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On this episode of Unlocking Us

Standing Together is a grassroots movement mobilizing Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel in pursuit of peace, equality, social and climate justice. In this podcast, we talk to National co-director, Rula Daood and Founding National co-director Alon-Lee Green on what it means to build a movement, to organize people, and what it means to build political will to end the occupation and create equity for all people.

About the guests

Rula Daood

Rula Daood

Rula Daood is the National co-Director of Standing Together and speech pathologist by profession. She is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, born and raised in the Galilee village of Kafr Yasif and began her activism in her home city and later became involved in promoting Jewish-Arab partnership in mixed (Jewish-Arab) cities. Before joining Standing Together, Rula worked as a community organizer, organizing events and protests that drew hundreds of activists.

Alon-Lee Green

Alon-Lee Green

Alon-Lee Green is the National co-Director and a founder of Standing Together. He got his start organizing Israel’s first trade union of waiters in a chain of coffee-shops and went on to found Israel’s first National Waiters Union. Alon-Lee emerged as a prominent leader of Israel’s social protest movement in the summer of 2011, and subsequently served as a political adviser in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

Show notes

Standing Together is a grassroots movement mobilizing Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel in pursuit of peace, equality, and social and climate justice. You can financially support them here.


Brené Brown: Hi everyone. I’m Brené Brown and this is Unlocking Us.


BB: This is part two of a three-part series focusing on Palestine and Israel. It’s a follow up to an essay posted on our website last week. The reactions were swift, and while there was some support and there was also a lot of dissent, a lot of disagreement, I think it was a huge disappointment to a lot of people. There were a lot of comments, like, I missed a bunch of things that I should have gotten right. And my intention with these podcast episodes with the new essay is really not to change your opinion of me, not to change your political beliefs or opinions, but to share what I’m learning and unlearning.

BB: I think for the purpose of being a better global citizen and really most importantly, highlighting incredibly important work that I think could make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands, millions of people. All three of the podcasts will drop this week. We have a new podcast partner, Vox Media. I asked if we could not go into a full podcast launch, but if we could do these three podcasts, non-monetized, non-commercialized, no revenue attached to them. Their immediate response without even blinking was, “Absolutely, this is important. Go for it.” So I want a big thank you. To say a big thank you to them. In these three podcasts, I am talking to Israeli and Palestinian activists on the ground. I am also talking with a Middle East analyst who studies Palestine and really looks at the US involvement, not only in Palestine, but in failed peace agreements between Israel and Palestine, and why? Why the brokering has never worked.

BB: And I read the book twice. You’ll meet Khaled Elgindi in the third podcast, still processing and learning. There’s a new essay, a follow-up essay on, addressing some of the comments to my original essay. I am glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re listening. I am talking to two folks today that first of all, their organization, Standing Together, was mentioned by the other peace activists that I talked to as examples of what it means to work towards creating the political will for peace. The guests today are Rula Daood and Alon-Lee Green. The organization is Standing Together, and before we jump into the conversation, let me tell you a little bit about Standing Together. First, it’s a grassroots movement, mobilizing Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel in pursuit of peace, equality, the end of the occupation, economic inequality. They’re doing incredible work, and their work is, right now, is at very critical tipping point.

BB: So, I can’t wait for you to meet them and hear what they’re doing. They need our support. The future they want. This is what they write, “Peace and independence for Israelis and Palestinians. Full equality for all citizens. True social, economic, environmental justice,” and they believe this is possible. Rula Daood is the national co-director of Standing Together and she’s a speech pathologist by profession. She’s a Palestinian citizen of Israel, born and raised in a village in Galilee. Rula began her activism in her home city and later became involved in promoting Jewish Arab partnership in Jewish Arab cities. Before joining Standing Together, she worked as a community organizer, running events and protests that brought together hundreds and hundreds of activists. Alon-Lee is the founding national co-director of Standing Together. Throughout his political and social years of activity, he has organized numerous campaigns against the recent wars between Israel and Palestine and for a just peace and equality and social justice in Israel. Together with Arab and Jewish partners, Alon-Lee founded Standing Together in late 2015. It organizes locally and nationally around campaigns for peace, equality, and social justice. He has done a lot of activism work. I think you’ll hear we start with their stories, and you’ll hear Alon-Lee has done also a lot of workers’ rights organizing. They’re powerful stories. Let’s jump into the conversation.


BB: I’m so grateful for y’all doing this and I’m so grateful for the work you’re doing. So let’s get it out there and talk about it.

Alon-Lee Green: Thank you.

BB: Welcome to the Unlocking Us Podcast, Alon-Lee and Rula Daood. We normally start the podcast with stories. We believe that narratives have the ability to change lives, structures, policies, people. Rula, can you start with your story?

Rula Daood: Maybe this will take us a lot of time, but my name is Rula Daood. I’m a Palestinian citizen of Israel. Today, I’m 38 years old. I come from a small village in the north called Kafr Yasif, at least when I grew up, it was a small village. Today it’s much a bigger village. I grew up in a neighborhood where I knew all my neighbors, a few houses, but today it’s a very different situation. But I grew up in a very warm village neighborhood. I had a great childhood outside. Because Back then we didn’t really have screens and nobody was addicted to that kind of entertainment. So I would say I had a really great childhood, but I also, growing up in Israel as a Palestinian and as a minority, it’s very different. In Israel, you have Palestinian villages, Palestinian cities, and you have Jewish cities and villages also.

