Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May/June 2006, page 61
Building a Peace Movement
Sabeel’s closing plenary featured speakers who outlined their own roles in “The Struggle is One: Building a Nonviolent Peace Movement.” Israeli refusenik Rami Kaplan described the crisis of conscience that forced him and other IDF soldiers into the Courage to Refuse movement. Steve Ramer of the Christian Peacemakers Team discussed CPT’s work in the occupied territory, especially the administratively divided city of Hebron, and Huwaida Arraf talked about the role of internationals as exemplified by the International Solidarity Movement. Dr. Leila Richards of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel concluded by giving an overview of their work as an international presence. All mentioned the need for more involvement in the issue.
Wanted: Volunteers To Witness in Palestine
At one of Sabeel’s March 3 workshops, entitled “A Solidarity of Witness and Accompaniment,” six presenters gathered to describe ways Americans can travel to Palestine to provide assistance and act as witnesses. Anne Stephens, a volunteer with WCC Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel, said the program, created at the request of Christians in Palestine, consists of living as a volunteer in a community for three months and accompanying people in their daily struggles. WCC’s Rev. Max Surjadinata said he was puzzled why so few Americans are going to Palestine, and attributed it to a sort of brainwashing. “In our society, we have been brainwashed about what happened in the Holocaust,” explained Surjadinata, “but we know nothing about what happened to the Palestinians, particularly the Christian Palestinians.”
International Solidarity Movement co-founder Huwaida Arraf spoke of the importance of internationals going to Palestine and observing what is going on there. “We need to give Palestinians more hope, which is one of the goals of the ISM,” she stated. “When internationals come in, it means that people are listening,” Arraf said. “We can spread the word, person to person. That is very important.”
Two members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Sally Hunsberger and Mike Brown, said the main goal of CPT is to go and see what is happening in Israel/Palestine, and then report to their congressman and the larger world community.
“With internationals there, [Palestinians] are pushing the boundaries and that makes the settlers nervous,” said Hunsberger. Another important task of CPT is to take video footage, she added. “We always have our video,” she said, “and we put a lot of it on the Web site.”
If people could see what they have witnessed, Hunsberger said, she was sure that they, too, would also want to step in and try to help.