Disturbing the Peace: Stirring Up Change Towards a Peaceful World

Disturbing the Peace, a film about nonviolent direct action against the Israeli-Palestine conflict, was shown at Colorado College for an exclusive pre-screening last Friday Nov. 4.

The film was accompanied by filmmakers Stephen Apkon and Marcina Hale, along with Sulaiman Khatib, one of the main characters. After the screening, the filmmakers provided the opportunity for questions and the opportunity to create a dialogue.

The goal of the movie is to motivate people to get involved and help stop the daily violence that occurs in the Middle East and throughout the world. “Really what it’s about,” said Hale, “is being able to motivate people to understand that they have to make difference, they are making a difference with everything they do.”

The movie illustrates the philosophies and actions of Combatants for Peace, the organization consisting of Palestinians and Israelis fighting the occupation of Palestine through nonviolent means. It displays the both sides of the conflict and documents the nonviolent actions and demonstrations carried out by Combatants for Peace.

For Apkon and Hale, the process started four years ago. At the time, they were starting a nonprofit called Reconsider, a “media production and workshop organization that inspires innovation, encourages creativity, stirs responsibility, and forms community in an effort to make our world more dynamic, connected, and inspiring.”

During that time, they were introduced to Combatants for Peace. “We really weren’t sure there was anything new to say about the conflict—until we met these guys,” said Apkon. “They’re the only, as far as we know, the only binational group of enemy combatants working together through nonviolence during an ongoing armed conflict.”

Along the way they also got to know Sulaiman Khatib, co-founder and Managing Director of Combatants for Peace. He grew up feeling the presence of the Israeli army in the village of Hizme in north-east Jerusalem and started fighting at a young age. At age 13, he joined the “Fatah” movement, and one year later was arrested for stabbing Israeli soldiers. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

While in prison, he learned an alternative solution to the violence that currently dominates society. “I came to learn about nonviolence as a strategic and ideological life, actually, and a lot of it is resisting the status quo, the reality,” said Khatib. “I was introduced through hunger strikes… and also through learning about nonviolence in history.”

He partook in several hunger strikes to improve prison conditions, some lasting as long as 17 days. Additionally, he worked in the prison library, where he developed his worldview and read about the history of the Jewish people. After learning their narrative, Khatib developed empathy and understanding for the Israeli people.

The effort to understand both sides of the conflict is connected to the reconciliation track of Combatants for Peace. Since the organization is binational, people often harbor anger and hatred for the other side, and it takes time, hard work, and a lot of conversation to overcome the barrier. 

“This framework… is essential and it will stay very important,” said Khatib. “The dialogue part, the reconciliation part, is very important to build those bridges.”

One of the ways in which they build these bridges is the Theatre of the Oppressed, which relies on interactive theater to reestablish everyone’s right to exist in dignity. During performances, both Israeli and Palestinian people reenact scenes from their own lives, and then encourage the audience to participate and think about what they would do in that situation.

The other equally important aspect is direct action. A large misconception about nonviolence is that it is passive, but it is quite the opposite. After learning the whole story and realizing violence is not the solution, participants must take action and actively resist the cycle of violence through demonstrations and visual arts.

Combatants for Peace uses life-sized puppets in every freedom march and demonstration to get their message across to children, adults, and soldiers alike. Similarly, they create a wall of cardboard and then run through it, symbolizing the destruction of the wall in the West Bank separating Israel and Palestine.

“It creates an environment of nonviolence, actually, like the feeling,” said Khatib. “Because, honestly, in the Palestinian tradition, demonstration is kids throwing stones, that’s what happens. So when they have puppets, actually, it makes a fun feeling.”

To get involved and stay updated with Disturbing the Peace, text “Peace” to 668-66. The movie will be coming to Denver in early 2017. Additionally, you can find out more about Combatants for Peace and donate to the organization at cfpeace.org.

“What we succeed through ten years as combatants for peace that now it’s visited,” said Khatib.

He continued, “You can see a joint nonviolence, which is huge change. It’s a joint Israeli, Palestinian, grassroots, nonviolent [movement]. This is succeeding in creating the seeds of that. This is a huge change.”

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