RD: But you have few, what we call mixed cities where you have Jews and Palestinian living a kind of a shared life. I think we, today we have four that you can really call mixed cities, but even there, the kind of a life and even the educational system is very separate. So even let’s say in Tel Aviv-Yafo, you feel a different community from other places, but still the educational system is different from what we learn as kids to what Alon-Lee have learned in his school. And then you grow up, and from, again, for most Palestinians who grew up in here, at least for me, we come from a very non-political homes. My parents grew up under the martial laws in Israel, which mean having less rights, being more persecuted for saying anything political. And you grow up, your parents do not want you to be political.

RD: They don’t want you to have any kind of racism or persecution because it’s already hard to be a minority in Israel. And so when we become political, it’s in a very not really young age. To me it happened at the age of 30, so maybe 29, but maybe my story was a bit different because my parents, at least our dad, wanted us all, well, we are four kids, two brothers and two sisters, and he wanted us to explore the world and get to know what’s out there. And he believed that only by being part of the society we live in, we can understand better the society and feel more part of it. And also, we came from a bit less than a middle class family. And so we had to me and my older brother to basically work at the age of 16.

RD: And we had family in Yafo in Jaffa, and we used to come to work at all holidays and stay in Jaffa and go to work. And at work I’ve met the first Jews in a place of work, and I was 16. So that was the first engagement I had meeting somebody who is Jewish and who spoke Hebrew. And even though we learn Hebrew at school and we learn English, it’s very different. Learning the language at school and then using it on a daily basis. And at the age of 16, you’re like kind of young, and you come from a village, and you have to get a bus to get from one place to another one. At a village, you don’t need that really, you don’t really need that, at least back then. And it was a very interesting life.

RD: I used to go back home each summer with a different haircut and different clothes, and most kids would, would envy me. For I was able to go to Jaffa, to the big city, Tel Aviv and, and live a different kind of life. But then for me, I’ve met the Jewish society, the Jewish Israeli Society at a younger age from most Palestinians who live in Israel. For most of us, that first time we do meet is basically when we go to college. And that is the first contact you have. Each one comes with different narratives, different kind of lives. Basically for us, not all of us, but most maybe sometimes more afraid, especially. And of course, we’re not political. You look for your own group, you don’t have a really good Hebrew.

RD: And for most of us, it’s a really big problem when we go to college because in college and universities, you learn in Hebrew. So that will be also the first time you get to know the difficulties of being a Palestinian citizen of Israel. And when you live in the city, also, you get to have more racism and you are more faced with that racism. For each and everyone, it comes in a different way, but it happens in small portions, sometimes on a daily basis, sometimes in bigger events. But for me the classic ones were, my name is Rula, so it’s kind of a unique name because you can guess it is an Arab name. And then some people would make a laugh of it. Each and every time I wanted to rent an apartment, they would ask me, “What is that name?”

RD: And then they would understand, I am an Arab, and then there would be much more questioning, and they would want me to kind of validate myself for renting an apartment in Tel Aviv. In college, it wasn’t easy for me either because I was… I think the only Arab in my first year. And I was faced with much more racism at college. But all of these small things summed up to a bigger event. When I finished college, the university, and I wanted to travel, and it was like many years I haven’t gone anywhere. I couldn’t really travel because also living in Israel is very expensive. You don’t really have the luxury to travel each and every year, and especially if you are a student. And then I just I’ve done my, my first degree, and I’ve said, I have some money, I want to go somewhere.

RD: And I chose to go to Italy and after I think like maybe 10 years that I haven’t traveled anywhere, I went to the airport. And in Israel people know that you have two lines. You have a different security check if you’re an Arab or if you’re a Jew and you get a different kind of a questioning, a different kind of questions also. And we also make a joke about the fact that we get the yellow sticker, which means you are a non-Jew at the airport. I got that sticker and I thought they’re going to have a security check. They are going to ask me… They asked me different questions, they asked me to take off my shoes, my stuff. But then before going to the airplane, I had another security check. And in that one they took me to a different room and the security woman asked me to strip off my clothes.

RD: That was the bigger event that made me start to question what kind of a society do I live in and what kind of society do I want to be living in? It is a very humiliating experience.

BB: Yeah.

RD: Because it makes you understand the gravity of what the society you live in and the country you live in. How does it look at you? As a second class citizen, as somebody who is not equal and mainly as a threat.

BB: Yeah.

RD: This country like, and the place you live in, the place you call home and the only place you know as home, is trying so hard to make you feel that you do not belong, that this place isn’t yours. That was the first time I had of more political questions and started to think, “What do I really want to do in this place?” But then I just spent so much money and I wanted to travel, so I went to Italy, and I came back to Israel, and those questions didn’t really leave my mind.

BB: Tell me how you ended up at Standing Together with Alon-Lee.

RD: Yeah, of course. I am a speech therapist and audiologist. That is my first degree. And when I came back from Italy, I started looking for work and I used to work at hospitals and clinics. In 2014, which is maybe six years after that incident, I was working in Ashdod. Ashdod is a city in the south of Israel, and it’s very close to the borders with Gaza. So whenever there’s a war between Israel and Gaza, the first one who get the missiles from Gaza are people in the south. And Ashdod is one of the cities that is targeted in many wars. And as you know, our history here is that approximately each year and a half, there is a war between Israel and Gaza, Israel and Hamas. And in 2014 until October the seventh, it was one of the harshest wars. And I went to the clinic and I went to the bakery, just wanted to buy something before going to my clinic.

