A message from our Executive Directors
2020 has been a year like no other. Not only because of the global pandemic which swept the world, or the seismic political shifts which affected us all, but because of the way in which people responded to a new and uncomfortable normal with compassion, strength and hope. Such transformations underpin our work, as Combatants for Peace strives to unite Palestinians and Israelis in the pursuit of human rights. Through joint actions on the ground, educational programs, and digital campaigning, we are changing the course of oppression and building a better, more unified society.
Despite the obstacles of the past year, we have had some truly remarkable moments we are especially proud of. We held the annual Israeli-Palestinian Memorial at the height of the lockdown, as the scale of the pandemic was just being realized. Due to tight restrictions on physical gatherings, we staged the event online only for the first time in its 15-year history and broadcast live to over 200,000 people from Tel Aviv and Ramallah. Following this success, we launched our inaugural Nakba Day event, which attracted over 25,000 online participants, and a new institution was born in our movement. Together, we now honor both the Israeli day of mourning on Yom Hazikaron and the Palestinian day of mourning on the Nakba Day, events that are reflective of our distinctive, united approach to peace building.
Faced with the renewed threat of annexation, our activists stood resolute and joined with friends and partners to overcome this round of political opportunism and occupation expansion. We continued this positive momentum and demonstrated across Israel and Palestine from Tel Aviv to the Almog Junction, campaigning to uncover the reality of life under occupation in a distracted world. We were there each week at the historic Balfour demonstrations to remind both ordinary people and those in authority of one clear message: while corruption is the result, occupation is the cause.
Our work in Palestine intensified throughout the year in response to settler violence, military demolitions and the ongoing human rights violations which plague the rural communities of the Jordan Valley. Week after week, our activists were there to shield shepherds working their land, support families left homeless, and challenge the illegal practices of occupation forces operating in the area. Such interventions are only made possible by our joint approach to activism on the ground.
Thanks to virtual meetings, we have met more of our supporters this year than we would have ordinarily, and we don’t plan to slow down now. Combatants for Peace is a growing movement of people committed to upholding human rights through nonviolent action and a shared vision of peace and justice. We know the only way to redefine the status quo is to challenge ourselves and others and to set an example to each and every community in Israel and Palestine – together, we will make a difference. We couldn’t have achieved any of what we have this year without you, so from us, our staff, volunteers, and activists, thank you for your support, friendship, and belief in us all.
In peace, good health and solidarity,
Rana Salman and Yonatan Gher
Co-Executive Directors, Combatants for Peace
Combatants for Peace has an important role to play in opposing the occupation. We are not an Israeli run enterprise working to aid Palestinians, nor are we a Palestinian collective offering an olive branch. We are a bi-national movement of professional, dedicated, and diverse individuals, working in an organization with equality at its core. We tackle issues of injustice head-on through nonviolent action, and we work in areas which often pass under the mainstream radar, staying off the front pages of the press.
Despite the challenges of organizing resistance efforts throughout the past year, we have continued to protest injustice on a weekly basis across the whole of Israel and Palestine. Combatants for Peace activists have campaigned far and wide, ensuring a voice for peace is present in every cry for change. From the Prime Minister’s home to villages across the Jordan Valley, our activists marched tirelessly throughout the year to demonstrate against injustice and call for an end to corruption. We demonstrated against a new attempt at occupation, against ongoing corruption, and against the violent realities of occupation. With every protest, we echo our call for justice and equality, and together, our voices grow louder.
The ‘Trump Deal of the Century’ unveiled at the beginning of the year threatened to annex parts of the West Bank, once again claiming sovereignty over Palestinian land. The plan included building more settlements, relegating Palestinian residents to small enclaves and further stripping people of their human rights and self determination.
First, we wrote to 120 Knesset members reminding them of their personal liability and the legal consequences under international law that they would face were they to enable annexation. We also sent letters to foreign heads of State across Europe to Congress and to the UN security council demanding action.
Then, we took to the streets. We, alongside other human rights partners, formed a strong coalition and organized an anti-annexation rally in Tel Aviv in Rabin Square, which featured addresses by Bernie Sanders and our co-founder Sulaiman Khatib, amongst other leading peace activists. We made it clear to our government that we oppose any attempt at annexation and that we will not allow further aggression or human rights violations in Palestine to pass by unchallenged. Despite Coronavirus fears, several thousand people gathered in defense of human rights, with strict adherence to all relevant regulations.
We won, and for the rest of 2020, official annexation was off the table.
