GISHA

Sanam Analouei

Communication and interaction amongst Palestinians and Jews is facilities dialogues of peace as each side realizes the humanity in the other. Many of the projects presented in the blogs/ presentations over the semester have displayed groups and people trying to facilitate this dialogue; however, these dialogues, or “friendly contacts…between Palestinians and Jews [do not] change the basic conditions of Palestinian existence much” (243). At the end of the day, Palestinians who live within Israel will face barriers of entry and discrimination, while Palestinians living in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza will have only the memories of civil equality as they go back to their homes run by military law. As Seth mentioned in his own blog, many Palestinian run groups to “serve practical utilitarian ends,” because the crippling infrastructure within occupied territories must first be dealt with in order to open up any platform for peace talks and negotiations. Organizations such as GISHA help address the human needs that are not accessible to Palestinians, and in this way, allows the foundation for peace to develop.

GISHA: Overcoming Barriers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

GISHA is an Israeli, non-partisan and not-for-profit organization “whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents.” Founded in 2005, the organization is operated by a “professional staff and guided by a board that include legal academics and practitioners, women and men, [and] Arabs and Jews.” The name of the organization, GISHA, means “approach” and “accesses,” and hopes, through legal actions, to help and protect Palestinians rights. Rights such as “the right to life, the right to access medical care, the right to education, the right to livelihood, and the right to family unity and religion” are linked to and dependent on the freedom of movement, which GISHA fights or on behalf of Palestinian residents in the West Bank and Gaza (“Gisha | About Gisha”). 

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Palestinian Farmers in Gaza. N.d. Al Jazeera

One example of GISHA’s legal actions is a fairly recently one involving the Israeli army spraying unknown herbicides on lands in the buffer zone of Gaza. The farmers of the destroyed land, with the help of legal groups such as GISHA, are able to seek damages for Israel’s crop-spraying that are not only economic but also health related as it is believed that the herbicides could cause health problems.

Another example of GISHA’s legal actions has been against the COGAT (Coalition of Government Activities in the Territories) to publish documents of procedures in both Hebrew and Arabic so that those living in the territories are more aware of their rights, which involve the ability to travel outside of the occupied territories. 

Israeli NGO Gisha petitions COGAT to publish procedures in Arabic

As seen in the reading, “the representation of Arab citizens in the judicial system and diplomatic services is minimal, far from reflecting their numbers in the population of the state”(205). Moreover, those living in the occupied territories face even less political and legal representation as they are considered non-citizens (207). As non-citizens, these Palestinians are subjected to martial Israeli law, which supports the overarching theme of the reading as Israel being a nation of two separate regimes; there is one rule, and two legal systems (Kestler-D’Amours). GISHA, operating under Israeli law, as well as international human rights and humanitarian law is able to expose the illegal incongruences the Israeli government has inflicted using its own legal system.

For many Palestinians, working with such legal groups as GISHA would be admitting that Israel has a rightful legal grasp on them; however, for others, using the law to combat is a non-violent alternative to achieving their needs. Despite the many wins that legal groups such as GISHA have achieved, many of the rulings from Israeli courts do not follow through timely. In the documentary, Five Broken Cameras, the Palestinians in Emad’s town celebrated the ruling of the court to bring down part of the wall, but did not see physical action taken for months.

Groups like GISHA ensure that Palestinians have a legal voice with which to fight and have representation. Moreover, they assist in alleviating the conditions of occupation in which Palestinians live in, and in this way, attempt to provide a foundation in which peace can be discussed.

Work Cited

“Gisha| About Gisha.” Gisha. N.p.,n.d. Webd. 26 July 2016.

Kestler-D’Amours, Jillian. “Gaza Farmers Seek Damages for Israel’s Crop-spraying.”-News from Al Jazeera. N.p., 14 July 2016. Web. 26 July 2016.

“Legal Center for Freedom of Movement (GISHA).” Insight on Conflict. N.p., Mar. 2012. Web. 26 July 2016.

