Ori Nir 0:10
Welcome back to PeaceCast. It's January 13th, 2022. I'm Ori Nir and with me is my colleague Claire Davidson Miller. Hi, Claire.
Claire Miller 0:17
Ori Nir 0:19
We are happy to have with us today our colleague and friend Dana Mills. She's the acting director of Israel's Peace Now- Shalom Achshav. Some of you may have heard Dana on PeaceCast, just a few weeks ago, she joined us for a webinar about Peace Now's new report on settler violence. We recorded that webinar and then published it on PeaceCast as episode 216. Today's episode, however, will be quite different. We talked to them a long ago about being our guest on PeaceCast, we thought it would be interesting to get to know her as a peace activist and explore some of her other really fascinating pursuits. Meanwhile, as I said, she was called to the helm to lead Peace Now and now it will be kind of a different posture, because it's sort of gives us a chance to also speak to her about the organization about its priorities for 2022, and chat, more generally about Israel's peace movement, and about the progressive politics in Israel. So we have quite a bit on our agenda going into this conversation, then, thanks for joining us on peace cast.
Dana Mills 1:30
Thank you very much for having me. It's lovely being with you, Ori and Claire.
Ori Nir 1:33
You know, to a large extent, the objective of this conversation today is to introduce you to our listeners, to our supporters and activists. So maybe, maybe this would be if you go ahead and do your own introduction. Just talk a bit about yourself.
Dana Mills 1:49
Okay, thank you. So my history with peace now goes back several decades. In 1995, I was a school girl in, in Israel. And after the assassination, like many youth of that period, I felt a huge, really existential crisis. I think for a lot of us, it's, it's a time of coming of age. It's a really formative age. I was 13 at the time. And it was the first time I saw my mother cry. It was the first time people around me who I looked up for authority had looked confused to me. And I followed the schoolfriend Patel, who told me this youth movement called Peace Now Youth and said you should come and join me. And I came with her. And I became completely enthralled and engrossed in the conversations that I ended up spending my entire high school years in Peace Now youth, which was very active at that time, we did a lot of radical actions of various sorts, we had the opportunity to meet some of the most formative voices of those years. And for me, it was political education. I learned how you organize a protest how you organize and sit-in, how do you speak to politicians, in which tone in which context. So it was really an extraordinary time for learning. Unfortunately, as we know, for Israel and Palestine, this was an incredibly big crisis. So the speed of my learning about politics was only matched by the speed of literary creation of any hopes for peace. I did my army service like all Israelis, there's an obligation to do that. And after that, I pursued two degrees in politics in Tel Aviv. I took a small career break and worked in dance for a little while. It's a very big passion of my life, and something that keeps me grounded or flying, depending on the exercise throughout everything I've done. And after a couple of years of doing that, I went to Oxford, UK, where I pursued my PhD. And I taught there for 13 years. And the story of my reconnect with peace now started 2021 When I returned to Israel to take on the position of External Relations Director, which I've been doing since March, as you probably know, this has been equally turbulent time in Israel in the sense of a lot of political changes a new government, new relationships between the US and Israel. Obviously, the escalation in May so a month and a bit after I started my job, there was a war raging around me. So it was a very quick learning curve. And it's really a great honor to be part of an organization that educated me and planted in me both the passion and knowledge of politics that have been the red thread of my life.
Claire Miller 4:37
It's really wonderful to see how you got such a young start in Israel's peace movement, and now have kind of come full circle back around to running that movement that still today gives hope and education to so many people, including young people like yourself but I also am really excited to learn a little bit more about the other steps on your journey to where you are now. So maybe since what came before Oxford, I think was your the time you spent working in dance?
Dana Mills 5:17
Claire Miller 5:18
Do you want to tell us a little bit more about that? And how dance is a part of your life?
