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WAC's International Women's Day
N MARCH 8, International Women's Day, 150 of WAC's farm workers—Arab women all—marched through Tel Aviv, demanding the right to a job. They were joined by delegates of half a dozen women’s forums and social organizations.
The march ended with a rally, moderated by Michal Schwartz, WAC’s Coordinator for Women’s Issues. Wafa Tiara, formerly farm worker and now a WAC organizer, spoke first, calling on women to join WAC and create a genuine grass-roots trade union.
Tiara was followed by Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka, who headed the list of the Organization for Democratic Action in the last elections. Agbarieh is presently its nominee in the Tel Aviv –Jaffa mayoralty race. She addressed the crowd, saying:
"We gather here, Arabs and Jews, women and men, in an extraordinary show of solidarity. This is a struggle for work, human dignity, freedom and progress. It's a struggle for life.
"These are evil times, and we cannot stand by in indifference, not when blood is spilled in Gaza, not when blood is spilled in Jerusalem, or anywhere. Eyes look up to us from the images of atrocity, waiting for an answer-how long?
"The absurdity of it is that everyone knows the answer. Everyone, Olmert too, Abbas too, Hamas too. Everyone understands that the solution must lie in the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, living in peace as a neighbor to Israel.
"I say, why must we accept the rules of the game as dictated by our leaders? There is no need to surrender to their dead-end agendas. It is within our ability, and it is our duty, to build anew our alternative agenda, which will defend our lives and honor as Arabs and Jews.
"We have assembled here today, therefore, in order to build. In order to fight for work, for a source of livelihood, for the basic right of a human being to create, to give, to build her society.
"We struggle for a change in the capitalist system, and in the racist, exploitative political system. It is cruel not just to Palestinians, and it discriminates not just against Arabs, but against Jewish citizens too."
Among the other speakers was Dr. Erella Shadmi, a veteran peace activist and feminist. She said:
"Today it is you, the working women of WAC, who renew the struggle of working women that began on the 8th of March 151 years ago in New York. It is you, women of WAC, who symbolize a new phase in the struggle against the enormous might of governments, societies and traditions. It is you who have had the power to change fundamentally the course of your lives. It is you who are capable of leading the new camp of women, women who are still silenced and weakened. You have proven your courage to go out against the social and historical conventions of oppression. You are the ones who can bring in your wake the women who work for contractors, the teachers and public service workers, women who work in the banks and finance, the battered women from Herzliya Pituach, high-tech widows from Ramat Aviv. It is you who are able to symbolize for them a new sisterhood of women who still refuse to accept the blockades that society has erected around them. It is you who demonstrate a new power and signal new possibilities for undermining the walls enveloping us."
The other speakers were Nurit Hajaj, Coordinator of the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow's New Discourse; Shevi Korzen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers; Orna Meri-Esh of Isha Le'isha, a feminist coalition in Haifa; Yana Ziferblat of the Coalition of Women for Peace; and Esther Eilam, a founder of the feminist movement in Israel, today a leader of Ahoti (My Sister).
Israel's Channel One covered the demonstration in the evening news.