During protracted conflict, often the most important and least present components of resolution are dialogue and humanization. This can certainly be said of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with many on either side painting the other with the broad brush of assumptions or misinformation. So what do Israelis and Palestinians on the street really think about the issues on the ground?

Enter Corey Gil-Shuster. Corey is a Canadian-born Israeli with an academic background in conflict studies. After moving to Israel, Corey became frustrated with the black and white nature with which Palestinians and Israelis characterized each other. It seemed to him that neither side really heard what the other was saying and that there was far more variety of opinion than one would be led to believe through traditional media outlets.

As a result, Corey took to the streets with his camera and began the Ask Project, consisting of Ask an Israeli and Ask a Palestinian. The Ask Project is a series of videos hosted on Corey’s YouTube channel based on submitted questions  addressed to either Israelis or Palestinians. These videos cover a vast array of topics and opinions from conditions on the ground in Gaza, to views on Islam and Judaism, to requirements for peace, and everything in between.

In Corey’s own words, “The basis of conflict resolution is good analysis. If we don’t analyze the conflict properly from all sides, taking in all important aspects of it, we cannot really understand the conflict and cannot find solutions that work for those involved.” This analysis may involve asking hard questions to both sides of the conflict and understanding the different though processes involved. This is why for the sake of honesty, Corey does not edit down his interviews and simply posts the uncut statements of the participants. Some of the questions and answers are hard, but the goal is that through honest dialogue, communication and connection can be reached between the parties. “I hope people open their minds and understand that no situation is black and white,” says Corey. “I recommend that anyone with strong views on the conflict spend an equal amount of time with both people just getting to know them and maybe even working to bring them together.”

 

Sources:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ask-an-israeli-ask-a-palestinian-project#/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/02/02/videographer-puts-israelis-and-arabs-on-the-spot.html

http://www.sharnoffsglobalviews.com/surveying-arab-and-israeli-attitudes-an-interview-with-corey-gil-shuster/

https://twi tter.com/coreygilshuster

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCc4iogeOUXNw1RZSNTOlMeg

David Dean Shulman is an American-born Israeli who is regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the languages of India. He was the recipient of Israel Prize for 2016 and has since then announced that he will donate his 75,000 shekel prize to Ta’ayush, an Israeli organization that provides support to Palestinian residents in the Hebron area. 

In the fall of 2000 various volunteers both Isareli and Palestinians joined together to create Ta’ayush (Arabic for “living together”). The organization is self described as a “grassroots movement of Arabs and Jews working to break down the walls of racism and segregation by constructing a true Arab-Jewish partnership.” They strive for a future of equality, justice and peace through concrete, daily, non-violent actions of solidarity to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and to achieve full equality for all. Rather than focusing on media or increased dialogue their activities and activists of Ta’aysuh have always been concentrated on field.

Ta’ayush serves as an ideal example of the intersection of bionationalism with land and immigration. and in a way a continuation of the founding principals of Brit Shalom. Arthur Ruppin, senior Zionist settlement official, understood that land would always be of particular concern. He stated that “soon, when land is no longer available, the settlement of a Jew will inevitably result in the dispossession of a [Arab] peasant and then what?” For Brit Shalom, Jewish immigration and land settlements was important but should not be carried out at the expense of Arabs. They argued that some of the land purchased by the Jewish Agency must be allocated to tenants and they could be employed and work part of it. However, that vision has not been realized with the dispossession of Palestinians by Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The main focus of Ta’ayush is to oppose this dispossession by having Israelis  meet Palestinians whose houses have been blown up by the Israeli army, shepherds whose sheep have been poisoned by settlers, farmers stripped of their land by Israel’s dividing wall. They document  as the police on horseback attack crowds of nonviolent demonstrators, as Israeli settlers shoot innocent Palestinians harvesting olives, and as families and communities become utterly destroyed by the unrelenting violence of the occupation. Opposing such injustices, Ta’aysuh actvivists  work through checkpoints to bring aid, rebuild houses, and physically block the progress of the dividing wall. As they face off against police, soldiers, and hostile Israeli settlers, anger mixes with compassion, moments of kinship alternate with confrontation.