Dana Mills 5:22
Yes. So I've been dancing since I was very young. It's something that I've done just as a practice without thinking a lot about it. My father really took me to dance shows since I was four or five without me understanding a lot of what I was seeing, but they just knew it was beautiful. And I wanted it to be part of my life. And when I started writing academically and thinking about dance, thinking about politics, rather, I started engaging in the question about the connection between politics and dance. And that was something that I wrote about two books, I published three books in total. And at the same time, as inquiring more about the practice of dance as a political pursuit, I also started doubting myself and I got to this position when the woman who ran my dance studio came up to me and said, you actually quite good, do you want to work for us for a bit. And then I ended up doing a few gigs with her and a few gigs elsewhere. And before I knew it, I was working professionally in the field, it's a field that is, for better or worse, quite open, you can come into it from various positions. I knew fairly early that I didn't want to be a performing artist, I know that my strengths lie elsewhere. But I really want you to understand and experience to the full, what it means to work in dance as a practice, and to really kind of work with the body. And I think one thing that has always engaged me in the field of dance, and I'm interested in intellectually, as well as in practice is, how do voices that are not always heard in the public sphere, how can they be heard through dance? Because obviously, you don't need language in order to dance, you don't have to talk about it, you can just do it. And it's a way for people to connect with each other. And I think there's something very deep about that, when people who have been dispossessed and take a lot of other mechanisms of expression have been taken from them, but something in the body can always be there for them to express themselves. So I think for me, that's something that really drew me to dance and to especially in in viewership, it's something that I always love that watching, you know, companies that come from places where people have overcome really many difficulties and yet, find their way for expression through dance.
Claire Miller 7:30
Thank you. I've also been a dancer all my life. And for me, I, I also see a lot of connections between my dance and social activism. And I think the the power of the body that you mentioned, is really important. I know that Shalom Achshav, in Israel participates in a lot of protests. And I really see that as such a somatic expression of our values in such a similar way that we can express ourselves through dance, and I love seeing how you draw that connection.
Dana Mills 8:09
Thank you. Yes, I think maybe that's interesting. I've never thought about that. But now you put it this way. I mean, I've been protesting, as I mentioned, since I was very young, since I was like 13, or 14. And there's something about the confidence of being in the public sphere and raising your voice that can be transmitted to other spheres of action as well. So, So I guess it also goes both ways. I've never thought of that. And, and I think there's something I mean, Israel/Palestine is a very- temperaments run high, we are very physical people, for better or worse, we are a hugging society I think COVID laws could force here is nearly impossible, because everyone hugs you when they first see you, you know, try to keep people to stay two meters apart is like near nearly impossible. And for us expression through dance, it's a very somatic culture. Actually, we have we have an exceptionally strong dance culture, and very strong import, you know, from whichever, which is the most famous dance company running, you know, years back, being first working with Martha Graham. Through current luminaries such as Talia Paz, who's now the artisitic advisor to the Kibbutz Seminal, she worked in Cullberg Ballet before, and many, many other wonderful people who travel around the world and come back so I think there's also the strength of a very embodied society that takes that on and brings that expression to the world. But I have to say in parenthesis the one thing that I do want to stress in my reading of dance, at least I don't know how you feel about it is that it's very dangerous to whitewash oppression and to sort of say, Oh, we can all connect and hold hands and dance Dabka together. There's actually a really great work by Hilo Cogan that is about that it's about like him trying to put put on a dance show with a Palestinian dancer but not knowing any Palestinians which is the reality for most Israelis we don't know Palestinians from across the border, we don't engage. So I am not of the camp of like, let's hold hands and dance and sing together. And then we'll have peace, but rather to think about how we can understand differences better through other modes of communication. So that's one thing I wanted to stress.
Claire Miller 10:12
Absolutely. Thank you.
Ori Nir 10:14
So then we're still getting to know you in another aspect of things you do outside of your peace activism, or maybe it's related, is your academic work and your book writing? Yeah, so let's, let's talk a little bit about that.
