2020 Featured Activists: Raluca Ganea (Part Two)

Zazim – Community Action Director Raluca Ganea and the rest of the organization’s staff find themselves operating in a critical moment.

“The COVID-19 crisis cruelly exposed the gaps and rifts in our society, the incompetence of the current government and the fact that Bibi is the worst person at the worst time to be leading the country,” says Raluca. “Those in power are making life and death decisions in an arbitrary, politically-motivated manner without transparency. If we citizens don’t have the ability to influence these critical decisions, it’s not democracy. We have an urgent mission to rehabilitate the foundations of a working democracy.”

What are you working on right now?
As of this writing, Zazim’s homepage features three major campaigns: the demand for Bibi, who has serious conflicts of interests, to be declared incapacitated to serve as prime minister – a move Zazim believes is a prerequisite for restoring a healthy democracy in Israel; an effort to help Palestinian farmers attacked by settlers with their olive harvest; and a call to the defense minister to allow Gaza residents with COVID-19 to travel to the West Bank for medical care.

What recent victories have you won?
Zazim has won significant victories in the past year, including a successful campaign, backed by 12,000 activists, to get Likud cameras removed from polling stations in the September 2019 election. The activists called for a government investigation; participated in the Election Committee’s discussion of the issue; launched an online and road signs campaign in Arabic encouraging the Arab public to not be deterred from voting; and created a professionally manned hotline. The successful transport of Negev Bedouin to the polls to vote as described in the first story about Raluca was another recent significant win.

What victories are you most proud of?
When asked which of Zazim’s achievements she is most proud, Raluca chooses a small campaign they ran three years ago when a road built through El Karim and El Uqabi, two unrecognized Negev Bedouin villages, cut the villages in half. Homes were on one side of the road and kindergartens and health clinics on the other, with no way for residents to get them. After residents turned to Zazim, activists demanded the government-owned Netivei Israel, the National Transport Infrastructure Company, provide a safe crossing. Activists flooded the company’s director with messages and calls and one bright day, he called Zazim and said, “I’m on my way to the Negev, I’m going to solve this problem now, come and meet me.”

Says Raluca: “This is what we work for. That more and more people in key positions will be responsive to the public.”

Raluca also is proud of the fact that Zazim boasts 200,000 activists, one-third of whom return to work with the organization every month. And the fact that in the past year, more than 80% of Zazim’s donations came from activists.

When asked what the social change Zazim is working towards looks like, Raluca answers half tongue in cheek: “Oh, just some simple things like democracy, equality, transparency, the end of the occupation!”

Zazim has many allies in Israel’s human rights and progressive civil society organizations, can count on some officials in the current government who are attentive to the public, and strongly feel the support of progressive communities around the world.

“This includes NIF supporters and the OPEN groups around the world (Zazim is part of the OPEN movement of grassroots campaign organizations), both of whose support is very important to us,” Raluca says.

But Zazim, of course, also has adversaries, including elected officials, who, according to Raluca, “don’t care and don’t understand at all what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to act – like Bibi.”

What would you do if you had additional funding?
If Zazim had additional funds, Raluca says she would hire a second Palestinian campaigner so the organization could deepen its work with the Palestinian-Israeli community, especially around violence – a growing scourge.

What do you want to share with NIFC supporters?
To NIFC supporters, Raluca has this message: “From my perspective, we are partners in all that we do here. We very much value your partnership and solidarity.”

Written and reported by Ruth Mason.

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