There is no better way to strengthen Jewish-Arab partnership, and Arab workers’ struggle for equality and social justice, than to gather in Baqa Al-Gharbia on Mayday. This is especially so as the Prime Minister makes inciting comments against Arabs “driving to the polls in drones”; as Israel’s political Left congregates inside “the Zionist camp”, which excludes Arabs by definition; and as a right wing government is set to continue the occupation and shut down the road for peace. In the face of all this, WAC-MAAN Workers’ Union came to the Arab town in the Triangle, Baqa Al-Gharbia, on Mayday 2015. It came to emphasise its claim that in order for Israel’s political Left to have any meaning, and likewise for a real social protest movement and the struggle for peace, it has to recognize the status of Arab workers and the Arab population as a central pillar.
Both the audience at WAC-MAAN’s Mayday event and the panel of speakers were unique in composition and vision. Prominent amongst WAC-MAAN members were Tzarfati Garage workers from the West Bank, led by Chairperson Hatem Abu Ziadeh, who is fighting to be reinstated in his job; women agricultural workers from the Triangle; and teachers at the Rosh Haayin Music Centre. Also attending were social and political activists, supporters of WAC-MAAN. Amongst the panellists were representatives of new union organisations operating within the Histadrut, and Workers’ Committee Spokespeople for Macdonald’s and Leumi-Card. A welcome speech was made by Ms. Hala Habayeb, lecturer and Women’s Equality Advisor for Al-Qassemi Academy.
The discussion was chaired by Wafa Tiara and Michal Schwartz of WAC-MAAN’s leadership team. In her opening speech, Tiara talked of WAC-MAAN joining forces with workers of the world, and in particular reinforced the union’s obligation towards Arab nations fighting for democracy and social justice, especially the Syrian people who are struggling against a brutal regime. Schwartz spoke of the economic reality in Israel, which has marginalised the vast majority of workers. This includes many Jewish workers but more so Arabs, and most of all Arab women. She emphasized that at a time of deep cuts in social funds, when the only budgetary increases are in defence and the settlements, it is impossible to separate social justice from the struggle for peace and equality.
The first speaker was WAC-MAAN’s National Director Assaf Adiv, who presented the union’s unique mission of standing by those who are most oppressed, of opposing every kind of discrimination and racism and of building a new society of Arab and Jewish workers. He highlighted the struggle of Tzarfati Garage workers and their leader, Hatem Abu Ziadeh, a shining example that it is possible to rise against oppression, and stand by one’s principles, even in the direst of circumstances. He congratulated the representatives of new unions, recently established within the Histadrut, and welcomed cooperation with them: “There is no competition, but a shared effort, to which everyone contributes their share.”
Ruti Amano, Spokesperson for a group of guides from the Bialik Compound in Tel Aviv, who have joined WAC MAAN and succeeded in their struggle against exploitative employment conditions, talked of a difficult year, in which employees in the Bialik Compound were faced with threats, punishments and unfulfilled promises: “It’s been worth it, and I would do it all again, in exactly the same way! … I would like to say this, on Mayday, the only time we stop and turn our true attention towards those who need it most – fight, with all your might.”