RD: There was fear, hatred, violence, war, sirens, but you have work, you have to go to work. So I entered the, the bakery to just buy something at maybe 7:00 or 7:30 in the morning. And there was a newspaper inside and it was a very known newspaper in Israel, Haaretz. And there was the pictures of the kids that were killed by the Israeli bombings in Gaza. And a woman who was standing there she just said, “I wish they all die. I hope they all burn. They all deserve to die.” And something in me couldn’t hold it anymore. And I just replied to her in a very angry way, “Yes, they should all burn, and then me and you can just go to the roof and we can listen to the kids in Gaza scream while they’re being burned alive.” At that moment there was silence in the bakery, and I think that everybody understood what she was saying, that she was hoping for kids to die, that there are victims basically.

RD: But what she saw in them is a different thing. And she said something different. And at that moment I understood that I wanted to do something different, and I started looking for a political home, and I couldn’t find a one that understands also my identity, the kind of change I want here and understands that working is with people and among people. And in two years after I just saw Standing Together in a demonstration in Jerusalem and a woman was holding a sign written in Hebrew and in Arabic, and she was just shouting out and leading too many people into a demonstration. And that was the moment I understood that this is a political place that not just speaks my language, but also understands the place I come from. And since then I was became an activist in Standing Together and then an organizer. And today national co-director with Alon-Lee.

BB: Thank you for walking us through that story. It matters so much to me personally, but I think it matters to the people listening because we are given the narratives that people want us to hear and these stories really matter. So thank you very much for sharing that with us. Alon-Lee, would you like to tell us your story?

AG: Hi. Sure. So I also grew up in a small, not village, but a small family in Tel Aviv. And we were only four people. It was my twin brother and me, my mother, and my grandmother. And Tel Aviv is the cultural capital of, of Israel, and it’s a very elitist city. And my mom was a single parent and she really insisted staying in Tel Aviv next to her mother, my grandmother, that helped really raise us. But Tel Aviv was a very expensive city and our family was not really doing so well, especially if you try to compare it to the other kids around me. And I think that the earliest memories I have in my childhood are ones that are related to the gaps I felt between me and my brother and the other kids around us. I remember what it felt when you went to visit a friend in their house and how embarrassed I was when they came to visit us in our house. I think a lot of those memories stayed with me. One of them that I think is probably my first political memory or memory that I really take with me and stayed very strong until now, is that when I was on my sixth grade, our school decided to send us to a yearly trip of two days, the first time that we get to have a sleepover and to stay away from our families. In the southern city of Eilat, it’s in the red city.

AG: And I remember that the day before the trip, my teacher, she just called out my name in front of the entire class, and we said that if my mom is not going to pay the fees for the trip until tomorrow morning, I’m not going to get on the bus and go to the trip, and I remember how ashamed I felt, how embarrassed, how I just kept on staring in her eyes, but actually understanding that everyone else is staring at me. And I remember with the feeling of how unfair it was and how I felt I have no control over this reality, I didn’t choose it, but it somehow… And from some reason it happens to me, later on I discovered I understood I’m gay, I also felt that that comes with a lot of feelings of unfairness and feeling that there is something that happens to me that I don’t control, but it puts me in a place in the world that is not working for me. That I need to hide something, I need to deal with some baggage, and those are a lot of the memories in my early stages in life. And in my last year, in high school, in the 12th grade, I started working in a coffee shop in a big coffee shop that was a big chain in Israel back then.

AG: And I guess you all know that when you are 18 working in a cafe, workers’ rights laws are just a recommendation basically. They’re not being fully accepted and respected by your employer. And we were very much exploited there. We were working in the weekends, but we didn’t get paid for weekend hours, even though there’s a law saying they should and must pay us. We were working extra hours, but we didn’t get paid for extra hours and a lot of other violations.

AG: And I remember that I came to my employer on the second paycheck, after two months of working there, telling him, “Listen, I know the laws. I know I should get paid for working on a Saturday, and I know I should get paid for working extra hours, and I know you should pay me for bus rides and all the other things.” And he said, “Listen, this is how we do things here. And if you don’t really like it, you can just cross the street and go and work in a different cafe.” But I didn’t. I stayed and unionized the workers instead, building what became the first union of dining industry workers in Israel and also of young workers in Israel. It became a very long struggle. It got me fired. They said that it’s not legal to unionize workers in a private sector, which of course was not true.

AG: We took them to court. The court brought me back to work with an order of the court, which is not the nicest thing in the world to just come back after you got fired. But we were strong together the almost 300 workers of the chain. And we led a strike. We led a six weeks strike that ended with the owner of the American chain flying all the way from LA, it’s an international chain originated in Los Angeles, flying all the way from LA to Israel, firing the Israeli CEO and signing a collective agreement with all the workers. Big victory. I felt it was the very first time in my life that I do have some sense of control over my reality and maybe the unfair parts of my reality can change. I didn’t know that it was like organizing back there. I didn’t know that it will be the thing that I will continue to do for the rest of my life. But it was a very, very powerful message for me and a powerful lesson that maybe if you work with other people that are in your situation, you can create some kind of a change.

BB: Boy, you can see the activist thread coming to life in both of your stories.

AG: Yeah.

BB: How did Standing Together come about for you, Alon-Lee?

AG: So I was one of the founders of the movement. And it was in late 2015 after a few years of very, very turbulent reality for the society in Israel. It was a year of a social protest taking hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets but failing, Netanyahu was the prime minister in 2011 back there as well. We had a lot of hope. We had a feeling that half a million people went out to the streets in one evening of the social protest in 2011. If you will try to equivalent it two American proportions. It’ll be like 20 million Americans in one demonstration. It was huge. We said, of course, the government is going to give us policies of social justice and social change because what kind of government can stand in front of its people and say no when they demand social justice.