Dana Mills 10:29
So I did my PhD at Oxford, which was a really interesting experience. In parenthesis, I can say, it's everything you think it is, it's more or less living in a Harry Potter world for a couple of years, for better or worse. So I did own a gown. I didn't own an owl, but nearly. And the one really interesting thing about Oxford is that the work is very intense. It's one on one. So you work in a system of tutorials where you work very closely with students and with mentors, so I got to know really extraordinary people. The principal of my college was Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, one of the most important voices on human rights in our world. And I got to know her again, one on one, which is fairly extraordinary. And I got to talk to her a lot. And during my time at Oxford, she founded the first ever Human Rights Institute at Mansfield, my college. So a lot of my writing and a lot of the things I was thinking about, and also connecting to my peace activism, as you mentioned, really became around human rights and around how do we understand human rights through various modes of thinking. And I'm really interested in the moment just before we get social democracy as we understand it today. So it's not often that the book changes your life. But that happened to me a couple of years back, I came across a biography of Eleanor Marx. She's Karl Marx's youngest daughter. She was a pioneer in many ways, she fought for the eight hour day, she fought to abolish child labor, and she fought for women's rights among the working class. Her biography was written by Rachel Holmes, who is really important feminist biographer, kind of socialist biographer in the UK. And I started reading ferociously around not only Eleanor, but women and men of her time who were fighting for the rights and freedom that we take for granted today. And one of those women I read about was Rosa Luxemburg, who is Jewish, revolutionary, born in Poland, but worked mostly in Germany. And she became the subject of my second books. So I think one thing that always interested me both in my book writing, and in academic work more broadly, is radical voices that are marginalized, women, especially, but also men that are not in the mainstream, who are dispossessed themselves and yet fight for freedom and equality of all. So after Eleanor Marx, who by the way knew Rosa Luxemburg, they both met in the International Congress of 1896 in London, and I found my way into Rosa and she became my entire world for several years. I should say that we're recording this episode on a really important weekend for both of them. So this Saturday, the 15th of January is the anniversary of Rosa Luxemburg's gruesome murder by proto-fascist organizations in Berlin in 1919. Predating the rise of the Third Reich, a lot of them were enabling in that process. She was a Jewish woman murdered by fascists there's more to this than an attack on socialists, I should say. And conversely, on a happier note, on the 16th of January, we'll be marking Elena Marx's birthday. So we're actually in a really interesting time in terms of socialist history in terms of radical history in terms of how we think about women and men, revolutionaries, who gave us basic rights that we take for granted today.
Ori Nir 13:51
What was the title of your PhD dissertation?
Dana Mills 13:54
My PhD was called act it's very similar to the my first book "Moving Beyond Boundaries an Exploration of the Relationship between Dance and Politics"
Ori Nir 14:03
Dana Mills 14:05
It was very interesting working on it in Oxford, because Oxford doesn't have a dance department. So I worked very much in conversation with Dance practitioners elsewhere. I spent a good time of my research in the US, I spent a lot of time in the Martha Graham Center in New York, in the archives in DC in the Library of Congress. So I worked very closely with Dance practitioners. But my PhD was in political theory. So it was focused on the philosophical side of things.
Ori Nir 14:32
It's interesting, you know, you you mentioned human rights and your focus on human rights. And I thought it would be a good peg to explore your thinking about the what's called now the rights agenda among peace activists, maybe versus what is used to be called, you know, what people call the separation agenda. And there seems to be a bit of a tension between the two and I wanted to also ask you, if you think is- that the two can meet?
