Unarmed Civilian Protection in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
By Eli McCarthy and Jonathan Pinckney
Professional and organized unarmed civilian protection is an emerging practice that has been shown to be
increasingly effective in reducing violence in various types of conflict across the globe. Today the global
community faces large-scale conflicts in places such as South Sudan, Libya, Iraq, and Syria, as well as
many simmering conflicts in places such as Mozambique in imminent danger of full-scale recurrence.
Beyond major armed conflicts, many local communities and neighborhoods in the U.S. face pervasive
threats such as gang violence, police brutality, and mass shootings. In response to this violent context,
many actors have been developing nonviolent resistance and peacebuilding practices and new ways of
thinking about conflict. In this case study we seek to contribute to these urgent and exciting
This case study identifies good practices of unarmed civilian protection in Israel/Palestine. For this
project, we spent roughly two weeks in mid-August 2015 interviewing practitioners of UCP,
beneficiaries, and Israeli, Palestinian, and international community stakeholders. We conducted a total of
53 expert interviews, including 35 with practitioners representing 14 groups that do at least some form of
UCP work, 6 with beneficiaries of UCP, and 22 with outside stakeholders.
We also engaged in several
field observations of UCP organizations at work, and held a focus group discussion with 11 UCP
practitioners from three different organizations.
The modern Israeli/Palestinian conflict has its roots in the origins of the state of Israel in 1948, although
earlier events in the 1900s are also relevant. Today, the conflict is characterized by deep distrust, military
occupation, distinct systems of justice for the two peoples, regular clashes and cycles of intense armed
conflict. Ongoing attempts to reach a negotiated solution to the conflict have been unsuccessful. Both
populations have significant unmet needs, including security on both sides, and freedom of movement
and access to basic resources on the Palestinian side. The rapid expansion of Israeli settlements makes
reaching a solution to the conflict of particular urgency.
All of the unarmed civilian protection groups that we interviewed arrived in the early-1990s or later. All
of the international UCP organizations were invited by local civil society or governments. We profiled six
on-the-ground international UCP organizations, five Israeli UCP organizations, and a few Palestinian
organizations that have minimal UCP efforts. Many of these UCP groups profiled do more than direct
Some of the main methods of most UCP groups in this conflict include protective presence,
accompaniment, monitoring and documentation, and relationship building. A number of UCP groups also
engage in capacity development, intervention, and advocacy. Our analysis considered good practices as
those that were identified by several participants in the study as contributing to the protection of civilians
and supporting the primacy of local actors to address their conflicts nonviolently. Some, but not all, of the
core good practices identified are as follows:
• Some form of local direction, but with some degree of discernment.
These categories are non-exclusive, with some respondents fitting into multiple categories based on their varying roles which
were discussed in the interview, hence the reason this number totals to more than 53.
• Clear communication of the mandate to the local population.
• Training that includes language skills, cultural norms, conflict context, laws and regulations,
monitoring skills, values/nonviolence, team-building, and skills for transforming internal conflict.
• Diversity among team members, who normally have civilian backgrounds
• Regular attention to team members’ personal growth, value systems/spirituality, team-building,
self-care, and trauma-healing.
• Strong risk analysis and strategic risk-taking through strong local relationships and a commitment
• Deployments in areas embodying a microcosm of the conflict.
• Strategies to facilitate strong institutional memory.
• Relationship building that includes high integration into the local community, cooperation with
other UCP groups, and partnering with Israeli lawyers.
• The use of credible messengers to prevent soldier and settler violence.
• Protective presence on a wide and consistent basis, particularly at olive harvests, home
demolitions, and checkpoints.
• Accompaniment of those in danger, particularly school children and shepherds.
• Interposition and intervention in carefully-considered circumstances when abuse is occurring,
particularly verbal expressions when children are being harmed.
• Monitoring and documentation, particularly at checkpoints or tracking incidents of violence.
Sharing data, using video, and activating the media were also identified.
• Advocacy to promote policy changes, particularly internationals in their home countries and
Israelis in their own society or abroad.
• Capacity development, especially by enhancing nonviolent resistance and training locals in
We also identify some of the main effects, outcomes, and impacts of UCP in the conflict. Some healthy
effects on the Palestinian population included enhancing Palestinian leadership and nonviolent resistance,
keeping some land and communities, reducing soldier, settler, and Palestinian violence, protecting school
children, enabling education, and using law. Harmful effects included provoking or de-humanizing others
in ways that escalated conflict, and presuming privilege in ways that led to unhealthy dependence.
Practitioners of UCP experienced healthy effects such as insights into anti-oppression and anti-racism,
personal and spiritual growth, and improved advocacy skills. Harmful effects included harassment,
physical harm, and trauma.
We took a conflict transformation approach to understanding the long-term impact on the conflict. For
example, UCP resulted in greater international understanding and attention to the conflict, increased
solidarity and practices of nonviolence, and increased advocacy. While the majority of effects identified
were positive, some respondents did express concern that UCP groups perpetuate the occupation or long-
term conflict by making it more bearable. We deal more with this and other issues in our dilemma and
We conclude the case study with a robust section on dilemmas and challenges. Some of the key
dilemmas and challenges we identified included the abundance of UCP groups, the blurring of mandates
between protection and systemic change, the length of deployments, the time-scale of impacts, the value
of nonpartisanship vs. partisanship, advocacy, dialogue partners, human dignity and love of enemies,
trauma-healing/restorative processes/public health approaches, commitment to nonviolence, direct
intervention, economic and social development work, language of “protection“, constructive vs.
destructive conflict, decision-making structure, and exit strategy. We also noticed that no current UCP
group on the ground combines NGO status, clear nonpartisanship, and willingness to regularly intervene
Our respondents demonstrated great courage and compassion and had achieved major accomplishments
and personal and organizational learning that can be utilized for scaling-up and improving UCP in diverse
conflict situations. While the short timeframe of the research and the complexity of the conflict
discourage unqualified recommendations, a few lessons did emerge: Our respondents call for consistent
and broad presence, careful clarification of mission with local partners, and a deep commitment to
nonviolence. We see these as key to wiser strategy, better practices, and a more sustainable just peace.
In this case study we identify good practices in Unarmed Civilian Protection in Israel and the Occupied
Palestinian Territories as part of a four-part series of case studies organized by the Nonviolent Peaceforce.
We rely on the basic definition of Unarmed Civilian Protection and its goals presented in the overview to
these four case studies. We do not ask whether UCP is “effective” or “ineffective” in reducing violence, a
research question that would require a somewhat different research design. Rather, operating in the
framework of the Nonviolent Peaceforce case studies, we ask what practices have been identified as
consistently good by organizations with a long experience of UCP in Israel/Palestine.
We proceed as follows: first, we describe the methodology that informs the case study. Then we review
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the current context, which shape UCP work in Israel/Palestine. We
then briefly profile each of the organizations whose work we study. The second section presents the good
practices identified by our respondents. After analyzing these good practices, we discuss the healthy and
harmful effects attributed to the work. We then discuss the major dilemmas and challenges associated
with UCP in Israel/Palestine, including the nuances of some practices on which respondents expressed
significant disagreement. The final section offers our conclusions. Additionally, though not specifically
referenced in this chapter, the appendices for the Palestine/Israel case study include information on the
protection cluster referenced here, as well as on initiating and exiting projects, training and volunteer/staff
selection. These materials can be found in appendices D through G.
For roughly a month, including two weeks on the ground in Israel/Palestine, we interviewed practitioners
of UCP, beneficiaries, and Israeli, Palestinian, and International stakeholders. We conducted a total of 53
expert interviews, including 35 with practitioners representing 14 groups that do at least some form of
UCP work, 6 beneficiaries of UCP, and 22 stakeholders.
27 of the respondents were internationals, 15
Palestinians, and 11 Israelis. We also engaged in several field observations of UCP organizations at work,
and held a focus group discussion with 11 UCP practitioners from three different organizations.
