Fida Nara Tabony, a veteran Palestinian-Israeli activist, stepped in to anchor civil society’s response to the intercommunal violence that swept through Israel this May. Fida spent 15 years at Women Against Violence, the Nazareth-based NIF grantee, and until recently served as the co-director of Mahapach-Taghir, a feminist shared-society organization. She was among the founders of the Feminist Headquarters, established by a group of Jewish and Arab activists early in the COVID-19 pandemic to address the disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on women. In April, Fida joined NIF as Shatil’s Director of Shared Society and the head of its Haifa office. So, when Palestinian-Israeli and shared society organizations sought to mount a swift, coordinated, and impactful response to the crisis taking hold across the country, they knew who to call.
“Following the first incidents of violence against demonstrators in East Jerusalem,” Fida said, “my phone began ringing and I immediately began making calls.”
She spoke to directors of Palestinian-Israeli and shared society civil society organizations, activists, members of Knesset, and the director of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee. Everyone felt the urgency of the situation and wanted to get to work. Being at the nexus of Palestinian-Israeli and shared society activism is very much Fida’s wheelhouse. She comes from a politically active, Israeli-Palestinian family with a strong commitment to shared society. When she was a child, her parents, driven by their values, moved the family from Nazareth to Wahat al-Salam–Neve Shalom, a village of Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel dedicated to living in peace and equality. She later returned to Nazareth, where she is raising two teen-aged daughters. But she has remained dedicated to the values her parents instilled in her: working to strengthen Palestinian-Israeli society and to build an equitable, shared society in Israel.
When the recent wave of protests broke out in Arab areas, it was met with a disproportionate, violent police response. Fida, like so many of us, was gripped with horror watching racist attacks and police brutality within Israel and the devastation caused by military operations in Gaza. She worked with other Shatil staff and Palestinian-Israeli civil society organizations and activists to establish an ad-hoc situation room, allowing for real-time coordination between Shatil and Adalah, Mossawa and new NIF grantee Qadaya, the I’lam-Arab Center for Media Freedom, Development and Research, Women Against Violence, Kayan, Citizens HQ and Sikkuy.
Though violence on the streets has largely abated, Fida notes that, “It’s vital this work continue as it provides a unique, collaborative response to the challenges facing the Palestinian-Israeli community at this time of crisis.”
Shatil remains central to the situation room, as organizations collaborate to deal with the overwhelming number of arrests of Palestinian citizens in recent days and ongoing incitement and harassment on social media. Shatil continues to consult organizations, foster connections between organizations, activists and other agencies to maximize cooperation, and contribute to the function of the situation and its stability going forward.
Fida convened two emergency meetings of a Shatil shared society task force that includes 14 NGOs focused on shared society and Palestinian citizens’ rights. The forum discussed the situation on the ground and joint future actions. Thanks to her decades of work in the field and the infrastructure Shatil has built over many years, today Fida is playing a key role in supporting organizations in implementation of urgent initiatives.
Fida is convinced that the recent violence has shattered the status quo within Israel, surfacing the inequality and discrimination that have always existed. She tells us: “It was shocking and disheartening to see Palestinian citizens of Israel being subjected to methods we’re sadly familiar with from occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.” At the peak of the violence, Fida wrote in an opinion piece in Globes, in which she said, “I believe that it is possible to live together in peace and mutual respect without blurring our identity or the things that are important to us.”
Fida sees her new role at Shatil as a sort of homecoming. As a local activist in the north, she always knew Shatil Haifa’s door was open to activists and organizations. “The hub-type atmosphere encouraged us to come together to think outside the box and work cooperatively to bring new ideas to fruition.” Fida is looking forward to carrying on that tradition by making Shatil in Haifa a thriving hub of social change.