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Palestinian Activist Remembers Vivian Silver, Israeli Canadian Peace Activist Killed in Hamas Attack

StoryNovember 20, 2023
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Israeli and Palestinian peace activists are mourning 74-year-old Canadian Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver after she was confirmed killed on October 7 during the Hamas attack on Kibbutz Be’eri, where she lived. She was previously thought to be held hostage. Silver co-founded the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation, sat on the board for the human rights group B’Tselem and was an active member of Women Wage Peace. Silver’s friend and colleague Samah Salaime, a Palestinian feminist activist, says Silver would have pushed for dialogue to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. “This was her legacy, and this is what we have to march for and fight for after her death.”

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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman.

We end today’s show remembering the 74-year-old Canadian Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver. She was killed October 7th during the Hamas attack on Kibbutz Be’eri, where she lived. She was declared dead only last week, after Israeli authorities identified her remains. Up until last week, her family thought that she may have been taken hostage. Vivian Silver had co-founded the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment, and Cooperation and was a member of Women Wage Peace. In 2017, she joined a march of Israeli and Palestinian women to the shores of the Jordan River to call for an end to Israel’s occupation.

VIVIAN SILVER: We are organizing women from all over the country, from every side of the political spectrum, who are saying, “Enough! Maspik” — in Arabic, it’s ”makkafi” — “Enough. We’re no longer willing to do this.” We must reach a political agreement. We must change the paradigm that we have been taught for seven decades now, where we’ve been told that only war will bring peace. We don’t believe that anymore. It’s been proven that it’s not true.

AMY GOODMAN: Those were the words of Vivian Silver in 2017. On Thursday, friends and family and relatives of Vivian Silver gathered for her memorial service. During a recent BBC interview, her son Yonatan Ziegen was asked what his mother would say about what’s happening in Israel and Gaza now.

YONATAN ZIEGEN: That this is the outcome. This is the outcome of war, of not striving for peace. We’ve been — you know, Israelis have that saying, “living under a sword.” And this is what happens. You know, it’s very overwhelming, but it’s not completely surprising. We couldn’t — it’s not sustainable to live in a state of war for so long. And now it bursts. It burst.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Samah Salaime. She is a writer at +972 Magazine, a Palestinian feminist activist, her most recent piece, “A tribute to Vivian,” which went viral. In the piece, Samah writes, quote, “Nothing prepared me for yesterday’s bitter news of Vivian’s tragic end. I felt deep despair, like a bottomless sink-hole had opened under the foundations of humanity, where thousands are already buried — men, women, children, innocent Palestinians and Israelis. People who had wished for peace, and did not live to see that wish fulfilled,” Samah Salaime wrote.

Samah, welcome to Democracy Now!, under horrific circumstances. Can you tell us more about Vivian, and your response last week when you learned, no, she wasn’t a hostage, as you all and her family had hoped, but she had died at the kibbutz she lived on for decades, Be’eri?

SAMAH SALAIME: Yeah. So, thank you for the invitation. And I will use the few minutes that you give me to introduce Vivian Silver to your audience.

Vivian was a feminist, very optimistic woman. And she believed in people. She believed in humanity. And she made a difference in every room that she joined, every group or initiative or any peace process that she wished to be part of. Vivian, for five decades, put all of her — dedicated her life to make shared life possible in Israel. She truly believed of partnership between Palestinians and Israelis to end this vicious, ugly conflict that we all live in.

Vivian passed away. She was killed, and we didn’t know. We all believed — all her friends, we believed that she became a hostage like 240 hostages, because the army told her family that there is no any evidence that something bad happened to her. And they believed it. And it [inaudible]. All the friends, all the feminists and peace activists prayed for her safety. And we truly believed that she will know how to communicate with people in Gaza. She was in Gaza. She visited Gaza many times. And after the siege started, she insisted to take Palestinian kids from the checkpoint, from the border, to the hospitals inside Israel. And she combined them. We have a dream that one of these kids that she helped will find her and will communicate with her in Gaza. These images were wishful thinking for anyone and for everyone. And we had to deal with the devastating sad news that she’s gone.

And the painful thing in Israel, that there are some people who used her memory to justify the war in Gaza, something that she truly didn’t believe in force and militarism and bombs. And she really wanted and fighted for peaceful process and peaceful ending for this conflict. And, for example, one of the Israeli activists put her name on a rocket that was supposed to bomb Gaza and for her memory. And this is the quite opposite thing that Vivian teach us. The minister of security, on internal security in Israel, Ben-Gvir, he’s this extremist fascist minister in Netanyahu’s government, also posted in his — tweeted on his Twitter account saying that this is what the Palestinian do with people who believe in peace, and she paid the price.

And this kind of ugliness and harassment and incitement against peace activists, this is the atmosphere here. We were not allowed to demonstrate, and still, against the ministry, against the war. We cannot shout, as Palestinian activists inside Israel, that we need and we want ceasefire. Any gathering between Arab and Jewish is now forbidden in Israel. But what the death of or the murder of Vivian succeeds to do is to gather hundreds of people in her memorial, Arab and Jewish, Palestinian and Israelis, men and women, religious and secular, from all the aspect, all the region, came to say goodbye to this wonderful, amazing, prominent woman.

AMY GOODMAN: We had hoped to have her son Yonatan on, as well, but he is still sitting shiva right now since the funeral, still mourning his mother’s death. Is it true that someone wrote Vivian’s name on a rocket that would be used in Gaza?

SAMAH SALAIME: This is one of the photos that one of the activists showed me during the memorial, and I was shocked by this photo. Someone posted that on the social media for her memorial, which is — it’s like putting salt in our open wound. And we both cried to see this, because this is not on the memory of thing that is something that Vivian Silver will do or wish or want her name on any military action or violent tool. She used to say that if your only tool is a hammer, everything and every problem around you will be — will look like a nail, that you have to hit it. And the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have to be dealt with with different tool, and you have to be creative, and we have to be optimistic. We have to speak and to keep the dialogue going on and to compromise to find the solution, and not to keep this circle of blood going every two years. And this was her legacy, and this is what we have to march for and fight for after her death.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have a minute to go, but, Samah, what do you want to see happen now, and what do you think Vivian would be saying right now?

SAMAH SALAIME: I think Vivian, as we know her, with her sarcasm and great sense of humor, she will gather us as a group of women. She will speak, and she will break the law by organizing a demonstration against the war, and she will call for ceasefire now. She will have the courage to share photos and images from Gaza, and she will — she usually always had this unique or rich voice that nobody have around her. And she will be the voice of Palestinian families, Palestinian colleagues and Palestinian innocent people that send us all the time messages that they are very sad for her loss, and they are missing her, and they could not be at the memorial because of the war. Vivian will march around and will break the siege. She will do everything against this war. And she usually have this — I don’t know where she brings this power from, to approach people, and people will follow. And this is her energy. And we certainly — the peace movement in Israel-Palestine had a great loss today.

AMY GOODMAN: Samah Salaime, I want to thank you so much for being with us. We’ll link to your piece in +972 Magazine. I’m Amy Goodman.

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