Our partners 'Combatants for Peace', who have been tirelessly working non-violently for years in Israel and Palestine for peace, reconciliation and justice, are in great concern. We received the following lines:
while the extremes of Israel’s political right wing leaders are jostling for positions of power, daily violence is spiralling out of control. With a torrent of dangerous Nationalism sweeping the country following the latest elections in Israel, the numbers of dead and injured are rising and an alarming number of families, overwhelmingly Palestinian, are once again dealing with bereavement, loss and pain. There are repeated calls for calm, and to find a way to end this latest wave of horror, and they are very welcome. But we must also call for solutions, for accountability, and for the end of the occupation - once and for all.
Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, recently told the UN Security Council;
“The immediate priority is to work to calm the situation and reverse the negative trends on the ground. This will require determined actions by both parties, supported by the international community.”
Combatants for Peace is on the ground. We have the solutions, we understand the pain and suffering caused by the violence we have witnessed, and we know there is another way. We are educating young people, reaching isolated communities, and training the activists of tomorrow to make a difference today.
Here are some voices from our activists:
Rafa, a young activist:
My name is Rafa, and I lead the Palestinian youth group at Combatants for Peace. I am proud to share that in the midst of violence and occupation, our brave youth continue the nonviolent struggle for equality and human rights. Over the past few months, we have planted olive trees to help families stay on their land, organized powerful nonviolent demonstrations, and advocated for equal water access. Recently, our youth group supported Palestinian families by helping to harvest olives: using their own bodies to protect the farmers from settler and military violence.
Razan Mohamed, a young activist:
There is no doubt that the situation is deteriorating rapidly right now: Less than four weeks ago, a Jewish Israeli woman named Hagar Geffen was accompanying a Palestinian farmer in his olive harvest just south of Bethlehem. A group of masked settlers approached and sprayed toxic chemicals on the elderly farmer's 180 olive trees. Hagar was documenting the incident on camera, when she was attacked by the settlers. They carried machetes, knives, and axes. They held her down, brutally beat her head with clubs and dropped large rocks on her until she bled. Hagar is 70 years old. It takes tremendous courage for our activists to do what they do. In the face of acute violence, we hold fast to hope, and continue to use nonviolence to resist brutality.
Elie, an Israeli activist:
My name is Elie. I am an Israeli engineer and a long-time activist with Combatants for Peace. I try to hike with Palestinian shepherds in the Jordan Valley at least two days a week. Since I am an Israeli citizen, I am able to provide some protection from the constant harassment by settlers and the military when I walk with the shepherds. I regularly walk with a shepherd named Burhan. Burhan lives in the northern Jordan Valley with his wife, nine daughters, and one son. His family has no access to running water; instead, they must buy it. While nearby settlers fill their ponds and irrigate their gardens, Burhan must pay ten times what the settlers pay. The settlers constantly threaten his community and other Palestinian villages nearby: They unleash dogs on them, attack them with whips and sticks, fly drones overhead to drive away their herds, and intimidate families at night (they show up with firearms). Recently, settlers began driving their vehicles into Burhan's flock of sheep to run them over and kill them. Many of the sheep are now pregnant, and in their panicked attempts to escape the violence, countless sheep have miscarried. Burhan's flock is his livelihood and his family depends on it for survival. The Israeli military does not stop the settlers, and the sense of desperation grows.
You and I can make a difference together. Together, we take action to dismantle systems of oppression. Together, we work for dignity, equality and justice. For every act of violence, we strive for a greater sign of peace.
Support nonviolence! Support solutions! Support hope!
In peace and solidarity from Israel/Palestine,
Yonatan Gher / Israeli Director of CfP & Rana Salman / Palestinian Director of CfP