Dana Mills 15:02
So thank you. That's a really important question. I don't see see those two as exclusive, I think they very much go hand in hand and that question of process versus final objective. And first of all, for me, this is again, coming from spending time with Helena and other human rights, lawyers, human rights about everything we do. They're about the right to protest. They're about the rights of free speech. They're about the right of people, we dislike to have their basic rights safeguarded. So it's really an overarching agenda. It's not just about one or two things that we might fight for, and see as human rights topics as close, as usually, sometimes the press defines, and there is a very basic claim that is, Israel sees itself as an occupying power, or at least is defined as such, which means that it has basic legal responsibilities towards the people that it occupies. We're talking about supposedly, you know, an over 54 year old occupation, so it's a bit ridiculous to call about to call it an occupation. At this point. It's very sad considering my own history that I'm shouting the same slogans when I was 15. As when I'm 40. And to say that this is temporary occupation, tells you a little bit about the arc of the timeline we're working with. But it's very clear that in the timeline that we're working and in the framework in terms of international relations and collaboration, the we're working, Israel has a moral and legal responsibility towards Palestinians as an occupying power. And me, I have to say, as an Israeli, but as a person, as a citizen, as a woman, I have responsibility towards people that my country is oppressing as a human being. And this is, besides any agenda beyond. The two state solution is what we see as the goal of ending the occupation and moving towards any other future that we is so far from us right now. But we don't even know what it would look like. So to talk about what rights we would have at that stage, is abstract. Rights are things that come out of the political reality, Law and Politics come hand in hand, and human rights have to be safeguarded in any position, they are not dependent on the political position, they are the basic thing that we have, as human beings, we exist in the world. And I mean, this was a very long, roundabout way to say that, whether we fight for the end goal, which is to end the occupation, and to create the separation of Israel and Palestine, is, besides the point that we have to be very aware of the consequences of inaction in the here now, which is severe and structural violation of human rights. So these two issues are really not exclusive to each other in my reading, at least.
Claire Miller 17:44
Thank you. So now that we're kind of transitioning back into the question of Israel/ Palestine, I would love to hear more about your transition back to Israel/Palestine, both in your work, but also your physical transition, you obviously moved from Oxford, back to Tel Aviv. You know, why did you make that decision?
Dana Mills 18:07
That's a great question. So I think for me, it was really interesting, because I didn't think that I wanted to go back. I mean, I knew I want to study and work a little bit in academia. And Oxford was a good place to do it for various reasons. But it didn't have like a grand plan. I didn't aim towards any academic position. And I just thought, you know, when the time is, right, I know I will want to go home. And, you know, there was a mix of things that happened. One of them is COVID, which I think changed the way that we see each other, see what home is, as someone who was very international used to fly a lot, I used to come to the US twice a year, I used to come to Israel three times a year, you know, the privilege of being an academic and on a flexible schedule, and being able to travel kind of meant that I didn't have to think about being distant from people I love. My father died on the second week of the COVID closure. And quarantine in Britain was very, very harsh. So I found myself in isolation for a very long time. And I didn't have a grand plan. Actually, I just saw the job ad for external relations director in Israel in Peace Now. And I thought, This is my job. And I need to apply for it. And actually, I applied for the job, the day of publication for my third book, so everyone was like texting me saying like, hey, congratulations, your book is out. And that kind of I was thinking about the interview, I was thinking about a completely different place.
Ori Nir 19:28
Wait- Wait I want to ask, you said, this is my job. I have to apply for it.
Dana Mills 19:31
Ori Nir 19:32
I mean, you were immersed in a totally different suit. So you have to explain this.
