Over last weekend, April 7-8, the 9th Conference of Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) took place in Shefa-‘Amr, an Arab city in northern Israel.
During his address before delegates and other participants, Hadash chairperson, former MK Mohammad Barakeh, condemned last Friday’s US air attack in Syria. Barakeh had reacted on his Facebook page to the chemical attack in which at least a hundred Syrian civilians died, many of them children: “One cannot remain indifferent when seeing the children and infant victims. I’m for life and their right to live – the solution in Syria must be a diplomatic one, getting rid of ISIS terror and whoever supports it, maintaining the unity of Syria as a country and a nation with all its constituent components.”
The general secretary of the Communist Party of Israel, Adel Amer, said during the conference: “We in the Communist Party and Hadash condemn any killing of children or men and women in the Syrian civil war, particularly when non-conventional weapons are used; but we ask who stands to gain in this situation. Now it is clearer than before that terrorist organizations are on the run, leading them to commit crimes of unprecedented brutality. The American attack is an attempt to extricate these organizations, which are supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel, from their predicament.”
Speaking in a Knesset session on Wednesday, April 5, the leader of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), expressed his shock at the brutal photos of women and children poisoned by deadly sarin gas. “My heart aches for the children murdered in Syria, just as it aches over the images of children murdered in Yemen and in Gaza,” Odeh said. “There needs to be a principled stance against any attacks upon civilians, all civilians, but in particular children, regardless of their religion,” he added. MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List), said that the front’s position is clear: “Any intentional attack on civilians is a crime, wherever it takes place, and the use of chemical weapons is a war crime.”
Forty Years of Struggle
Hadash was established in May 1977 with a simple goal: to serve as a broad electoral front which would bring together most of the supporters for peace, equality, democracy and workers’ rights, Jews and Arabs, thereby creating a political alternative to the Israeli governments’ policy of occupation and exploitation.
Activists from the main protest movements of the time – the Land Day movement against expropriation of Arab-owned lands, the Black Panthers who fought discrimination against oriental Jews (Mizrachim), as well as the Socialist Left of Israel (Shasi) and adherents of different peace movements and intellectuals – joined in the establishment of Hadash.
The basic principles of Hadash, as a broad leftist movement, included what was then a unique demand for a total Israeli withdrawal from all the territories, which it occupied in the June 1967 war, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel – a position that other movements began supporting only years later. The principles around which Hadash was founded also stressed workers’ rights, social justice, opposition to privatization, democratic liberties and human rights, equality for the Arab minority and all ethnic groups, women, the protection of the environment, and Israel’s disarmament from weapons of mass destruction. In the last, 2015 elections for the 20th Knesset, when Hadash ran its candidates in the framework of the Joint List, there was no other party which presented all of these demands in its platform.
Hadash was established in an initiative by the Communist Party of Israel (CPI), which has been represented in Israel’s parliament since the first Knesset (1949). Despite its relatively small representation in the Knesset, historically the CPI has been one of the most influential movements in Israeli politics, directly and indirectly, both because of its never having reneged on its principles, one of the central ones being its maintaining a solid Jewish-Arab partnership in the struggle for peace, equality, and social justice.