Interviews closely followed the list of questions included in Appendix C and used in the other case
studies in this series. When appropriate, we departed from the script to follow up on particular questions
of practice or outcome brought up by the respondents in the course of the early interview responses. We
also encouraged respondents to ask us questions and create an environment of dialogue among equals.
From these interviews we generated a set of good practices and outcomes described by our respondents.
To generate this list we relied on general practices of process tracing, closely following the processes
described by our respondents, and outcome harvesting, collecting a wide variety of outcomes of their
work and then working back to capture the practices responsible for these outcomes.
We did not rely on explicit decision rules in determining what practices “counted” as good practices but
instead relied on several general principles. First, good practices had to be confirmed by multiple sources.
Second, we gave more weight to practices and outcomes described consistently across respondents. Third,
significant disagreement among our respondents about the value of a practice was taken as powerful
evidence against it. While some disagreement or nuance among opinions did not necessarily lead us to
These categories are non-exclusive, and some respondents fit into multiple categories based on their varying roles which were
discussed in the interview, hence the reason this number totals to more than 53.
exclude practices, in cases of particularly severe disagreement we eschewed including something as a
good practice and instead discuss it in the section on dilemmas and challenges. If, for particular analytic
reasons, we classify as “good” a practice about which our respondents disagreed, we have sought to make
explicit the nuances and challenges associated with it and also discuss them in the section on dilemmas
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has one of the highest profiles of any conflict in the world. It attracts
perhaps more international media attention than any of the other conflicts studied in these four cases. The
conflict has attracted a great deal of attention from various international organizations, many of which
have engaged in some form of unarmed civilian protection. Israeli civil society is also highly developed,
with a number of Israeli organizations engaged at various times with forms of UCP. Palestinian civil
society has pockets of development, with a few notable efforts at UCP.
The complexity of this organizational environment and the briefness of the fieldwork mean that the study
presents a far from comprehensive picture of all of the organizations working under the broad mantle of
unarmed civilian protection. However, after consulting with the respondents, with various other resources
provided by the Nonviolent Peaceforce, and with other researchers and activists with experience in the
region, we believe that the organizations described here do represent the most well-established and
important UCP organizations in the Israeli-Palestinian context.
Since the central question of the research is on identifying “good practices” we believe this approach of
focusing on the most prominent and longest-established UCP organizations represents an optimal research
strategy, and is preferable, for instance, to interviewing a random sample of UCP organizations. Yet we
are sensitive to the limitations of the brief timeframe of the research and believe that much could be
learned from comprehensive longer-term examination of a greater number of the UCP organizations
involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
One major further limitation of this study is geographic. Due to safety concerns by some funders and the
challenges of obtaining permission for travel, we did not interview anyone in the Gaza Strip, but limited
our examination to organizations working in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The situation in Gaza is
radically different from that in these locations, and studying UCP there would require independent
research. Very few of the organizations profiled here, with the exception of the ISM at times, have any
presence whatsoever in the Gaza Strip.
We relied on several resources in generating the initial list of respondents. A 2005 feasibility study
conducted by researcher Jennifer Kuiper for the Nonviolent Peaceforce (Kuiper, 2005) was a critical
starting point in developing the sample of respondents. The Nonviolent Peaceforce also provided
introductions to several coordinators for UCP organizations working in Israel/Palestine, as well as to
academics and professional researchers who had worked in the region. Initial outreach sought to obtain at
least one respondent from each of the organizations identified as particularly prominent practitioners of
UCP. All respondents were also asked to provide additional contacts within their organization and
Israeli/Palestinian civil society more broadly. This snowball sampling method generated the majority of
All of the organizations profiled here have had continuous protection programs of one form or another for
at least ten years; have large numbers of past or former staff or volunteers; and publicize their work
extensively online and in other publications. These commonalities define the primary population of study
in which good practices were identified. However, within this set of organizations there is significant
diversity in mandate, strategy, staffing, and other major characteristics. This diversity provides an ideal
Place names alone are matters of significant political contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In an attempt to avoid
unintentional political signaling, in this study we follow the common international usage by referring to the territories occupied
by Israel in the 1967 war as the “West Bank” and “Gaza Strip.” Cities and towns in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip are
also referred to by the names most common in international usage. For instance, we refer to the city of “Hebron” as Hebron
rather than “Al-Khalil”, the name in Arabic.
environment in which to compare and contrast the various good practices common across the entire
population of cases.
Respondents were generally eager to discuss their work and actively sought to facilitate our research.
However, the ambiguous legal status of several of these organizations meant that several respondents
requested that some aspects of their work disclosed in the interviews be kept out of the final published
study. We have honored this request, and representatives from several of the organizations have been
given access to pre-publication drafts of the study to ensure that none of its information puts their
organizations or activists at risk.
Readers will no doubt notice that this study focuses on organizations who seek primarily to protect the
Palestinian population. Because of the high politicization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we believe
some words justifying this emphasis are in order, as it is not intended to communicate a political
orientation, nor to deny that Israelis face violent threats as well. There are two primary reasons driving
First, the absolute level of violence and human rights abuses faced by Palestinians is empirically higher
than that faced by Israelis. According to data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs, from January to August of 2015 22 Palestinian civilians have been killed and an average of 37 a
week injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank. During the same period 3 Israeli civilians have been
killed and an average of 2 a week injured (UNOCHA, 2015). In this same period, home demolitions by
the Israeli government displaced 462 Palestinians, and Palestinians’ movement was restricted through a
system of 96 fixed checkpoints and hundreds of “flying” checkpoints distributed throughout the West
Bank. The sheer volume of violence against civilians is much higher for Palestinians.
Furthermore, Israelis threatened by Palestinian violence have shown little interest in assistance from
groups engaging in Unarmed Civilian Protection. Instead the strategy pursued, for instance by settler
groups, has been one of high levels of armed security, construction of fences, walls, and other forms of
security barriers. While some UCP groups have acted in support of Israelis,
such protection has rarely
been requested, and thus provides little material for identification of good practices.
For these reasons, we limit our discussion of violent threats almost exclusively to threats against the
Palestinian population, since it has been overwhelmingly Palestinians who have faced violence and
sought to assuage that violence through UCP.
Identifying outcomes as a direct consequence of UCP is inherently challenging because of the complex,
contingent nature of many of the outcomes. While the presence or actions of UCP organizations may
contribute to various outcomes, they are rarely the single cause of any particular outcome. Our
respondents were cognizant of this challenge, and often expressed skepticism that outcomes associated
with their work could be simply attributed to them. We attempted to deal with this challenge through
careful process tracing of the causal chains of particular outcomes, as well as confirming the specific
relationships between UCP activity and particular outcomes from various respondents.
One final methodological difficulty frequently mentioned by our respondents bears note. Identifying a
positive effect of protective presence can at times represent a classic “dogs that don’t bark” problem.
Although there are clear and consistent examples of abuse de-escalating in response to protective
presence, when the key outcome is that something did not happen, such as violent attacks or human rights
abuses, it is difficult to conclusively identify why. While the non-occurrence of violence can be
In the months since our fieldwork a series of attacks (primarily stabbings) by Palestinians on Israeli civilians has received
significant media attention (Kershner, 2015). These attacks doubtless represent a major and reprehensible escalation of violence
towards Israelis, however, it bears mention that the number of fatalities and injuries against Palestinians during the same period,
have escalated exponentially, thus we maintain the validity of this paragraph’s argument.
In 1996 activists from Christian Peacemaker Teams intentionally rode on an Israeli bus line which had been repeatedly targeted
by Hamas suicide bombers (Kern, As Resident Aliens: Christian Peacemaker Teams in the West Bank, 1995-2005, 2010).
A term commonly used in social science to refer to analyzing the significance of non-occurrences. The reference is to the
Sherlock Holmes mystery “Silver Blaze” in which a crucial piece of evidence is a dog not barking at a supposed intruder.
meaningfully compared with rates of violence when UCP organizations are absent, many of our expert
respondents can of course only report those events that occurred when they were present.
