top of page

On October 7th, 2008 I travelled to Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories and documented ongoing widespread human rights abuses in the West Bank. I will never forget what I witnessed, a Palestinian-Israeli nonviolent resistance to oppression that absolutely astounded me. I met incredible everyday people leading this work at the grassroots despite facing regular violence from the Israeli government. This violence was militarily equipped and funded by Western governments. And, this violence and collective punishment against Palestinian civilians continues to be funded and supported by Western governments today.

 

This is one reason why I want to share some of what I witnessed first hand.

 

In 2008 when I travelled in the Occupied West Bank, Palestinians asked me to take out my camera and show my people what was happening.

T

In Israel and Palestine I witnessed very brave Israelis and internationals from around the world, including Jews, Muslims, Christians, Agnostics and others standing in solidarity with Palestinians under occupation. I saw diverse communities working together and calling for justice from the grassroots. Their efforts included trying to reduce violence, end the occupation and apartheid... and more modestly to at least bear witness to crimes, amplify stories, and stand in solidarity and accompaniment with those suffering. Their work was seldom respected, acknowledged, elevated or shown as a model by western media or governments.

Consistently without exception, I witnessed Palestinians welcoming others like myself who could easily be seen as "the enemy" for the things our governments were doing; radical hospitality. I experienced these Palestinians feed us, house us and share their most painful stories with us, all while facing brutal restrictions under occupation and forced poverty. I witnessed time and time again a humanizing of the other even as Palestinians faced frequent dehumanization. I also witnessed a determination towards nonviolent resistance to the occupation with a call for international and cross-cultural support. One example of answering the call, was meeting a group of Rabbi's from Israel who travelled from Jerusalem to work with Palestinian farmers during olive harvest as the farmers faced ongoing threats of violence from settlers in the West Bank settlements, including the destruction of their livelihood by the cutting down of olive tree farms. Another example is in Jerusalem, where I met and listened to two grieving men speak together, one a man whose daughter was killed by Hamas, blown up on a bus, travel with a Palestinian man whose boy was murdered by the IDF; they spoke together as friends having met through a Palestinian-Israeli bereavement network. They modelled powerful dialogue for our group. And together, they insisted on putting cracks in the wall, a separation barrier that they believed would not stop the one determined Hamas suicide bomber or the violence of the IDF - but also,... that this dividing wall would not stop the one determined peacemaker. The Israeli father said, "we together are putting cracks in the wall".

In Jerusalem I also visited and travelled with Israeli human rights organizations like B'Tselem, as they extensively and meticulously documented daily human assaults and atrocities in Israel and Palestine. Finally in just a few short weeks, I saw internationals using their privilege and presence to reduce violence and elevate the work and stories of local people including local peacemakers engaged in nonviolent direct action (you can read more about community peacemaker teams vision and work to support that here). On multiple occassions I saw these internationals face harassment and bodily harm as they accompanied local peace activists and Palestinians in simple day to day activities like walking children home from school or helping the olive harvest.

These are just some of the things I witnessed.

__________

Today, I carry close to my heart the teachings of the educators of peace I met in Palestine and Israel. Despite the ongoing determination of warmongers, these everyday people and peacemakers voices will not be silenced, their work never diminished. They taught and continue to teach me/all of us so much about justice, courage and resilience. They teach us about peace not just as an end, but as a tangible means. As I returned home, I was a changed person, their leadership helped motivate and inspire me to further my education in peace and conflict transformation studies at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Canada.

Witnessing what was happening at the grassroots in Israel and Palestine changed my life and is part of what inspired the last fifteen years of small actions in community building, filmmaking and art-making at home and abroad. I owe a forever debt of gratitude for their global leadership.

(continued in next column)

Screenshot 2024-05-04 at 10.28.24 AM.png

Witnessing assaults on Palestinian farmers, Palestinian journalists and international peacemakers. Photo with Palestinian farmers above, and myself in a red hat below with Palestinian journalists, witnessing and filming the IDF trying to cover up a crime and threaten us with assault rifles drawn. 

CLIP: STORIES OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

These are some clips from a 2009 video i made to share with friends, family and supporters who helped send me on a community peacemaker teams delegation to Palestine.

Accompanying Palestinian school children between school and home as one of CPT's mandates for violence reduction. Palestinians often told us soldier violence decreased with international presence but that the same could not be said from the settlers living in the West Bank settlements. We witnessed harassment of children by settlement adults on numerous occasions including during the school accompaniment in the image below.

INTERVIEW WITH ZOUGHBI ALZOUGHBI 

What happened by Hamas in Israel on October 7th, 2024, along with the Israeli Government response in Gaza and the West Bank for nearly every day of the last 6 months, is a direct and deliberate attack on innocent civilians and decades long grassroots peacework. It is an attempt by warmongers to sow seeds of hatred among people. And it is the people, not the political leaders, who pay the price.

Israelis and Palestinians, for this generation and for generations to come, deserve a safe and prosperous future.

 

Ask yourself...does who and what you support, sow seeds of peace for future generations? 

In this important moment in history, we in the West must stand together in courage, creativity and resistance to call for an end to state violence and terrorism, especially as our tax dollars and politicians actively fund and support it.

 

As companies lobby and profit from these wars, what do we think will continue to happen and who will be the ones who continue to suffer the consequences?  When politicians misspend trillions of dollars on "military aid" instead of addressing root causes, ending poverty, and supporting local grassroots initiatives for restorative and transformative justice and peace...what do we think will be the outcome? If we combined creativity and compassion with the same energy, human will power and resources put towards militarism and instead put that towards nonviolent transformative social and economic justice how might this world begin to look different?  Some might see these questions as idealistic or polyannish but I see them as essential questions of human survival, social justice and moral integrity for these times.

 

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom." - MLK Jr.

I have read that after Dr. King spoke this, hundreds of media outlets rebuked him, the White House cancelled his open invitation, and those in the civil rights movement who wanted his focus to be solely on the movements struggle, harshly condemned him. One year to the day, he would be assassinated and killed. So a note to the young makers of peace, they will hate you when you are alive, and they will make statues of you when you are dead. But your duty, is to truth telling and justice seeking.

Ceasefire now. Release all captives. End the occupation & apartheid to free Palestine. Divest from warmongers. Support Israeli, Palestinian and international peacemakers. Support nonviolent grassroots resistance.

Please take a minute to watch a bit of footage I filmed in 2008 combined with an interview clip of one of these grassroots peacemakers, Zoughbi Alzoughbi, Founder and Director of Wi'am - The Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center. 

If you wish to know more about my motivation for this work, inspiration from Dr. King and my own grandma, you can read on to Part II and Part III of this post. Part II Escaping the Frontlines of American Fundamentalism and Part III Finding Resistance in our Blood.

As you are able, please seek out and support nonviolent peacework. Find ways to support grassroots nonviolent resistance and direct-action, and visit sites like democracynow.org for a more accurate up to date news reporting from journalists, doctors, humanitarian workers and those working tirelessly to speak truth to power. No media outlet is perfect, but Democracy Now is in my experience an example of a news organization that especially earned my trust by their reporting on the war on terror that resulted in the death of 1 million+ civilians. Their reporting and critique of these wars came at a time when major western media were a megaphone for violence and revenge (western media would only change their tune years too late). Democracy Now reporting has also verified my own eyewitness account of conflict and social movements experienced first hand in different parts of the world.

Anchor 1
bottom of page