Interview – Elahe Amani With George Zeidan After The MBBI-LA Event
George Zeidan is the community leader of the Right to Movement, which is trying to bring awareness of the Palestinian inability to move freely within the country, the limitations imposed on Palestinians such as the separation wall, the settlements, checkpoints, and others. In addition, the fact that Palestinian women do not have the ability to move freely and do what they like to do whether, dancing, singing or running. Through various physical activities such as running, we want to encourage youth and women to explore Palestine and challenge those limitations by defying the existing structure and help raise awareness regarding these issues. Through this movement, a proper atmosphere is created for the Palestinian people particularly for women to feel welcome and be able to practice running. In the Palestinian community women usually, don’t have space to join any kind of running practice in public and this movement helps provide this space.
The movement has been organizing free training in three Palestinian cities to encourage people to exercise and to train for the Palestine marathon that the movement has established. Running is a worldwide connection and we believe it will bring more awareness worldwide about restrictions on Palestinian movement.
Their running focuses on trails along the restriction zones in order to raise awareness of local and international communities about their inability to enjoy a normal life. The Movement’s short term objective is to keep holding training three times a week in these three areas and encourage more people to join. In the long run, they hope to create more running communities that train together on a weekly basis to promote the Palestinian right to movement.
Elahe Amani – How did you get into the idea of the Right to Movement? What inspired you?
George Zeidan – I went to school in North Carolina and was faced with a situation where people had many stereotypes about my background. I took the chance to approach people in classes and churches and talk about the reality of being a Palestinian. Gradually I started seeing the difference that these talks were making in the small community of Murfreesboro. When I got back home to Palestine, I joined two friends from Denmark to start the Right to Movement Palestine campaign. I believe in scaling these attempts to change these stereotypes and the right to movement is the best platform to do so. We tackle the misconceptions through sports and movement.
EA – In what ways you think the Right to Movement brings change, to the Israel -Palestinian conflict? Serve justice for Palestinians?
GZ – We are raising awareness. We are bringing people who would never come here to come, run, and learn about injustice. We are changing the public sphere. On the other hand, we are strengthening the Palestinian identity among the members, increasing their awareness of cultural, political and historical issues.
EA – The Israel-Palestine conflict always being discussed in a binary, either/or context. As a mediator, I am interested to explore in what ways we can build bridges between people and taking steps to make life better for Palestinians. Perhaps we cannot end the conflict and serve justice for millions of Palestinians but there are ways that we can manage the conflict and make this intractable conflict less intense. Who can play a role in making this conflict less, what is the role of the EU? The US?
GZ – The US role is the most important. This conflict is no longer bipartisan in the US. Democrats have been so outspoken on Israel’s brutal occupation and demanding justice and freedom for Palestinians. The US’s ultimate support to Israel prohibits any future negotiations and mediation. It starts with the US support to Israel and it also ends with the US support to Israel. Israeli society has lost its direction and interest for peace. They do not know what happens on the other side of the wall, they should understand how harmful is the occupation.
EA – In a world that extremism in politics and religion are on the rise, Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems more intractable than ever. What are your hopes? Can you imagine a future that people regardless of their religion, from North to South of the region (what is now Israel & Palestine) live peacefully?
GZ – I have hope. I think most of us Palestinians and Israelis want to live in peace next to each other. Extremism exists everywhere, but it has a strong growth potential specifically when diplomatic attempts lead is leading nowhere. I think we can co-exist in one country or live in two different countries. The most important thing is the intention.
EA – I recall clearly that growing up in Tehran, Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry was my gateway to know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when I was in high school. What role art, literature, sport and civil society can play?
GZ – I believe that sports and literature play a central role in empowering societies and crafting strong identities. We have many inspiring models of Palestinian artists and athletes who took our feelings and flags to global stages. Engaging in various activities empower humans and bring a positive difference to society.