We have sought to address this difficulty in several ways similar to our process for identifying good
practices. First, we looked for outcomes that were consistently reported in similar ways by respondents
from various organizations, operating on the assumption that a commonly reported outcome of UCP is
more likely to be a genuine effect. Outcomes or processes reported by single respondents were treated
with greater caution, especially if other respondents contradicted them. Second, we supplemented the
direct observations of UCP practitioners with the testimony of Palestinian beneficiaries and outside
stakeholders who could observe the change in patterns of violence when UCP organizations were present
or absent. And finally we considered an expanded range of outcomes such as more trusting relationships
with the local community and better organizational communication, team solidarity, and personal growth,
to which our respondents could speak directly and which might be reasonably expected to be associated
with more effective protection.
We now move on to briefly discuss the historical context and current political environment which shape
the work of UCP organizations in Israel/Palestine today.
3.2 Historical Background
Figure 1 Map of Palestine/Israel
Source: Wikimedia Commons
The historical narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hotly contested. Even the naming of historical
events is a major point of political contestation. Does one describe the 1948 conflict that resulted in the
creation of the State of Israel as the Israeli War of Independence (as the majority of Israelis do) or the
Nakba (meaning catastrophe, as the majority of Palestinians do). This overview of the conflict will seek to
avoid these problematic political signals and to present the aspects of the basic historical narrative that are
agreed-upon by most historians. We also focus mostly on recent events, as the purpose of this section is
not to provide a comprehensive history of the conflict but simply to frame the environment in which UCP
organizations currently work.
The origins of the modern Israeli-Palestinian conflict lie primarily in the early 20th century Zionist
movement of Jewish migration to then British mandate Palestine. The growing Jewish population largely
entered Palestine peacefully, buying land legally and pushing for the creation of a Jewish state through
political activism. However, some more radical Zionists did seek to pressure the British mandate
authorities into creating a Jewish state through campaigns of violent terrorism and insurgency. Some
violence towards the Jewish immigrants also came from the local population during the Arab Uprising of
1929 and the Arab Revolt of 1936-39.
Political pressure on the British mandate rulers and the wave of Jewish migration out of Europe following
the Holocaust eventually resulted in the UN agreeing to a partition plan (UN Resolution 181) intended to
create two states in British Mandate Palestine – a Jewish state in predominately Jewish areas and an Arab
state in predominately Arab areas. While the Jews in Palestine, represented by the Jewish Agency,
accepted the deal, neighboring Arab countries and local Palestinians considered it to be unfair, allotting
far too much land to the relatively small Jewish population.
As the British left in 1948, conflict broke out between the Jewish population and the neighboring Arab
states. At the end of the conflict, the modern state of Israel had been created, capturing even more
territory than the UN had allotted, occupying the entire territory that remains its internationally
recognized borders today. However, Israel and its neighbors did not reach a peace settlement, and the
conflict entered a “cold” stage.
The Six-Day War and the Beginning of Military Occupation
In 1967, after inflammatory statements and actions by President Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt, Israel pre-
emptively attacked the Egyptian Air Force on June 5, 1967. Israel’s pre-emptive action was stunningly
successful, and after six days of conflict between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the Israelis had
captured several huge swathes of territory, including the areas now known as the West Bank, Gaza Strip,
Golan Heights, and the entire Sinai Peninsula.
With this new territory, Israel also gained control over a massive population of Palestinians and initiated a
system of military occupation. While the city of East Jerusalem was officially annexed by Israel and thus
became subject to Israeli law, the remainder of the territories captured in the Six-Day War remained
under military rule, with their residents subjected to rule by military order and no rights of political
While a complex series of events since the 1967 war have shaped the nature of the occupation, four
particularly central historical occurrences have been of key importance and thus deserve mention here: the
growth of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, the First and Second Intifadas, and the Oslo Peace
Despite the stated intention of some Israeli leaders to trade the occupied territories for a peaceful
settlement to the conflict, Israeli settlement in the occupied territories began almost immediately. Two
major kinds of settlement have been important, economic settlements and religious settlements.
The so-called “economic settlements” account for by far the greatest number and land area of settlements.
The Israeli government has devoted large areas of occupied territory, particularly in the area immediately
east of Jerusalem, to affordable housing for Israeli citizens. These economic settlements, which now
house hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens, deeply complicate any proposal to divide the West Bank
and have led to ever-increasing systems of military control.
While the economic settlements are much larger, the religious settlements have been more important in
shaping the context for Unarmed Civilian Protection. These Israeli settlers are motivated to various
degrees by the conviction that Jewish possession of the entirety of the historic land of Israel is a religious
mandate. In pursuit of this mandate they have sought to create Jewish settlements in particular at key sites
of historic Jewish presence (perhaps most prominently in the city of Hebron). Violent extremist settlers
from this movement have attacked Palestinians many times and are often at the forefront of the most
confrontational settlement situations in the West Bank.
The First Intifada was a largely nonviolent uprising by Palestinians living in the occupied territories
beginning in 1987, roughly 20 years after the beginning of the occupation, and continuing until the early
1990s. Palestinians used various tactics of nonviolent action, including tax strikes and boycotts, to
demand an end to the occupation. While predominantly nonviolent, the First Intifada did occasionally use
violence, including throwing stones at demonstrations.
Many trace a direct line from the agitation of the First Intifada to the Oslo Peace Accords, reached
between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Israeli government of Prime Minister Yitzhak
Rabin in 1993 and expanded in 1995. The Oslo Accords were intended to resolve the conflict through a
two-state solution, in which an independent state of Palestine would exist in the occupied territories of the
Gaza Strip and West Bank. Among their many provisions, the Oslo Accords perhaps most importantly
created the Palestinian Authority (PA), and split the occupied territories into three sections -- Areas A, B,
and C -- over which the PA would exercise varying levels of control.
This tripartite division of the occupied territories has been one of the defining characteristics of the
system of military occupation. While initially conceived as a mechanism for gradually transferring more
and more occupied territory to Palestinian control after decades of failed peace talks, the area boundaries
have largely hardened into semi-permanence.
The initial optimism of the Oslo Peace Accords gradually faded over the following years as a series of
violent events, including but not limited to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a campaign
of suicide bombings primarily undertaken by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, and the attack on the
Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron by Jewish radical Baruch Goldstein, undermined trust between the sides.
Escalating violence eventually culminated in the Second Intifada, as some UN efforts towards sending
unarmed observers failed to pass.
While the proximate cause of the Second Intifada was the visit to the Temple Mount of Israeli Opposition
Leader Ariel Sharon in September 2000, the uprising had longer roots in Palestinian anger over stalled
peace negotiations, corruption, and a perception of Israeli bad faith as Jewish settlements continued to
expand in the occupied territories during the peace negotiations.
In contrast to the largely nonviolent First Intifada, the Second Intifada was more similar to a small-scale
guerrilla war, with violent clashes between the Israeli Defense Forces, youth protesters, the security
forces of the Palestinian Authority, and armed wings of the various Palestinian parties. The Second
Intifada also saw a wave of suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians, with more than 50 suicide
bombings in 2002 alone (Schweitzer, 2010; Moghadam, 2003). The Second Intifada is widely considered
to have lasted until 2003-04, with disastrous results for the cohesiveness of the Palestinian Authority and
heavy casualties on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.
One major consequence of the Second Intifada was the hardening of the system of occupation and
movement control in the occupied territories. Most prominently, in the early 2000s the Israeli government
The PA has full civil and security control over Area A, the Israeli military occupation has full civil and security control over
Area C, and the two share control over Area B.
Notably, in 2000 a UN Resolution for unarmed observes to prevent escalation was vetoed by the U.S.
began constructing a massive system of fences and walls
splitting Palestinian population centers from
Israeli population centers. While the Israeli government has maintained that the goal of the fences and
walls is purely one of security, primarily in response to the suicide bombings of the Second Intifada,
Palestinian and international activists argue that the wall’s route is intended to separate Palestinians from
their land, expand Jewish settlements, and eliminate the possibility for a cohesive Palestinian state.
