|ACTIVE NONVIOLENCE NETWORK:
The Active Nonviolence Network, consisting of nine regional centres with a hub in Jerusalem, is the core of MEND’s growing nationwide
Since the spring of 2002, just before the major Israeli incursions into the Palestinian towns that had been liberated via the Oslo
Accords, when a group of Fatah leaders (regional military commanders) asked MEND to teach them about nonviolence as they were
sick of the cycle of violence, we have been working to support this transformation to a nonviolence movement.
The work began with a series of trainings to build up the capacity of MEND’s staff to train such high level leaders in a way that they
could use to train their communities and start a movement for change that in their words would “end the cycle of activism and prison
and more activism and more prison” for their children, if not for themselves, and ensure as far as possible that the Palestinian state that
evolves will be democratic and nonviolent.
Trainings were initially given by experts from the United States (David Grant, Colonel Bob Helvey) Germany and Sweden (TFF), with
funding from Kurve Wustrow and the Quakers in Germany, the British Consulate in Jerusalem, and Search for Common Ground via a
grant from the AED, starting in May 2002 and continuing till January 2003. After this, the staff at MEND developed a manual as the
basis for further trainings, and started to incorporate a large number of exercises on anger management, self-esteem and self-
knowledge, as the basis for work on alternatives to violence. The trainings were held in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Tul Karem and Jenin, and
each consisted of around twenty participants.
In April 2003, with the beginning of the construction of the Wall and a rapidly deteriorating economic and social as well as political
situation in the West Bank, a meeting was held for the participants in the trainings. Their main need was for local bases from which to
work and via which they could establish a support network for active nonviolence.
Initially MEND received funding from the Irish government to establish a centre in Tul Karem as the first step in this network.
Subsequently (partly via intensive lobbying on the part of MEND) the European Union asked for proposals for nonviolence and media in
its “Partnerships for Peace” programme, and MEND was awarded a two-year grant to establish and develop the Active Nonviolence
Network throughout the West Bank. This enabled MEND to set up centres in Qalqilya, Nablus, Hebron, Jericho and Izariyya. The project
started with follow-up training and introductory computer training for the original groups, and carried on with intensive trainings in the
newly established centres, and with a wide variety of activities. The project also included a component of research by the Harry S.
soft>Truman Institute for Peace of the Hebrew University, whereby they documented via focus group meetings, the need for large
numbers for Palestinian nonviolence to be effective and also met with leaders from some of the centres.
The Swiss Government intervened at the end of 2005 to help cover the costs of additional activities and of a major planning meeting
in Jordan, which was held in January 2005. The Irish Government continued to fund the Tul Karem office and also provided funding for
the establishment of an office in Jenin.
Each centre has a steering committee and is as gender balanced as possible, with expertise on youth, media, gender, communications
and human rights.The activities of the centres range from trainings in human rights, gender, and nonviolence, to an exhibition of
cartoons about nonviolence, to plays (written by activists at the centres) to open days for children.
Since the beginning of 2006, MEND has opened an office in Gaza, funded through the UNDP, and is currently seeking funding to
organize training for the group there who have already formed and who are keen to start working.
As the funding from the EU draws to a close, MEND is seeking funding to maintain and consolidate the network, and is also organizing a
number of further trainings. In particular, we are hoping that Dr. Bernard Lafayette will be coming in August.
|ACTIVE NONVIOLENCE CENTERS:
HEBRON – in Arabic “al-Khalil”, “the friend” is one of the largest and oldest inhabited towns in this ancient land. Legend even has it
that Adam and Eve lived here on their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It is now known for its beautiful glass and pottery, its
delicious grapes and grape products, but also, sadly, for its extreme political tension as it was divided into H1 and H2 several years ago,
and faces constant problems of harassment from extreme settlers. TIPH, an international observer group, and the Christian Peacemaker
teams do their best to help, especially the latter who escort children on settler-threatened roads to and from school.
Our active nonviolence group in Hebron are headed by Hejazi Jaaberi, and have been very active especially with the youth. They
cooperate with local youth and media groups and have held several nonviolence summer camps in addition to organizing trainings.
IZARIYYA – the Arabic name for Bethany, itself a development from the name of Lazarus who is buried there. This has always been
attached to Jerusalem as a suburb just to the East at the beginning of the desert that stretches across to the Arabian Peninsula. Since
the construction of the Israeli Separation Wall, however, it has been cut off with its inhabitants left in a limbo with almost no resources.
