A Nonviolent Path to Peace in the Holy Land

Increasing numbers of Palestinians and thousands of Israelis see nonviolent action as an effective way to challenge the Israeli military occupation. This excellent book encourages all of us to get beyond the all-too-common division of the world between “us” and “them,” and the need to resort to war and killing as a way of solving problems and achieving security.

Review by David Hartsough

Refusing to Be Enemies is a good antidote to all those who have given up on peace in the Holy Land. It is a powerful and hopeful book about the possibility of a peaceful and just future for the people of Israel and Palestine.

For all those on both sides of the conflict who say, “There is no partner for peace,” you will meet in this book hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis who are already active partners for peace.

In Refusing to Be Enemies, Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta shares the stories of more than 100 Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent, peace-and-justice activists who have chosen nonviolence as a means of struggle and a path to real peace.

Kaufman-Lacusta writes that increasing numbers of Palestinians are coming to see nonviolence as an effective means to challenge the Israeli military occupation. Even some Hamas leaders are supporting nonviolent resistance as an effective means of struggle by Palestinians.

And thousands of Israelis and Israeli organizations, as well as internationals, are joining Palestinians in ongoing nonviolent action campaigns, such as those that challenge the 26-foot-high separation wall, which is cutting off many Palestinian villages from their farmlands.

Israeli and international participation in these Palestinian-led nonviolent local actions give moral support and some protection to the Palestinian demonstrators.

In addition, notes Kaufman-Lacusta, the “outside” participants gain a heart-level understanding about the Palestinian experience of oppression living under the Israeli military occupation, and are inspired to return home to share their experience with others.

Her book provides firsthand evidence of the conversion experiences of many Israelis and Palestinians from a belief and confidence in the use of violence and the gun as a means of finding security to a belief in the power of active nonviolence. We hear stories of both Israelis and Palestinians coming to realize that the security of their two peoples is bound together, and you can’t have security for one without security for the “other.”

Martin Luther King said, “The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence, but between nonviolence and nonexistence.” Israelis and Palestinians are discovering nonviolence as the only alternative to an endless spiral of violence and counter-violence which results in security for none.

The stories in this book profile the visions, hopes, and dreams of Palestinian and Israeli activists, as well as their thoughts about strategy on how to escalate the nonviolent resistance to the military occupation and build a just peace.

Refusing to Be Enemies:Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation

by Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta

by Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta Ithaca Press Hardback, 528 pages

by Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta Ithaca Press Hardback, 528 pages


It is heartening to read of Palestinians and Israelis who say, “We are all one human family.” It is even more heartening to learn how they risk their lives in courageous nonviolent actions.

Refusing to Be Enemies helps us realize how important it is for us — Israelis in particular, and people around the world in general — to support the nonviolent initiatives and movements of Palestinians.

President John Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.” Our job is to help make peaceful change possible in Palestine/Israel.

This excellent book encourages all of us to get beyond the all-too-common division of the world between “us” and “them,” and the need to resort to war and killing as a way of solving problems and achieving security. Instead, we discover that we are all one human family and can act on that belief and “refuse to be enemies.”


David Hartsough is director of Peaceworkers and cofounder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce. He co-led a Middle East peace delegation last year. This review originally appeared in Fellowship magazine.

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