16.10.2003Two-Fold Motivation: Anger and HumourIn 1987, she returned and founded "At-Tufula", a centre for women and children in Nazareth. One of her goals was to improve the care and education of pre-school children in the Palestinian areas of Israel. The centre is now supported by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Nabila Espanioly sees it as one of At-Tufula’s main tasks to assist children in the development of their personal and cultural identity: "We produce children's books and educational materials that enable the children to perceive their Palestinian identity, and to reflect upon it. For if one wishes to co-exist with the other Israel, the Jewish Israel, one has to exist in the first place." She is also a founder member of "Mosawa" (Equal Rights), a joint Palestinian-Israeli organisation based in Haifa.
Taxation without representation
Mosawa campaigns for the civil rights of Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinians, who make up around one fifth of the Jewish state’s population and who still feel like second class citizens. “Although we pay taxes like everyone else, Palestinian towns and villages are, on average, much more poorly developed”, says Nabila Espanioly. “Entire villages have been declared illegal by the Israeli government. They have no water, no electricity and no social services.” She says that Palestinian parents receive lower child benefit payments, despite paying the same social insurance contributions. Palestinian schools are far less well-equipped, and it is very difficult for Palestinians to acquire access to a university.
Right now, Mosawa is also campaigning against a new Israeli law, which stipulates that Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza will no longer acquire Israeli citizenship when they marry Palestinians from Israel: “This means that the married couples affected will no longer be able to live together in Israel, but will be forced instead to move to the occupied territories, or even to go abroad. The law affects 21,000 individuals; i.e., around 100,000 people, when one includes their families!”
Palestinians must be recognised as a national minority
Nabila Espanioly demands that Israel’s Palestinians be recognised as a national minority: “I’m a Palestinian, not an Israeli Arab, but the reactionary forces in Israel refuse to refer to us as Palestinians. For that would mean admitting that this country used to be Palestine, and that non-Jews also have a right to live here on an equal footing.” In 1948, Israel expelled 750,000 Palestinians and destroyed almost every Palestinian town and village. Nabila Espanioly insists that Israel must acknowledge this historical injustice and accept responsibility for it: “Until they do so, we cannot look to the future.” She herself, however, sees her own future in Nazareth, where she has bought a flat: “When we have a Palestinian state, then I’d like to have a Palestinian passport. But I wouldn’t leave Nazareth. I want to live in Israel, but as a citizen with equal rights.”
Since the Eighties, Nabila Espanioly has been politically active, not just as a Palestinian but as a feminist: “Female Palestinians in Israel are subjected to three separate kinds of discrimination: as members of the Palestinian minority, as women in Israel and as women in conservative Palestinian society.” Today, she works alongside Jewish and Palestinian women to oppose violence against women, and to promote equal rights in the workplace. Together with the international organisation “Women in Black” and the Israeli-Palestinian “Women’s Coalition for Peace”, Nabila Espanioly coordinates campaigns against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and organises aid convoys for the areas cut off from the outside world. “The terror inflicted on civilians by Hamas and Jihad is a dreadful thing, and I am completely against these attacks”, say Nabila Espanioly. “But you have to recognise that Israel is also carrying out acts of terrorism.
Hamas and Jihad playing into Sharon's hands
Ariel Sharon still believes that he can use military methods to destroy the Palestinians’ desire for self-determination; and Hamas and Jihad are playing into his hands.” For Nabila Espanioly, there is only one solution: two independent states - Israel and Palestine. And she demands that the United States and Europe play a more active role than they have done hitherto: “We can’t manage this alone; we need pressure from outside.” This, she emphasises, includes pressure from Germany. She understands Germany’s feeling of responsibility towards Israel and the Jews since the mass murders of the Nazi period; but she insists that that these feelings of guilt must not be exploited to smother all criticism of the way Israel treats the Palestinians - or to reject the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
© 2003, Qantara.de