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'The future is in the unity of Arab, migrant and Jewish workers'

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.

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    1. Ted

      So, this begs the obvious question. Why wasn’t the speech read aloud? Does the fact that it was not read tell us anything about J14, or not?


      Reply to Comment
    2. jake

      She was probably threatened with indefinite detention…

      Reply to Comment
    3. NoaY

      I understand that demonstration organizers say they had required all speeches be submitted for approval ahead of the demonstration, and this was not done in the case of this speech. Please note that this information has not been independently verified. We’ll update when we know more.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ted

      Thanks, I think it would be useful for the public to know. Hope this issue will not be lost.


      Reply to Comment
    5. sh

      This was Asma Aghbarieh-Zahalka’s reaction to their refusal to allow Wafa Tiara onto the podium.
      Shame it hasn’t been subtitled in English. It sums up what some protestors unconnected to the group expected from the event in general but failed to find there. The WAC-Ma’an/Daam marchers included the protest’s only obvious participants from Israel’s “Arab sector”.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ted

      Thanks to SH for posting the reaction above. I don’t speak Hebrew, but can tell that Asma Aghbarieh-Zahalka looks obviously upset.

      Having raised the issue py posting the initital unread speech, I think that 972mag would provide a service too all and added transparency by providing some translation of the clip of Asma, as well as any added background on the decision not to allow this speech to be made, again whatever the reasons turn out to be.

      Thanks very much again,


      Reply to Comment
    7. Kolumn9

      Ted, you didn’t miss much. She is pissed off that her homegirl didn’t get to speak, blames racism for it and puts the organizers of the protest in the same camp with Bibi, Assad, Qaddafi, etc. She defines that camp as the ‘enemy’ represented locally by the Bibi government that needs to be overthrown by a coalition of Jewish and Arab workers. I don’t think she is a Bibi supporter. This is a classic rehash of an Israeli communist party speech from 40 years ago.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Larry Frankel

      It sounds like the same right-wing mentality that is turning the middle class in the USA into the working poor. Israel has lost its way as a democratic society. All people need to be treated equally under the law.

      Reply to Comment