The Ezra Nawi affair was a particularly interesting attempt by Ta’ayush to prevent the expansion of settlements. The sale of Palestinian land to Israelis is illegal, and in this case Nawi, an left-wing Israeli activist, would pose as a buyer and make offers to Palestinians and later turn then in to the Palestinian authority. Nawi was arrested by the Israeli police for attempting to flee the country as an investigation was underway.They recorded Nawi allegedly making incriminating statements that anyone selling land to settlers would suffer retaliation from the Palestinian Authority. However, Nawi has since been released to house arrest after a court ruled that police had not presented sufficient evidence to hold him.
Souces:

http://www.taayush.org/

http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/D/bo5417882.html

https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/adri-nieuwhof/palestinians-south-hebron-hills-resist-israeli-expulsion

http://www.timesofisrael.com/ezra-nawi-named-as-activist-arrested-for-turning-in-palestinians/

Graffiti as an art form has existed since the time of the Romans, while its most recognizable form as spray paint art has been around since the inspired youth of late 1960’s New York City began using subway trains as large, mechanical canvases. Often, graffiti reflects simply the desire for artistic expression, but for many Palestinians and Israelis, it reflects the struggle for peace and dialogue through visual art. Granted, not all of the images are peaceful:

Figure-1

The blue text in this image from Tel Aviv reads “the Nation of Israel lives”, while the red image on the right shows a hammer smashing the star of David.

Figure-2

In this image from the Florentin neighborhood of Tel Aviv, the text reads “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”.

Figure-7-2

This image from Mount Carmel in Haifa reads “Hate is Not Kosher”. As you can see, many of these Israeli graffiti artists tend toward a generalized message of simply “peace”. This is in stark contrast to the most common images seen graffitied on walls in Palestine.

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One of the most common images of Palestinian street art is that of a key, a symbol of the Palestinian return to their homeland and Palestinian resistance.

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Another popular image in Palestine is that of a ten-year-old boy named “Handhala”. The image first appeared in 1969, the creation of Palestinian journalist Naji al-Ali. Handhala is almost always depicted facing away from the viewer with his hands crossed behind his back. Handhala has become synonymous with Palestinian non-violent resistance, as well as a more recently a symbol of Palestinian rap culture. Ultimately, the street art of Palestine differs from that of Israel in that it reflects the struggle of Palestinians against their Israeli oppressors, thus taking on a more somber tone than that of the more positive, idealistic street art seen in Israel. In the end, the artwork as a whole may be viewed as an active dialogue among and between anonymous Israelis and Palestinians that promotes critical thought about the roles of Israel and Palestine in generating peace.

Sources:

http://www.timeout.com/newyork/art/graffiti-art-a-brief-history-of-the-controversial-form

http://www.yourmiddleeast.com/culture/from-national-resistance-to-global-movement-an-intro-to-palestinian-graffiti-photos_30295

http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/peace-and-conflict-through-graffiti-in-israelpalestine

Machsom Watch

July 20, 2016

by Seth Hage

Before deciding to blog about Machsom Watch, I spent entirely too long researching other potential topics.  I gorged on Google searches and delved into Wikipedian depths, looked through lists of NGOs, skimmed articles on peace solutions… In this quest for suitable subject matter I made two observations that stuck with me throughout the process and flavored this final product.  The first, was how few organizations/efforts I found that were solely Palestinian in nature.  The second, that these Palestinian groups seemed to serve practical, utilitarian ends.  This compared to the multitude of Israeli and international peace projects which often exhibit creative, intellectual flair.  I can only speak to my own limited research, and from this can only make a simple supposition: With the crippled infrastructure that exists in the Palestinian territories it is difficult to create a platform on which to address peace.  In this blog I will discuss a group of Israeli women who call themselves Machsom Watch.  These women volunteer their privileged position within Israeli society to help the Palestinian people and are simultaneously criticized and applauded for it.

