Former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters to speak in Pioneer Valley

By Danny Cordova

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Official Congregation Bnai Israel Facebook Page

(Official Congregation B’nai Israel Facebook Page)

Combatants for Peace, a group consisting of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian freedom fighters, will hold two consecutive events in the Pioneer Valley area to discuss efforts toward building lasting peace in the region.

Four members of the group will speak Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Franklin Patterson Hall in Hampshire College, and Oct. 8th at 7 p.m. at the Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton. These events are part of a United States tour to educate Americans about the organization’s anti-occupation work.

Combatants for Peace was formed in 2005 by former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters who, at one point, had taken an active role in the cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine. The organization strongly believes that only through nonviolent actions can each side understand the national aspirations of the other, and help solve conflict plaguing the two regions.

The goal of the organization is, through dialogue and reconciliation, to terminate the Israeli occupation of Palestine, halt Israeli settlement projects and to establish a Palestinian state, alongside the State of Israel.

Uri Ben-Assa, who is the co-director of Combatants for Peace, once held  the rank of captain in the Israeli army and the Israeli reserves. His firsthand experience of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and its consequences led a shift in his views that favors the cooperation of others and nonviolent strategies to influence political and social change.

“Our mission is to build the social infrastructure that supports free Palestinian people living in peace next to free Israeli people, communities of Palestinians and Israelis working together through nonviolent means to promote peace,” Ben-Assa said.

Examples of joint projects that Ben-Assa participated in include demonstrations at the Israeli parliament against an order to demolish a Palestinian village school that was built with European funds. Ben-Assa has also engaged in demonstrations for the removal of a roadblock that prevented the Palestinian village of Shufa from cultivating its farms and teaching nonviolence tools to train people to release tensions against the Israeli military during demonstrations.

“We believe that such communities can serve as a role model for both people, demonstrating through action that there is a real alternative to the cycle of violence,” Ben Assa said. “We believe that disseminating such activities widely can and will affect attitudinal change at the societal level and policy change at the political level.”

Danny Cordova can be reached at [email protected]