Dana Mills 19:37
That's, that's a very fair question. I mean, in a way, I can't explain it. Sometimes you see something and you say, This is my destiny. I have to try for this. And I knew, I knew that I would be deeply disappointed if I didn't get it. But I also didn't think, you know, it's not that I would apply for like 10,000 other jobs in the public sector in Israel. You know, if I didn't get this job, I would probably go on being an academic in Oxford and you know, this conversation would never take place. And it just felt because you know, it was a position that appealed to me, being someone with international experience and bilingual and living in several countries, the position of External Relations Director is something that really is tailored for that. And as Claire mentioned earlier, having been educated myself in the movement, I thought, you know, this, this is kind of my home. This is where I learned about politics. And I'm ready to stop thinking about politics and going back to doing politics. So going back to your question about going about changing my life, I think the biggest change is moving from theorizing about politics, to doing politics. And you know, one thing I say to my fellow political theorists, I still have a very nice relationship with a lot of my former colleagues, who are somewhere from perplexed to, you know, amused by my life transition. Um, political theory has nothing to do with real life both. It's like, we think that we know everything when we teach in academia, and when we write a lot of clever books about various things. And then the first day, you have to go out to the street and organize a protest, you understand that? Nothing helps you in that. And I mean, for me, it was kind of different to my colleagues, because I've always been interested in practical politics. And I was, I was an activist. Also, throughout my academic life, I was very active politically in the UK, I'm a member of the Labour Party, or at least was until Keir Starmer, took over. I was active in my local labour branch, I was active in the trade union movements. So I continued doing activism really at the same time as being an academic. But I still understood that, you know, all the grand theories I had to teach to undergraduates had nothing to do with actual practical politics. And I think something in me burnt in coming back to the actual thing, and I felt I was a bit of a coward. And I was avoiding innovating the thing that matters, which is actually making a difference. And to an extent, I think, Rosa, I mentioned earlier, my writing on Rosa Luxemburg, the thing, she really kind of prepared the stage for me, because when you write about someone who was so immersed in organizing, and you know, she was one of the first people to connect the rise of global capitalism to colonialism and objective colonialism. Beyond the spheres of, beyond the spheres of Germany, she wrote about Africa, she wrote about Australia, she wrote about the south of the US before, you know, anyone knew what was going on there in Europe. She organized for the eight hour day as well, you know, she did so many practical and pragmatic things. There was a moment I was writing about her and I thought, I shouldn't be writing about this, I should be going out and doing the continuation of this. So thing in a way, she kind of sent me on my happy way towards actually doing politics and not writing about them.
Claire Miller 22:38
So now that you're back doing politics, and not only are you back doing politics, but you're back, now leading the charge for doing politics as the acting director of Shalom Achshav what are your grand plans? What, it's a new year, what what do you want to tackle this year?
Dana Mills 22:58
Well, I think not much has changed Sadly, in my life, since I was 13. And joined the movement, which is I want to end the occupation. And I want Israelis and Palestinians to have dignity and an equal chance for their possibility to flourish in this little place that I refer to as home. But I'm also very aware it's home to very many other people. I should say that the movement in its goals is flexible, but we do have a very ongoing and constant objective, which is we see the settlements as the main the main obstacle towards achieving any kind of peace plan or any kind of negotiations of a peace so we fight daily, the expansion of settlement plans be through territorial expansion will be through house evictions, especially in East Jerusalem, which is a severe and grave human rights violation in its own right is kicking out people who sometimes lived 20-30 years in the same house. And then some random settlers association comes up and says you can't live here anymore. You have to leave. So I mean, our goals as a movement are fairly stable, which is one of its powers as a movement. You know, we've been around for a long time the movement was founded in 1978. But at the same time, obviously, our reality has changed a lot because we now have a government that includes some of our partners and some people that we can talk to as peers for the first time actually since I was a teenager in the movement. So it's an interesting kind of full circle. And that way in the 90s was the last time that Meretz, members of Knesset and Labour Party, etc. We're sitting in a coalition, we're actively able to engage our agenda. So whereas our goals haven't changed at all the methods of how we achieve them have changed quite a bit and we're able to talk to politicians, we're able to, you know, work with coalition partners, which is a very big change for us as a movement and at the same time, there are still ongoing things that have always been ongoing which are demonstrations and marches and you know, everyday activity, educational activity, advocacy. So that really doesn't change a lot. And I mean, in my own position, I have to say, so first of all, as every woman, I think every day, I have an imposter syndrome. And I think, why did they tell me to do this, there's no way I can carry this on my shoulders. And because I have such a personal history here, and I feel really committed to what's going on, it really scares me in a very deep way. And at the same time, I think it goes goes back to something you said, which is, you know, I was educated here, there's a lot of young people I meet, who are, you know, who I see myself in them, like 20-30 years ago. And my responsibility is to help the younger generation do the thing that our generation has failed, which is to end the occupation and to achieve a two state solution. So again, this can be done in multi-fold way it can be done through demonstration can do can be done through lectures, or other kinds of activities, and a lot of it is just one on one advocacy and just talking to people and spreading the word really, I'm sort of working very, very consistently, with younger people. But I think for me, that's one thing that I'm very passionate about, again, because of my own background,
Ori Nir 26:12
You mentioned being able to work with- with like minded politicians, who are now members of the coalition members of the government. I wanted to ask you how- so you talked a little bit, and maybe you can just elaborate on how this has changed your modus operandi as Peace Now, but maybe also a little bit about how you see it impacting the kind of politics that we are interested in. Do you see a change is is you know, because some people say that Meretz and Labor joining the government has only created a situation where they're giving backing and legitimacy for policies that we obviously do not endorse. How do you see all those?