Machsom Watch (MW) was founded in the year 2001 as a group to observe militarily administered checkpoints in Palestine.  The group is comprised of entirely Israeli women volunteers, the majority of whom are middle aged and of the middle class.  Organizational decisions are made at meetings by simple popular vote.  Since its foundation, MW has ventured into a diverse set of activities including monitoring military courts, public outreach, and bureaucratic assistance.  For the purpose of this blog I will focus on their flagship, the checkpoint monitoring project.

Every day, members of MW are sent in small groups to military checkpoints along the border of Israel and the West Bank as well as to checkpoints well inside of the Palestinian territory.  They work two shifts, one in the morning one in the afternoon, each two to four hours long.  Their task is to document the conditions at the checkpoints, with a focus on the legality/humanity of the soldiers’ actions, and to intervene appropriately.  In the year 2006, the Israeli Defense Force forbid MW members from speaking directly with soldiers.  Since then, MW has relied more heavily on reporting incidents to ranked officers, the media, and even parliament members.  In addition to their physical presence at checkpoints, the group also rigorously posts all reports online in Hebrew and English.  These reports include descriptions of notable incidents, basic observations on waiting times and congestion, and pictures of the scene.  However, many reports go far beyond this, expressing the individual proclivities and interests of the volunteer author.  The reports I reviewed featured fervent political tirades, artistic photography, conversations with Palestinians, and personal feelings seemingly unrelated.

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The stylistic variety of the reports is mirrored in the political position of Machsom Watch.  With its roots in radical feminism MW has since made efforts to open membership to a broader range of political backgrounds.  They ally with no blanket peace solution and do not call themselves “Pro-Palestine” or “Pro-Israel”.  The closest Machsom Watch comes to a blanket ideological statement is that they “oppose the occupation of the West Bank”.  There are a number of different ways to interpret this statement and they leave it that way.  To elaborate, they describe themselves as peace activists who fight for the right of Palestinians to move about the West Bank un-harassed.  They regard many of the checkpoints, primarily ones inside of the West Bank, as unnecessary and antagonistic in a way that prevents peace.  I pay particular attention to their stance that there can be no peace without first abolishing the checkpoint system in place.  It is also important to note that many feel that the fact that they are women is essential for the work that they do.  Remember, this organization is completely volunteer run, so it cannot be said that their official voice speaks for all involved.

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Machsom Watch has its critics, as well as another assortment of entities who write them off completely.  For starters the Israeli military, along with other mainstream Israeli organizations (such as the Likud party), do not agreed with the MW mission.  They see checkpoints as a necessary way to ensure the security of Israel, this position overshadows MW’s overall, bolstered with attacks on Israeli civilians.  Another critique of Machsom Watch activities is that they legitimize the government control, or do nothing to change the dynamics of power.  The Israeli military is able to address the concerns of a well publicized organization in a superficial way while keeping the checkpoint system in place.  A third voice dismisses the group entirely as wealthy old women who make a hobby of trips to Palestine.  This voice approaches sexism, but also perhaps speaks to a lack of results and their insubstantial political position.

Regardless of criticisms, the Machsom Watch has definitely accomplished at least one thing, which is to hold the military accountable at the checkpoints.  Since the beginnings of Machsom Watch they have pressured the IDF to ‘smooth out’ checkpoint procedure, avoiding arbitrary practices and relying on official bureaucracy.

In class I will show clips from this video (8:06-8:40, 11:41-12:??)

Citations:

Kaufman, Ilana. “RESISTING OCCUPATION OR INSTITUTIONALIZING CONTROL? ISRAELI WOMEN AND PROTEST IN WEST BANK CHECKPOINTS.” International Journal of Peace Studies 13.1 (2008): 43-62. Web.

