A Brief Overview by Ben Rempell, Delegation Co-leader,
Feb. 21, 2002

The Interfaith Peace-Builders returned from spending
11 days in Palestine and Israel on Feb. 8.  The group
focused on analyzing U.S. foreign policy, expressing
solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli groups working
for justice and peace, and learning about political
positions and possibilities for peace that are not
readily expressed in the U.S.  Delegates are now
working on informing the public about the stories and
perspectives that they encountered.  Here are a few of
the many highlights of the trip.

We engaged student leaders at Birzeit University, the
leading Palestinian institution of higher education,
in a discussion of the root causes and strategies of
the Palestinian resistance movement, in its violent
and nonviolent forms.  Among the group of students
were leaders of many nonviolent demonstrations as well
as Esma, whose brother was a suicide bomber in
Jerusalem not four months ago.  We also visited the
Gaza Strip for two days, meeting with families from
the Rafah Refugee Camp who had recently had their
homes demolished by Israeli forces.  Their accounts
were in stark contrast with Israeli reports.  They
said that 60 homes (not 17) were destroyed and that
they had to flee from the homes during the night as
Israeli bulldozers destroyed the buildings (which
Israeli accounts reported as unoccupied.)  They are
now living in tents lining a sidewalk.

We had the opportunity to meet with Palestinian
President Yassir Arafat, confined to house arrest by
Israeli tanks in his presidential compound in
Ramallah.  We expressed to President Arafat our
support for Palestinian and Israeli groups working
tirelessly to bring peace and justice to Palestine,
and explicitly expressed our enthusiasm for the
growing nonviolent resistance movement developing in
Palestine.  We met with leaders of this growing
nonviolent resistance movement among Palestinians
against the inherent structural violence of the
Israeli occupation.  We observed elements of
nonviolent resistance that are used every day on a
wide scale by most Palestinians, such as avoiding
illegal checkpoints, political graffiti, and knowingly
breaking Israeli curfews with the risk of harassment,
arrest, violent beatings, or even death.

We searched out alternative Israeli opinions that are
not provided a voice in the U.S.  It is common
assumption in the U.S. that the Israeli peace movement
has died with the Al Aqsa Intifada; that the
Palestinian rejection of the offers made by Barak at
Camp David proved to Israelis that they had no partner
in peace, and that they all now support the actions of
Sharon.  We met with a number of Israelis, including a
Member of Parliament, who have continued their work
for peace based on their deep understanding of the
conflict, the meaning of the occupation, and the
realities of the Camp David proposals.  We sensed that
this group is growing, and found hope in their belief
that it growth would continue in response to Sharon's
oppressive policies.

The delegates are now carrying out their commitment to
speaking out on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict in a
variety of ways.  Already their projects include
producing a video documentary on Palestinian
nonviolence, organizing a town meeting on
Arab-American mobilization, speaking at churches,
synagogues and community events, meeting with
congressional leaders to discuss the assistance our
U.S. tax dollars are providing to the occupation,
photo exhibits, and helping to mobilize the
progressive American Jewish community on the
Palestinian issue.

Information on the next Interfaith Peace-Builders
Delegation, April 12-26, is provided below.

--------------------------------------------
Interfaith Peace-Builders Delegation to Palestine and
Israel
April 12 - 26, 2002

The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), the largest
interfaith pacifist organization in the United States,
is organizing an Interfaith Peace-Builders Delegation
to Palestine and Israel for April 12 April 26, 2002.
The delegation's goals are to analyze United States
foreign policy in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, to
express solidarity with organizations on both sides
working for a nonviolent end to the Israeli
occupation, and upon return, to educate the U.S.
public and seek to influence U.S. foreign policy.  The
program is co-sponsored by the Muslim Peace Fellowship
and the Jewish Peace Fellowship.  For more
information about the Interfaith Peace-Builders
Program, visit
www.forusa.org

Who is Leading the Delegation?
Michael A. Robinson is Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Israel
of Northern Westchester, New York, and Congregation
Shomrei Torah, Santa Rosa, CA. He was National
President of Jewish Peace Fellowship for 7 years,
served on the National Council of the Fellowship of
Reconciliation for 25 years, was on the Board of the
Union of American Hebrew Congregations, (Reform),
Social Action Commission for Reform Judaism, and
former chair of the Committee on Justice and Peace of
the Central Conference of
American Rabbis.

Scott Kennedy is the Chair of the National Council of
FOR and Chair of the FOR Middle East Task Force.  He
is a co-founder and serves on the staff of the
Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz, CA, and
has taken more than a dozen delegations to the region
dating back to 1968 and as recently as 2001.  He has
traveled to the Middle East more than 30 times.

Highlights of the April Delegation:
1. Meet with Israeli and Palestinian peace and justice
and human rights activists and political leaders
2. Engage Israeli and Palestinian political leaders in
small group discussions about the U.S. role in the
conflict
3. Stay in Palestinian and Israeli homes
4. Visit the "hot spots" of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict and see it with your own eyes

What Should You Expect?
1. Delegations of 10-15 people with experienced
leadership and accompanying representatives from
sponsoring local organizations
2. Participation in a two-day orientation at the FOR
national headquarters in Nyack, NY
3. A physically and mentally challenging program in
Israel and Palestine

Who Do We Want?
1. Delegates committed to educating the public on
their experience upon returning from the program
2. People of all ethnic and religious backgrounds
committed to nonviolence and active listening
3. Jews and Muslims, and Arabic and Hebrew speakers
are especially encouraged
4. Mature, physically healthy, emotionally stable,
flexible and respectful participants

How Much Does it Cost?
The cost of $2,250 includes: 14 days, airfare from New
York; hotel and home stay accommodations, breakfasts
and dinners, local transportation, and speaker/event
fees.  Participants are responsible for airfare to NY,
lunches, and a supplemental room fee if they desire a
single room.

Deadline for returned application forms is April 1,
2002

For more information and an Application Form, Contact:
FOR Interfaith Peace-Builders
C/o NVI
4545 42nd St. NW, Suite 209, Washington, DC 20016
Phone: (202) 244-0951; Fax: (202) 244-6396
E-mail: middleeast@f...; Web: www.forusa.org

Or contact Scott Kennedy at kenncruz@p...