In the Midst of
Combat, Israelis and Palestinian March for Ceasefire
Combatants for Peace, a group of
former combatants from both
sides of the conflict, march for a non-violent process to
resolve the disputes between Palestinians and Israelis.
(Photo from http://cfpeace.org)
Ten days ago the impossible become reality. While the
world was watching Palestinians and Israelis trading fire and hatred
through every possible means, there was a rare moment of cooperation
between Israelis and Palestinians who shared a mutual desire to put an
end to the violence.
In the midst of the missiles, bombs and devastation that took place in
Gaza and southern Israel, a group of Palestinians and Israelis came
together in the Palestinian town of Beit Jalla near Bethlehem for a
joint march to demand a bilateral ceasefire.
We belong to a group called Combatants for Peace (CFP) formed by former
combatants from both sides of the conflict who, after taking part in the
cycle of violence, have decided to use the path of non-violence to
protest against it. Everyone in our group is a former soldier or
combatant and has a history of causing and suffering violence. We tell
our stories so that other people can appreciate that there is always the
option of turning towards non-violence. Moreover, through our personal
stories, we offer Palestinians and Israelis the opportunity to hear
firsthand how the conflict is viewed by the other side.
What the joint march showed us is that, even in the midst of war, we can
look beyond cultural and physical barriers and see that we all face the
same reality. We are all victims of a conflict that is dominated by the
language of violence. During our joint march, we made the point that
both sides can talk to each other and, more importantly, that there are
people on both sides who want to live in peace with the “other” and can
achieve it through non-violence. Through our actions, we demonstrated
that the common belief that the other side is unreasonable or inhumane
is not accurate.
Seven years earlier we met in the same place to establish CFP. We
believed that violence only begets more violence and that the real
victors are those who look to the future rather than remain preoccupied
with revenge over the past.
About 150 Israelis and Palestinians came to the march on Nov. 17. The
march started simultaneously in areas of the West Bank under Palestinian
and Israeli control. Israelis on one side, Palestinians on the other, we
met at a crossroads that divides the two areas.
In Hebrew and Arabic, we called upon Hamas and Israel to stop their
violence. Together we called on the Israeli government to cease the
expansion of settlements and enter negotiations with the Palestinian
Authority and for Hamas to stop firing missiles towards Israel. For
Israelis to see a Palestinian condemning Hamas’s missiles or for
Palestinians to see an Israeli condemning Israel’s bombing of Gaza is
exactly the message we seek to spread.
You could clearly see the astonishment on the faces of passers-by as
they watched Israelis and Palestinians, holding their respective flags,
marching together. When our procession met with Israeli soldiers at the
crossroads where they stand guard, you could see the Israeli soldiers
and non-CFP Palestinians, who were not used to our demonstrations,
preparing themselves for confrontation. Some Palestinians even left,
fearing a violent clash. This is, after all, the routine most are used
to. Only this time we talked to the soldiers, showing them that there
would be no violence.
At first, they remained in formation and adopted a cynical attitude; but
as time passed, they relaxed, realizing that we meant what we said.
No doubt there is still a long road to travel, but we do not lack
strength and hope. Those in power who choose violence are a great
obstacle to negotiations. Needless to say, there are many voices against
Now that we have achieved a ceasefire we must make every possible effort
to spread the message of cooperation against the Occupation and the
conflict, showing our respective societies that the solution will only
come when both sides achieve independence and security. This march was
only a beginning, but it was an excellent one.
* Yonathan Listik is a member of Combatants for Peace (CFP), a
philosophy student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a teacher.
For more information about Combatants for Peace, see <http://cfpeace.org/>
This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).
Source: CGNews, Nov. 27, 2012, <www.commongroundnews.org>.
Copyright permission is granted for publication.