The following speech was written for Tel Aviv’s most recent social justice protest this past Saturday. While the speech was ultimately not read aloud, it has been translated for +972 with permission from the author, Wafa Tiara.
Good evening to all protesters,
My name is Wafa Tiara from Kufr Qara, and I am an activist in the Workers Advice Center (WAC-Ma’an). I have come with my friends and colleagues, farmers, construction workers, truck drivers, contract workers in the Antiquities Authority and educational institutions, Palestinians who work in settlements, college lecturers, young people, Jews and Arabs – in order to say to this government loud and clear: We are the voice of this protest, and we demand change!
There are those who claim that we are unclear, that we demand “all sorts of things.” We demand direct employment, not through contractors. We demand pensions. We demand a fair wage, not just minimum wage. We demand job security. We demand education for our children. We demand respect for labor laws. We demand an end to being poor workers. Is that not clear enough?
We are poor workers, and it’s not our fault. We are workers and we are poor because of this government. We are poor because the government wants to keep us poor. Alongside us, 150,000 migrant laborers are licensed to work – Thai workers in agriculture, Chinese workers in construction and Filipinos in nursing. They are modern slaves. Eli Yishai calls for the deportation of the Sudanese because he claims they bring disease. But the same Eli Yishai is also the one to import hundreds of thousands of migrant workers. And do you know why he doesn’t say that they, too, bring disease? Because they pay tens of thousands of dollars to manpower agencies who bring them here to work. And I say: It’s not the sick migrants, but Israeli society that is sick!
The disease is privatization, the disease is tax benefits to the rich, the disease is the link between capital and government, the disease is the massive profits the tycoons earn at our expense, the disease is racism, the disease is occupation, the disease is the refusal to make peace and become a normal society. It is those who refuse peace and equality who are sick, not the migrants!
They scare us with Iran, with Greece and with Sudan. They want us to be afraid, to give up and be quiet. To this we respond loud and clear: We are not afraid!
And we don’t believe them!
And we will continue to demonstrate until we regain our dignity, a fair job and a future for our children. We are the people, and we demand social justice! We are Greece, Sudan, Cairo and Damascus! We are all victims of piggish capitalism, and we are united in our desire to change the system. This is the Spring of Nations; this is the spring of workers, in Ramallah, Cairo, Tunis, Greece and Damascus. All over the world, “the people demand social justice,” and we, from here, express our deep solidarity with them – especially with the Syrian people being massacred by Assad’s criminal regime. The people have woken up, the workers have woken up and we here woke up – and we aren’t going back to sleep!
The future is in our hands, in the unity of Jewish, Arab and migrant workers:
No to racism! Yes to equality!
No to war! Yes to peace!
No to exploitation! Yes and yes to social justice!
Wafa Tiara is a resident of Kufr Qara and mother of four. She has been an agricultural worker and trade union activist in WAC-Maan since 2005. Since 2008, she has coordinated WAC’s work in Israel’s triangle region, where she helps Arab women find decent jobs in agriculture, and leads social and cultural activities.