by David Hartsough
When people think of Palestine and Israel, they often picture Palestinians as suicide bombers and terrorists while the Israeli military are seen as bombing whole neighborhoods in Palestine. The violence and counter-violence and endless war has created a hopelessness about any peaceful future for the Holy Land.
However, during a month-long stay in Palestine and Israel recently, I found something else. I found something very positive and hopeful and perhaps the key to a peaceful resolution of this tragic conflict — and a possible path toward a peaceful future for both peoples.
I found that violence is not the whole story. Endless checkpoints, 26-foot high walls, and the great fear and mistrust between many Israelis and Palestinians are grimly persistent features of life there. But there is also an alternative to this cycle of destruction being forged on both sides. There is a larger story beyond the script of retaliatory violence – a story of a growing nonviolent movement that both Palestinians and Israelis are building. It is this larger story that I would like to share.
Active Nonviolence is alive and well in Palestine and Israel! The interfaith delegation I co-led to this region witnessed, first hand, many Palestinians who are engaged in active nonviolent resistance to the occupation of their lands in the West Bank. Weekly nonviolent demonstrations have been held in many villages, including Bil’in, Nil’in, Al Ma’sara, Walaja, as well as in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, some for more than five years. Israelis (including Combatants for Peace and Anarchists Against the Wall), and Internationals, (including Christian Peacemaker Teams, Ecumenical Accompaniment Program and Michigan Peace Teams) actively participate in these weekly actions. There is a deeply inspiring commitment by Palestinians throughout the region to keep struggling nonviolently even when Israeli soldiers shoot powerful tear-gas canisters and grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets, concussion bombs and even live ammunition at the unarmed villagers.