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Prisoners for Peace, 2001

When, in summer 2001, War Resisters' International decided to highlight the situation in Israel and Palestine for this year's Prisoners for Peace, there was no 11 September, no “war on terrorism”. There was “just” a completely stuck peace process, and increasing violence: from both the occupying Israeli forces, and in the Palestinian response to this occupation. And there was a slowly growing movement of conscientious objectors in Israel. More than enough reasons for a Prisoners for Peace focus.

All this became even more important after 11 September. As Andrew Rigby points out below, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies at the heart of the present “war on terrorism”. It is because of this that the US administration made some minor attempts to “unstick” the peace process, in order to form a broad coalition for their war. And it is because of this that we never questioned our decision to highlight this region after 11 September.

While Sergeiy Sandler from the Israeli organisation New Profile looks at the struggle of Israeli COs, and at their political relevance in a highly militarised society, Marwan Darweish criticises the Palestinian Authority for turning a grassroots intifada into a low-level war. This violence might suit those in power on both sides, but it certainly disempowers those struggling for nonviolence and a solution based on dialogue.

Although our focus this year is on Israel-Palestine, we don't forget the many Prisoners for Peace all over the world. Our Honour Roll is certainly far from being complete, but all of those on the list - and many others - deserve our solidarity and support.

Andreas Speck works at the international office of War Resisters' International.

Topics: Prison