In brief, thus, the current political situation is one of military occupation, stalled peace talks, and
increasing Israeli settlement throughout the West Bank. While a two-state solution to the conflict has been
pushed for internationally since the UN partition plan in 1947, and was enshrined in the Oslo Peace
Accords, our respondents reported that fewer and fewer people on either side believe that a two-state
solution is achievable. Military occupation by Israeli forces, with the attendant challenges to Palestinian
security and prosperity, is considered likely to endure for the foreseeable future.
Hebron: The Fuse
Figure 2 Map of Hebron
Source: UN OCHA oPt [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Any discussion of the context for the work of UCP organizations in Israel/Palestine would be incomplete
without a discussion of the city of Hebron. The majority of the international and Israeli organizations
profiled here operate at least partially in Hebron and thus understanding their work requires a brief
overview of that city’s history and political situation.
Hebron is the only major city in the occupied territories where Israeli settlers live within the center of the
city. While most Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are separated from the Palestinian
Alternately referred to as the “security fence“, “separation fence“, or, by its opponents, as the “Apartheid wall.”
population by extensive security fences, military deployments, and geographic distance, in Hebron
settlements exist quite literally on top of the local Palestinian population.
The origins of this unique arrangement lie in Hebron’s central religious importance for both Jews and
Muslims. The Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of Machpelah at the center of Hebron is the reported burial site for
several of the patriarchs of the Abrahamic tradition.
A small Jewish population had lived in Hebron for centuries prior to the creation of the state of Israel. In
1929, as tensions were rising between the Jewish and Arab populations of British Mandate Palestine, the
Jewish population of Hebron was attacked by angry mobs of Arabs after rumors spread in the city that
Zionist Jews were planning on occupying the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. More than 60 Jewish residents
of Hebron were killed.
Shortly afterwards, the Jewish population of Hebron was evacuated by British
Hebron was captured by Israeli forces during the Six Day War. Shortly afterwards, in 1968, the first
settlement activity in the interior of the city began when hardline Rabbi Moshe Levinger and his followers
rented rooms in a downtown Hebron hotel to hold a Passover Seder and then refused to leave, citing the
religious significance of Hebron and the expulsion of the Jewish population following the 1929 massacre
as justifications. Levinger and his followers were only coaxed out of the hotel when the Israeli
government agreed to allow them to create the settlement of Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of Hebron.
Religious settlers moved quickly over the following years to establish a greater and greater Jewish
presence within the city of Hebron, in particular in the area surrounding the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of
Machpelah religious site: the old city of Hebron. The settlements, which have an extremely small
population relative to the total population of Hebron,
were followed by a massive Israeli military
deployment to protect them, and the construction of an ever-increasing system of checkpoints,
roadblocks, and various other movement restrictions on the Palestinian population.
The situation in Hebron worsened in 1994 when Jewish radical Baruch Goldstein entered the Ibrahimi
Mosque during Friday prayers and opened fire on the praying Muslims, killing 29 people and injuring
more than 100 others. Goldstein himself was subdued and killed by worshippers at the mosque. The
massacre was one of the major events undermining the newly-initiated Oslo Peace Process as Palestinian
riots across the occupied territories followed the massacre.
In the wake of the attack, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called for an international force in Hebron to
protect the local population from settler violence. While the Israeli government refused Arafat’s request
for an international armed peacekeeping force, the two sides later agreed to allow a small unarmed
monitoring force: the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), one of the organizations
profiled in this study.
Hebron was exempted from the withdrawal from Palestinian cities mandated in the Oslo II agreement in
1995 because of the settler population in the old city. However, in 1997 the Israeli government and the
PLO signed the Hebron Protocol, which divided the city of Hebron into two zones: H1 and H2. H1
became “Area A” and under the full control of Palestinian security forces, while H2, which included the
Ibrahimi Mosque and majority of the historic old city, as well as all of the Israeli settlements, remained
under Israeli security control.
The H1-H2 division remains one of the fundamental realities of the situation in Hebron today. The
Palestinian population in H2, the area under Israeli control, remains impoverished, poorly policed, and
subject to high levels of crime and violence. One respondent joked that all of the stolen cars in the West
Respondents noted this event as a particularly potent example of contested history. While all acknowledge the massacre
occurred, Palestinian residents of Hebron blame the massacre on “outside” agitators, and claim that the locals in Hebron actually
protected hundreds of Jewish residents. Jewish settlers in Hebron point to the massacre as their rationale for claiming land and
buildings in the center of Hebron, as well as for the extensive security that accompanies those claims.
As of 2015, there are roughly 500 Israeli settlers in the settlements in downtown Hebron. The Palestinian population of
Hebron is roughly 170,000 (TIPH, 2015).
Bank end up in H2 because its ambiguous security status prevents Palestinian police from investigating
within it. While H1 has become a booming commercially-successful city, H2 is largely a “ghost town“,
with large sections, including the former commercial center of Shuhada Street, closed off to Palestinian
residents to protect the downtown Israeli settlements.
The settlements in the center of Hebron, particularly the settlement of Avraham Avinu, overshadow the
semi-cavernous streets of the old city. Residents often claim that settlers assault passersby from these high
vantage points, throwing stones, dirty water, and refuse down onto the streets below. Settlement activity
also continues to expand in Hebron, with settlers slowly increasing their presence in the old city and also
seeking to connect the larger outside settlements of Kiryat Arba and Givat Ha’avot.
The extensive system of checkpoints, road closures, and in general high security force presence means
that Palestinians and Israeli Security forces confront one another much more frequently in Hebron than in
other areas in the West Bank.
Palestinians in H2 pass through checkpoints daily to go to and from their
homes, schools, businesses, and they face frequent harassment, arbitrary detention, and arrest. Several
schools, including the Cordoba School, are in the immediate vicinity of the Ibrahimi Mosque/Cave of
Machpelah, and children at these schools have faced frequent violence from security forces. Palestinians
also at times clash with security forces in Hebron, with school children in particular often responsible for
throwing stones at soldiers.
In short, the situation in Hebron represents an extreme and prominent example of all of the various
technologies of occupation used by the Israeli government to protect settlers and perpetuate its control in
the West Bank, as well as an example of the violence and human rights abuses most commonly faced by
the Palestinian population. In the following section we briefly summarize these major technologies of
occupation in a broader sense.
The Technology of Occupation
The UCP organizations profiled here primarily protect Palestinians resident in the occupied territories.
The military occupation put in place by the Israeli government to protect Israeli civilians affects almost
every aspect of Palestinians’ lives. Many of our respondents reported that this close, intimate system of
social and political control has significantly weakened social trust, particularly of those perceived to be
“outsiders.” Even Palestinians from other areas of the West Bank are often assumed to be collaborators
with Israeli authorities, or Israeli informants. This pervasive distrust has shaped UCP in Israel/Palestine.
In addition, the system of occupation is the primary source of violence from which UCP organizations
seek to protect their partners. Four aspects of this system bear special attention: settler violence, security
force violence, checkpoints and movement restrictions, and home demolitions and land confiscations.
Many Palestinians face harassment and violence from Jewish religious extremists in settlements
throughout the West Bank. While most settlers live in the occupied territories for economic reasons,
not-insignificant number have moved into the West Bank out of a sense of religious mission, because they
view Jewish residency in the entirety of the historical land of Israel as a religious mandate. Among these
religious settlers, some have sought to expand Jewish settlement into Palestinian land through campaigns
of harassment, violence, and intimidation.
For example, settlers from the settlement of Ma’On in the
Since all other major Palestinian population centers (with the exception of East Jerusalem, whose status is radically different)
exist entirely within Area A and thus have no constant Israeli Security Force presence.
Respondents repeatedly emphasized the distinction between economic settlers, who often interact with Palestinians on a
congenial basis, and religious settlers.