Our office in Izariyya overlooks the Wall at what used to be the major intersection on the way into Jerusalem. The office is headed by
Yakuob Rujoub, a lawyer who has organized trainings in human rights as well as nonviolence. Amongst the innovative activities by this
office has been an exhibition of cartoons against violence.
JENIN – named for its spring (Ein Ganim) a small agricultural town in the North of the West Bank, with lush fields and little history of
friction under the Israeli Occupation. Jenin was tragically catapulted into fame by the devastation of the Israeli attacks on it in the
spring of 2003. Life in Jenin has been further ravaged by the restrictions on movement and by the Israeli Separation Wall.
Our active nonviolence group in Jenin, headed by Mufeed Barham, has worked very closely with the local trades unions and has
organized several trainings. They also coordinate closely with our group in Tul Karem, often joining in activities together.
JERICHO – the oldest inhabited city in the world, nearly 12,000 years old and over 1,000 feet below sea level, is an oasis town with its
own magical relaxing aura. A traditional winter resort as it usually has warm weather even when the hills of Jerusalem, Hebron or
Ramallah are covered in snow, it can feel far removed from the tension that is so palpable elsewhere in the West Bank. For a very brief
interlude, under the scheme of “Gaza and Jericho first”, it seemed set to become the first capital of Palestine. However, this did not
last, although its strategic importance on the border with Jordan has meant that it has often witnessed battles in the uprisings since the
Our group in Jericho has been headed by Mona Ghanem and works closely with other local groups and with our Izariyya group.
NABLUS – from the Greek “Neapolis” (New City), is the second largest city in the West Bank, known for its delicious sweets, its olive oil
soap and its thriving culture and commerce. Set in the heart of the West Bank hills and with large refugee camps and a flourishing and
unspoiled old city, Nablus has always been a centre of resistance to the Israeli occupation.
Our group in Nablus is headed by Qais Aweiss, well-known both as an activist and as a poet and playwright. Qais has written plays
which have been performed by the Menders in local clubs and schools. He is constantly active and organizes a wide variety of
trainings and open days that raise awareness about nonviolence throughout the city.
QALQILYA – the Palestinian city that has been most affected by the Israeli Separation Wall. Qalqilya is near the sea, near the border
with Israel and used to be surrounded by citrus groves. It also used to have a zoo. The Wall now completely surrounds the city, with only
one opening. The citrus groves have become for the most part inaccessible and the animals in the zoo have all died (many from heart
attacks during the Israeli incursions) or had to be killed. Qalqilya voted for Hamas in the Palestinian elections of 2005 and voted
against them in the elections of 2006.
Our group in Qalqilya is headed by Raed Jabara, the local head of the Fatah in the region. In view of the conservative tradition in the
town, Raed helped us hold our initial
introductory active nonviolence trainings in the Fatah headquarters as protection. The group has focused on women and youth
RAMALLAH – this town, with its twin, Al-Bireh, has become the liveliest city in the West Bank as it is now the centre of government
(along with Gaza). Traditionally a market town and enlivened by the proximity of the University of Bir Zeit, although it has been badly
damaged many times during clashes with the Israelis, it has always quickly recovered and maintains an energetic cultural, commercial
Our group in Ramallah is headed by Osama Abu Karsh, a Fatah Shabibi leader who has also helped to found a group of ex-
combatants against violence among the Palestinians who act as a counterpart (and meet with) the Israeli refuseniks. The group’s work
has focused on the Menders who have produced their own radio show and performed a number of plays in the interactive format of
TUL KAREM – an ancient city in the North of the West Bank not far from Jenin. Tul Karem is very close to the Israeli Separation Wall
and has also suffered from the advent of many industries which have been moved there from inside Israel.
Our group in Tul Karem, headed by Nour Shehadeh, is one of the first we trained and established, in 2003, and has been consistently
very active. They have written and performed plays, undertaken many trainings and open days and also managed to engage the local
municipality and security services. They now have a thousand potential volunteers, and have an energetic and cohesive Menders
group who always volunteer to participate in all our activities.
GAZA – once an elegant seaside city, with a rich history, unsullied beaches, delicious fresh fish and a mere hour and a half’s drive
from Jerusalem. Gaza since the first intifada of 1987 has become increasingly isolated from the rest of Palestine, and also increasingly
crowded, as the population burgeons and there is no exit.
Our office in Gaza was opened less than a year ago. They have not managed to leave Gaza to visit us nor have we been able to reach
them. The office is headed by Abu Sellim, a doctor and an activist, and the despite the prevailing atmosphere in Gaza of violence
and despair, the group manage to organise debates and other activities. We are looking into ways to organise joint trainings with the
West Bank groups and find ways to coordinate with them and hopefully even meet them.