by Henry Lowendorf, Greater New Haven Peace Council
Aida Touma-Sliman became an Arab member of the Knesset in the Israeli election last January. She is a lifelong political activist, Director-General of Women Against Violence, the largest Arab women’s NGO in Israel, editor-in-chief of Al-Ittihad, an Arab-language daily newspaper in Israel, and a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Israel.
Because of a new Israeli law intended to reduce the number of small parrties in the Knesset, the several Arab parties, with widely diverse ideologies and programs, created a Joint List, a coalition, to be voted on as a block. The election result was that the Joint List became the third largest block in the parliament.
Touma-Sliman was voted the Chair of the Knesset’s Permanent Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, the first Arab chair of a Knesset committee.
In an interview in the Jewish Journal (www.youtube.com/ watch?v=hUslyGicqfs) Touma-Sliman describes herself: “I am not accepted because of my opinions, because I stood up against many of the things the patriarchal laws in our society… To be now in the mainstream of our society … gives us the power as a movement, to address new groups of people, to raise the voice of rights of women from the highest platform to the parliament and in our society.”
Of discrimination against Arabs in Israel proper, Touma-Sliman says that “In our villages and towns since 1948, not one industrial zone was built, no proper public transportation. Even in minimal civil rights we are not getting what we are supposed to get.”
She refers to the Israeli occupation: “We don’t want [Israel] to continue to be occupiers, because occupation is ruining not only those who are occupied, it is ruining also the occupiers themselves.” “Settlements are an international crime… You cannot use your crimes” to bargain.
With the recent peace agreement with Iran over Iran’s nuclear program, there is now increased attention on Israel’s existing nuclear arsenal, attention that the Israeli government constantly tries to deflect. In 2013, Touma-Sliman spoke at a peace conference to create a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear weapons: “If peace groups don’t make the connection that the Israeli government is the source of hostile policy against neighboring countries, and if we don’t speak about nuclear policy and to ask Israel to join international agreements and be under the control and inspection on that matter we are missing the point.”
Don’t miss this unique opportunity to hear Aida Touma-Sliman, Bethesda Lutheran Church, 450 Whitney Ave., 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17.