The Public Square

Gary Storm on Non-violent Peace Initiative for Palestine/Israel


Hello, my name is Gary Storm. I am a retired faculty member from the University of Illinois at Springfield who is now active with the Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative. What images come to your mind when I mention the Palestinian/Israeli conflict? Many Americans will probably think, first, of rock throwing Palestinian youth or of crude rockets or occasional suicide bombers being dispatched into Israel by Palestinian "terrorists". It is far less common for Americans to think of Israeli bulldozers pushing over Palestinian homes and olive orchards in the West Bank to seize land for construction of State-subsidized settlements or of the so-called "Security Wall" winding its way not along the border between Israel and Palestine, but within the West Bank separating Arab families from one another and from their agricultural land, water resources, schools, businesses and places of worship. We need a more balanced understanding of this part of the world. While Palestinian violence directed at innocent civilians is never justified, neither is the destruction of Palestinian lives, neighborhoods and hospitals caused by massive Israeli air raids and tank bombardments, even when justified as "retaliation" for Arab violence. Who can rightly be said to be retaliating against whom? The repeated cycle of violence merely results in deeper poverty and resentment among Palestinians and continued expansion of Israeli controlled territory. It fails to achieve peace and security for all in the region. This Sunday afternoon at the Champaign Public Library, area residents will have an opportunity to view a film that highlights a different approach to resolving conflicts in Israel and Palestine, namely, one of passive resistance and non-violent social action. The film documents efforts of peace-seeking activists from Palestine, Israel and elsewhere who join the citizens of Budrus, a small town in the West Bank, to block an extension of what they call the Israeli "separation wall" through their community. Similar efforts are increasingly widespread in the West Bank, supported by Palestinians and Israelis alike. They offer brighter hope for achieving a lasting peace in the area, whether a two-State solution or otherwise. The film, which begins at 2 p.m., will be followed by comments from a panel of individuals with education and experience relating to this part of the world, and there will be time for questions and discussion afterwards. The program is being sponsored by the Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative in order for local citizens to learn more about how nonviolent social action can be used to address international conflicts. More programs dealing with this theme will be scheduled later in the year.