Dana Mills 26:53
So as everything is quite complicated, I mean, we published Peace Now published a report entitled "The Government of Change for the Worse". So spoiler alert, you know, what we think about that. It's really important to know that not only do we have partners in the coalition in terms of the kind of parties that are there, and we actually have four veterans of Peace Now, so that two executive directors, Mossi Raz and Gaby Lasky, who are now MKS, Naama Lazimi, who worked in Peace Now not too long ago, and Omer Bar Lev, who's the minister of interior security, and was a Peace Now activist. So beyond having the formal political arc move towards our agenda, we have people who understand very well the topics we work on and the things that we care about, which is in itself, a very big difference. Like you don't have to brief everyone from the start, you know that you have people who understand exactly what you're working on. Having said all of that, it's very clear that this government is conceding much more to the right than it is to the left. And we're seeing much more of I don't want to say compromise, but capitulation, really, to a settler agenda from the beginning of the outposts of Evyatar, which was one of the first crises in this government, where the left had achieved all sorts of vague, vague promises on paper, but it was clear that the right of the coalition would not concede all through, you know, conflict over East Jerusalem, through other outputs that have been founded, and there was refusal to evict as we speak, there's a big protest outside the Prime Minister's office about the outposts of Homesh one of the fifth, one of the five most violent outposts in the West Bank, where there is refusal to evict the outpost for various reasons. And I mean, it's really important to remember that Nefeli Bennett, who's our current prime minister was the head of Yeshua, he was the head of the settlers association. So you know, it's not that we're talking about the dovish government. However, having said all of that, as I said, it's complicated. And there's like four sides to every story. And this, I do think that the presence of our coalition partners in this coalition government is really important, not only for the things that we work on, but for various other issues in Israel, that have been in dire situation under Netanyahu for the past 12 years, we have to remind our listeners that Israel has been really taken hostage by Netanyahu for 12 years of consecutive governance, and a lot of just very basic things with standstill. So am I happy in the larger picture that we have this coalition? The government? Yes. Am I pleased with how it's handling the occupation and moving towards peace? No. And it's our job again, this is where we are not a partisan movement. We work with any party in any politician who will talk to us and is committed to the our goals. And we our job now is to push further and to push further the issues that we care about and to further the peace agenda and move towards a two state solution. So you know, the fact that there's more work doesn't mean that it's not important that we have someone to do it with.
Claire Miller 30:04
While the government isn't necessarily giving us all very much hope right now, something that really is providing a source of hope, is increasing collaboration between different Israeli anti-occupation groups. How do you see that playing out?
