TAUFIK ZIAD – Ten Years Gone

Jziaduly 5, 2004, was the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of the renowned Communist leader and poet Tufik Ziad. The events of the past ten years have proven again and again how sorely needed and badly missed he is by the Arab population in Israel and the democratic forces – Jewish and Arab, how much his loss effected the fortunes of Hadash and the Communist Party.

Comrade Taufik Ziad was among the most prominent leaders of the Arab population in Israel, throughout its history. Under all sorts of conditions he was a dauntless fighter, ceaselessly taking part in struggles for peace and equality, against the occupation and ethnic discrimination. In the course of such struggles Ziad was more then once imprisoned, sometimes being beaten up and even tortured. More then once shots were fired at his home (by police). Far from intimidating him, all this made him ever more determined in his strugg

Tufik Ziad had been active continually for decades, starting in the ranks of the Communist Youth and graduating into the party, in whose leadership he held a series of important positions. He was a Knesset Member from 1974 to 1990 and again from 1992 until his death.

On December 9, 1975 Ziad, at the head of the Nazareth Democratic Front, was elected Mayor of Nazareth by a huge majority. His election was a major turning point in the political history of both his city and of the Arab population in Israel as a whole. Since then, and until his death he was re-elected mayor again and again. At the last time he contested the municipal elections, he got the confidence of more than 60% of the electorate.

Ziad had a key role in the decision to hold a general strike of the Arab population in Israel on March 30, 1976 – the first Land Day – as well as in preparing and conducting the strike. This strike raised the Arab population’s struggle, against discrimination and land confiscations and for full equality, to a new historic stage.

Taufik Ziad was among the first Israeli citizens to meet with the PLO leadership, and had an important role in developing the dialogue with the Palestinian People’s leadership.

Side by side with his political activities, Ziad devoted an important part of his life to poetry and culture. Many of his poems expressed his revolutionary worldview and his determination to struggle for a better world. Poems of his, set to music, are still sung by the Arab masses in Israel and elsewhere in the Arab World. Quite a few of his poems were also translated into Hebrew and other languages.

In the last years of his life, Taufik Ziad did see the beginning of realization of some of the goals for which he struggled all his life – in particular, his long lasting campaign for recognition of the PLO and negotiations with that organization. It is symbolic that the accident which claimed his life happened when he was on his way back from a meeting with the PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

Taufik Ziad was a unique example of the tireless leader and fighter, a principled, honest and moral person, a poet and revolutionary, a true, consistent Communist – mayor of Israel’s biggest Arab city and great leader of Hadash and the Communist Party.