Former adversairies unite.
A former Israeli soldier Elik Elhanan and a former Palestinian combatant and prisoner Sulaiman Al Hamri will appear together on Friday January 12, 2007 at 8:15 p.m. at Congregation Or Shalom 835 Derby-Paoli Rd., Berwyn PA to advocate for non-violent alternatives for achieving a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The speakers, who represent the Israeli-Palestinian group
Combatants for Peace
, are coming to Philadelphia as part of a 22-city national tour to the United States, sponsored by the chapters of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the largest and most vibrant American Jewish peace movement dedicated to the resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Elhanan and Al Hamri will share their experiences in transitioning from veteran fighters to peace advocates with an American Jewish audience for the first time. They will discuss frankly the violent actions in which they have played a part and the turning points at which each recognized the limited utility of violence, as well as how their personal histories led them to believe that a negotiated two-state solution and the engagement of the international community in facilitating it are critical to the national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.
“Following a year of devastating bloodshed which further proved the futility of finding a military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these men are bringing an innovative model for working together to end the violence,” said Chris MacDonald-Dennis, leader of the Philadelphia chapter of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, which includes over 90 supporters.
The Combatants for Peace movement was founded in 2005 by Israelis and Palestinians who were once actively involved in perpetuating the cycle of violence. After having seen one another only through weapon sights, they decided to put down their guns, and to fight instead for peace through dialogue, reconciliation and educational outreach. They believe that these non-violent means offer the only opportunity to secure the futures of their respective people by working together to end the Israeli occupation, halting the settlement project, and establishing a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, alongside the State of Israel.
In addition to organizing countless meetings between Israeli and Palestinian veterans, the Combatants for Peace have worked together to raise the consciousness in both larger Israeli and Palestinian societies of the aspirations and fears of those on the “other side,” and in so doing to create partners in dialogue. Through lectures, joint projects, non-violent demonstrations and media outreach, the group members aim to educate both peoples about the merits of non-violent struggle and to put political pressure on both governments to stop the vicious cycle of violence and resume constructive dialogue.
Elhanan is the Israeli coordinator of Combatants for Peace. He is familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict both as a fighter and as a victim: from 1995 to 1998 he served as a soldier in an IDF combat unit. In 1997 his sister was killed by a Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem.
“I have seen the damage the violence can cause,” he says. “I decided not to take part in that cycle anymore, and to work for peace through dialogue and joint activities with other Palestinians who think like me.” Elhanan believes that those who are dedicated to peace, social justice and equality—be they Israelis or Palestinians must separate themselves from those who profit from or believe in violence as a way of life.
Al Hamri is the Palestinian coordinator for Combatants for Peace. His long history of peace work includes co-founding Combatants for Peace in April 2005, and working with other Israeli peace groups such as Taayoush. Al Hamri also recently participated in the Swedish Human Rights Forum as a guest lecturer. He spent four-and-a-half years in Israeli prisons for his involvement in anti-occupation protests and demonstrations, before deciding to pursue a non-violent approach to resolving the conflict.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, is a national grassroots movement with more than 35,000 supporters and 39 chapters, that educates and mobilizes American Jews in support of a negotiated two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Combatants for Peace movement
was started jointly by Palestinians and Israelis, who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence; Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army (IDF) and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom. After brandishing weapons for so many years, and having seen one another only through weapon sights, they have decided to put down their guns, and to fight for peace.
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