Gush Shalom (Translated from Hebrew, the name means "The Peace Bloc") is the hard core of the Israeli peace movement.
Often described as "resolute", "militant", "radical" or "consistent", it is known for its unwavering stand in times of crisis, such as the al-Aksa intifada.
For years now, Gush Shalom has played a leading role in determining the moral and political agenda of the peace forces in Israel, as well as in breaking the so-called "national consensus" based on misinformation.
Gush Shalom is an extra-parliamentary organization, independent of any party or other political grouping. Some of its activists do belong to political parties, but the Gush is not aligned to any particular party.
The primary aim of Gush Shalom is to influence Israeli public opinion and lead it towards peace and conciliation with the Palestinian people, based on the following principles:
Putting an end to the occupation,
Accepting the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent and sovereign State of Palestine in all the territories occupied by Israel in 1967,
Reinstating the pre-1967 "Green Line" as the border between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine (with possible minor exchanges of territories agreed between the parties); the border will be open for the free movement of people and goods, subject to mutual agreement.
Establishing Jerusalem as the capital of the two states, with East Jerusalem (including the Haram al-Sharif) serving as the capital of Palestine and West Jerusalem (including the Western Wall) serving as the capital of Israel. The city is to be united on the physical and municipal level, based on mutual agreement.
Recognizing in principle the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees, allowing each refugee to choose freely between compensation and repatriation to Palestine and Israel, and fixing by mutual agreement the number of refugees who will be able to return to Israel in annual quotas, without undermining the foundations of Israel.
Safeguarding the security of both Israel and Palestine by mutual agreement and guarantees.
Striving for overall peace between Israel and all Arab countries and the creation of a regional union.
The Gush was founded by Mr. Uri Avnery and others in 1993, when it became apparent that all the older peace groups in Israel were either unable or unwilling to oppose the repressive measures introduced by the new Labor party government headed by Yitzhak Rabin.
When Rabin expelled 415 Islamic activists from the country in late 1992, a spontaneous protest by Jewish and Arab Israelis led to the setting up of protest tents opposite the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. This protest lasted for 45 days and nights during the winter. Following the debates in the tents, and in view of the silence of other Israeli peace groups, some of the protesters decided that a new Israeli peace movement was needed. They defined themselves as "Peacer than Peace Now" and founded Gush Shalom.
The Gush likens its role to that of a small wheel with a strong, independent drive that activates a bigger wheel that in turn activates an even bigger wheel, and so on. Not being subject to any consideration of party interests nor courting fleeting popularity, the Gush is free to proclaim the truth as it sees it and to work for its acceptance by a much larger public.
As a result, the Gush (and its founders long before it) consistently advocated ideas (e.q. recognition of the Palestinian people, negotiation with the PLO, acceptance of a Palestinian state, acceptance of the principle of return, Jerusalem - capital of two states, dismantling the settlements) years, and sometimes decades, before the established parties and peace organizations.
As is usual in Israel, the Gush has no "card-carrying members". It is composed of several concentric circles:
The Gush has extremely limited financial resources. It receives no funding from any Israeli or international organization, except for occasional, modest donations from peace groups and individuals in various countries (such as Holland and Germany). The brunt of the financial burden is borne by individual Israeli citizens, who consider it their moral duty to support the Gush as much as they can. They deserve the recognition due to them.
Gush Shalom is active on a very wide front, unparalleled by any other peace or human-rights organization in Israel. Its activities can be divided into several categories:
While conducting these campaigns, the Gush has held hundreds of demonstrations and carried out countless direct actions in respto day-to-day emergencies. Most of these were joint actions with Palestinian, many in cooperation with other peace and human rights organizations, some by Gush Shalom alone.
Some recent examples:
Participating in the rebuilding of houses destroyed by the occupation army (Kifel Hares, Katana and Anata villages)
Filling trenches dug by the occupation army to cut off Palestinian villages (Rantis).
Breaking through "closure" barriers, with the Palestinians doing the same by coming from the other side (Bethlehem).
Demonstrating together with the villagers against new "hilltop outposts" of the settlers on Palestinian lands (al-Khadar).
Harvesting olives on behalf of villagers prevented by the settlers and the army from entering their groves (Hares).
Stickers, flyers, emblems etc.
Over the years, the Gush has published and distributed a wide range of stickers, such as "Bring the Soldiers Home from Lebanon" (later: "Bring the Soldiers Home from the Occupied Territories"), "Jerusalem - Capital of the Two States", "The Green Line - Border of Peace", "There are No Legal Settlements. Period". The most popular sticker is composed of the flags of Israel and Palestine. The two joined flags are also the official emblem of the Gush.
Weekly political statement.
Since 1993, Gush Shalom has published a weekly political advertisement in Haaretz (every Friday, page 2, lower left corner). It is generally acknowledged that these statements influence the weekly political agenda for the peace camp in general, well beyond the confines of Gush Shalom proper.