AG: But they said, no. The government survived. We failed. A lot of people went back homes to their homes and they said, “Protests cannot work. We tried politics, but politics is only for the corrupt.” A lot of our generation, the younger people in Israel decided to immigrate out of the country. But I was part of the leadership of this protesting part of a group that insisted of actually learning the lessons. One lesson was that it’s not enough to just mobilize. Even if you can mobilize hundreds of thousands of people, we need to organize, we need to look into a long term creation of change. We need to ask tougher questions. So we need to be able to work even if it’s a smaller group of people, but in the long term. And it will not end with one summer.

AG: The other lesson was a political one. It was coming out of the trend. The main slogan of this summary, it was…

[spoken in Hebrew]

AG: The People demand social justice. The way it came actually about was, it’s a direct translation of the slogan of Tahrir Square in Egypt in 2011. They shouted in Arabic…

[spoken in Arabic]

AG: The People demand social justice. And it was the first time in Israel where we used the word, The People.

[spoken in foreign language]

AG: In both Arabic and Hebrew, but not in the meaning of the Jewish people or the Palestinian people, but actually in the meaning of the people living in this country demanding together something. And that became the fundament of Standing Together three years after when we understood that we moved from one struggle to the other, but we are not gaining power. We face a reality that is just getting more and more depressing.

AG: Netanyahu is promising us that we’ll forever live on our sword and forever have the conflict with the Palestinians and the occupation will not be resolved. So we understood that we need to build power and it needs to be Jewish, Palestinian power. We need to demand a better reality for all the people living in this land and not to be working Jews separately and Palestinians separately. So that’s how Standing Together started. And we had many struggles since then, many campaigns. We understood what it means to build a movement, what it means to organize people, what it means to stand together Jews and Palestinians, even in time of wars. Like right now, what it means to actually choosing again and again this partnership, even though the society tells us differently, even though the stream pushes to a different direction, even though at times of violence, it’s easier to choose to just stick to your own narrative, to the narrative you came from and say, well, the only option is to be strong Jewish nation, or the only option is to stand with Palestinians, only with Palestinians, but we have to make this choice again and again and again. And that’s kind of what Standing Together is doing.

BB: I’ve been following you. I follow you on social and I just did an interview with Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awwad, and they referenced your work as well.

AG: Wow.

BB: Yeah. And they did, they just talked about, I think a lot of hope for Standing Together and a lot of belief in the work you’re doing.

AG: Yeah. We feel the pressure.

BB: Yeah, I’m sure. Thank you for sharing your story with us. And again, I think a lot of people take the stories that you’ve shared and experience them, but don’t understand them as a path to activism and also a path to, like what you said, making the choices for justice over and over and over again when the default is so seductive and so secure to fall back into one side of the narrative. And so I really want to talk about that, and I think I want to start with this question. What is a helpful frame for understanding what’s happening right now? And what is a frame that you see people using to understand what’s happening right now that’s really detrimental and not helpful? Does that question make sense?

RD: Well… Yeah, it is.

AG: And it’s a tough one.

RD: It’s a tough one. It is a very tough question because.

BB: Yeah.

RD: What we see is happening is, at times of war people choose a side. It is for most people the normal thing to do. You choose a side, you see, you decide who is the bad one and who is the good one. When we talk about the Middle East and when we talk about Israel Palestine, our lives are a bit more complicated. And when we speak of choosing a side, we tell people, we want you to choose the side of the people living in Israel and Palestine. We say that the people living in Israel are not the Israeli government. And the same way that the people, the Palestinians who are living in Gaza are not the leaders that they have in Gaza. And if you want to stop the bloodshed, and if you want to stop these wars, people should be standing with the people who are suffering from that kind of leadership, from that place of much more radical and radicalization of the narratives that we have.

RD: We understand a fact because we live it and we live through it for so many years, that in this land we live in, you have two people. You have the Jewish people, and you have the Palestinian people. And so many years, none of us has left and nobody is going anywhere. And we will continue to live in this land, and both of us will call it home. Me living here, Alon-Lee living here, whoever is living in the West Bank and also in Gaza. And what we seek for is a path and politics that can give both of us and all of us a way of living in freedom, in liberty, and in equality. And right now, it’s not happening. Nobody is of us is really having all these parameters. And we call for a different reality, different politics to everybody who is living here. But we also understand a fact, two people are living here and no one is going anywhere. And what’s been happening now is basically most people are calling out for a one side to leave or one side to vanish from this land. And that is not a realistic thing to hope for or to wish for, or to ask for. What is more realistic to wish for is for politics and a way that both people can really exist in equality in this land.

AG: So, I think what is not helpful, a lot of people look at this land, at this war, at this terrible reality from the outside, and they’re frustrated, they’re rightfully frustrated, they’re angry, and they’re also right to be angry. The situation between Israel and the Palestinians is not getting better, it’s actually getting worse. We’re talking about 57 years of direct occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and most of the years of also Gaza. And we’re talking about millions of people that are living without basic freedoms, without independence, without equality, without rights to vote, get elected, be citizens in their own land. I understand and we understand and we are working against it. This is kind of our struggle. But with this frustration, they do something else. They say, or they feel that they’re so desperate out of wanting this reality to change.

