Israeli human rights activist visits PE

2016-11-30 06:00
Human rights activist, Kessem Adiv, presenting a speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as part of a recent Amanda! seminar held in Zwide. Photo: SUPPLIED

Human rights activist, Kessem Adiv, presenting a speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as part of a recent Amanda! seminar held in Zwide. Photo: SUPPLIED

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SHE is hopeful for peace among the people of her country, but human rights activist Kessem Adiv, acknowledges that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot easily be resolved.

Adiv (26) from Haifa in Israel made her first visit to Port Elizabeth earlier this month as part of a four-month South African Amandla! project.

The Amandla! project for the Alternative Information & Development Centre (AIDC) involves assisting a research team in Kwazakhele.

“It’s a project that tries to make the township more sustainable in terms of economy, agriculture and energy,” Adiv said.

During her time in Nelson Mandela Bay, she also wants to raise awareness on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Born into a family of human rights activists, Adiv grew up around political debates and discussions. From a young age, politics has always been one of her interests. This influenced her decision to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and African studies.

Adiv graduated from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel last year. Since a large part of her studies involved research on South Africa, Adiv decided to experience first-hand South Africa’s diverse culture.

“My experience in PE has been great so far. I came across many interesting activists. I also like the project I’m working on, it’s exciting,” she said.

While Adiv was studying towards her BA degree, she noticed that there were a large number of Arab students, but there were no platforms for them to hold political discussions with Jewish students. This led to Adiv’s decision to start a political society, which she refers to as a political ‘cell’, at her university with the agenda concerning the situation inside Israel.

“There was no connection between the Arab and Jewish students at my university, especially no platform where they could do political activity together,” Adiv said.

“I believe that there is more power in co-operation than each group working alone,” she added.

Although Adiv has completed her studies, her political cell is still ongoing and drawing in both Israeli and Palestinian students.

During an Amandla! seminar held in Zwide last week, Adiv presented a speech on the land struggle in her country, specifically the issue of the Bedouin community in Negev.

“There’s an indigenous Arab population, the Bedouin, who have been displaced and up until today, are being forced to move to urban areas by the Israeli authorities,” Adiv said.

In order for the seminar attendees to gain a better understanding of the Bedouin struggle, a short film entitled “Empty Desert” directed by Silvia Boarini and Linda Paganelli was shown before Adiv’s speech.

The film shows an unrecognised village in Israel which has been demolished numerous times by the Israeli authorities but each time, it has been rebuilt by its inhabitants.

The film also highlighted the struggle the Bedouins face to maintain the land which has belonged to them before the Ottoman Empire, but since the creation of Israel, Bedouin rights involving land ownership have been denied.

“I believe the Bedouin community should be the ones planning their way of living,” Adiv said. “The government should give them the opportunity to do so, and to recognise all of the unrecognised villages and stop the inequality.”

Adiv is involved in various organisations in Israel including the Negev Coexistence Forum, which is an organisation working to promote the rights of the Bedouin population in the Negev.

She assists at the Negev Center for Refugees which aims to promote the rights of African refugees. Adiv also participates in the Worker’s Hotline, an organisation which strives to protect disadvantaged workers and address violations.

“I am optimistic about the chance to have peace in our region,” she said. “The political climate in my country is tense all the time, and there is not enough people protesting against the government policies as there are here.”

When asked about which type of solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict she supports, Adiv highlighted that Israel still has a long way to go before a one-state solution is reached.

“I believe in a one-state solution, to have a state that will be equal for all of its citizens,” Adiv said.

“In addition, I believe we must first have a two-state solution in order to get there. Meaning, that the Palestinians must get their independence and the settlements must be evacuated in order to reach any other solution,” she added.

Adiv supports those who want to help Palestinians through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. However, she suggested a more selective boycott which also takes into consideration the Palestinian economy.

“I support anyone who cares about the situation of the Palestinians from outside of our region to do whatever they can in order to help us in our struggle, but I also encourage a more selective boycott.”

“Be careful that you don’t boycott good initiatives in Israel, and that you don’t boycott the people inside who are trying to change, only because they are from Israel,” Adiv said.

For Israelis, it is compulsory to join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at the age of 18. However, Adiv refused to serve in the army.

“Being against the Israeli occupation led me to the only conclusion that I cannot be part of an occupying army,” she said.

Due to her refusal to join the army, Adiv was held in a military prison for two weeks and in military detention for two months.

“Some people or employers can judge me because of that, but those are not the kind of friends I want to have or work place I want be in, so I’m okay with that,” Adiv said.

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