Dana Mills 30:23
I think one of the greatest privileges of working in civil society in Israel is just this very strong solidarity of various organizations, and the ability also to collaborate across the border when possible. And I mean, that's something that living in Israel, I kind of took for granted. And then I lived elsewhere. And I realized that it's not always the case. And there is really very strong solidarity and a lot of collaboration between different organizations. And I think we all know what our niche is and what we set on and what is our agenda. And very often I would get texts with from colleagues saying, you know, this is something that is very clearly Peace Now, do you want to take that on, I will get something that is very, fairly, obviously not something to do with our agenda directly. And I will be like, Oh, this is interesting for B'tselem, for Breaking the Silence or for Standing Together. And we're also just I have to say, personally, people are very nice to each other, and are very friendly and kind of care for each other. When I started out, a lot of people just texted and said, if you need something, let us know what you need. Which makes a big difference, because it's-it's very hard work. And it can be very lonely in, you know, furthering an agenda. That is anything but consensus right now. And I think one thing that I've always believed in, is that having a strong civil society and a strong commitment to human rights amongst all those organizations, is something that can really counteract imbalances of power within the government itself. So you know, I appreciate your juxtaposition of like the hopelessness and hopefulness. And I've always found a lot of hope of this, in this sector, even when I didn't belong to it and now that I belong to it, I feel very proud to belong to it. And I think there's also a knowledge of how much we can learn from each other. So we very often will find time to talk and see, you know, there's a lot of things that we know that other organizations might not, and vice versa. So we all sit and talk and see how we can nourish each other and learn from each other. And, of course, there are ideological differences. It's not all rainbows and unicorns, and we don't hold hands and dance towards the sunset. But we know that there's a shared cause, and that we are committed to it. And we work very closely together really towards it.
Ori Nir 32:31
So we have- we have a few questions about this issue of outreach and collaboration and so on. And one thing that occurred to me is that, you know, there's interim but still at the helm now with Peace Now, someone who was an Anglo, what some of the founders of Peace Now, were Anglos. And so I was gonna ask you about the added value? In other words, what does it what does it give? What does it add to have someone who like you, who is an Anglo speaks the language, both figuratively and then actually, how does it add to you to your outreach efforts?
Dana Mills 33:08
I mean, I think for me, thinking internationally, it's part of who I am, my father was British, my mom is Israeli, I've always spoken two languages, literally and figuratively. And living abroad, both in the US and the UK, I have to say, I lived in New York during 2016, and the rise of Trump to power. I was in New York, the night of the election. And then I participated in several of the women's marches. And I organized one of them. And so I learned a lot about activism really, in different places. So very often, I will intervene in conversations and say, Oh, but this is like, issue X that was handled in this context in a different country. And I should say in parenthesis that when I lived in the UK, most of my very close friends were South Africans. And there was a lot in the shared heritage and conversations, and processes that really taught me a lot about the things that we are engaging with now. So, you know, we can go into the apartheid discussion, if you like. But beyond the actual term, there's a lot to be said about a people that had lived in very stark ethnic segregation, and then managed to reach a point of freedom in some capacity or another. And, you know, we can talk about Africa also, which for me, was very educational. So when I came back, I didn't just think about Israel/Palestine is this very singular issue that it's usually presented that, but I thought about here are two people that have a long standing argument, one people clearly occupying another, clearly dispossessing another, clearly violating another's human rights. This is not unique. You know, this is something that has happened in other places in the world, and other places in the world have managed to come through this. So our duty is to really learn and to look out and to think about how we can mobilize drawing on international examples. And I mean, I'm still in very close contact with comrades from around the world. And very often we'll consult them and ask, you know, we have to do this thing, how do you think I should go about it. And very often, they will come with ideas that we don't think about locally, because they come from elsewhere. And they give us, you know, a different perspective. So I think having that international perspective can be really helpful in sort of taking things into the bigger picture. Because things are so dire here and the everyday and the work is so hard and so depressing. And you know, it is really very hard, you know, we we have so many big battles that we can't afford to lose, because a lot of human lives depend on them. So just having this bigger picture and saying there is something to learn from, and there are other people we can engage with. And we're not in this alone is nice to singular people who are fighting for the entire world is just a really helpful perspective.
Ori Nir 35:44
I'll just say from an egocentric, APN perspective, having someone at the helm who, you know, is who said speaks the language is very, very beneficial for us.
Dana Mills 35:56
I'm sure. I also speak Welsh, but I don't know if you have any Welsh supporters.
Claire Miller 36:01
You never know. So what about your work with Palestinian organizations? I know, we've also seen some solidarity between Israeli and Palestinian organizations this year, I think most notably, when six Palestinian NGOs were declared terrorist organizations by the Israeli government, we saw some really beautiful solidarity from Israeli NGOs. How have you been working with Palestinian activists? And how do you hope to continue doing that?
