21 September 2014
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: I am no
longer a pacifist.
By Amy Yoder McGloughlin
[Note: The author was part of the August 2013 delegation to Palestine.
Her reflection has been edited for length and clarity. The original is available on her blog.]
I’ve been a Mennonite for twenty years and a Mennonite
pastor for three years. But after a trip to Israel and Palestine this
summer, I can no longer call myself a pacifist.
After spending just a few short days with a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation
in Hebron, a tense city in the West Bank, I realized that opposing war–being a
pacifist–is a position of privilege. It’s easy for me to say that I
oppose things, like war and violence. I live a pretty secure life.
In Hebron, Palestinians have to go through checkpoints every day of their lives.
Their bags are subject to search in these checkpoints, and they can be
stopped on the street to show their papers to any military person who wishes to
see them. There are places in the city that they are not allowed to be,
places that settlers can drive their cars but Palestinians cannot. They live in an apartheid system.
|Hani Abu Haikel (left) interviewing and
translating for Hebron team
After watching soldiers or border police stopping my Palestinian friends and
making them show their papers and explain where they were going several days in
a row, I could feel my blood pressure rise, and my fists clench. How can
I simply be against war and violence when this is happening right in front of
I understood, when I felt those physical manifestations of anger, why
Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers. Or worse. If my blood
was boiling just watching this happen to Palestinian friends a few times, how
much harder would it be to experience that personally every day?
And then I met Hani. Hani is not a pacifist. But he has chosen the
path of nonviolence. Hani, a
Palestinian man, lives next to an Israeli settlement in Hebron, and faces daily
threats from settlers and soldiers as he walks to and from his home. He’s
been denied water delivery to his home.
He’s been delayed at checkpoints to discourage him from going to mosque
to pray. His olive trees and cars have been burned repeatedly by settlers
while soldiers watched, and his property is littered by trash that settlers throw
in his yard.
He realized at a certain point that fighting back was not working. Nonviolent resistance was the only
thing that seemed to be effective. So, when his son was beaten up in
front of him by soldiers, Hani did something quite counterintuitive. He filmed
it instead. And he sent that video the international news organizations that
highlighted Hani’s situation. That had more of an impact than armchair
pacifism or violent intervention ever could have. Hani intervening with
violence in his son’s beating would have meant that both of them would have
been jailed, and imprisonment would have economic ramifications for his whole
family. Videotaping the beating sent a message to the soldiers and
to the government that this would not be tolerated.
It’s then that I realized I’m not a pacifist. Because I’m not just
against war, I’m for peace. Pacifist
is not a word that really fit for Jesus. He was pro-peace, pro-action, and
pro-people. And he used his words and his body to show us these things.
He didn’t philosophize about war and violence. He stood with
people. He confounded the powerful by sitting where he wasn’t supposed to
sit, and touching those he wasn’t supposed to touch. That’s active
non-violent resistance, not pacifism.
I reject the word “pacifist” as a label for my own beliefs. Instead, I believe
in active non-violent resistance. I believe in peace. And like Hani,
I’m willing to use my voice, my body and my creativity in seeing a non-violent
solution come to pass.
Video of Hani talking to International Solidarity Movement
volunteer after settlers burned his land for the eighth time (CPTer in the