Respondents disagreed significantly on the scope of settler violence. Some respondents tended to refer to “settlers” more
generally as dangerous and potentially violent. Others downplayed the number of settlers who engage in this kind of violence,
with some attributing the entirety of settler violence to a small number of radical youth simply lacking good parental control.
South Hebron Hills have attacked Palestinian school children on their way to school and are suspected of
poisoning hundreds of Palestinian livestock from the village of At-Tuwani (Kern, As Resident Aliens:
Christian Peacemaker Teams in the West Bank, 1995-2005, 2010).
Many respondents, Palestinian, Israeli, and International, reported that settler violence takes place in an
environment of almost-total impunity. The IDF and other security forces were reported to have almost
never directly interfered with settler violence towards Palestinians, and the few settlers arrested for
particularly violent acts face very light legal consequences and are tried in Israeli civil courts. In contrast,
Palestinians face immediate consequences from security forces and stiff sentences in military courts for
attacks on settlers.
The most consistent word used to describe settlers by UCP practitioners was “unpredictable.” Most UCP
organizations developed something of a tacit understanding with local security forces, and violence from
security forces against UCP practitioners in particular was reported as somewhat rare. In contrast, settler
violence was reported as very frequent, yet difficult to predict.
The most virulent faction of the settler movement is the so-called “price tag” movement. These settlers
seek to impose costs on the Israeli government for any concessions to Palestinians by attacking the
vulnerable Palestinian population. Most recently, many suspect that settlers from the price tag movement
set the fires in the Palestinian village of Duma that resulted in the death of a small child and his father.
Security Force Violence
Palestinians also face the threat of violence from Israeli security forces deployed in the occupied West
Bank. While security forces tend to operate in a much more predictable, somewhat calmer fashion,
respondents did report consistent harassment of Palestinians, of various kinds. Security forces arbitrarily
detain and arrest Palestinians, often on spurious or doubtful grounds. Israeli security forces often enter
homes at night to interrogate Palestinians and detain them without charge. These search and arrest
operations are frequently characterized by physical coercion and lead to clashes.
Violence between security forces and Palestinians is not one-sided, and the reality of violent interaction is
important to note. People sometimes throw stones at otherwise peaceful political demonstrations. Even
outside of political demonstrations, Palestinian school children do throw stones at Israeli soldiers, who
respond with tear gas, rubber bullets, and other violent crowd control tactics. Respondents reported these
clashes as less political and more a method of violent “blowing off steam“, with children throwing stones
as a way of trying to prove their toughness or unwillingness to back down.
Checkpoints and Movement Restrictions
In addition to the direct violence perpetrated by security forces, Palestinians also face harassment and
severe restrictions on their movement at checkpoints and through other security restrictions. Checkpoints,
security barriers, and closed military zones pervade life in much of the occupied West Bank, particularly
in Areas B and C. While Area A (consisting predominantly of major Palestinian population centers) does
not have internal checkpoints, passing in and out of Area A often involves passing through checkpoints
and significant interaction with Israeli security forces. In April of 2015 the Israeli human rights
organization B’tselem reported 96 permanent checkpoints in the West Bank, as well as more than 300
temporary “flying” checkpoints along Palestinian roads (B'tselem, 2015).
Some respondents objected to the widespread assumption in the media that this attack was conducted by settlers. While the
perpetrators have yet to be arrested and convicted, the site of the attack was also defaced with graffiti in Hebrew and a Star of
David (BBC News, 2015).
See the UN OCHA weekly reports on protection of civilians at http://www.ochaopt.org/reports.aspx?id=104&page=1for a
detailed account of these low-level practices of violence and harassment.
The system of checkpoints itself often leads to human rights abuses and other threats to safety and
security. Several respondents described Palestinians facing medical emergencies stranded at checkpoints,
unable to pass through to receive needed medical attention. Many respondents also reported that security
forces use checkpoints and other ostensible security procedures to separate Palestinian farmers from
agricultural land. Yet outside of the aspects of collective punishment and human rights abuses inherent in
the current system of checkpoints, many respondents also reported the checkpoint experience as one often
leading to harassment and poor treatment by soldiers abusing their power.
Land Confiscation and Demolitions
Most Palestinians in Area C in the occupied territories live under constant threat of home demolition and
land confiscation. The Israeli occupation authority prohibits construction in some 70% of Area C for
various reasons and routinely refuses to issue permits in the remaining 30% (B'tselem, 2013). Hence a
large majority of Palestinian construction is undertaken “illegally“, and can be arbitrarily demolished if so
chosen by the occupation authorities.
International and Palestinian respondents consistently described this system of land confiscation and
home demolition as a cynical method of collective punishment to pressure Palestinians to leave desirable
areas sought by Israelis for settlement expansion. In particular demolition has been used recently to
pressure Bedouin communities to leave the so-called “E1” region which links East Jerusalem with the
large settlement of Ma’ale Adummim (Amnesty International, 2015).
Perhaps the most extensive land confiscation in recent years has been associated with the “Security
Fence/Apartheid Wall.” As mentioned above, the Israeli government maintains that the wall’s sole
purpose is to protect the Israeli population from violence. However, the route of the wall has often
resulted in mass confiscation of land and separation of farmers’ homes from their fields. In turn, many
Palestinians and even some Israelis have protested against the wall, which has often led to violence
against protesters by Israeli soldiers or settlers.
3.3 Profile of UCP Organizations in Palestine and Israel
In this section we profile each of the organizations whose interviews informed the good practices. The
organizations fall into three basic categories: international, Israeli, and Palestinian. Our greatest attention
was spent on international and Israeli groups because they have the largest organizations and most
developed protection work. We briefly mention the smaller Palestinian groups that engage in different
degrees of protection work.
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)
Christian Peacemaker Teams is the oldest of the UCP programs in Israel/Palestine. Begun in 1993 with a
deployment in a Gaza refugee camp, CPT Palestine was one of the first projects undertaken after the
creation of CPT in the 1980s. CPT emerged from the tradition of the “peace churches“, which have
looked at pacifism and nonviolence as central tenets of the Christian faith.
CPT deployed peacekeepers to Hebron in 1995 at the invitation of the town’s mayor, Mustafa al-Natshe.
The team has engaged in various UCP methods, including accompanying school children, monitoring
checkpoints and settler incursions into Palestinian areas, enhancing Palestinian leadership and nonviolent
Israeli authorities defend the practice of home demolition claiming Palestinian construction is often undertaken on state land or
other areas which Palestinians have no legal right to. See, for example: (Lazaroff, 2015).
resistance, and occasionally physically interposing themselves between Palestinian and Israeli violent
CPT’s team in Hebron and the South Hebron Hills has fluctuated between 4 to 10 members, with the
majority coming from the United States and Canada but with frequent presence of activists from other
countries and, in recent years, the addition of Palestinian team members. The team has typically been
diverse in gender and age. Originally the program was open only to Christians, but in recent years it has
expanded to include Jewish and Muslim team members. CPT full-time members spend two years with the
organization including vacation and an initial training at CPT’s home offices in the United States. Part-
time CPT members work for at least four and a half months per year, and reservists come for shorter
periods between two weeks and four months per year (CPT, 2015).
CPT has a highly involved training for their volunteers. Prospective volunteers first go on a two-week
delegation trip to a CPT project to familiarize themselves with CPT’s practices. Following the delegation,
prospective CPTers undergo a month-long training, typically at the organization’s US headquarters in
Chicago. The training covers various topics, with focuses on undoing oppression, team dynamics, and
Because visa restrictions limit CPT members to stays of three months at a time in-country, standard
practice for CPT is for team members to leave the country for a brief period and then return. Israeli border
police occasionally refuse to allow CPT members back into the country, and CPT members in the country
face the possibility of arrest and deportation.
Major decisions within the CPT-Palestine team are made by consensus, in consultation with a project
support coordinator who is the team’s primary point of contact with the larger CPT organization. The
CPT international organization is run by an administrative team at its Chicago headquarters, and overseen
by a steering committee comprising representatives from CPT sponsoring organizations, representatives
from CPT’s peacemaker corps, and other supporters from around the world.
