Combatants for Peace – July 2010 UK Tour

This is a guest post by Kubbeh.

Israeli and Palestinian peace activists from Combatants for Peace are coming to the UK for a four-date tour later this month (21-30 July) in conjunction with Encounters. The bi-national group was set up by former Israel Defence Force soldiers and Palestinian militants who decided to put down their weapons and, instead, chose to work towards a peaceful future. (Engage can confirm that CfP are genuine peaceniks – and will be travelling to England by plane and not on a ship loaded with iron bars, knives etc.)

This tour will be a breath of fresh air for anyone who wants to see a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. By cooperating across borders, Combatants for Peace are working towards an alternative paradigm to boycotts, demonisation, hatespeech and other strategies which serve to perpetuate conflict. The Israelis and Palestinians will be sharing their personal stories and non-violent creative methods for resolving conflict.

Combatants for Peace UK tour dates are as follows:

  • Saturday 24 July – Warrington Peace Foundation (10am and 7.30pm)
  • Tuesday 27 July – Centre for Peace & Reconciliation Studies, Coventry University (7.30pm)
  • Wednesday 28 July – Frontline Club, London (7pm)
  • Thursday 29 July – Amnesty International UK, London (10am and 7pm)

Full details here.

Bassam Aramim Scholarship Fund

The group is also raising funds for Bassam Aramim, Combatants for Peace co-founder, to study for a Peace Studies MA at Bradford University in order to strengthen his ability to struggle for peace and find solutions to the conflict in his backyard. For more information and to donate click here.

9 Responses to “Combatants for Peace – July 2010 UK Tour”

  1. Brian Robinson Says:

    BBC World Service interview with Nour and Chen from Combatants for Peace

  2. StinkyPete Says:

    Please be careful about branding “Combatants for Peace” as a legitimately peaceful organization. Here’s a little background information on one of their most popular members, Yonatan Shapira.

    Shapira also supports the Global BDS movement that calls for full Right-of-Return and a one-state nightmare.


    • Brian Robinson Says:

      This is indeed worrying. That blog also leads to:
      “… Yonatan Shapira, a former Israel Air Force captain and pro-Palestinian activist, was quoted by a number of blogs describing the necessity to draw links between Nazi crimes and the Israeli occupation. …”
      Ha’aretz at

      Where do you go for sensible, evidence-based, polemic-free information and comment? Something equidistant from Hamas-loving Israel-bashing and truth-denying Israel-apologetics? (I’m thinking of the recent attack on the Lancet by “Honest Reporting”.)

      I’ve got disillusioned with most of the rhetoric on the “Left” and although I never stopped reading Engage, I’ve only recently (as you know) returned to adding a few contributions. I like normblog and subscribe to Dissent. Is there a list of good, reliable, sane blogs?

      I’d like to throw in a link to a favourite commentator, Nick Cohen (the former comrades used to blast me for this kind of thing). June 6, 2010, the Observer.

      Brian R

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        They would, wouldn’t they, Brian? Honest argument (I sometimes get uncomfortable reading Nick Cohen – too honest for me sometimes) does that to the ideologically hidebound.

        • Kubbeh Says:

          Nick Cohen rules!

        • Brian Robinson Says:

          I suppose lots of books have influenced me in the last few years, but two really stand out — one (often mentioned here) is Paul Berman’s ‘Terror and Liberalism’ (I guess it’s now achieved classic status) and the other was Cohen’s ‘What’s Left?’.

  3. Brian Robinson Says:

    When I made enquiries of a few others at the end of the “Rainbow of Occupation” workshop (Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Action Centre, London, 29-7-10) I found that I was not the only person who thought that the way it had been advertised was more than a little misleading. I don’t want to be misunderstood – it was extremely well run, fascinating and in many ways revelatory.

    I got to meet and work with several Israeli and Palestinian ex-fighters and I was impressed by their sincerity and capacity for empathising with the “other”. Every sentence uttered throughout the day was translated either from English to Arabic or vice versa, with occasional use of Hebrew if someone did not understand a word in one of the other languages.

    That said, the 7½ hours, led by facilitator Andrew Jackson of Cardboard Citizens Theatre Co, were not directly related to the Israel-Palestine conflict, although this was often referred to, and I was constantly aware of the applicability of the various techniques from Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed” to everyday situations arising from that conflict. But it was nevertheless disappointing that opportunities to explore these situations were not taken up. (It was different in the evening public meeting, “No Victory in Violence” where two short examples of everyday scenes were given, and discussed, by the company: a note on this later.)