AG: So instead of hoping that the reality will change, that’s starting to change their own discourse, their own language. And we’re facing a kind of discussion that is becoming impossible. It’s a all or nothing situation. It’s a one or zero. It’s still polarizing. So dichotomy that we are feeling that we started to get attacked also by some parts of the international left some part of the pro-Palestinian movement. And it seems as if practical solution has become something that it’s not trendy to talk about. We need to talk about the complete justice. And of course we are for the complete justice, but we also need to have the responsibility to imagine and understand how to get there. And we are working on the how to get there because we have no choice, right? It’s our lives here. It’s the life of Palestinians, it’s the lives of Palestinians in Gaza, in West Bank, in East Jerusalem and in Israel.

AG: It’s the life of Jews. And we need to understand that somehow we need to find a way to go further away from this reality. And to do so, there’s only one way. And it is to work with the societies, the Palestinian society, and the Jewish society that live here, because that’s our role. That’s the responsibility we took upon ourselves. We are organizers, we are a grassroots movement operating in this land. And if we want to work with these societies, we need to be able to talk to people, to convince people and eventually to build power. And that’s what we want to do. And that is not aligned with looking for the most extreme wording or to the most extreme radical approach to how to describe or to talk about this reality. What we are trying to do is a very radical thing, but this radical thing must be done in a non-radical way, in a non-radical language also, in order to be able to approach normal people that have a skin in the game that we are trying to convince and to organize around their life, their experiences, their interests, their needs, their hopes.

AG: And just try and think of how different is the reality when you are a Palestinian citizen of Israel, waking up in the city of Nazareth, or Umm al-Fahm turning on your Instagram in the morning, seeing videos of the destruction and the immense killing in Gaza, seeing fathers shouting their lungs out because of their daughters that have been killed by a bombing of Israel. And that’s your reality. That’s the only reality you see and know. But then 20 minutes from them, from they’re in the Jewish city of Herzliya or Tel Aviv, you can be a Jewish citizen, wake up in the morning turning on your Instagram, seeing a complete different reality, seeing families of hostages, seeing people that have been evacuated from the north because of missiles of Hezbollah or from the South because of attacks of Hamas and hearing the stories of the massacre of Hamas. And that will be your reality. And we need to somehow bridge the gap of those two realities and to insist on talking to both people living on this land, not canceling one experience and telling on, only validating your experience, but somehow trying to be in a place where we can build a common narrative about how both people will benefit from ending occupation, ending the war, ending this endless war and achieving Israeli Palestinian peace where all people are free, independent, and equal.

BB: I think, at least here in the US the images that we’re seeing coming out of Gaza and the death and the destruction and the starvation. It is doing exactly what you’re saying. It is mobilizing people in a very powerful way to call for the end of the occupation, to call for the end of the settlement movement, to call for empowerment of the Palestinian people. But I do believe under some of the more radical movements on the pro-Palestinian side and the pro-Israeli side is a belief that a solution exists in the consideration set, that 7 million people of one of these two groups is going away.

RD: Yeah.

BB: And I just want to… I really want to understand this because this is where I think I struggle. Do you think, and you’ve said it, but I want to get really, really pinpointy on it. Do you think any solution for the future exists where 7 million Israelis leave or 7 million Palestinians leave?

RD: Well, I think that is the dream of all extreme people. And by saying extreme, you’ve said that the more extreme pro-Israeli or the more extreme pro-Palestinian, who think that that is a viable solution, it’s not a solution. These are fantasies and dreams of people who demand just 7 million people, a nation to just kind of vanish from this place, whether they’re Palestinians or Jews. And starting from that point doesn’t bring us to any place where we can have solutions, because the reality in here is that you have both people living here. Nobody is going anywhere. It started even before 1948. People who are living here who call this place home and have called it a home for so many years, are not just going to stand up and leave. For many people, this is the only place, the only place they call home. So any kind of a solution must start from taking into consideration a simple fact that you have two people living here.

RD: And for both of us, we both deserve independence, equality, we both deserve liberty, and we both deserve freedom. And we can have all of these things together. It doesn’t have to come on the expenses of the lives of other people. And we see what’s been happening in the demonstrations abroad. We’ve seen the small fractions of these people calling out and shouting out. We hear it a lot from the river to the sea. But then when you say from the river to the sea, you are not calling for all people to be free. You are calling for just one people. And that cannot become a reality in here. A very basic fact nobody is really leaving. And if you really want to help the people who are living here, you need to call out for ending the occupation. The siege on Gaza, bringing back the hostages from Gaza and working to have real liberty for everybody who is living in here.

RD: Because only when we can all be equal in this land, we will have real freedom. That is a fact that the ones who have these kind of so thoughts here in Israel, in our government, is the very right wing fanatic, messianic people. And these kind of people will bring us a disaster. So we don’t need that kind of a political views or thinking from people abroad. We need more help and more pressure from communities abroad on this government. And that must be from a place where people understand that both of us are staying here because reality is like nobody has any other option to leave.

BB: There’s something so dangerous, it seems to me, when people who do not live on that soil call for a solution, that really displaces 7 million people. But I do think we don’t understand here what it will take to end the occupation, what it will take to end the settlement movement. How do you see a path forward to ending the occupation? What does Standing Together think that’s going to look like?

AG: It’s a very good question, but I think the very base thought that you described is true. All the arenas, all the parts of the land are connected. You cannot separate Gaza from the West Bank. You cannot say that what the Palestinians in Gaza is not influencing the Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

RD: Or even in Israel.

AG: Or even in the Palestinians in Israel.

BB: Right.