Machsom Watch. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 July 2016.

http://www.en.machsomwatch.org/

Naaman, Dorit. “The Silenced Outcry: A Feminist Perspective from the Israeli Checkpoints in Palestine.” NWSA Journal 18.3 (2006): 168-80. Web.

la-ijan-gaza-protest1

IJAN activists protesting the Israeli government

On a surface level, a group like The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) would not seem to be a strong voice for preserving Jewish tradition.  The organization’s website claim that it fights to end “Zionist repression, militarism, and repression” and ensure human rights for Palestinians. While many Zionists believe the at the persecution and near total destruction of European Jewry necessitates a strong Jewish state, IJAN activists believe that Zionism actually dishonors Holocaust victims by “perpetuating European racism and colonialism”, as well as alienating Mizrahi Jews (Jews who trace their roots back to muslim-majority areas). IJAN’s official charter even goes as far to claim that Zionism itself is an anti-Semitic belief and that the state of Israel engages in racist and colonial practices against Palestinians akin to past atrocities like South African Apartheid. Accordingly, IJAN openly sides with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to promote social justice for the Palestinian people and to end the so-called Israeli occupation.

But what makes IJAN a fascinating organization is, despite the group’s fervent anti-Zionism, it retains a commitment to Jewish culture and religious traditions. For example, IJAN arranges an annual Haggadah (a traditional Jewish text that sets the order of Passover feasts) during the Passover holiday. IJAN’s Haggadahs feature many references to the Torah and  Passover traditions united under a common theme of liberation for all people, including both Arabs and Jews. For example, the cover art for the 2014 Haggadah depicts the burning bush, a sacred religious symbol of liberation for the Jewish people. IJAN uses the burning bush in their publications not only to express it’s commitment to Jewish heritage, but to show solidarity with emancipation movements for all oppressed peoples, especially Palestinians.

Illustration by: Karla Gudeon
The IJAN Haggadah intertwines other sacred Passover traditions like the Seder plate, a dish containing several types of traditional Jewish food each representing a part of Jewish heritage or liberation activism. For example, the 2014 Seder plate included Charoset (mixture of fruit and nuts) as a symbol of liberation of Hebrew slaves from Egypt, Elijah’s Cup, a glass of wine honoring the Prophet Elijah, as well as olives representing the struggle of the Palestinian people. IJAN also promotes the preservation of age-old Jewish hymns like “Hinei Ma Tov” (which conveys a message of unity and community), as well as traditional Hebrew blessings about freedom, justice, and love. The IJAN Haggadahs also include “The Four Questions” a tradition in which the youngest person at the Passover Seder asks four questions in hebrew and the telling of the “Maggid” the timeless story of the exodus of Hebrews from Egypt. The full Haggadah can  be found here: http://www.ijan.org/resources/legacies-of-resistance-an-anti-zionist-haggadah-for-a-liberation-seder/
A traditional Seder Plate
Groups like IJAN provide a platform for Jews who disagree with the policies of the Israeli state or Zionism, but who also deeply care about preserving the rich cultural and religious traditions of Judaism and the Jewish people. IJAN seems to link the struggle of the Jewish people with the adversity faced by all oppressed peoples around the world. One of IJAN’s initiatives is “Never Again for Anyone” a movement designed to oppose what IJAN calls Israel’s “exploitation” of the holocaust by using it to push Zionism and oppress Palestinians. IJAN tours universities across the western world giving lectures on Jewish Anti-Zionism and preventing genocide and apartheid around the world. If IJAN succeeds as an organization that promotes Jewish anti-zionism and the preservation of Jewish tradition it could lead to similar organizations and galvanize reform in Israeli policy.
Citations:

'Not in our name': members of Jewdas at a Free Palestine demo, 2014. Credit: Ray Filar.

‘Not in our name’: members of Jewdas at a Free Palestine demo, 2014. Credit: Ray Filar.

During the flare up of violence in Gaza in 2014 (Israel: “Operation Protective Edge”), a conflict that cost the lives of over 70 Israelis and more than 2,000 Palestinians, the debate regarding the Palestine-Israel conflict reignited with new fervor, bringing into question the proportionality of the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) strikes against Hamas, America’s purview and policy of Israel, and when some sort of peace might come.  It is crucial to contextualize this conflict in American public opinion and Middle East foreign policy, as America’s relationship with Israel is inextricably linked to Israel’s policies and actions.  Clearly, most American Jews, whether secular, Reform, or religious, are supportive of the Israeli state; differences arise in reference to the current policy and leadership of Israel.

