For Peace and Reconciliation in Israel and Palestine

In the year 2001, Science for Peace co-sponsored two speaking tours, each of which gave presentations by a Palestinian and an Israeli working together in the interest of peace and justice in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. We also co-hosted meetings in Toronto. There is also another tour in the making.

The February Tour

The first tour, which crossed Canada, from Halifax to Vancouver, took place in February 2001. Jeff Halper, Anthropologist, and Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICARD) and Salim Shawamreh, a Palestinian Engineer and Activist whose West Bank home has now been demolished three times by the Israeli army, spoke on the Israeli control networks that have been set-up and extended in the Occupied Territories and on the demolitions of houses of Palestinians by the Israeli military. We have reported on this tour in the last Science for Peace Bulletin (March 2001).

The May Tour

The second speaking tour, which included Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, took place in May of 2001. Eyad El-Sarraj, a Palestinian psychiatrist and Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, and Ruchama Marton, an Israeli psychiatrist and Chair of Physicians for Human Rights (Israel), dealt with the injustices of The Occupation from the point of view of psychiatrists. They were billed as talking on Mental Health Under the Occupation, and expanded their topic to be more broad. The two have known each other and collaborated in their own projects for a long time, both in human rights questions on their own respective sides of the “Green Line” (the pre-1967 border of Israel) and in medical clinics in Gaza. They are both committed to non-violent approaches to middle-east relations. While the Halper-Shawamreh tour brought insights into the politics and military force of the Occupation, the Sarraj-Marton tour brought deep insights into the human condition.

Tour for October 2002

A new cross-Canada tour, which Science for Peace has agreed to sponsor and to 1elp in the Toronto organization, is being planned for October 2002. Plans are under way to bring Neta Golan and Nawaf Souf, activists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), to Canada this fall to give Canadians, ordinary citizens and policymakers alike, a first-hand glimpse of the devastation caused by the Israeli occupation policies and an opportunity to bolster the hope that Internationals, Israelis and Palestinians, working together, can bring an end to these policies and create the possibility of a just peace for both of the peoples of that troubled region.

Neta Golan is the Israeli woman who moved into the Palestinian village of Harres early in the al-Aqsa Intifada in hopes that her presence, as an Israeli, would help protect the villagers from harassment by neighbouring settlers. While there (and doing much more than just being present) she formulated the idea of bringing folks from around the world (“internationals”) to constitute a “protective presence” to besieged Palestinians and also to join Palestinian organizations in acts of non-violent protest and resistance to the Israeli occupation. This idea has evolved into an International Solidarity Movement (ISM), of which Neta is one of the principal activists, and which has so far had two major campaigns—in August and in December of 2001—during which folks from Europe and North America joined with Palestinians in non-violent actions and also provided a protective presence in various situations.

Nawaf Souf is a Palestinian 42-year-old father of two who spent thirteen years in Israeli prisons for participation in Fatah. He has always worked to abolish the occupation through peaceful means, and since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada, Nawaf—together with his brother Issa—has been active in bringing Israelis and Internationals to join Palestinians in non-violent actions to end the occupation. Issa was shot by an Israeli soldier last May, while attempting to get children out of the line of fire, and is now a paraplegic. Despite the great suffering they have endured, both Nawaf and Issa continue to be partners in the work for justice, peace, and reconciliation.

Nawaf and Neta will describe (in speech and through video) the activities of the ISM and discuss the situation in Palestine, with emphasis on and how the presence of internationals can support Palestinians interested in engaging in non-violent resistance to the occupation.