Protecting Communities from Violence
As settler and military violence has heightened across Palestine, we have intensified our focus on protecting communities and striding alongside them in their struggle. Our Jordan Valley coalition has escorted communities from Jericho to Oja, standing in solidarity with Palestinians under threat of physical violence. We have rebuilt homes destroyed by the occupation, re-planted trees destroyed by the military and more. We work to maintain the right of Palestinian farmers and shepherds to live in safety, security and with the resources that their families need to survive.
The Jordan Valley
Throughout the year, Combatants for Peace has partnered with several organizations to protect farming communities across villages throughout the Jordan Valley including Duyuk, Nuema, Auja and Hamra. We have rallied in response to increasing intimidation, settler violence and threats of land seizures.
We remain committed to protecting agricultural land and maintaining the dignity, traditions and ancient farming techniques of the Palestinian and Bedouin communities who live in ‘Area C’. From olive trees to water supplies, from homes to grazing pastures, we have been on the ground to ensure human rights are maintained and land is accessible without threat of harassment or violence. Basic resources such as solar panels, water sources and shelter are essential to life on this land and are too often rare privileges across rural Palestine, we have worked to secure these resources and more for communities across the region.
Rebuilding after demolition: The example of Khirbat Humsa A-Fuka
On November 4th, the Palestinian shepherding community of Khirbat Humsa A-Fuka was razed to the ground by Israeli occupation forces, leaving 73 people homeless, including 41 children. In one of the biggest demolition operations in the past decade, the army destroyed agricultural buildings, solar panels, water reserves, and vital shelter that the community and their livestock relied on.
In the wake of this devastating military operation, Combatants for Peace activists delivered truckloads of essential supplies, including tents, food, blankets, heaters, generators, clothing, shoes and even a refrigerator. Our activists also worked tirelessly to rebuild the village and it structures. Once again, we demonstrated the might of unity and the power to be found in Israelis and Palestinians working together.
The Olive harvest takes place from October to December, when the trees are ripe. Combatants for Peace joined farmers in Sawiya, Hares, Azon and Al Khader, to gather the olives and protect the rights of the farmers to stay on their land. We also re-planted hundreds of olive trees in several olive groves that were destroyed by the Israeli settlers or military. Wherever settlers uproot Palestinian trees, we will be there to help re-plant them!
“The communities I join need one thing from me – to be escorted through their land. It amazes me that a Palestinian’s freedom of movement is so limited and that an essential and daily activity, such as shepherding one’s herd, might end in conflict with settlers or the military.”
-Kochav Shachar, Combatants for Peace
The Joint Memorial Ceremony
On Yom Hazikaron
The annual Joint Memorial ceremony celebrated its 15th consecutive year on April 27th. We had ambitiously planned for another beautiful event, in which brave individuals would stand on stage, share their experiences of grief through the conflict, and embrace another way to respond to acts of violence. But, as Covid-19 took hold, and the possibility of a physical event vanished, we went back to the drawing board. We quickly realized a novel opportunity in such constraints – we could for the first time share the event between Tel Aviv and Ramallah and create a genuinely integrated experience.
Our effort proved to be immensely successful, and the event was viewed by over 200,000 people around the world. The ceremony became the biggest event in the Israeli-Palestinian peace camp’s history and gave rise to a new perspective on the conflict, broadcast directly into people’s homes.
We followed the event by virtually inviting people to hear stories of grief and sorrow, but also of hope and resilience. Thousands of people accepted this invitation, and for one night, from homes across Israel and Palestine, people heard that there truly was another path towards peace
The Nakba is the Arabic term for the events which took place in 1948, when more than half a million Palestinians were displaced from their homes and their homeland as a result of the creation of the new State of Israel. Translated from Arabic as ‘the Catastrophe’, this experience is central to Palestinians’ collective memory and to the history of the wider conflict.
For the first time in our history, Combatants for Peace observed this day with a virtual public event. The ceremony took place on May 14th, and together, we marked the 72nd year since the Palestinian Nakba. The audience heard testimonies from Palestinians and Israelis, sharing accounts and experiences from the events of 1948. Joining together in remembrance, we were able to generate wider understanding of the pivotal events of 1948 and to kindle greater compassion for the enduring memories of grief and loss. This opportunity for communal reflection transcended typical narratives of victimhood and empowered audiences towards a novel path towards peace. In sharing in this memory, we are able to overcome the legacy of pain together, and to shape a better, more harmonious future: a future defined by healing, compassion and dignity.
