The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker peace and social justice organization, has nominated two candidates for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize: Ghassan Andoni, ex-director and co-founder of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People, (PCR) from Palestine and Jeff Halper, director and founder of the Israeli Committee against home Demolition (ICAHD) from Israel, for the work they do for peace.
The American Friends Service Committee is a faith-based organization working for peace, justice and reconciliation. With national headquarters in Philadelphia and offices in 22 countries of the world, AFSC emphasizes people, not politics or ideology – upholding the dignity and promise of every person.
AFSC issued a press release last week stating their nomination of the two peace activists.
"The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker humanitarian service organization, has nominated two candidates for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize: Jeff Halper from Israel and Ghassan Andoni from the West Bank and Gaza," the press release stated.
AFSC said the two candidates are nominated because of their remarkable work for peace and justice and reconciliation in a conflict region.
"In a region torn apart by conflict, these grassroots peace activists have been committed to nonviolence as the path to justice, peace, and reconciliation. For decades they have worked to liberate both the Palestinian and the Israeli people from the yoke of structural violence symbolized most clearly by the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza," AFSC stated.
Andoni is a physics professor and the director of the Public Relations Office at Birzeit University. A very important post as this university is a microcosm of the Palestinian society. He has combined his academic work with peace activism since founding Rapprochement in 1988 yet, his peace activities began much earlier. While a college student in Iraq, Andoni dropped out to work in refugee camps in Lebanon during the civil war there. Returning home from Lebanon he was arrested and jailed for two years for his supposed involvement in the military conflict. His Israeli judge refused to believe that he was a hospital worker and sentenced him for alleged membership in the PLO.
Rapprochement is a Palestinian NGO that works to serve the local Palestinian community in stead-fasting the hardships of occupation policies, by sharing in developing the community’s physical and human resources, and activating the youth, in community service and development.
Additionally, Rapprochement has a genuine commitment and a long history of working for peace and justice. Dialogue sessions with Israelis and internationals aimed at developing mutual understanding, activating participants to work for peace and justice, educating and training for peace and reconciliation, and work to promote the public’s role in building a just and lasting peace in the region.
During the First Intifada, 1987-1993, Andoni was an active participant in Beit Sahour’s tax resistance. He expanded his understanding of nonviolence from being a personal position to a public one, which if successfully employed could lead to a mass movement of liberation.
Rapprochement also aims to allow those in conflict to acknowledge each other’s humanity and to work together for a world in which they could peacefully coexist.
As the Occupation wore on Ghassan and Rapprochement moved from dialogue to direct nonviolent action intended to end the Occupation. In this connection he co-founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-led organization coordinating international volunteers with Palestinians in nonviolent actions that called attention to the oppression created by years of Occupation. ISM requires that all participants commit themselves to nonviolence, both physical and verbal.
Jeff Halper is also an academic a professor of Anthropology. "His discipline", says AFSC, "convinced him early on of the importance of trust in human relationships and the need never to treat humans as the ‘other’."
Halper is an American who went to Israel in 1973 after attending rabbinical school and becoming a Vietnam War resister. As an Israeli citizen he has refused to bear arms, even during his military service, and refused to serve in the Occupied Territories. Two of his children have been imprisoned as conscientious objectors.
Jeff Halper co-founded the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) in 1997, which was among the first Israeli peace groups to work inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories. ICAHD stressed working in coalition and often partnered with other Israeli groups, such as Bat Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights, Tayyush and Gush Shalom, as well as with Palestinian organizations such as the Land Defense Committee and Rapprochement.
"ICAHD resists the demolition of Palestinian homes, actions in which Jeff often displayed immense courage, sitting in front of bulldozers and confronting Israeli soldiers," said the press release.
Likewise, Andoni and Rapprochement Halper and ICAHD organize Palestinians, Israelis and internationals work together to face the Israeli occupation.
ICAHD, is specialized in rebuilding demolished homes as acts of political resistance to the Occupation, says AFSC.
"Through resistance to Israel’s house demolition policy ICAHD exposes the injustice of the Occupation and asserts the importance of international civil society in bringing about change, just as Ghassan Andoni had done with the founding of the International Solidarity Movement."
ICAHD has been well ahead of other peace organizations in its appeal to the international community, disseminating information and networking, analyzing Halper’s ‘matrix of control’ employed by Israel in its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza the framework created by strategic settlements, settler-only highways and the Separation Wall.
Both Rapprochement and ICAHD have a common vision that reconciliation must not be ahead of restoration of justice for it to last.