Human Rights Award 2015
Ilan Sadeh, Mayor of the Menashe Regional Council, and Hasan Atamna, Mayor of Kafr Qara, Israel
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s Human Rights Award 2015 recognizes Ilan Sadeh’s and Hasan Atamna’s long-standing and persistent commitment to peace-building between and peaceful coexistence of Jews and Arabs in Israel on behalf of the seven mayors taking part in the Shared Communities initiative. The award winners work tirelessly for an accommodation of Jewish and Arab interests and for an inclusive civil society commonly shaped by Arabs and Jews. They advocate for equally respecting the civil and human rights of both groups. In Israeli society, rent by conflicts as it is, this is not to be taken for granted. Thus, it merits our utmost recognition and respect.
In Israel, participation in social cooperation projects requires courage, as there is a strong tendency in both parts of society to reject cooperation, integration and confidence-building measures. Distrust, animosities and silent or open opposition to participation in the Shared Communities initiative are part and parcel of Ilan Sadeh’s and Hassan At-amneh’s everyday work. They nevertheless decide day-in day-out to carry on along the path they have chosen, thereby helping to bring about a better future.
The Award Winners
Since 1992, Ilan Sadeh has been the mayor of Menashe Regional Council in the Wadi Ara Region in Northern Israel, which is a regional amalgamation of 21 Jewish and three Arab communities.
In his capacity as mayor, Ilan Sadeh has been exceptionally active and successful in his efforts to bridge the rifts between the inhabitants of his Regional Council – both within and beyond the Shared Community initiative. For instance, he has encouraged local cooperative initiatives, supported infrastructural mechanisms, and furthered the integration of Arab workers in the labour market of Jewish communities.
Ilan Sadeh moreover attempts to foster solidarity with the Palestinian-Arab population of Israel, especially in times of tensions. During the most recent Gaza War, in which the by-then Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, called for a boycott of Arab businesses, Sadeh demonstratively went shopping in Baqa El-Gharbiya and feasted on hummus. After a racist attack at a mosque in this Arab partner community, Ilan Sadeh held vigil before the damaged building with his local counterpart. His greatest service has probably been his willingness to transfer land to neighbouring Arab communities in order to allow them to take steps that are of great economic importance to them.
Hasan Atamna was the major of his home city Kafr Qara in the region of Wadi Ara 1998-2001 and has been reelected in 2013. Kafr Qara started up the first Shared Communities partnership with the community Pardes Hanna-Karkur in 2009. Hasan Atamna has pursued this pilot project, which has become a model for other partnerships, with tremendous commitment.
When during the Gaza War in the summer of 2014 violent confrontations broke out between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis, Hasan Atamna placed himself between young people in his community and enraged Jewish citizens. Thanks to his authority as mayor and his personal efforts he was able to prevent hostile encounters including with the Israeli police on more than once occasion.
During the same period, Atamneh was one of seven Jewish and Palestinian-Arab mayors from his region who called upon their citizens to refrain from extremist violence. The mayors explicitly cited the partnerships between the communities, calling upon their citizens to defend that which had been achieved thus far. Such an initiative was unique in Israel up until then and generated considerable attention.
The Political Context
Israel is a country torn by several unresolved internal conflicts, the most salient of which is the Jewish-Arab one. Accounting for over 75% of the total population, Jews constitute the overwhelming majority. Palestinian-Arab citizens are a sizable minority making up around 21% of the populace. In many respects, the relationship between Jews and Arabs within Israel is a microcosm of the international conflict raging between Israel and the Palestinians, not least because many Arab Israelis consider themselves to be part of the Palestinian people, who found themselves in the state of Israel after it was founded in 1948. At the same time, the life reality of Israeli Arabs is intricately caught up in the state of Israel. Jewish-Arab relations within Israel are thus also replete with their own characteristics. Above all, they revolve around the status of the Arab minority as equal citizens, their access to resources and their capability of shaping political developments.
Among other things, this internal conflict is so virulent because it appears to be impossible to jointly shape reality in this country. The Arab and Jewish communities in Israel live in parallel worlds, with little or no contacts between them in everyday life. While Israel claims to be an inclusive, democratic civil society, it is in practice a two-class society. Arab and Jewish citizens are equal before the law, but structural discrimination and restrictions on rights, access and participation are visible in all areas of life. Contrasting narratives as well as different languages also fuel biases and stereotypes on both sides, which are frequently being exploited by politicians and the media. The conflict increasingly erupts into violence and counter-violence, most recently during the 2014 Gaza War. The still-unresolved questions underlying the Jewish-Arab relationship within Israel threaten Israel’s democracy.
The Shared Communities Project of Givat Haviva
Givat Haviva is an education and encounter centre located between Tel Aviv and Haifa which works proactively for a peaceful and tolerant society. Founded in 1949, it is the oldest and biggest existing Israeli institution working in the field of Jewish-Arab understanding. The Shared Communities initiative is a focal point in the work of Givat Haviva in the region of Wadi Ara in the north of Israel. The well-structured cooperative projects between neighbouring Arab and Jewish communities are intended to overcome separation by pursuing common objectives and interests. The Shared Communities initiative offers a framework for projects both within communities as well as between them. By now, six communities cooperate as Jewish-Arab twins along with a binational community in an individual project. The project now reaches over 100,000 Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel.
Shared Communities has the support of institutions promoting community cooperation and civil conflict resolution domestically and abroad. The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung also supports the programme.
The award ceremony will take place on 5 November, 2015, 16:30 h, at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastr. 17, 10785 Berlin.
The laudation will be held by Reinhold Robbe, Director of DIG e.V..
Further information on the program is available here.
We kindly ask you to register for this event by using our online form.
Further Information: Reasons for Nominating Ilan Sadeh and Hasan Atamna
Websites of the Award Winners Givat Haviva Givat Haviva Deutschland e.V. Givat Haviva on Facebook Media Reports on the Award Ceremony Vorwärts.de (German) Publik-Forum (German) Rheinische Post (German) News.Walla.co.il (Hebrew) Alarab.com (Arabic) Panet.co.il (Arabic) Wadina.net (Arabic) Barq.co.il (Arabic) Almasar.co.il (Arabic) Bukja.net (Arabic) Audio Podcasts Interview with Ilan Sadeh (6min; German) Interview with Hasan Atamna (6min30; German) Videos Givat Haviva: Imagefilm youtube channel of Givat Haviva Media Reports on Givat Haviva "Das Feld nicht den Scharfmachern überlassen" Die Initiative Givat Haviva bringt jüdische und arabische Israelis in Dialog Report for Deutschlandradio Kultur, 22.7.2014 Shared Communities laden ein zu Partnerschaften in Israel Report in "Gemeinde und Stadt", 9/2013 FES Publications on Israel Israels neue Regierung - Kein Frieden, keine Reformen? Werner Puschra, FES Internationale Politikanalyse, 2015 A national or religious conflict? The dispute over the Temple Mount/Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem Moshe Ma'oz, FES Perspective, 2015 Elections in Israel - Is change possible? Eytan Schwartz, Perspektive FES Israel, 2015 All FES publications on Israel are available here.