Ghadir Hani

My speech to the French Parliament

(From Saturday, January 27, 2024)

Good evening,

My name is Ghadir Hani and I am deeply moved to be standing here before you today.

I was born and live in Akko, a mixed city in the north of Israel which is home to both Jews and Arabs of various faiths. I am both a daughter of the Palestinian people and an Israeli citizen. I am a peace activist working to promote a shared society in many organizations including the movement “Standing Together,” which I represent tonight.

The reality I grew up in is complex and difficult, but it has led me to devote my life to building bridges between Palestinians and Israelis. Many among my people who live in Israel feel as I do. From the day I became an adult, I chose to be an activist for Jewish-Arab partnership and peace. My complex identity, like that of many others, is a challenge that many people find difficult to sustain. But the reality of life in the Holy Land was always and probably will always remain complicated.

Islam is a significant component of my identity. I am a believer, and several years ago I realized that many people perceive my faith as a threat, as a set of beliefs that encourages violence.  Consequently, I chose to join groups of religious leaders – men and women – who believe that Islam and other religions have a great deal in common and that it is our responsibility to lead the public in the Holy Land to a life guided by respect and good neighborliness.

The 7th of October will be remembered for many generations as a catastrophe. When I awoke that terrible morning and began to realize that which still cannot be comprehended, I telephoned my Jewish friends from the Israeli communities near Gaza. At that very same time I began receiving messages from friends in Gaza asking me if our Israeli friends and partners in peace are OK, if we are all safe and well.

Our friend Vivian Silver, living near Gaza, was cruelly murdered in her home, a home that had hosted so many peace activists over the years. Our lighthouse and compass was murdered. How can one believe in peace after such actions? The events murdered hope and killed what little belief many Jews and Arabs had that one day they will see peace.

How does one continue to believe in peace after nearly four months of war? How does one believe in the human spirit after tens of thousands of victims of the conflict? Who would have imagined that this protracted conflict could reach such horrific proportions? This situation breaks my heart. Twenty-six thousand murdered, of which 17,000 are women and children. 70% of the buildings have been destroyed. What will the orphans do? How will they survive the winter months?   How will they overcome hunger, thirst, epidemics, cold, despair and trauma? The 7th of October has created yet another generation which will suffer post-trauma, perhaps even more than the previous ones.

And I, who live my life between the two opposing poles of the conflict, refuse to give up. I refuse to yield.  I refuse to succumb to the trap of hate and despair.

Even if I am the last one, I will continue to believe in peace. These are the words of God, whether you believe in Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. This is the most important moral imperative. The most precious gift we could wish for is a future without war, without pain and suffering. A future that is characterized by growth, hope, and good neighbourliness.

I am not alone. I represent many in Israel and Palestine – Arabs and Jews who refuse to be enemies. Arabs and Jews who work together; tens of thousands of Jews and Arabs who decided at the beginning of the war to dedicate themselves to forging and strengthening bonds.  We have conducted dozens of solidarity vigils, multiple conferences, and marches throughout the country – all with one message: Only peace can bring security.

I believe that our heart can hold both Noa Argamani, one of the 136 kidnapped, whose mother is dying from cancer and is praying that Noa will return home before she dies, and 11-year-old Mousa Abu Khaled who went out in search of a jerrycan of water for his brothers and on returning home, discovered that they were all murdered by a bomb.

If I can ask you all one thing it is this – please try to understand the complexity. We do not need blind or one-sided support. We need compassion, we need empathy for the other, not just for ourselves.

None of us has another country, and we don’t want one. The way of peace is the only way to ensure security for all. The way of peace will prevail. It will prevail.

Only peace will bring security; Only peace will bring security.

Thank you.

About the Author
Ghadir Hani is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, an award-winning peace activist, and a member of the Habima-Almanbar Initiative - a Religious Vision for peace.
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