An interesting demographic that also unequivocally supports Israel, in some cases even beyond Jewish support, is the bloc of evangelical and usually conservative, white Protestants.  This coalition is rather strange, considering the motivation behind Christian evangelicals’ support of Israel.  American Christians that believe God granted Israel to the Jews tacks at 55%, compared to just 40% of Jews who agree (Pew, WaPo).  Among white evangelicals, that number is 82%, mirroring 84% of Orthodox Jews who concur.  This assertion of divine righteousness on behalf of the Jewish people is disturbing, as it makes compromise and peace agreements more difficult to navigate.  Because white Christians still make up such a significant lobby and voting bloc in America, in spite of increasing racial diversity and secularization, any criticism or lackluster support of Israel would be seen as a step towards the state’s obliteration.  Such an unwavering group of people who believe God has given Israel to the Jews and that the state of Israel is nothing but righteous will not be interested in compromise.

Much more marginal groups such as Jewdas, a radical left-wing anti-Zionist group pictured above, as well as Neturei Karta, the most prominent Haredi Orthodox anti-Zionist group, do not believe in the legitimacy or existence of the state of Israel.  There have been many demonstrations by such groups in support of Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, and Neturei Karta has drawn significant criticism by engaging with Iran and other groups that have been labeled anti-Semitic.  Again, these groups represent a tiny portion of the Jewish population; however, as America becomes more racially diverse and less religious, the coalition of American Jews and white evangelicals will not hold the same influence.  This spells an uncertain future for Israel, especially in the wake of the 2014 conflict that wrought the ire of the world, and an increasingly cold relationship between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

Prior to the Israeli elections of 2015, Netanyahu pushed far to the right and played on Israeli fears of Hamas rocket attacks.  Above, a video put out by the Prime Minister in reference to Operation Protective Edge, defending the “moral democracy” pitting itself against a “terrorist organization” (as stated in video description).  This gives a glimpse of the Israeli attitude and policy on the ground.  I will not use this blog post as a forum to criticize and deconstruct all the claims in this video blurb, but merely as a tool to show the prevailing thought process of the Israeli government not only at the time of conflict, but every day of its existence.

It is evident that as America becomes a more diverse and, frankly, liberal society, there will be calls to question not the existence or legitimacy of the Israeli state as many Marxists and extremists do now, but the legitimacy of their actions and claims to defense, as well as the value of the continued support of Israel by the United States.

Citations:

*Photo- Filar, R. (2016, April 29). Why I am an anti-Zionist Jew. Retrieved July 13, 2016, from https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ray-filar/why-i-am-antizionist-jew
Fisher, M. (2013, October 3). 8 fascinating trends in how American Jews think about Israel. Retrieved July 13, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2013/10/03/8-fascinating-trends-in-how-american-jews-think-about-israel/#comments
 Lipka, M. (2014, February 27). Strong support for Israel in U.S. cuts across religious lines. Retrieved July 13, 2016, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/27/strong-support-for-israel-in-u-s-cuts-across-religious-lines/

Slattery, G. (2014, July 29). Americans still support Israel, but views vary by age and race, poll finds. Retrieved July 13, 2016, from http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2014/0729/Americans-still-support-Israel-but-views-vary-by-age-and-race-poll-finds
blog AMES290-PPI-ME

Jerusalem All-Star team, 2016. Credit: Peace Players International

PEACE PLAYER’S INTERNATIONAL

Peace Players International (PPI) is a non-profit dedicated to bringing opposing socio-ethnic groups together in regions of conflict. It was founded in 2001 and has locations in Ireland, South Africa, the Middle-East, and Cyprus. Each location is unique as a result of the diverse factors of each conflict. In the Middle-East, PPI-ME brings Palestinian and Jewish Israeli youth near the West Bank together by creating integrated basketball teams.

 

THEIR THEORY

PPI’s maxim is “Children who can play together can learn to live together” and PPI-ME fosters positive change in inter-group attitudes through consistent and significant contact. PPI uses basketball as a way to have children work together toward superordinate goals, bring families into contact across social barriers, and build bridges to allow further growth and contact between opposing communities.