AG: It is all of the same story, the same strategy, the same reality. And we need to deal with this questions all together. And I think that brings us to the conclusion that we hit the historic junction, the historic crossroads, where we need to choose as a people, as a nation, whether we are going in the direction or keep going in the direction of eternal war with endless death and rivers of blood and violence and sorrow and grief, or return in the direction of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

AG: And it will require a compromise. It’ll require us, for example, to understand that not all this land will be ours. It’ll require us to understand that we are sharing this land with other people that deserve the same rights as we have. I think that for so many years we’ve been trained to look at the other, the ultimate other in our society, which is the Palestinians, as people that are not like us. People that don’t want to just leave and live in prosperity and safety like us. They want to throw us to the sea. That’s kind of like the narrative. And I think we need to understand that as much as we look at them like this, they look at us in the same way. As much as we suffered the trauma in the 7th of October, we’re talking about a full nation that is looking at us right now after we caused 30,000 people to die. After 70% of all the homes in Gaza have been destroyed or impacted by the bombings. How can you move on from this? So our trying, our attempt to draw a picture of the future is one that first talks about ending the bloodshed. That must be the first step. It must be the first step. Even if we disagree about what shape of a nation, of a state of a country will come afterwards. We need to agree that the first step must be the stop of the bloodshed. And then…

BB: Is that a permanent ceasefire?

AG: Yes.

RD: Yes.

AG: It’s a permanent ceasefire. Yes.

BB: Great. Yes.

RD: Of course.

AG: Yes, definitely. It means we need to leave Gaza. We need to release the hostages and then we need to start talking about rebuilding. Rebuilding the trust. Rebuilding Gaza, rebuilding the Gaza envelope in Israel…

RD: Rebuilding our society.

AG: Yes. And the parts in our lives that has been shattered for so many years. And it also means that we need to ask ourselves, what is better? Is it better to hold on an old idea? That must be and might be scary to let go of. Of it’s us or them? Or is it better to be open to the idea that it’s all of us together here on this land and that’s the only way to move forward? And honestly, it’s an interesting question, whether it will be a two-state solution, a one-state solution.

AG: I personally support, I don’t know, a federation, a socialist Federation of the Middle East. That can be a nice idea. But in the very practical way, we are looking at our role as a movement, as a grassroots movement, as not to draw lines on a map and say the border will go here or there, but to actually build the political will within our society to end occupation and to achieve a reality of peace where everyone is equal and free and independent. And that means we need to get the leadership of Israel into a room with Palestinians, with the intention of ending the occupation. That didn’t happen for more than 20 years. Right? It’s something that Netanyahu, even when he met President Abbas, it wasn’t with an intention to do so, it was because the Americans told him. So.

RD: Yeah.

BB: Yeah.

AG: So we needed to create this political will, and that is more important than drawing this line on the map. And I think we will be satisfied. We will be okay with any solution that is stopping the bloodshed and is moving towards a peaceful resolution of independence and freedom and equality for all. Does it mean that we will stop our struggle if it will be a two-state solution and we will be still part of the Israeli society? No, we will have a lot of struggles for full equality inside Israel, against sexism, against homophobia, for equal rights in workplaces for workers’ rights. We’ll have a lot of other struggles to keep building the society we want to live, but we cannot jump to the end point without doing the way. And we are trying to curve and really build the way to the first steps of stopping the bloodshed and moving to peaceful resolution.

BB: One of the things that really struck me about what both of you’re saying, and I want to read it back to you because I want to make sure that I’m getting it right because it sounds really important to me. And it’s very much aligned with other peacemakers that I’ve talked to in the region, is there will be a day after solution, there will be the one-state, the two-state, the federation. There’s a lot of them on the table and a lot of them have great qualities about them. But right now, the work, and I just want to make sure I’ve got this right, and I want you to correct me, correct me, correct me if I don’t. The goal of your work right now, and it sounds very familiar to me, it sounds very similar to the Parent Circle-Family Forum and other peace wagers right now is to build the political will of having a quality peace across the land for all people. Is that right? Is it about building the political will?

RD: Yes. It is a big yes. Our main work right now is to build that political will in our society. We know that pressure that comes from societies abroad, from governments, from politicians, from other people, is a very crucial thing. But we also believe, and we know because history have also told us that the ones who can really change the way things are happening is the society we are living in. We need to make people understand and believe that all of us will benefit having a peace and having political solutions and not having an ongoing wars each and every year and have again and again. So yes, we are working on building and bringing that political will into our society because that is the key for the real change for the future of the people living in Israel-Palestine.

AG I just wanted to add it, it does mean that if you’re in outside of Palestine or Israel and you want to try and understand our work, it doesn’t mean you need to do this shift from asking which side are you taking to the place of asking who is profiting from this reality right now and who’s losing. And I think that if you ask this question, some people might say that all Israelis are somehow profiting from the occupation…

BB: Yeah.

AG: But our answer is no, hell no. We are losing from this reality as well, in a very different degree from Palestinians, of course. I don’t want to draw comparisons, but we are also losing. It’s not safe. It’s not bringing us prosperity, it’s not bringing us popularity. It’s not bringing us the way to envision building a life for our family here in this land.

AG: Because who wants to live in a land full of wars and violence? And, we do not profit from the occupation. There is a small elite, a small minority in our society that definitely benefits from the war and the occupation and the settlement project and movement. But we’re not part of this, and the majority loses. And we need to do this shift and understand that the equation, the way it’s drawn, it’s built right now, it’s not correct. We are in a society where a lot of people can be part of the new majority. The new majority of equality of social justice of peace and this is what we’re trying to do.

