For English, please see below.

Det kan være yderst deprimerende at følge med i begivenhederne i Mellemøsten. Tredje – nogle vil sige fjerde generation af palæstinensiske børn vokser lige nu op under Israels militære besættelse. Alligevel, selv 70 år efter “katastrofen”, hvor omkring 750.000 palæstinensere blev fordrevet, holder nogle palæstinensere stadig bogstavelig talt fast i nøglen til deres hjem, hvorfra de blev udvist i 1948.

I den palæstinensiske landsby Battir, der ligger på den besatte Vestbred sydvest for Jerusalem, lykkedes det at sætte en stopper for byggeriet af Israels ulovlige opførelse af separationsmuren, der har adskilt landmænd fra deres marker og delt både byer og familier fra hinanden. Som arkitekt og civilingeniør, Hassan Muamer kommenterede, da vi mødte ham: “Vi besluttede os for ikke at påtage os offerrollen.” Med overraskende støtte fra bosættere i området, blev Battir i 2014 udnævnt som en UNESCO-verdenskulturarv. Målet er nu at gøre Battir til den foretrukne turistattraktion i Palæstina.

Igennem de seneste tre måneder har vi afdækket i alt 15 forskellige emner i forsøget på at gøre den nuværende situation i Mellemøsten – og konflikten generelt – mere håndgribelig og gennemskuelig. Især ved brug af materiale fra mange af de ovenstående lokale freds- og menneskerettighedsorganisationer, har vi forsøgt at bygge bro mellem dét, der faktisk foregår, og måden, hvorpå realiteterne ofte (mis)repræsenteres og (fejl)rapporteres i mainstream medier i Vesten generelt og i USA i særdeleshed.

Ifølge den israelske historiker Ilan Pappe, er den vigtigste opgave for historikere og for aktivister, der arbejder for fred og forsoning i Israel og Palæstina, at forsøge at bygge bro; “at forsøge og forstå, hvordan det kan være, at dét, der sker i dag og tidligere, som er så veldokumenteret og så kendt, slet ikke finder vej ind i vores medierapporter, ind i de fleste af vores akademikeres foredrag og ind i vores politikeres taler. Det er et meget sjældent eksempel på [at] sandheden er fuldstændig forvrænget og manipuleret.”

Da hun var bare syv år gammel, besluttede Janna Jihad besluttede at tage denne opgave på sig. Efter at israelske soldater havde dræbt både hendes fætter og onkel begyndte hun at  producere nyhedsvideoer, der dækkede protester, opgør ved checkpoints og vold mod den palæstinensiske befolkning. Hun er Palæstinas yngste civile journalist fra den palæstinensiske landsby, Nabi Saleh.

En anden person, der besluttede at tage sagen i egne hænder, er Benjamin Ladraa, en 25-årig svensk menneskerettighedsaktivist, der efter et besøg i Palæstina i 2017 sagde sit arbejde op og satte sine studier på pause. Benjamin besluttede sig for at fange verdens opmærksomhed ved i protest mod den nuværende situation at gå fra Sverige til Palæstina, hvor de israelske myndigheder dog nægtede ham adgang. Han har i flere måneder rejst rundt i USA for at berette om den ulovlige israelske besættelse og indleder snart en oplysnings-tourné i England.

I denne uge ønsker vi at hylde de mange modige mænd og kvinder, der arbejder enten individuelt eller kollektivt både midt i konflikten og fra lande langt væk. På trods af besættelse, undertrykkelse og de systematiske og daglige overtrædelser af fundamentale menneskerettigheder, som palæstinenserne lever under, så er der mange mennesker, der sammen og hver for sig kæmper med fredelige metoder – og dette på begge sider af konflikten, for at gøre en ende på den nuværende situation.

