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Gush Shalom is the hard core of the Israeli peace movement. Often
described as "resolute", "militant", "radical" or "consistent", it is
known for its unwavering stand in times of crisis, such as the al-Aksa
For years now, Gush Shalom has played a leading role in determining the
moral and political agenda of the peace forces in Israel.
Gush Shalom is an extra-parliamentary organization, independent of any
party or other political grouping. Some of its activists do belong to
political parties, but the Gush is not aligned to any particular party.
The primary aim of Gush Shalom is to influence Israeli public opinion
and lead it towards peace and conciliation with the Palestinian people,
based on the following principles:
- - Putting an end to the occupation,
- - Accepting the right of the Palestinian people to establish an
independent and sovereign State of Palestine in all the territories
occupied by Israel in 1967,
- - Reinstating the pre-1967 "Green Line" as the border between the
State of Israel and the State of Palestine (with possible minor
exchanges of territories agreed between the parties); the border will be
open for the free movement of people and goods, subject to mutual
- - Establishing Jerusalem as the capital of the two states, with East
Jerusalem (including the Haram al-Sharif) serving as the capital of
Palestine and West Jerusalem (including the Western Wall) serving as the
capital of Israel. The city is to be united on the physical and
municipal level, based on mutual agreement.
- - Recognizing in principle the Right of Return of the Palestinian
refugees, allowing each refugee to choose freely between compensation
and repatriation to Palestine and Israel, and fixing by mutual agreement
the number of refugees who will be able to return to Israel in annual
- - Safeguarding the security of both Israel and Palestine by mutual
agreement and guarantees.
- - Striving for overall peace between Israel and all Arab countries
and the creation of a regional union.
The Gush was founded in 1993, when it became apparent that all the
older peace groups in Israel were either unable or unwilling to oppose
the repressive measures introduced by the new Labor party government
headed by Yitzhak Rabin.
When Rabin expelled 415 Islamic activists from the country in late
1992, a spontaneous protest by Jewish and Arab Israelis led to the
setting up of protest tents opposite the prime minister’s office in
Jerusalem. This protest lasted for 45 days and nights, partly spent in
the freezing cold of snow-covered Jerusalem. During the debates in the
tents, and in view of the silence of other Israeli peace groups, some of
the protesters decided that a new Israeli peace movement was needed.
They defined themselves as "more peace-oriented than Peace Now" and
founded Gush Shalom.
The Gush likens its role to that of a small wheel with a strong,
independent drive that activates a bigger wheel that in turn activates
an even bigger wheel, and so on. Not being subject to any consideration
of party interests nor courting fleeting popularity, the Gush is free to
proclaim the truth as it sees it and to work for its acceptance by a
much larger public.
As a result, the Gush (and its founders long before it) consistently
advocated ideas (e.q. recognition of the Palestinian people, negotiation
with the PLO, acceptance of a Palestinian state, acceptance of the
principle of return, Jerusalem - capital of two states, dismantling the
settlements) years, and sometimes decades, before the established
parties and peace organizations.
As is usual in Israel, the Gush has no "card-carrying members". It is
composed of several concentric circles:
- The inner core consists of about a hundred activists who devote a
large part of their time and energy (and some of them, all their time
and energy) to this task. None of them receives a salary or remuneration
of any kind. The Gush has no salaried employees. Generally, Gush
activists pay their own expenses, including bus fares to demonstrations.
These activists are constantly on call for demonstrations and other
- A larger group of some 600 activists are on the Gush action list and
take part in larger actions of different kinds (see below).
- Several thousands more identify with the Gush, follow its activities
and help to conduct its campaign within the general public. Many of them
identify with the Gush by donating money for its actions.
The Gush has extremely limited financial resources. It receives no
funding from any Israeli or international organization, except for
occasional, minor donations from peace groups and individuals in various
countries (such as Holland and Germany). The brunt of the financial
burden is borne by individual Israeli citizens, who consider it their
moral duty to support the Gush as much as they can.
Gush Shalom is active on a very wide front, unparalleled by any other
peace or human-rights organization in Israel. Its activities can be
divided into several categories:
- Political education campaigns, initiated and conducted by the
Gush alone, such as –
- - "Release all Palestinian Prisoners Immediately!"