Funding for the organization comes primarily from individual donations, though particular churches,
denominations, and other Christian organizations also support the organization through CPT’s
sponsorship program, and some minor support comes from outside grants. All of CPT’s workers
fundraise within their own communities to support their work. In 2012, the total budget for CPT’s global
operations was just under a million dollars (CPT, 2013).
In addition to CPT’s on-the-ground protective presence, it has also engaged in political advocacy related
to the Israeli occupation. CPT says in its mandate that it supports “Palestinian-led, non-violent, grassroots
resistance to the Israeli occupation and the unjust structures that uphold it” (CPT, 2015). They also
publicize particular issues on their website, through their newsletter, and through contacts in the media.
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI)
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel was created in 2002 at the initiative of
the World Council of Churches (WCC). Following a call from local churches and a dialogue among the
WCC, churches, and other local stakeholders, the WCC believed that their best avenue for expressing
solidarity with the local population facing military occupation would be accompaniment. The program’s
goals were to show solidarity, to expose internationals from around the world to the realities of the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict, and to use the presence of international accompaniers to deter violence and human
rights abuses by Israeli security forces and settlers.
EAPPI began its program with relatively small deployments of accompaniers (referred to by the
organization as “Ecumenical Accompaniers” or EAs) hosted by various local churches and engaging in
particular accompaniment programs at the request and direction of the particular churches. As the
program grew, a more centralized system of deployment was developed.
For a comprehensive history of the first ten years of CPT’s mission in Hebron, see Kern 2010.
A central coordination team of full-time staff in Jerusalem facilitates the entrance and deployment of
accompaniers, with particular projects under the direction of EAPPI’s Local Reference Group (LRG), a
consultative body of local stakeholders. The LRG is intentionally religiously diverse, with Christians,
Muslims, and Jews equally represented. The WCC appoints the members of the LRG and oversees
EAPPI. It partners with local chapters in each of the 23 countries that send EAs to Israel/Palestine.
EAPPI’s funding comes primarily through fundraising by its home country chapters, and also through the
EAPPI currently has projects in seven areas of the West Bank. More than 1400 EAs have participated in
the program since 2002. EAs do not demonstrate, intervene, advocate, or directly interpose themselves in
the conflict, but instead are tasked with protective presence, monitoring, and solidarity.
EAs are recruited by EAPPI organizations in their home countries and undergo initial training before
coming to Israel/Palestine. This training varies sharply from country to country, lasting anywhere from
several weeks to only a few days. The proportion of EAs from different countries varies over time, but the
primary population is from Western Europe and North America. The gender balance also shifts over time,
but according to respondents it tends to be slightly more female than male.
EAs enter Israel/Palestine for 3-month periods of time and are sent to EAPPI’s various deployments in
teams of 4-6. The total number of regular EAs typically ranges from 25-35 people. Under EAPPI’s
model, these short periods of service contribute to the more fundamental goal of promoting advocacy
abroad. EAs join the organization with the expectation (and in some cases requirement) that their 3-month
period in country will launch longer-term advocacy after returning home.
Operation Dove is an Italian “nonviolent peace corps” created in the mid-1990s by Catholic activists
interested in reducing violence by committing to nonviolence, sharing in the lives of those most
vulnerable, maintaining protective presence, promoting dialogue, and advocating (Operation Dove, 2015).
The organization launched with a deployment in the Balkans during the 1990s. Operation Dove arrived in
the South Hebron Hills in 2004, when local Palestinian leaders requested international help protecting
their children from harassment on their way to school. The team has maintained a constant presence in the
Palestinian village of At-Tuwani since then, with teams ranging in size from 4-10 people. Their primary
projects are accompaniment of children to and from school and accompaniment of shepherds to and from
their fields (which border nearby Israeli settlements).
Operation Dove is a fairly small organization, with little outside institutional support. Most of their
financing comes from private individuals, and volunteers are required to pay their own way. Volunteers
are also required to commit to nonviolence and to living in community. Prior to arriving in At-Tuwani,
they go through a five-day training program in nonviolent practice, group dynamics, and interposition.
Respondents reported that the bulk of their training takes place on the ground in At-Tuwani.
Meta Peace Team (MPT)
Meta Peace Team is a U.S. organization that sends peace teams to various areas of violent conflict in the
United States and internationally. While MPT does not maintain a constant presence in Israel/Palestine,
they aim to send 4-8 (sometimes up to 12) peace workers, who are at least 18 years old, there quarterly on
trips of three weeks to three months. Their mandate in this conflict is to respond to the needs of people in
war zones and to reduce violence. They serve Palestinians but view Israelis as sisters and brothers, and
they are willing to protect Israelis if the situation arises. Funding comes primarily through the deployed
team’s fundraising before and after deployment, with occasion grants from groups such as the Adrian
Some countries give EAs particular speaking or writing requirements as part of their participation.
MPT provides volunteers with an eight-hour basic training and a three-day advanced training. Topics
include spirituality, hopes and fears, life stories, communication skills, de-escalation, technology and
media, privilege and power, and safety and first aid. They are centered in a spirituality of nonviolence
with respect for the sacred interconnectedness of all life. MPT typically deploys in cooperation with the
International Solidarity Movement (ISM), who give MPT staff an additional two-day training on the
current situation in the occupied territories and help arrange their deployments. They are committed to
consensus decision making, even when it is inconvenient. Yet, they take their direction from those most
affected by the violence. They provide volunteers with a support team in the U.S. and free professional
counseling. MPT teams also participate in daily centering, emotional check-ins, and end of day
reflections. When MPT members return from deployment they are expected to educate and advocate in
their community, as well as help recruit for future teams.
MPT teams bring a commitment to nonviolence and protect civilians in a variety of ways such as
accompaniment and presence, monitoring and blogging, as well as interposition. MPT members have
observed and participated in protests in the town of Bil’in, and helped Palestinian farmers with the fall
The International Solidarity Movement (ISM)
The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) was officially founded during the Second Intifada,
emerging from a local Palestinian organization: the center for Rapprochement Between Peoples. Local
activists envisioned the ISM as a means for international activists to join the Palestinian struggle to end
the occupation whatever ways local Palestinian groups found to be most helpful. To that end, ISM’s
mandate is explicitly political: to “support and strengthen the Palestinian popular resistance (ISM, 2015).”
ISM requires nonviolence on the part of its participants but recognizes a Palestinian “legitimate right to
armed struggle” (ISM, 2015).
ISM’s primary strategy is to encourage Palestinian resistance while deterring Israelis from harming
Palestinians. The actions thus follow quite closely from requests of their Palestinian partners. ISM
activists accompany Palestinian school children, monitor checkpoints and potential demolition sites, and
issue reports and press releases, as many of the other UCP organizations described above do, but they also
often demonstrate, and they frequently attempt to “de-arrest” Palestinians being detained by Israeli
security forces. ISM expresses broader concern for all people, not just Palestinians, saying that they resist
“any form of prejudice, regardless” of which persons it is aimed at.
The ISM has had a number of very prominent confrontations with the Israeli government and Israeli
security forces during its involvement in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. ISM activists snuck inside the
Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem during the Second Intifada, an action that some of our respondents
identified as critical in preventing Israeli Security Forces from storming the church.
In 2003, American
ISM activist Rachel Corrie was run over by an Israeli bulldozer when she attempted to lie down in front
of it to protect her Palestinian host family’s home from demolition,
and British ISM activist Tom
Hurndall was killed by an Israeli sniper while accompanying Palestinian children. Overall, at least five
ISM members have been killed in the conflict.
ISM activists are typically mobilized through local activist communities in their home countries and come
to Israel/Palestine for short stints, ranging from 2-3 weeks to 3-6 months. The total number of ISM
activists in Israel/Palestine at any one time varies widely, with our respondents reporting numbers today
ranging from 10 to 50 at a time. Individual ISM activists raise their own funds to support their time is
Israel/Palestine. They receive training from Palestinian partners soon after they arrive. Elements of their
As with all major historical events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the precise circumstances of the Siege of the Church of the
Nativity are contested.
