Don’t despair at violence, says peace activist honoured by New Israel Fund


An Israeli activist who pursues reconciliation between Jews and Arabs told supporters that he would not give up despite the current outbreak of violence in the country.

Dr Gadi Gvaryahu, the founder of Tag Meir, was one of three recipients this year of the UK branch of the New Israel Funds’ annual human rights awards which honours Israeli social activists.

He founded Tag Meir four years ago which organises visits to the Arab victims of attacks by right-wing Jewish militants. Its name, meaning Light Tag, is a punning risposte to the Tag Mehir, “price tag”, vigilantes.

“For Jews and Arabs together,” he told the NIF dinner in London on Sunday, “every extremist has been working overtime during these past weeks to bring about a bloodbath in the Holy Land.”

One of his group’s own members Richard Lakin was murdered by an Arab terrorist on a Jerusalem bus last month.

But Dr Gvaryahu, said, “We cannot give up, we must continue our work.”

Most important of all, he said, the message was “not to despair.”

Also honoured was Samah Salaime Egbariya, founding director of Arab Women in the Centre and a resident of Arab-Jewish village Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam.
Her organisation aids victims of domestic violence, which this year alone, she said, has cost the lives of eight Jewish and seven Arab women in Israel.

The third recipient Eli Bakeret, chief executive of Memizrach Shemesh, campaigns for equality from Jews in Arab Lands.

The audience of 400, which included former Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and her husband, former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, also paid tribute to the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin on the 20th anniversary of the Prime Minister’s assassination.

His son, guest of honour, Yuval Rabin recalled his father’s achievements in improving education, healthcare and other social needs in Israel as well as the struggle for peace which resulted in the signing of the Oslo Accords with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat in 1993.

“The agony of the Arab-Israeli conflict is that for the better part we all know what the final status agreement is going to look like,” he said. “But we are failing to reach [it]. Thus, I believe it is more an issue of process rather than substance.

“There is no hope for Israel from the Sea to the Jordan Valley controlled by a Jewish minority,” he said, “That is not the Zionist vision.

“There is no hope to end the conflict without a Palestinian state.”

There was no hope of regional arrangements for security without a serious Israeli response to the Arab peace initiative – “an initiative presented well over a decade ago and never responded to by Israel,” Mr Rabin argued.

In the recently released documentary about his father, Rabin In his Own Words, “my father says, ‘Israel may have lost the Prime Minister with a better chance than any other of advancing peace and preventing war’ – that was in 1977, when he was forced to resign [as PM].

“In 1995, we lost him for good and very likely we lost the opportunity. Let’s not allow his prophecy to become true.”

The dinner raised £300,000 raised on the night – up £50,000 on last year.

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