BB: It’s a couple of questions and I really appreciate what you’re sharing and I appreciate you talking about the asymmetrical losses right now that we’re seeing. But I have not talked to an Israeli peacemaker in the last couple of weeks. Who has said, “My life is great. I’m untouched by this.” It’s the constant fear, it’s the shame, it’s the grief. This is the stuff that gets in the way I think of building political will. But as I think about everything that I’ve seen or worked on as an activist, there is always a way. But there is rarely the political will to do it. And the fact that what you’re working on is building the political will, to me just makes so much sense. Would you agree or disagree to this, that two of the massive parts of being human that get in the way of building political will are fear and despair?

RD: Yeah, that is true.

AG: Fear and despair are such powerful feelings, but also so powerful tools in the hands of the politicians in Israel.

BB: Yeah.

AG: By using them, weaponizing them into making us believe that this is the only reality possible. It’s like in Israel the occupation and the violence and the conflict, it’s like weather. It’s something you read in the forecast, but you have nothing to do with it. It’s coming from above and it’s like a decision made by God or something. And of course the fear and the disparity is fueling it so, so powerfully. But I think that what we are trying to do is to lay the grounds and to build the foundations of understanding that we have something else that we can win, something else that we can profit. And I think that if we try to look at the history of peace processes, even in our country, we do know that some events are life-changing events.

AG: Some events are also able to shift the perception of an entire society within nights. You know that Egypt was the biggest, strongest enemy of Israel. It was dreaded by generations of Jewish people here in Israel that the generation of my parents, they can really tell us that they lost friends in Sinai in the war in ’73. The war itself was such a big surprise, such a big trauma that people were like waking up to a war that they couldn’t see coming and it was terrible. But within five and a half years after the war ended, five and a half years, we signed a peace agreement with Sadat, the president of Egypt. Three and a half years afterwards, after the war, a plane landed in Ben Guiron airport, the hatch opened, and the Egyptian president came out of it. And within one night, the opinion of the Israeli society shifted into favor of peace with Egypt, and giving Sinai in return for this peace letting go of a huge piece of land, which is triple the size of the entire land of Israel. But it wouldn’t happen without the attempt of a lot of brave organizations and movements and activists to say that there must be a different way. There must be a possibility to achieve peace, and that peace is a better option than eternal war.

BB: Yeah. I am really grateful. I want to talk to y’all about what can we do to support your movement and the building of this political will, because I think, this is my understanding at least from reading as much policy analysis as I can, is that occupation will always require ever increasing amounts of violence. There is no steady state of occupation. It just gets increasingly violent. So to build a political will for a different life, for Israelis and Palestinians and lives of dignity and prosperity and security, how can those of us in the US support Standing Together?

RD: Well, for me, there are two ways that you can help us.  In Standing Together, our motto is “where there is struggle, there is hope.” So we believe whenever we are still standing and doing and struggling and going out into the streets, there is still hope, because if not, then the other side would have already won a long time ago. And we’re not there yet. So what we need you to do is to spread our story, our struggles, what we are doing inside of the Israeli society, what’s Standing Together as a grassroots movement of Jews and Palestinians in the Israeli society is trying to do. Because if we are able to go out into demonstrations in the streets, shouting out, wanting a ceasefire agreement, a peaceful solution, solutions for everybody who is living here, there is no way why people abroad who are not living under a war wouldn’t be able to do the same.

RD: So that will be the first thing we really want you to do, and you can really help us by doing that. The second thing, I think, putting on also pressure on politicians helps in many ways. When we look at our society, we always say that the Israeli society is not the government of Israel. It’s a very, two different things to be looking on and for helping people living in the Israeli site and people in Israel and also in Palestine. We need a pressure to be put on the government, the Israeli government who wants us to have more and more wars.

RD: It can be with Gaza or even with the Lebanon with Hezbollah and the south of Lebanon. And we need that kind of pressure to be put from politicians onto our government to understand that we need solutions. We must demand solutions and agreements. Because right now we’ve been, I think for now five months to this war, we haven’t seen any kind of solution. All we see is more blood, more deaths, per our invasion in Gaza, no infrastructure at all. And we need to have that kind of pressure from abroad on our politicians, because it gives us also more space and political space to be working on in our society.

AG Yeah. And also ask yourself, what if you want to be a friend of Israel? If you want to be a good friend of Israel, ask yourself what does it really mean? Does it mean giving a blank check to a right-wing, extreme right-wing government that is doing everything in its power to stay no to peace, and to build more settlements and to say there is no future of a peaceful resolution? Or does it mean being a friend with the Israeli people supporting their right to live in safety and then asking how to achieve this safety? Because I think we should all understand that as long as one people here lives with no right and no freedom, there will be no safety to the other. We need to understand that those things are connected and that we need a solution that will grant freedom to one people. And that’s how it will also bring safety to the other. You cannot, as you said, just think that in next year we’ll have more violence put in the occupation, and then we will put even more soldiers, and then we’ll send more missiles or more airplanes. We need to find a viable solution. And that means solving the real root problems. And that’s not what our government is doing.

BB: What do y’all make up or think to yourselves, I guess, about the US government’s involvement in this?

AG: Wow.

RD: Woah.


AG: Tough.

BB: No, I mean… Yeah. It’s important because it’s like, I guess you could call us a democracy, a fragile democracy, maybe. But what do you think about our involvement, our government’s involvement? Because we are not our government either.