The Israeli government maintains that Corrie’s killing was accidental.
training include de-escalating clashes, engaging with media, Palestinian culture, laws and regulations of
the occupation, and responding when arrested. ISM members are not required to risk arrest, but they have
permission and support if they do so.
ISM teams make decisions by full team consensus, with the proviso that all actions must follow the
direction and support of their Palestinian partners and team-members.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH)
TIPH, while it has a primarily international staff like the organizations already discussed, is a radically
different type of organization. TIPH was established as a compromise between the Israeli Government
and Palestinian Authority after the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994. It is the only international
organization profiled here that has formal legal ties with both the Israeli government and the Palestinian
TIPH’s mandate is to observe. They monitor the situation in Hebron in order to provide the local
Palestinian population with “a feeling of security” (TIPH). To that end, TIPH staff patrol the H2 area
where the Palestinian population and Israeli settlers and security forces collide. They monitor settlement
expansion, observe incidents of violence and harassment by both sides, and hear complaints from local
Palestinian residents about incidents. TIPH also hosts diplomats, educational groups, and other
international visitors to Hebron and introduces them to the situation there.
TIPH’s monitoring is recorded in a series of regular reports that are sent to the two parties (the Israeli
government and Palestinian Authority) as well as to the governments of TIPH’s six member countries:
Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, and Turkey.TIPH’s reports are confidential, and not used
for advocacy or other kinds of public pressure on the parties. However, TIPH member countries do use
the material in the reports as a means to apply diplomatic pressure on the two parties.
TIPH is funded and staffed by the governments of its six member countries. Its decision-making is
hierarchical, with the Head of Mission serving as the primary decision-maker and various divisions within
the organization each led by a division head. In contrast to the non-governmental organizations described
above, which have some paid staff but mostly rely on volunteers, TIPH staff are all paid professionals and
receive a salary and employment benefits for their work in Hebron. TIPH’s staff of roughly 70 people is
about two thirds male and one third female, with a 50-50 mix of military/police professionals and
civilians, many of whom are recruited because of their fluency in Arabic. TIPH patrols draw on this
staffing diversity, with all patrols including at least one military/police professional and one civilian
fluent in Arabic. To date, the head of mission has been drawn from the Norwegian military or police,
although that background is not formally required.
In addition to patrolling and monitoring, TIPH also engages in some economic development projects.
While the budget is small in comparison to major international development organizations, TIPH does
fund some projects with intention of encouraging the local community to accept their presence and
increasing the positive profile of the organization.
Cure Violence (CV)
While Cure Violence does not presently have a deployment in Israel/Palestine, they are exploring the
possibility of sending a team there in the near future. We included them in the study primarily because
their unique, “public health” approach to violence provides an interesting perspective on the practice of
UCP. Founded by a doctor in 2000 with the initial goal of reducing shootings and homicides in Chicago,
CV has now expanded internationally. They currently have projects in South Africa, the UK, Kenya,
Honduras, Colombia, and Syria.
Cure Violence’s model rests on disease control and behavior change methods. They treat violence as a
disease and those who use it as dealing with health problems which require a treatment plan. Elements of
the plan typically include interrupting the transmission of violence, identifying and changing the thinking
of the highest possible transmitters, and changing group norms. One of the key elements to interrupting
transmission is hiring street credible persons as “violence interrupters.” Their success in using this
approach to reduce violence has been confirmed by multiple professional evaluations (Skogan, Hartnett,
Bump, & Dubois, 2009; Webster, Whitehill, Vernick, & Parker, 2012).
Cure Violence reported that in the Israeli/Palestinian context they will first create a network of
activists/volunteers who are familiar with the health approach. These volunteers will then train others
and begin to identify opportunities to implement the model. They suspect this process to lead to more
local ownership and increase the chance of success.
Based on initial assessments, they expect to begin by preventing Palestinian on Palestinian violence and
then form a parallel program to prevent Israeli on Israeli violence. Once the program is proven to work
and credibility is established, they may make some efforts to deal directly with violence between Israelis
and Palestinians. This new public health approach to UCP, tied with collaboration with other UCP
groups, particularly the trauma-healing efforts of Holy Land Trust and others, will be fascinating to
observe in the future.
Machsom Watch is an Israeli women’s group that monitors checkpoints, military courts, and other major
centers of potential harassment against Palestinians. The group started in 2001 with a group of Israeli
women who wanted to visit a checkpoint to better understand the functioning of the occupation. From this
initial group, Machsom Watch has grown to several hundred regular activists, who monitor most of the
major checkpoints in the Jerusalem area and have some limited presence in other major urban areas of the
West Bank. Their primary mandate is to publish and document the experience of Palestinians at
checkpoints, though they have expanded from this to monitor military courts, and to engage in limited
Their primary strategy is deterrence, but they also use encouragement at times by drawing on their
“motherly” image with soldiers. Their methods include monitoring and presence, with using their
identities as Israeli women to pressure IDF soldiers and judges to treat Palestinians with greater respect.
They then publicize the situation at their various points of observation to raise awareness in Israeli society
and create a longstanding archive of Israel’s practices in the occupied territories.
In addition to simple monitoring, Machsom Watch activists often also intervene in particular situations of
harassment at checkpoints. Respondents reported stories of Machsom Watch women advocating for
Palestinians denied passage through checkpoints, particularly those facing medical emergencies.
Machsom Watch women used their knowledge of Israeli occupation regulations, their moral authority as
elderly women, and their connections with Israeli commanders, to pressure soldiers to treat Palestinians
Machsom Watch’s funding comes from some institutional supporters, such as the Norwegian and Swiss
Embassies, grant-making organizations such as the New Israel Fund and the Open Society Foundation,
and private individuals.
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is an activist and academic group that engages in
advocacy and nonviolent direct action to fulfill its mandate of ending the occupation and building a just
peace, in particular through preventing home demolitions. The committee often includes representatives
from different organizations, who set the priorities and make the major decisions. They have two staff
persons and six international chapters in Finland, UK, United States, Germany, Norway, and Australia.
Beginning in 1997 after breakdowns in the Oslo Peace Process, ICAHD describes its mission as “resisting
the Israeli Occupation on the ground, and particularly via resistance to the demolition of Palestinian
homes in the Occupied Territory” (ICAHD).
Respondents reported that ICAHD’s focus on home
demolitions “exposes the way the occupation works“, in particular that laws and bureaucracy with the
ostensible purpose of security in fact result in proactive land confiscation. House demolitions are also
very visible and thus help advocacy, especially abroad. ICAHD also seeks to build bridges between
activists and the academics, to help activists with building strategy and to give academics on-the-ground
experience. They receive funding from major intergovernmental organizations such as the European
Union and UN agencies, as well as from churches and private individuals.
ICAHD’s primary protection mechanism has been direct physical interposition and the rebuilding of
homes. ICAHD comprises Israeli peace and human rights activists who at times stand between bulldozers
and Palestinian homes and often rebuild destroyed homes. ICAHD also seeks to raise awareness about
home demolition and other human rights abuses through public advocacy, tours for key diplomats and
others, and reports to the public and the United Nations. They coordinate with other Israeli organizations
to legally challenge demolition orders. They also use their ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council)
status at the UN to attend UN meetings and offer position papers.
B’tselem is Israel’s premier human rights advocacy organization. The organization was established in
1989 to educate the Israeli public and government about human rights abuses in the occupied territories
and encourage greater accountability for the protection of human rights. The broad scope of its work is
thus only obliquely related to protection, and B’tselem workers, for instance, do not engage in any kind of
formal program of on-the-ground civilian protection.
