As the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire agreed upon by Hamas and Israel maintains a fragile peace in the Gaza Strip, it is a good moment to pause and reflect on sources of optimism and inspiration from the region in order to learn from the individuals and groups working on the ground in Israel and Palestine to bring about lasting peace.
“The reality has never been so grim. And yet, in the midst of this darkness, there are Israelis and Palestinians who are working tirelessly for an end to bloodshed, and to all forms of violence—including the structural violence of the occupation/siege” (Jen Marlowe, “Rays of hope in Gaza: 13 Israeli and Palestinian groups building peace,” Open Democracy, 5 August 2014).
The following profiles, reproduced from Marlowe’s article, represent just a small selection of organizations and movements that endeavour to build peace through equality, dignity, security, and respect for human rights for all Palestinians and Israelis.
Legal & Human Rights Organizations:
ADALAH-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Haifa, Israel)
“Adalah means justice in Arabic. The organization was co-founded in 1996 by Hassan Jabareen and Rina Rosenberg. Based in Haifa, in the north of Israel, Adalah works to defend and advocate for the human and legal rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel (who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population), as well as the rights of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories.”
AL-MEZAN CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (Gaza, Palestine)
“Al-Mezan seeks to promote respect and protection for all human rights as enshrined in international law for residents (women, men, and children) of the Gaza Strip. Through research, legal intervention, and advocacy, it works to build the individual and collective human rights of Palestinians—based on principles of equal human worth and equal respect of all human rights. It also works to build a society with self-determination, social justice, the rule of law, and enhanced democracy.”
B’TSELEM- The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (West Jerusalem, Israel)
“Hebrew for In the Image of, or Dignity, a group of Israeli academics, attorneys, and MPs founded B’tselem in 1989 during the height of the first intifada. Their goal was to document and educate the Israeli public about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among Israelis, and help create a human rights culture in Israel. B’tselem documents both specific human rights violations and systemic problems that impact human rights, as well as advocating for shifts in policy within the Israeli authorities. Simultaneously, they develop creative means of public education—including a pioneering video advocacy project.”
Cultural/ Media Organizations:
“Launched in 2010 by a group of Israeli bloggers, journalists, and photographers, +972Mag is a blog-based web zine whose English-language reporting and analysis are based on a commitment to human rights, freedom of information, and the end of the occupation. In March 2014, +972Mag’s Hebrew sister site, Sikha Mekomit (translation: Local Call), was launched in partnership with Just Vision, seeking to shift the discourse inside Israeli society. Sikha Mekomit is run by a diverse group—including Jews, Palestinians, and LGBT, religious, and secular people—who all share a commitment to end the occupation, support human rights, and who hold a strong belief in free, uncensored, and honest journalism.”
Zochrot is an Israeli organization that works to identify and preserve Palestinian villages and communities that were destroyed in the an-Nakbah, during the creation of the state of Israel.
COMBATANTS FOR PEACE (Israel and Palestine)
“Combatants for Peace was founded in 2005 by former Israeli soldiers and former Palestinian militants, who decided to put down their weapons and fight nonviolently for peace. Combatants for Peace believes that only through partnering together through nonviolent means will the bloodshed, settlement project, and overall occupation end. They seek to educate toward reconciliation and nonviolent struggle in both Palestinian and Israeli societies, and to pressure both authorities to terminate violence, end the occupation, and begin a constructive dialogue.”
NEW PROFILE (Israel)
‘“New Profile’ is a group of feminist women and men who are convinced that Israelis need not live in the militarized society the country has become. Their work includes providing information and support for youth grappling with the decision about whether to do their obligatory military service or become “refuseniks“; also, leading groups of youth who are examining moral and personal dilemmas related to army service, the treatment of women in society, the treatment of Arabs, the occupation, social and economic gaps in the country, and more.”
BREAKING THE SILENCE (Israel)
“Breaking the Silence is an organization comprised of former soldiers in the Israeli military who all served in the Occupied Territories and are trying to expose the Israeli public to the abuses they saw and participated directly in. By collecting and publishing testimonies of soldiers who served in places like Hebron (a unit of soldiers who served in Hebron began the initiative in 2004) and Gaza, Breaking the Silence wants to push Israeli society to face the brutal reality that its occupation has created.”
Other Inspiring Organizations
Countless other organizations and projects with important mandates are working towards peace, equality, justice, dignity and respect than can be listed here.
Please visit OpenDemocracy.net for more inspirational groups seeking to build a peaceful and just Middle East.
Photo credit: eddiedangerous