the meeting of his memories of being woken on October 7th, with his two daughters, to reports of the Hamas terror attacks emerging on social media.

“Humanity had been breached, innocent lives had been targeted,” he said, noting that many Israelis understandably choose to step back from the horror to engage in private discourse.

But he said that his organisation decided to “meet this moment with organising people in society for a response to what happened. We formed Jewish Arab solidarity guards throughout Israel that worked to de-escalate violent aggressive situations especially in mixed cities like Haifa and Jaffa.”

They also organised mutual aid efforts to bring people together who were affected by both the Hamas atrocity and the resulting war in Gaza. The group also formed teams who went out and got rid of racist graffiti on walls, painting instead slogans that offered hope for a future of Israel.

Weltmann said Standing Together then organised joint Jewish/Palestinian meetings across Israel, one seeing 700 people, mainly Jews, attend a gathering in a mosque in Haifa, after the original venue cancelled following pressure from right wing officials.

“We have showed a different politics is possible,” said Weltmann.

Standing Together UK have now formed a steering committee to continue supporting the main Israel group’s actions, and host a further meeting in the UK on Friday.

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