Som tidligere økumeniske ledsagere har vi arbejdet med mange af de følgende freds- og menneskerettighedsorganisationer, der gør et kæmpe stykke arbejde for at afhjælpe den nuværende situation:

  • –Breaking the SilenceTidligere soldater fra den israelske hær, der gennem deres egne oplevelser beretter om dagligdagen i de palæstinensiske områder;
  • –B’TselemIsraelsk informationscenter for menneskerettigheder i de besatte palæstinensiske områder, der dokumenterer israelske krænkelser af palæstinensernes menneskerettigheder på Vestbredden, Øst Jerusalem og Gaza-striben;
  • –Machsom WatchIsraelske kvinder fra alle lag af samfundet, der bidrager med at dokumentere besættelsen og ved deres fysiske tilstedeværelse fungerer som mæglere ved checkpoints, landbrugsporte m.v.;
  • –New ProfileIsraelske, mandlige og kvindelige feminister, der arbejder for en demilitarisering af Israel
  • –Rabbis for Human RightsDen eneste rabinske gruppe, der tager afsæt i FN’s menneskerettigheder og som bl.a. yder beskyttende tilstedeværelse for sårbare palæstinensere under den årligt tilbagenvendende olivenhøst;
  • –Yesh DinIsraelsk gruppe, der arbejder for at ændre de strukturelle menneskerettighedskrænkelser i Palæstina ved at indsamle, dokumentere og udbrede kendskabet til de mange krænkelser, der finder steder;
  • –Peace NowOprettet af reserveofficerer og soldater fra den israelske hær, der bl.a. afholder demonstrationer og lægger pres på den israelske regering;
  • –The Parents CircleForældre fra begge sider, der har mistet et nærtstående familiemedlem, som mødes for at fremme dialog, tolerance, forsoning og fred;
  • –Wi’amPalæstinensisk konfliktløsnings-center med base i Bethlehem med en mission om at fremme fredsbyggeri og styrke samfundets indbyggere til at blive forandringsagenter;
  • –Military Court WatchAdvokater der arbejder for at sikre palæstinensiske, tilbageholdte børns rettigheder.

Tarek Al-Zoughbi, frivillig koordinator fra Wi’am udtaler: “På trods af al tåregassen, våbnene og spændinger ser vi stadig oliventræerne vokse og blomster, der blomstrer […] Vores håb kan kun blive til virkelighed gennem hårdt arbejde, udholdenhed og ved ikke at give op.”

Det er klart, at både israelere og palæstinensere må engagere sig i dette hårde arbejde for en bedre fremtid. Dertil kommer, at det i årenes løb ikke kun er palæstinensere, der har lidt tab. Den fælles israelsk-palæstinensisk organisation, Parents Circle består af over 600 familier, som alle har mistet et familiemedlem til den igangværende konflikt. Organisationen er af den opfattelse, at en forsoningsproces er en forudsætning for at opnå en bæredygtig fred.

Som Tarek Al-Zoughbi påpeger: “Der er mange mulige fremtidsscenarier. Den triste fremtid byder på fortsat lidelse, afbødning og nedbrydning. Den fremtid vi håber på og stræber efter, er, at mure bliver revet ned, at fremmede bliver til naboer og venner og geografiske begrænsninger og overtrædelser af menneskerettighederne og miljøer bliver afskaffet.”

Ifølge aktivisten, Shadia Sbait, en kristen araber, bosat i Israel: “At have håb er grunden til at stå op om morgenen. Man kan ikke gøre noget uden håb. Derfor er håb afgørende. Uden det, mere fortvivlelse, ødelæggelse og desperation. At miste håbet under besættelsen er at hade livet. Man har brug for håb for at være glad!”

I videoen “Can Israelis and Palestinians See Eye to Eye? || Creators for Change”, samles israelere og palæstinensere i forsøget på at finde fælles fodslag. En måde at nedtrappe en konflikt på, er ved altid at huske på, at der på hver side er tale om mennesker – og at vold ikke kun findes i handlinger, men også i ord og diskurs.

Det er vores håb, at vi igennem denne kampagne har formået at bidrage til en bedre og lysere fremtid til gavn for begge parter i konflikten. Ifølge Johan Galtung, faderen af fredsstudier, betyder fred “evnen til at transformere konflikter med empati, uden vold og kreativitet – en endeløs proces.” Udtrykt lidt anderledes af John F. Kennedy er fred ”en daglig, en ugentlig, en månedlig proces, der gradvist ændrer meninger og langsomt eroderer gamle barrierer, stille byggeri af nye strukturer.”

Vi insisterer på, at der er en vej frem – og at fred via fredelige midler er denne vej frem. Som Richard Attenborough har udtalt: “Der er et LYS i denne verden. En helbredende ånd stærkere end noget mørke, vi måtte støde på. Når der er lidelse og for meget smerte, mister vi nogle gange denne kraft af syne. Ånden vil så pludselig komme frem gennem almindelige mennesker, der hører et kald og på ekstraordinære måder svarer tilbage.”