- a campaign that began with a joint mass demonstration of some 6000
Israelis and Palestinians in front of Nablus prison on the morrow of
the Oslo agreement (1993).
- - "Violations of the Oslo agreement" – a document
prepared jointly by the Gush and the Palestine Peace Information
- - "Jerusalem – Capital of Two States", starting
with the publication of the "Our Jerusalem" manifesto, signed by 675
leading Israeli intellectuals and artists, and, for the first time,
breaking the official taboo (1995).
- - "Stop the Bulldozers!" – months-long campaign
against the building of new Jewish settlements, first on Jebel
Abu-Ghneim (Har Homa) near Bethlehem and later at Ras-al-Amud near
- - "National Boycott of Settlements’ products!" – a
campaign started in 1997 and still going on, in which tens of
thousands of Israeli households asked for and received detailed
lists of products produced in the industrial parks on the
settlements. This campaign has achieved international proportions.
- - "Marking the Green Line" – a campaign designed to
re-establish the pre-1967 border in public consciousness. Activists
physically marked the line with green paint on the ground (1998).
- - "The Right of the Palestinian Nation to Declare
the Establishment of the State of Palestine in ALL the Territories
of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip" - a manifesto signed by 440
prominent Israelis (1999).
- - "Right of Return" - the Gush unveiled its plan
for a just and practical solution of the refugee problem (1999).
-"Get out of ALL the Occupied Territories" - a basic demand of the
Gush from its inception that became the theme of a new campaign
immediately after the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada (2000).
- - Today Starts the Countdown to the Next War" – big
advertisement on the day the National Unity Government was formed by
Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres (2001).
- - "We Call for the Immediate Creation of an
International Peace Force in Palestine" – protest campaign against
the intensified oppression in the occupied territories (2001).
- - "Eighty Theses for a New Peace Camp" - a
far-reaching declaration announcing a completely different approach
to Israeli-Palestinian peace, by confronting the mutually exclusive
national narratives of the two sides and combining them in a new
- - "Barak’s Generous Offers…" - a simple exposition,
with maps, prepared for mass-circulation, responding to the
widespread propaganda assertion that "Barak gave Arafat almost
everything, and the Palestinians responded by making war."
- While conducting these campaigns, the Gush has held hundreds of
demonstrations and carried out countless direct actions in response to
day-to-day emergencies. Most of these were joint actions with
Palestinians, many in cooperation with other peace and human rights
organizations, some by Gush Shalom alone. Some recent examples:
- Building houses destroyed by the occupation army in
Kifel Hares, Katana and Anata villages.
- Filling trenches dug by the occupation army to cut
off Palestinian villages (Rantis).
- Breaking through "closure" barriers, with the
Palestinians doing the same by coming from the other side
- Demonstrating together with the villagers against
new "hilltop outposts" of the settlers on Palestinian lands
- Harvesting olives on behalf of villagers prevented
by the settlers and the army from entering their groves (Hares).
On several occasions activists were tear-gassed, once they were shot at
by settlers (Maaleh-Amos). On many occasions, Gush activists have been
called on by Palestinians to join them, in the well-founded belief that
the army would not shoot with live ammunition at demonstrators if
Israelis were present.
- Weekly political statement
Since 1993, Gush Shalom has published a weekly
political advertisement in Haaretz (every Friday, page 2, lower left
corner). It is generally acknowledged that these statements set the
weekly political agenda for the peace camp in general, well beyond
the confines of Gush Shalom proper.
- Stickers, flyers, emblems etc.
Over the years, the Gush has published and distributed
a wide range of stickers, such as "Bring the Soldiers Home from
Lebanon" (later: "Bring the Soldiers Home from the Occupied
Territories"), "Jerusalem – Capital of the Two States", "The Green
Line – Border of Peace", "There are No Legal Settlements. Period",
"I Don’t Buy Products of the Settlements – Every Shekel for the
Settlements is a Shekel Against Peace". The most popular sticker is
composed of the flags of Israel and Palestine. The two joined flags
are also the official emblem of the Gush.
[Some of Israeli Clipart for
hagalil.com / 14-04-2001