For their unwavering conviction, in the midst of violence, that peace can only be achieved through justice and reconciliation.
Peace activists Uri (1923-2018) and Rachel (1932-2011) Avnery were two of the main founders of Gush Shalom, a peace movement that began in Israel in 1993. It has campaigned against the further extension of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories and the continuing demolition of Palestinian homes.
The Avnerys and Gush Shalom have also advocated for Israeli withdrawal from all the Occupied Territories, the recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the Palestinians’ representative and their right to establish their own independent state.
Gush Shalom has organised hundreds of demonstrations, protests and actions in line with these objectives. The actions included rebuilding the demolished houses of Palestinians, demonstrating against the expropriation of Palestinian land for the establishment or enlargement of Jewish settlements, and generally giving support to the Oslo peace process and moving towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.
A new Israeli peace movement
Gush Shalom was founded in 1993 as a new peace movement, which came into existence because the other Israeli peace movements had decided not to criticise the new Labour government. Gush Shalom was founded on three principles:
Israeli withdrawal from all the Occupied Palestinian Territories;
recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the Palestinians' representative;
recognition of the right of Palestinians to establish their own independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, alongside Israel.
Gush Shalom is a volunteer organisation with no hierarchy. All its members simply refer to themselves as "activists." Since its founding in 1993, Gush Shalom has organised hundreds of demonstrations, protests and actions in line with its three objectives. The actions included rebuilding the demolished houses of Palestinians, demonstrating against the expropriation of Palestinian land for the establishment or enlargement of Jewish settlements, and generally giving support to the Oslo peace process and moving towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Other initiatives have included:
Boycott of the products of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land;
Symbolic marking with green paint of all the points where roads cross the "Green Line" between Israel and the Occupied Territories to signify to travellers that, "At this point, you are leaving your country and entering the country of your neighbours";
Placing peace advertisements in the newspaper Ha'aretz. On one occasion, a published statement signed by 500 prominent Israelis, supported the establishment of the State of Palestine in "All the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," with Jerusalem as the joint capital of the two states, Israel and Palestine.
Most importantly, Gush Shalom has been campaigning, along with other Israeli peace organisations, against the further extension of Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories and, in particular, against the continuing demolition of Palestinians' houses intended to make that extension possible.
The only road to peace
Since the end of the "peace process" and the upsurge in violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories, Gush Shalom has persevered in its pursuit of what it perceives as the only road to peace. Gush Shalom activists are regularly arrested and abused, although as Israelis, their treatment is far better than that of Palestinians, and their presence in situations of conflict undoubtedly does much to prevent the mistreatment of Palestinians.
Gush Shalom has continued to demand an end to the blockade on the Gaza Strip and has sent several convoys of humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Strip. Gush Shalom has requested the Israeli government, as well as governments in Europe and North America, to start a dialogue with Hamas. Gush Shalom has vigorously opposed both the 2006 Lebanon War and the 2009 Gaza War from the first moment, organising demonstrations against the wars and protesting against the war crimes committed in their course.
About Uri and Rachel Avnery
Two of the main founders of Gush Shalom were Uri and Rachel Avnery.
Rachel Avnery was born in 1932 and worked first as a schoolteacher and then as a photographer. From 1993, she worked as the full-time unpaid administrator and organiser of Gush Shalom. Rachel Avnery died in May 2011.
Uri Avnery was born in 1923 in Germany but moved with his family to Palestine in 1933. He sustained severe wounds fighting in the Israeli-Palestinian War in 1948. After that, he dedicated his life to campaigning for peace between Israelis and Palestinians: as an author and magazine editor, as a Member of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, and as an indefatigable peace activist. Uri Avnery passed away August 20, 2018.