Ved hjælp af vores 15 forskellige kampagneplakater er det lykkedes os at engagere mere end 300 mennesker i løbet af foråret, sommeren og efteråret 2018. Vi vil gerne sige tak til hver og én af jer for at hjælpe os med at skabe opmærksomhed omkring situationen i Mellemøsten. Der er hårdt brug for det, da kampen for frihed og retfærdighed ikke er en kamp, palæstinenserne kan vinde alene.

Kilder:

  1. “UNESCO names West Bank’s Battir a protected World Heritage Site”, Al Jazeera, 23 June 2014, tilgængelig her.
  2. “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. By Ilan Pappe”, Ilan Pappe, published on youtube 22 April 2011, available her.
  3. “A Caged Bird Sings”, film by Amanda Leigh Smith, published on youtube 15 March 2018, tilgængelig her.
  4. “Sweden to Palestine: A Walking Protest”, ZoominTV, published on youtube 11 July 2018, tilgængelig her.
  5. “A reason to move forward”, 12 Faces of Hope – interview with Tarek Al-Zoughbi, World Council of Churches, tilgængelig her.
  6. “The reason to wake up in the morning”, 12 Faces of Hope – interview with Shadia Sbait, World Council of Churches, tilgængelig her.
  7. “Peace and inspirational quotes”, the Peace Alliance, tilgængelig her.

Even if you have given up hope about peace and justice

 

Watching from near or afar what is going on in the Middle East can be extremely discouraging. A third – some say a fourth generation of Palestinian children is now growing up under Israeli military occupation. Yet, even after 70 years, some Palestinians still literally hold on to the key to their lost homes, from which they were expelled in 1948.

In the Palestinian village of Battir, located on the Occupied West Bank southwest of Jerusalem, residents of the village and neighboring Jewish settlers formed an unlikely alliance to put an end to the construction of Israel’s illegal separation wall, which has separated farmers from their fields and divided both cities and families. As the Palestinian architect and civil engineer, Hassan Muamer commented when we met him: “We decided not to be victims.” Battir was in 2014 granted World Heritage Site status by UNESCO and the goal today for the residents of Battir is to become tourist attraction no. 1 in Palestine.

Throughout the past three months, we have covered 15 different topics in the attempt to make the current situation in the Middle East – and the conflict in general – more tangible. In particular through peace and human rights organizations operating on the ground in Israel-Palestine, we have attempted to bridge the gap, between the realities on the ground and the ways that these realities are oftentimes being misrepresented and underreported in the mainstream media in the West in general and in the United States in particular.

According to the Israeli historian, Dr Ilan Pappe, the main duty of historians and activists for the cause of peace and reconciliation in Israel and Palestine, is to try and bridge that gap; “to try and understand how come the realities on the ground today and those of the past, which have been so well recorded, and so well known, are not at all making the way into our media reports, into the lectures of most of our academics and into the speeches of our politicians.”

After Israeli soldiers had killed both her cousin and uncle, Janna Jihad decided to take matters into her own hands as she too, experienced that the media did not accurately report what was going on. Janna is Palestine’s youngest civilian journalist from the Palestinian village, Nabi Saleh. Since the age of 7, she has produced video news coverage of protests, checkpoint showdowns and violence against the Palestinian population.

Another individual who decided to take matters into his own hands is Benjamin Ladraa, a Swedish activist who quit his job and his studies to embark on a long journey, calling for the liberation of Palestine. Simply by means of walking the distance from Sweden to Palestine, (where the Israeli authorities denied him entry), Benjamin decided to try and catch the world’s attention. For several months he has now traveled around the USA to raise awareness about Israel’s illegal occupation; he is about to begin an advocacy tour in the UK as well.

In this week, we wish to pay tribute to the many brave men and women, working either individually or collectively, on the ground or from countries far away from the conflict in the Middle East. Despite occupation, oppression and the systematic and daily violations of fundamental human rights, there are many fighting nonviolently on both sides of the conflict to put an end to the occupation and to build a better future for the next generations.