Peacebuilding is their goal, and basketball provides an opportunity to begin the process because it can reach people who might typically resist bridge-building programs. Through basketball, however, participants must interact with each other and build trust to be successful. This causes non-superficial interaction, something which is critical in forming deeper connections and eventually allowing open-minded discussion of conflict. It helps counteract the biases that have become ingrained in their mindsets as a result of misinformation and bad blood.

PPI-ME has a 5 step system for their basketball teams in the West Bank region:

  1. They recruit participants between 10 and 18 within the Jewish communities and the Arab communities.
  2. Participants are initially placed on teams within their own ethnic groups, so Palestinians begin playing with only Palestinians; Israeli Jews begin playing with only Israeli Jews. This allows the participants to learn the fundamentals of the sport and gain some initial trust for the program.
  3. After the initial “single-identity” team phases, two teams, one from each community, meet for “twinning.” These “twinning” sessions integrate participants from each community into drills which focus on teamwork and trust. PPI-ME uses these sessions to teach participants about their innate humanity, regardless of ethnicity or religion.
  4. Teams will continue attending “twinning” sessions as frequently as possible over the season (which mirrors the school year), and can eventually form into integrated teams. PPI-ME has entered three integrated teams of experienced PPI participants into Israel’s National Basketball League, the highest level of Israeli youth basketball. These are the only teams in the league with players from both sides of the conflict.
  5. PPI-ME encourages its participants to stay involved with them over multiple seasons in order to facilitate longer lasting and deeper friendships. Teens are invited to participate in Leadership Development Programs, and after graduating from those are asked to apply for coaching positions. These long term relationships will draw not only the participants together is a significant way, but also their families and friends.

A SAIS case study of PPI revealed 4 key companents and 3 major remaining challenges. The key components are local leadership, a balance of sport and educational content, maintaining frequent and long term integration, and internal leadership development. These factors combine to create a system that lends itself to transcending the socio-ethnic disputes that plague the West Bank and catalyzing new perspectives for Palestinians and Israeli Jews alike. The main challenges are in long-term monitoring and evaluation, securing consistent and flexible funding, and coping with political change.

 

THEIR RESULTS

A study done on the results from PPI-ME’s twinning basketball programs shows that it is effective in improving the attitudes of both Palestinian and Israeli Jewish participants toward “the other side.”  The results for the Jewish Israeli participants were particularly impressive and significant positive shifts were found in the areas of ethno-centricity and willingness to interact across the conflict. The Palestinian participants showed much smaller change across a single season, but this could be a result of the much larger share of PPI-ME veterans on the Palestinian side. When looking at the 3 year participation changes, the Palestinian participants did demonstrate significant changes for ethno-centricity and willingness to interact.

Participants also overwhelmingly reported that they enjoyed the program and benefitted as players and in their intercultural familiarity.

The story of Liraz, an Israeli participant, is a wonderful example of the experience PPI-ME provides. She became extremely close with her Palestinian team-mates and says her time at PPI-ME has changed her perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also reports that her time on the team catalyzed integration between her Israeli family and her Palestinian friends. Here is a video of her experience:

PPI-ME is helping to break down the cultural walls between Israeli Jews and the Palestinians while providing an enjoyable outlet for participants and their families. Hopefully their teams will continue to grow and they can continue to impact the communities in and around the West Bank.

 

Works Cited:

Fisher, L. (2016, May 18). From Friends to Family: Meet Liraz [Web log post]. Retrieved July 13, 2016, from https://blog.peaceplayersintl.org/2016/05/18/from-friends-to-family-meet-liraz/

Doubilet, K., & Miller, Y., PhD. (n.d.). Evaluation: Peace Players International – Middle East Twinned Basketball Clubs program [PDF]. Peace Players International – Middle East.

Tuohey, B., & Cognato, B. (2011). PeacePlayers International: A Case Study on the Use of Sport as a Tool for Conflict Transformation. SAIS Review, 31(1), 51-63. doi:10.1353/sais.2011.0012

Image URL, from the PPI-ME blog post by L. Fisher: https://peaceplayersintl.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/team.jpg?w=419&h=278