Reflection: can a voice for non-violence arise from Hamas?

 CPTer Dianne Roe wrote this reflection before the latest violence in Lebanon, but feels it is even more relevant now. In January I returned to the farming village of Beit Ummar, between Bethlehem and Hebron, to visit families there. A woman joined me on the dirt path. The elections were on everyone's mind. "I will vote for Hamas," she told me. "You are from America. You probably think Hamas is terrorist. Our new mayor is from Hamas. Do you think we are terrorists?" I looked at her. She certainly did not fit the image most people in North America have of Hamas. Beit Ummar is a farming village that named one of its areas, Jimmy Carter Quarter, after the former president visited. "No, I do not think you are terrorists," I answered. "Our mayor's name is Farhan Al Qam," she said. "I lived with the Al Qam family," I told her excitedly. The new Hamas mayor is part of my family, I thought. A few weeks later Bourke Kennedy and I met Mayor Farhan Al Qam and asked him if he would welcome Israelis and internationals to his village. "They are most welcome," he answered. "If anyone can help our farmers gain access to their land, we hope they will come." Then we asked him about Hamas. He smiled as if in anticipation of our question and spoke to us about the brotherhood of all and the other ideals that were the foundations of Hamas. He told us he would organize the farmers and we would tell Ezra, an Israeli from the group Ta'ayush that he wouldinvite them to a meeting at their convenience. Out of the subsequent meeting between the villagers and Israelis, a grassroots committee formed. On July 7, 2006, in the fields of Beit Ummar, near the Israeli settlement of Karme Tsur, I saw some of the fruits of those meetings. Mayor Farhan Al Qam led hundreds of villagers from the mosque to the fields. They knelt for Friday prayers on the land that Israeli settlers and soldiers had prevented the farmers from accessing. Internationals and Israelis, including Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), and Ezra from Ta'ayush, waited between Karme Tsur and the farmers. When an armed Israeli settler moved in the direction of the Palestinians, Ascherman stood in between. When Palestinian youth responded with stones, the Beit Ummar mayor ushered them back to the village. Most of the youth left then with the adults, only a few boys threw stayed and threw stones. I marvelled at the discipline, knowing that the day before the Israeli military had killed twenty Palestinians in Gaza. Can there arise a voice for non-violence from Hamas? For the past five years, in villages all over the West Bank, Israelis, Palestinians and internationals have worked together to create a non-violent movement. Who is listening? How can the international community support these steps for reconciliation and justice? Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumeniocal initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT's peacemaking work, see

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