Dana Mills 36:35
I should say, actually, personally, my main contact was exactly what you mentioned. So I went to Ramallah with a bunch of other Israeli NGOs to show solidarity, which actually feels very special, because we just weren't at the middle of this big, big crisis. And it was harrowing, you know, you had people who have been working in human rights organizations for decades, who just came to me, and shook my hands and said, thank you for coming, and just gave me a perspective of what the stakes of what we're doing and our position and what we can do by simply crossing the border and saying, We stand with you, which is, you know, the most basic action of solidarity has always been, and I think, you know, we're living in a time in which being a human rights activist in Palestine is very hard, and is very dangerous. And you can encounter dangers of many kinds. And it's our duty to help in what we can from across the border, and support our comrades really, who are fighting the same battle. But I think one of the most interesting places we have long standing collaboration, it's actually very timely, is one in East Jerusalem, where there's a lot of eviction claims and a mass disposition, really of Palestinian families, done by settlers associations, sometimes with the help of the state itself. And we have a very strong community engagement. There we go on tours, there very often our we work very closely with activists there just last year, it's actually a year ago, exactly next month, there was a mass march from Silwan to Balfour, which is where the Prime Minister's office is, and where there was a mass movement against Netenyahu. So I think you can look at things like that. And our position is to be sharing the struggle, I think, you know, for me, and going back to my own history, when I was a kid in Peace, Now, we did a lot of dialogues. So we would go across the border, and we would talk about our lives. And very often what stayed with me was the difference, not the similarities. So for us to cross the border was very easy, we would sit on the bus and you know, go over quite swiftly. Whereas for our Palestinian friends to come over the border was somewhere between hard to impossible. And very often things were canceled when they had to come over. Again, I'm putting in perspective, this is the 90s. Now you couldn't even think about something like that. So for us, when we collaborate with Palestinian organizations or individuals, we work together and struggle to end the occupation. We don't just, you know, hold hands for the sake of it, which sometimes is the temptation. So that's something that we've been really putting at the center of what we do for the past few years, and I think has proved very important for both sides. Another example of something we did recently that I was proud to be part of was the olive harvest. So this was an especially violent olive harvest season where settlers sabotaged olive trees, olive groves, and Palestinian villages, and I should send parenthesis when we talk about settler violence, when we talk about attacks, we don't even think about attacks towards you know, it can be trees and can be sheep can be livelihood, really of people and that's that's an attack on human rights. If your livelihood has been attacked, you cannot survive. So going and working on olive harvest has just being helping hands and just doing the actual physical work together was really one of the most transformational things I've done in my entire life. It kind of made a difference. It was very you know, it was a very simple thing that I did, I went and I picked olives, but I made a difference to someone's life that was otherwise under attack. I should say also in parenthesis that Israelis going to harvest is also a way to safeguard Palestinians who do the harvest because settlers tend to attack them less. So it's also a way to become some kind of human shields in those instances of violence. So this is a kind of a glimpse of how we collaborate with Palestinians in a way that is meaningful, and is not just performative, but also enable us to engage and to see what's going on on the other side of the border. Many Israelis just don't get that image and just don't know what's going on. And you know, life can be very complicated in other ways in Israel, but you can just go through your life and not know what's going on on the other side of the border. So it's our responsibility has always been to really expose the most people we can in Israel, and see what it's like and why it is our obligation to fight for this cause.
Ori Nir 40:54
Dan, thank you so much, you know that this this conversation is a little bit of a kind of foreshadowing, we're going to have you as a guest more often on, on on PeaceCasts. So our listeners, I'm sure would would be happy with that.
Dana Mills 41:10
Ori Nir 41:10
And we are happy with that. Thanks so much for joining us.
Dana Mills 41:14
Thank you very much.
Claire Miller 41:15
Transcribed by https://otter.ai