Greenbelt report: Just Peace – voices from Israel and Palestine

In 2008 Greenbelt launched Just Peace, a three-year campaign focusing on the crisis in Israel and Palestine, which aims to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people. Two landmarks in this year’s campaign were talks by the Jewish Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, who comes from Haifa, and the human rights lawyer Jonathan Kuttab, who is based in Jerusalem.

Ilan Pappe spoke of the war of 1948, known to Israelis as the ‘War of Independence’ and to Palestinians as the ‘Catastrophe’. Drawing on his latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, he sought to dispel three myths about that war.

The first of these is the myth that the events of May 1948, when an Israeli army defeated the Palestinian and Arab armies, involved a Jewish David against an Arab Goliath. The second is the idea that the Palestinian refugees were voluntary, and so had no right to return. Pappe discovered that 1948 provided a historical opportunity to empty Palestine of its indigenous occupants in order to prove Zionist logic right. The third myth is the idea of Israel as a peace-loving nation, and the world’s seeing the uprooting of the Palestinians as a purely humanitarian issue.

Jonathan Kuttab, Chair of the Holy Land Trust and a founder of the Centre for Non-Violence, gave an impassioned address on the role, methods and success of non-violence. Most of the Palestinian struggle has been non-violent, involving strikes, hunger strikes, raising flags in dangerous situations, political protests, appeals for international solidarity, and so on. The goal of violence is to impose the will. But Jesus came with the ethic of the upside-down kingdom. You win a non-violent campaign when you suffer casualties without retaliating. It is not an easy option.

Kuttab cited two examples of successful use of non-violence in the Palestinian cause: the Peace Flotilla, which brought building supplies and medicines into Palestine, was attacked by fully armed Israeli commandos; and the battle for boycotts and sanctions. ‘We don’t need guns’, Kuttab said, ‘but we do need people to stand with us in a fight against injustice.’

Share this story