    To someone like me, who has never done anything like this before, it was a fascinating experience, but it was also disappointing in that I learned nothing new about Israelis or Palestinians. Specifically, I had hoped (because of the context in which the workshops had been advertised) to learn a little more of *what*it*feels*like* to be a mainstream Israeli Jew.

    I know – if I may say so – rather a lot about what life is like for Palestinians in the West Bank and in Israel. But almost all the Israelis I have met (and this goes, I’m pretty sure for most of the ‘pro-Palestine comrades’ as well) are either leftwingers still living in Israel (some, though not me, would call them ‘extreme’) or disaffected expatriates living in Britain.

    It’s so easy to sound off about “What Israel / the international community / Obama / the EU &c” must do, but hang on a moment, there are real people around here, people like you and me – what do they feel and think? And they’re no more monolithic than the population of any country.

    In the unlikely event that I should ever be asked to run such a workshop (!) I would want to see a whole range of scenarios devised – the Israeli youngster just leaving school, his or her Palestinian counterpart in the West Bank, the soldier at the checkpoint, the sick old man at the same checkpoint (actually one of the scenes, drawn from real events in the actors’ lives, played at the evening meeting) – and so on: readers can think of loads of examples where subjective interpretations come into a complex dialectic with objective reality, and where so often we are dealing with psychologically driven projections.

    My conclusion: A day of great possibility, but a missed opportunity (but not for the many participants to whom I spoke who were there not because of the Israel-Palestine connection, but because they were already deeply involved in Boal’s techniques and the theatre of commitment – naturally, their conclusions would be quite different from mine).

    A packed auditorium at AIUK later that evening heard Nour Shehadeh and former IDF major Chen Alon recount their biographies (which they must have done many times). There really is something wholly admirable in people like them who can so thoroughly – and courageously – cognitively restructure their entire worldview. There were parallels – in both lives the achievement of paternity was pivotal. Each is viewed with deep suspicion – not to say hostility – by their own communities. Each has been imprisoned for his stance.

    I shall deal here just with Alon only for the simple reason that it is how Israelis change that interests me at the moment, and I shall only mention a few points that stand out in my mind.

    The first is that Alon is clearly and avowedly a Zionist. He made many of the same points that you can see him making on the video available online – about how his Zionist grandfather with his wife left Poland for Palestine in 1938 (and suffered guilt at not having been able to save the rest of the family, or not having been able to convince them of the need to leave). And Alon still clearly believes that Israel is a necessity not only for Israeli Jews but for diaspora Jews – “a safe place for Jews”.

    He also believes (I am paraphrasing from memory) that although there is discrimination in Israel, it is nevertheless a place where democratic institutions flourish. (I wondered ruefully how some of this would go down with some of our anti-Zionist bloggers, Jewish and non-Jewish. But in the hall, everyone (some 200 people) listened throughout with respect, and it may be unfair of me to mention the one woman who clattered noisily down the steps and out of the hall as Alon was discussing migration to Palestine in the wake of the Holocaust – perhaps she simply had to leave for other reasons entirely.)

    The other point I must make is that Alon used the word ‘apartheid’ quite casually and without qualification. This despite for example the objections raised by, amongst many others, Moshe Machover — –, Strawson , and so on.

    I wasn’t taking notes but I know some others who were there who could confirm, if they read this, what I recollect – and what I seem to recall is that one other CfP participant also used the word. (I took to using the Hebrew word ‘hafradah’ after hearing Jeff Halper talk about it – for example the separation barrier is in Hebrew, Geder Ha’hafrada, ‘hafrada’ being the Hebrew word for ‘separation’, although I now think that doesn’t give it anything like the resonance of ‘apartheid’: ‘hafradah’ does not *mean* ‘apartheid’, although a superficial equivalence would suggest that all they mean is the English word ‘separation’.)

    My conclusion: It’s possible to pick holes, condemn individual actions (see for instance ), assert the intractability of the problems but in the end I think CfP is a noble, indeed essential, venture, and an inspiring practical example of something Bertrand Russell (not always such a paragon of nuclear weapon virtue, in truth, but let’s move rapidly on), with Einstein, long ago told us: “There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death”.

    Brian Robinson
    30 July 2010

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