This inaugural event began a new tradition in our movement, and an important date was marked in our calendars for years to come.
“We’ve seen cooperation, we’ve seen confrontation, but what we really need to see is Palestinians and Israelis coming together. Not just to fight the virus, but to fight for peace. And fighting for peace perhaps may be even more difficult.” -Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations Middle East Envoy
In February of 2020, Combatants for Peace partnered with Breaking the Silence and Hashomer Hatzair to launch a new educational program for youth aged 20-25. This six-month program, named Midreshet Dror (Freedom School), was created to educate young Israelis about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to provide them with the tools to become future leaders in the anti-occupation camp.
In order to strengthen the joint struggle for an end to the occupation and a just peace, there is a need for Palestinians to meet and build trusting relationships with Israelis, in the context of shared resistance to the occupation.
Learning Peace Education
As meetings were restricted and gatherings banned for much of the year, we moved our series of educational talks, lectures and debates to online platforms. We held sessions covering a range of topics relating to the occupation, as well as bringing Israeli and Palestinian perspectives to a wide range of subjects. We hosted the Chair of the EU delegation and the German ambassador to explore the impact of foreign diplomats, and we heard from our own activists working in the field daily, confronting the violence in Area C. An essential element of our movement, these meetings ensure both Israeli and Palestinian voices are heard and serve to challenge traditional narratives.
Land Beyond the Mountains Seminars
We reached out to teachers and other officials across the education sector to aid them in understanding the reality of the occupation, equipping individuals with the factual knowledge required to lead discussions around the conflict. We bring our dual narrative to each meeting, by introducing participants to Israeli and Palestinian speakers and sharing testimonies of lives affected by occupation. Our seminars also touch on the influence of the Israeli military and the effect it has on Palestinian children, women and society as a whole. Throughout 2020, we met with a diverse range of groups, including Israeli army preparation classes, informal community gatherings, and international delegations.
“The Freedom School is a fantastic program where you can learn about other narratives and about the struggles that happen daily around us. Before this experience I didn’t have a clue about the hardships of occupation, as they don’t enter the mainstream Israeli educational system or conversations in the media. All the learning opportunities we experienced were professional and well thought-out. We, today’s youth, were given the opportunity to see the pain and complexity of our society. We were seen and listened to. There was a lot of empathy, care and sensitivity, and the social aspect of this experience was meaningful. This program allowed us to deal with and digest the complexities of the conflict and to work through the pain and the difficulties we met on the way.”
International Outreach and Advocacy
Combatants for Peace understands the impact American foreign policy has on our conflict, and acknowledges that without American aid, the occupation could not continue. As an integral part of our strategy, we aim to reach Americans, and more specifically American voters, in order to open minds and shift harmful policies from the grassroots. Prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, American Friends of Combatants for Peace organized a one-month tour up and down the West Coast of the United States, meeting and sharing our activist’s stories with well over one thousand people. AFCfP used the lockdown period to focus on education, hosting dozens of online lectures and webinars and reaching close to ten thousand people through virtual events.
Additionally, AFCfP provided tremendous support in coordinating the Joint Memorial Ceremony; in recruiting sixty American NGOs as sponsors and partners for the event, they ensured that the Ceremony reached novel audiences and received a record number of views worldwide.
We would also like to thank the German Friends of Combatants for Peace for their ongoing support, and we are exceptionally to all of our European advocates who are working with us to affect policy and keep attention on the conflict.
The Year in Figures: Combatants for Peace
Total Income: $576,950
American Friends of CFP 34%
Private donations (local and Europe) 32%
Foundations and Partners 34%
Operating Costs 13%
*Please note that the above numbers are approximates; the audited financial report will be published on the CfPeace.org website in June 2021.
American Financials Overall
Total funds Raised from the USA: 387,994.15
CfP Paypal $500
Total gift given to Combatants for Peace from the USA: 249,860.95
Total Cash Gifts $242,277
Total Expenses Paid $7,583.95
**Please note, close to 2/3rds (64.4%) of all money raised in the USA goes directly to Combatants for Peace in Israel and Palestine. The remainder stays in the United States to cover the cost of operations, fundraising, and education, activism, & advocacy geared towards American audiences.
Breakdown of American Friends of Combatants for Peace Financials
AFCFP Total Raised $345,717.15
Gifts to Combatants for Peace $207,583.94
Cash Sent: 58%
Expenses Paid: 2%
AFCFP Expenses: $117,994.88