As former Ecumenical Accompaniers, we have worked with and learned about the conflict from many of the following peace and human rights organizations, which are all doing a tremendous job to address the many issues connected with Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land:

  • Breaking the SilenceFormer soldiers from the Israeli army who based on their own experiences inform the public about the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories;
  • B’TselemThe Israeli Human Rights Information Center in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which documents Israeli violations of Palestinians’ human rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip;
  • Machsom WatchIsraeli women from all aspects of life who contribute to documenting the occupation, serving as mediators at checkpoints, agricultural gates etc.;
  • New ProfileIsraeli, feminist men and women working for a demilitarization of Israel
  • Rabbis for Human Rights → The only group of rabbis whose work take point of departure in the universal human rights – they e.g. provide protective presence to vulnerable Palestinians during the olive harvest;
  • Yesh DinIsraeli group working to change the structural human rights constraints in Palestine by collecting, documenting and disseminating the knowledge of the many violations that occur;
  • Peace NowCreated by reserve officers and soldiers of the Israeli army who conduct demonstrations and put pressure on the Israeli government to change its policy of occupation;
  • The Parents CircleParents from both sides who have lost a beloved family member, which come together to promote dialogue, tolerance, reconciliation and peace;
  • Wi’amPalestinian conflict resolution center located in Bethlehem with a mission to promote peacebuilding and empower community members as agents of change.
  • Military Court WatchAttorneys working to secure Palestinian detained children’s rights.

On the prospects for a brighter future, Tarek Al-Zoughbi, a volunteer coordinator at Wi’am, says: “In spite of all the teargas, weapons and tensions, we still see the olive trees grow and the flowers bloom […] Our hopes can only become reality through hard work, perseverance and by not giving up.”

It is evident that both Israelis and Palestinians must engage in this hard work for a better future. During the course of events, it is important not to forget that the Palestinians are not the only ones who have suffered. The Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF) represents a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization of over 600 families, all of whom have lost an immediate family member to the ongoing conflict. The organization is of the opinion that the process of reconciliation is a prerequisite to achieving a sustainable peace.

As Tarek Al-Zoughbi comments: “There are many possible futures. The sad one is continued suffering, mitigation and degradation. The future we hope and strive for is walls being torn down, strangers becoming neighbours and friends, and geographical restrictions and infringements on human rights and environments being abolished.”

In the video “Can Israelis and Palestinians See Eye to Eye? || Creators for Change”, Israelis and Palestinians are brought together in the attempt to find a middle ground. Surely, one way to de-escalate conflict is by always remembering that on each side, it is humans we are dealing with – and that violence can be found not only in actions, but in words and discourse.

According to the activist, Shadia Sbait, a Christian Arab living in Israel: “Having hope is the reason to wake up in the morning. You can’t do anything without hope. Therefore, hope is crucial. Without it, more despair, destruction and desperation. Losing hope under occupation is to hate life. You need hope to be happy!”   

On that note, it is our sincere hope that we through this campaign have managed to contribute to a better and brighter future for the sake of both people. Peace means, according to the father of peace studies, Johan Galtung; “the capacity to transform conflicts with empathy, without violence, and creatively- a never-ending process.” Expressed slightly different by John F. Kennedy: “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”

We insist that there is a way – and peace by peaceful means is the way forward. Quoting Richard Attenborough: “There is a LIGHT in this world. A healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometime loose sight of this force when there is suffering, and too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”

By means of our 15 different campaign posters we managed to engage more than 300 people throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn of 2018. We would like to thank each and every one of you for helping us draw attention to the situation in the Middle East. Engaging people from afar is crucial seeing that the struggle for freedom and justice is not one that the Palestinian people can win on their own.

Sources:

  1. “UNESCO names West Bank’s Battir a protected World Heritage Site”, Al Jazeera, 23 June 2014, available here.
  2. “A reason to move forward”, 12 Faces of Hope – interview with Tarek Al-Zoughbi, World Council of Churches, available here.
  3. “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. By Ilan Pappe”, Ilan Pappe, published on youtube 22 April 2011, available here.
  4. “A Caged Bird Sings”, film by Amanda Leigh Smith, published on youtube 15 March 2018, available here.
  5. “Sweden to Palestine: A Walking Protest”, ZoominTV, published on youtube 11 July 2018, available here.
  6. “The reason to wake up in the morning”, 12 Faces of Hope – interview with Shadia Sbait, World Council of Churches, available here.
  7. “Peace and inspirational quotes”, the Peace Alliance, available here.