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Active nonviolence is on the rise in Palestine

THE MOVEMENT TO PROMOTE active nonviolence is on the rise in Palestine. That’s the message of a Jewish peace activist visiting Britain. Rotem Mor spoke at a conference on Saturday that aimed to bring the realities of Palestine and Israel to people in Wales.

The event, Ground Truth – Ar Wyneb Daear in Welsh – was held at Linden Christian Centre in Swansea.

Rotem, a former Israeli soldier, was sent to prison after developing a conscientious objection to violence. He has since worked with younger Israelis facing a similar choice. He campaigns alongside both Palestinian and Israelis and conducts ‘Reality Tours’ of Jerusalem.

Rotem told the Friend that ‘the political use of nonviolence is rising’. But he warned: ‘On the other hand, violence is rising on both sides’.

He spoke of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians in campaigns against the occupation wall, recently, built by Israeli authorities. He pointed out that ‘The cooperation is itself an example of nonviolence’. He added that recent demonstrations and petitions had been effectively organised by people from both sides of the divide.

The conference included members of religious groups as well as political activists and concerned individuals. Among other topics, it considered the work of the Holy Land Trust, established by Palestinian Christian Sami Awad. The Trust aims to ‘support the Palestinian people as they confront political, social and economic hardship using nonviolent strategies’.

Palestinian writers Ahmed Najer and Ahmed Masoud were prevented from attending at the last moment, but their place was taken by Palestinians living in Wales. The evening saw a performance by Actors for Human Rights. They were joined by playwright Justin Butcher, writer of Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea.

‘It was brilliant to have that group of people in the same place at the same time’, said organiser Karen Chalk, ‘A lot of good connections that can be built on in the future have been established. That’s the best thing to come out of the day for me.’

Chalk, a Christian, first visited the Middle East in 2005. Last year, she spent three months in Palestine as an Ecumenical Accompanier. The UK and Ireland section of the accompaniment programme, which monitors the situation and provides a protective presence, is administered by Quakers.

She told the Friend: ‘You can see clearly the damage that violence does – both the physical violence and the structural violence of the occupation’.

Symon Hill

QUNO Geneva appoint new director

JONATHAN WOOLLEY, a member of Mexico City Meeting, has been appointed as the new director of the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) in Geneva.

Jonathan will take up the post in June, at the retirement of current director David Attwood. He said he felt ‘extraordinarily fortunate’.

He has lived across Latin America and in Kenya, Nigeria and Sri Lanka. He became a Quaker while living in Britain.

‘Even when I lived far from regular Friends’ Meetings, Quaker support and insights helped me to build understanding and cooperation among people,’ he explained.

Jonathan’s background is in participatory agricultural research and institutional change. He spent six years as director of the Challenge Programme on Water and Food, an international network based in Sri Lanka.

QUNO, which also has an office in New York, uses ‘quiet diplomacy in small groups’ to promote peaceful conflict resolution, human rights, economic justice and good governance.

Jonathan Woolley the Friend, 26 November 2010

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