PJSA statement on Gaza

Approved by the Board of Directors on July 22, 2014.

The Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA) is a bi-national organization (United States and Canada), dedicated to bringing together academics, K-12 teachers, and grassroots activists to explore alternatives to violence and share visions and strategies for peacebuilding, social justice, and social change. Due to the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, PJSA has prepared the following statement.

We call on all actors in the current violent conflict between Hamas and Israel to end their military offensives immediately. We are alarmed by the rising number of casualties — the majority of whom are civilians and Palestinian.

We believe that all people in Israel and Palestine have the human right to live in peace, and to not be subjected to violence and the fear of violence. The current retaliatory violence from both sides is not only morally wrong, but strategically very short sighted, and will not bring peace or justice to either the Palestinians or the Israelis.

Recent history has demonstrated that the fear, death and destruction resulting from this type of violent conflict will only entrench extremism among both Palestinians and Israelis, thereby bringing the people of the region even further from peace.

We acknowledge that the violence in this situation is not limited to the current military conflict and peace with justice will not come with a simple ceasefire. An analysis of the violence is not complete without an acknowledgement of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Siege of Gaza by Israel and Egypt.

Both the occupation and siege are devastating forms of structural violence that impact the daily lives of 3.8 million Palestinians, leading to death and disease, loss of movement and access to basic resources including water and agricultural land, livelihood, freedom and a fundamental loss of human rights and dignity.

Israel, as the disproportionately more powerful party in this conflict, has a moral obligation to take a leading role in negotiating a ceasefire agreement, which must include addressing the issues of the occupation and the siege.

As citizens of the United States and Canada, we object to the current policies of both our governments that in any way support the occupation and military actions that put the lives and livelihoods of innocent civilians at risk.

We strongly believe that it is not enough to condemn the military violence of Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces. We call on all global citizens to join us in promoting and supporting alternative nonviolent strategies to achieve a peace with justice in the region.

Nonviolent strategies can and have been used successfully to not only reduce and de-escalate violence, but also mobilize both Palestinians and Israelis who are struggling to bring an end to the occupation.

For example, professionally trained, nonviolent, civilian peacekeepers have been effective in other struggles to protect and defend innocent civilians and in the last 100 years, movements and campaigns that have utilized nonviolent strategies and tactics have been twice as likely to succeed than their violent counterparts. In order to address both the direct and indirect forms of violence and suffering experienced by those immersed in this conflict, nonviolent approaches need to be better supported and encouraged, otherwise this vicious cycle of retaliatory violence will continue to plague the everyday lives of Palestinians and Israelis.

Additionally, negotiation and mediation processes must be nonpartisan and take into consideration the significant imbalance of power between the two parties. Balanced information and analysis is critical — thus we need to seek out those who analyze the conflict from a framework of human rights, peace and justice.

Peacebuilding organizations that focus on relationship building, and that support the safety, dignity and freedom of the citizens of Israel/Palestine help break the cycles of violence, alienate extremism and ultimately assist in building a culture of peace.

Finally, there are many individuals and groups — Israelis and Palestinians and people all over the world — who are already engaged in nonviolent strategies to end the siege and occupation. They need our support.

At times it seems like peace in the Middle East is unattainable. However, we believe that we have not yet given sufficient opportunity to nonviolent methodologies which address the underlying political and economic injustices and focus on human rights, peace and justice for all.

Image: Kashfi Halford(link is external) (Creative Commons).