Combatants for Peace

 “The “Combatants for Peace” movement was started jointly by Palestinians and Israelis, who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence; Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army (IDF) and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom. After brandishing weapons for so many years, and having seen one another only through weapon sights, we have decided to put down our guns, and to fight for peace.”

The aftermath of this conflict is, for the most part, more conflict.  It never ends, and one act begets more.  One side must be taught a lesson, the other side must be avenged, and on and on. The startling declaration of the Combatants for Peace that they “refuse to take part any more in the mutual bloodletting” is usually met with derision by those still committed to violence, be they regular citizens or leaders of their respective populations.  

I have been photographing the people involved in this conflict – my countrymen and women - for many years.  My involvement comes not only as an observer and documenter, but more often than not as an active participant.  From documenting water shortages in the Occupies Territories to photographing exhausted Israeli soldiers;  from photographing  images of the day to day violence among Jews and Palestinians  to showing the friendships between individuals on  all sides of the conflict, I have used my camera to capture the never-ending hope and despair of my home.  I am committed to promoting non-violence, and of documenting these brave, perhaps foolish, former enemies, wherever I find them.  

The photographs I have included here show the convoluted and complex reality “on the ground”.  The excursion was led by Jewish and Palestinian former combatants, all of whom had previously engaged in armed conflict. The often unlicensed Israeli settlements are being built directly on Palestinian olive groves, with fences around the “new” settlements which prevent the former occupants from tending their olive crops – the mainstay of the Palestinian economy.  Palestinian homes are caught literally between a rock and a hard place, as they cannot legally cross the dividing wall into Palestine proper and cannot enter the roads for the Jewish settlements on the other side of their own yard.  Crucial water and modern plumbing  provided by the Israeli government at greatly reduced prices for the Jewish settlements is denied to Palestinians right over the hill, who then must buy their water from brokers and store it in tanks. Those living in the settlements forcefully proclaim their rights to build anywhere and anything they please.  The industrial area of Barkan, a huge Israeli economic concern in the West Bank, slowly and incrementally spreads as it takes over lands, buildings and fields that it holds no legal right to, by building large structures, which then sit empty, as a way to expand and occupy more land.   

The vast majority of Jewish Israelis don’t know anything about the day to day realities of those living in the Territories – and they don’t want to know.  Slowly, for a precious few, the aftermath of armed conflict, whether through the orders of military commanders or terrorist leaders, has transformed these men and women into a new kind of warrior, one who has chosen to lay down arms, and to fight for peace. These warriors for peace risk everything, including the severe censure of their friends and families, in order to take these steps.

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