RD: Well, if I would say what Alon-Lee, taking what Alon-Lee have just said, I would say that the US government is not being a good friend of Israel because it is choosing the politics of the right wing government and not the benefit of the people living in here. And we understand, and we see that. The US, and especially the Biden administration, is one that is very respected by the Israeli society. So whenever Biden says anything about the war, people listen in Israel, the Israeli society do listen, and that mean he has a lot of pressure on the society and should have the same pressure on the government. But still, for us we don’t see that government working into having solutions to the people who are living here. It’s just strengthening a government that all of us, most of the society here was demonstrating against for 10 months. So it’s not really helpful to the people living in Israel, and of course not to the people living in Gaza or in the West Bank.

AG: And we do know and assume safely, I guess, that what Biden and his administration think in closed rooms is very different from the statements and the official support for Israel at the moment. And we understand that they’re not aligned at all, Netanyahu and Biden. But as Rula said, Biden has the ability, first of all, to end this war.

RD: Yeah.

AG: And we need to understand it. Second, he has the ability to open up spaces within the Israeli society to demand a different direction, to demand peace, to demand the end of the occupation. And if you see your friend drunk, you don’t serve them the next beer and tell them, “Yes. Come on, drink.” You help them go home, or you help them understand the situation, put them in bed. I think we need this kind of an approach. And I don’t know, in the Israeli society, it feels a bit too much that we get a blank check.

BB: Yeah, no… It makes sense. And I think a lot of Americans who want to see peace and justice and equity and the end of occupation feel really frustrated right now. I know I speak that, I don’t know how many more letters I can write or emails I can send. I want to ask a tough question. I don’t want to put you on the spot, but I’m going to put you on the spot. What do peacemakers in the region such as yourselves, think about a potential Trump presidency?

RD: We had a joke. We do have a joke. Maybe it’s more like used in Arabic that we say, “When Trump comes to house, he would just push the red button and then we are all gone.” But that is a joke. We understand that Trump going back to being a president is going to be for most of us much worse than the Biden administration right now. I think, we need people who would give solutions. And from what we have seen before, I think we’re going to have much more tough time on that kind of…

AG: I think it’s a real danger. It is a real danger to the ability of reaching a solution, reaching a ceasefire. I think that one of the worst days in the last decades in Israel and Palestine was the day of Ivanka Trump and Kushner coming to Israel on behalf of Trump for the celebration of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

BB: God.

AG: They were sitting with the ambassadors and the government and all the minister and prime minister literally sipping champagne, while 56 Palestinians were shot dead on the border of Gaza because of demonstrating against this.

AG: And they were sipping champagne and [inaudible] and it was a surreal day. And I think this is a glimpse of what will be another presidency of Trump, what it will mean for Palestinians, what will mean for the people, the Jewish people living here in this land. And you know what? If you ask us a tough question, I will be even more blunt. It makes us angry to see that some people say so easily, we will not vote for Biden because of his approach to Gaza. Yes, we can, we are angry as well. But eventually politics is about choices or options. And if you don’t want Trump to be the President, you need to vote for the other option. Right?

BB: Yeah. This is why I’m asking the question, because people here who are just so frustrated, enraged, in such deep grief, all warranted, are taking a position where we will either not vote for Biden or we will abstain from voting, which is equally as dangerous. And so I haven’t talked to anyone on the ground there about what that feels like for you, what that you think that means for building political will for peace.

AG: It’s a very scary option.

RD: It is a scary option. And in so many times, because we can say that we have in so many ways the same kind of attitude to politics also here when people say, “We will not be voting.” In kind of a punishing others for what they have done or their agenda. But when we look at the options we have, we need to choose the option that will give us the more solutions and the people who are living here. And for that, maybe another thing that might be helpful for people to hear is that we need you also to think of people that will be there and will be working for the benefit for the people living in Israel Palestine. And I know most people want to punish politicians for what they have done, but the other alternative is going to be much more worse for all of us. So by not even considering to vote, I think that is not a solution that will help people living in Israel Palestine.

BB: I just want to say thank you to both of you. Is there anything else you want to add or share with us or that is really on your heart and mind around your building a political will that it’s important for us to hear?

AG: So, I think that what we want to say as a message to all the people that care about what is happening in Gaza, to all the people that are looking on this land and are extremely worried or angry or despaired, is that we are here with you with the same kind of feelings. We are anxious, afraid, angry, we have rage about what is happening. But we also, and that’s what we are urging you, we also need to think of how to change it, how to move away from it. It’s not enough to express our feelings. It’s not enough to say that it’s not okay or to condemn. We don’t need only to condemn reality. We need to find a way to change reality. And for that we need power.

BB: Alon-Lee, Rula, thank you so much for the work you do. We are going to link in this podcast to ways you can directly support the incredible activism of Standing Together, how you can become a friend of Standing Together. I am grateful for the work you’re doing. I’m grateful for your story and your voices. I stand here supporting you and we’ll bring as many people to building the will that you’re talking about as I can. So thank you so much.

RD: Thank you.

AG: Thank you.

RD: Thank you so much.

AG: Wow. We really appreciate it.

BB: Thank you.


BB: I hope this was a meaningful and important conversation for you. It was a very meaningful and important conversation for me. You can learn more about Rula, Alon-Lee, how you can support the efforts of Standing Together. Everything’s on the episode page on I appreciate you listening. I appreciate you creating some expansiveness to learn, to reevaluate, to challenge yourself, for us to challenge each other. I’m grateful. Thank you.


BB: Unlocking Us is produced by Brené Brown Education and Research Group. The music is by Carrie Rodriguez and Gina Chavez. Get new episodes as soon as they’re published by following Unlocking Us on your favorite podcast app. We are part of the Vox Media podcast network. Discover more award-winning shows at


© 2024 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2024, February 29). Standing Together. [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Vox Media Podcast Network.

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