On Sunday, August 16, 2020, when we rallied in support of Israel’s democracy at Kirribilli Point in Sydney, two women, who showed solidarity with the Belarusian people, stood next to us. It is no coincidence that we met on that day and at that place. In both of these groups, there is a burning need to point out corruption and shout ‘enough’. Or as the Sydney police put it on that day: ‘It’s [the protest] for a noble cause’.
The people of Belarus have had the same leader (Lukashenko) for 26 years. In the last election, he allegedly won by 80 percent and defeated a candidate named Tikhanovskaya. The Belarusian people feel that the elections have been forged, and they refuse to accept it; They rally in the streets against the ‘last dictator in Europe’. Tykhanovskaya fled to Lithuania for fear of her life. Many protesters in Belarus are suffering from severe police violence. There is a huge woman presence in the Belarusian protests and many wear white shirts while holding flowers in their hands.
The women who stood next to us were also wearing white and held flowers in their hands. They said it was not political and they only express solidarity. Solidarity is great but I wanted to tell them, there is no such thing as a non-political statement.
Margaret Atwood said men are afraid that women will laugh at them, women are afraid that men will kill them. So sometimes it seems to me that supporters of dictatorships are afraid that they will be ridiculed, but supporters of democracy are afraid that they will be murdered. Many Israelis are still afraid to go to the rallies in Balfour [against indicated prime minister]. They do not want to end the night in prison and are afraid they will be beaten as already happened to protesters in Tel Aviv by the ‘Fanatix’ group. They are afraid of Yona Abromashi’s chilling statement. They are afraid to lose their income. They are already accustomed to being called traitors. On one of the signs in Balfour a woman wrote – I was afraid to arrive and so I arrived.
Everything is political, and when something is wrong, it will continue to be wrong even if some people would rather hide it and want others to shut up.
To whom does it make sense that the self-employed sector in Israel cannot work but has not been compensated for nearly 6 months? To whom does it make sense that women in Israel seek permission from men and need to lie in order to terminate a pregnancy? To whom does it make sense that on some public stages women cannot sing or are erased from IKEA signs? No wonder when asked why there are no women in the cabinet the answer of the indicted prime minister was ‘I was too wondering why the traffic light is red’. Who thinks it makes sense that an indicted citizen won’t be able to work in a municipality as a garbage collector or a driver due to the charges, and yet he is the prime minister of Israel.
Everything is connected to everything and everything is political. My nephews who live in Israel do not know any other prime minister. The current one has been in almost continuous rule since 1996. Last week he even signed the “Peace for Arms” agreement with UAE on his own and did not even think to inform the defense minister and the foreign minister. If it looks like a dictator, walks like a dictator, and talks like a dictator then it’s a dictator.
To My nephews, to the citizens of Israel, to the citizens of Belarus and to all of us wherever we live I want to say; you deserve a decent government that remembers it is a public servant and doesn’t treat the public as servants. We should stop being afraid to talk about values like peace, equality, compassion. If you are afraid to talk, then it is a sign that you should talk.
I am not holding my horses for Lukashenko’s resignation and so we will most probably see the citizens of Belarus ‘on the bridges’ in Sydney again.
In any case, I will add Victor Tsui’s Belarusian rock song ‘Changes’ to the bridge’s protest playlist. It will be an act of solidarity and a political statement.