Indonesian peacebuilders, please stand up: By Raja Juli Antoni


Like the rest of the world, Indonesians watched recent events in Gaza with concern. Thousand of Indonesians participated in demonstrations and fundraising events. These activities were, to some extent, important ways to show disagreement with Israeli military actions and call for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian aid.
But did these actions help create a sustainable solution going forward? Perhaps now is the time to reflect on examples of those who continue to work for peace, even when it seems most difficult.
Though generations apart, Elik – an Israeli, and Arthur – an American, have worked to bring peace to Palestine and Israel.
I first came to know Elik when he shared his story at the 8th Youth Assembly of the World Conference on Religions for Peace in Kyoto, Japan a few years ago. Elik's sister died in a bomb blast ten years ago in a Jerusalem supermarket.
For more than two weeks after the incident, Elik locked himself in his room, battling an endless barrage of thoughts. He wanted revenge against the bombers. But he also knew that vengeance only leads to more vengeance – and more suffering.
He decided to free himself from the endless cycle of vengeance and joined an organisation called Combatants for Peace, a group of former Israeli and Palestinian combatants who believe that the ongoing bloody conflict will never be resolved with guns. The group – which received a Common Ground Award in 2007 – struggles for peaceful coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis.
As for Arthur, I met him when he visited Indonesia last year to launch his book, Hebron Journal.
Art, as he is known, is a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), a Christian group that attempts to transform lethal conflict through unarmed, non-violent intervention. He has dedicated his life for peace. In his youth, he joined Martin Luther King, Jr. in the US civil rights movement and took part in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
Art uses non-violence to confront violent situations. He once boldly stood in front of a moving Israeli tank, which was about to tear down a Palestinian marketplace in 2003. The tank stopped only a few centimetres from him before it reversed and turned back. He has been imprisoned several times and has been to protests where he's been spat on by people who believe he is anti-Semitic and sides with the Palestinians.
For me, Elik and Art are inspirations for their ongoing commitment to the non-violent movement. They also show that not all Israelis and Americans agree with their governments' foreign policies – a reminder that it is not practical or realistic to generalise all Jews, all Israelis or all Americans, let alone respond with hostility toward them.
But more than that, Elik and Art demonstrate the ability to cross the boundaries of their group and embrace the spirit of human solidarity. If we are encouraged by this spirit to raise funds for Palestinians, we should also be able to extend our hand to Israelis, when and if they should require it.
Because we want to see a better future for our brothers and sisters in Palestine, we need to move beyond our comfort zone to embrace a broader, more constructive solution for both Israelis and Palestinians. Our initiatives, therefore, should not be limited to general support for Palestinians, but also working with other groups campaigning for sustainable peace in both countries so they become mainstream, and are able to shape negotiations for peace.
In other words, we need more "Eliks" and "Arthurs", from Indonesia and around the world, to help resolve this conflict.


* Raja Juli Antoni ( is executive director of Maarif Institute in Jakarta, a non-profit organisation that works to reform Islamic thought and foster dialogue between religions and cultures. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service

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