B’tselem’s program that most closely resembles UCP is camera distribution to Palestinian volunteers in
the West Bank. Beginning in 2007, B’tselem field workers began distributing photo and video cameras to
volunteers in some of the most vulnerable areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Volunteers received
training in using cameras to document violence and human rights abuses by settlers and Israeli Security
Forces. The cameras serve not only a monitoring function, but have also a critically important protective
function. B’tselem’s camera distribution program, like all of B’tselem’s activities, is funded through
donations from charitable foundations, intergovernmental organizations such as the European
Commission and UNICEF, and private individuals.
Respondents from B’tselem as well as from outside the organization identified the distribution of
cameras as a key factor in reducing violence, particularly from Israeli security forces. Camera footage
serves both as an immediate deterrent against violence, and also as a protection against false arrest and
detention, as video footage is often used to exonerate falsely accused Palestinians.
B’tselem currently has 150 Palestinian volunteers with cameras in the West Bank. Volunteers are
identified based on need and aptitude as assessed by B’tselem field workers. Volunteers sign a legal
contract with B’tselem clearly identifying their role, and receive training in the use of their cameras and
the legal standards which undergird their work.
Combatants for Peace
Combatants for Peace (CFP) is a bi-national organization of Israelis and Palestinians. Originally
conceived in 2005 as a forum for former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants to build community
together and engage in political activism, CFP has grown beyond its initial military base to include
participants from many different backgrounds on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Their three main
goals are to create communities that demonstrate Israelis and Palestinians working together to challenge
the occupation; to inform the public of the activities that go on in the occupied territories; and to directly
It is legal in the occupied territories for Palestinians to record video of security services at work. Respondents identified this
legitimate legal standard as an important basis for their work.
challenge the occupation through nonviolent struggles. Major aspects of this work include creating a
space for members to learn to tell their stories and offering media and other events, such as movies or
tours, to help educate Israelis, particularly those about to join the army or already serving in it.
CFP has a 26-person steering committee with 12 Palestinian and 14 Israeli members. Yet the primary
locus of decision-making is in the hands of local chapter leaders. Thus, there is no centralized program of
UCP organized from the top. Instead, leaders of the six local chapters (always 1 Israeli and 1 Palestinian)
make decisions about their chapters’ programs based on the requests of the local population. These
programs often involve elements of UCP. Occasionally, these projects involve direct civilian protection,
as in a project accompanying shepherds in the South Hebron Hills to prevent settler violence, or
protective presence at nonviolent demonstrations.
CFP’s Tel Aviv-Tulkarem group also organizes “Theater of the Oppressed” actions
in the midst of land
confiscation as a way to distract from or de-escalate potentially violent situations and also create a space
for the feelings of the “audience“, including Israeli soldiers, to be shared through role-play. The Israeli
members of CFP also assist in protection through legal means, advocating for vulnerable populations
facing threats of home demolition, land confiscation, and other violent challenges.
Ta’ayush is an organization which brings together Israeli and Palestinian activists to participate in
nonviolent action against the occupation of the West Bank. Founded in 2000, Ta’ayush regularly protests
home and village demolitions, barrier construction, land confiscation, and violence towards Palestinians
by settlers and Israeli Security Forces.
Because Ta’ayush’s primary focus is on activism and nonviolent struggle, rather than the protection of
civilians, UCP work has largely been peripheral or incidental to their work. However, Israeli activists in
Ta’ayush do provide protective presence to Palestinians in various vulnerable situations. For instance,
Ta’ayush activists have been an important part of the international and Israeli effort to protect the
Palestinian village of Susiya from demolition (Beaumont, 2015; Lynfield, 2015). Ta’ayush activists have
also mediated between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces to de-escalate violence and protect
the Palestinian population from a violent crackdown.
While many exclusively Palestinian groups within the occupied territories mobilize for nonviolent action
and other forms of civil society building and social action, few groups focus exclusively on protection.
The researchers were also only able to gain limited contact with Palestinian protection groups during their
However, some groups, both formal and informal, do deserve mention.
Holy Land Trust
Holy Land Trust engages in three major streams of work: Nonviolence, Healing, and Transformation.
Thus their focus is not on protection. However, they do engage in some protection work in cooperation
with international volunteers, who come for short periods of time to assist in the annual olive harvest.
HLT trains the volunteers in nonviolence and sends them to areas of olive harvesting which are
See http://cfpeace.org/theatre-of-the-oppressed/ for more detail on the goals and practices of “Theater of the Oppressed.”
We did not conduct any interviews with members of Ta’ayush during our fieldwork due to contact difficulties and time
constraints. Thus, our information on Ta’ayush is based on second-hand reports from respondents and outside research of
publicly available documents.
As mentioned above, this list of organizations is quite small, particularly in the case of Israeli organizations. Several other
Israeli organizations engage in some protection work as a peripheral part of their mandates to defend human rights or protest for
the end of the occupation. Prominent groups mentioned by respondents as sometimes offering protective presence include
Rabbis for Human Rights, Breaking the Silence, and the Anarchists Against the Wall.
A major area for future research.
particularly close to settlements or security force deployments as a way of preventing violence from
occurring during the harvest.
Palestine Center for Peace and Democracy (PCPD)
PCPD focuses on education and on promoting democracy throughout Palestinian society. Thus it is not
primarily a protection organization. However, PCPD does engage in some forms of UCP through its
network of several hundred supporters who can mobilize in response to home demolitions or other violent
threats. PCPD supporters are often present at homes and other places under threat of violence, to witness
and protect through their presence.
Local protection groups
Some respondents hinted that several Palestinian communities have organized local unarmed protection
groups that can be mobilized rapidly in response to settler violence, land confiscation, or other threats.
These groups, organized independently in various cities such as Nablus, Jenin, and Qalqiliya, have helped
to deter some settler attacks simply by their presence throughout the night and early morning when
attacks typically occur (Melhem 2015).
These organizations were the primary groups making up our interview respondents and thus it is their
work which most directly informs our findings on good practices, effects, and dilemmas in Part II of this
study. We move first to a discussion of the good practices outlined by our respondents.
3.4 Good Practices
In this section we outline what respondents identified as the good practices of their respective
organizations, as well as the insights of beneficiaries and external stakeholders. All of these good
practices were identified repeatedly by respondents from many if not all of the organizations interviewed,
with few major disagreements or conflicting opinions. Where there was significant disagreement on these
practices, we have moved the discussion of particular practices into the section on challenges and
Several respondents were eager to emphasize the contingent and specific nature of these good practices.
While all of the good practices described here were consistently described as desirable in the context of
Israel/Palestine, many respondents (some of whom drew on experience in UCP in other contexts) argued
that the lessons of the good practices in Israel/Palestine had some limits to their portability to other
contexts, and if appropriated must be adapted to the particular needs of other conflicts.
Thus, a critical principle informing all of these good practices is careful contextual study. All respondents
were deeply skeptical of international organizations or even local activists entering situations with ready-
made prescriptions for reducing violence brought out of whatever canned theory of change might be
fashionable in the world of international peacebuilding at the moment. Instead, respondents argued for
deep, consistent, and meaningful responsiveness to the complex and changing dynamics of the particular
Our discussion of particular good practices in the context of Israel/Palestine is framed and informed by
key principles of UCP that have been emerging from the broader field of UCP practice. Hence, before
discussing the good practices identified in the course of our research, it is helpful to briefly list these
The key principles of UCP, as articulated by Oldenhuis and his co-authors (2016), are nonviolence,
nonpartisanship, primacy of local actors, independence, civilian-to-civilian relationships, and civilian
immunity in violent conflict. Nonpartisanship refers to UCP practitioners not taking the political position
of any side in the conflict. Unlike the more passive concept of neutrality, nonpartisanship does not
preclude proactively engaging in the conflict and alleviating the suffering in particular ways. Primacy of
local actors refers to the recognition that “local actors have the right and responsibility to determine their
own futures” (Oldenhuis et al 2016, 49), typically embodied in third parties supporting local actors who
remain the primary drivers. Independence refers to UCP organizations’ policies and practices not being
determined by outside interest groups, political parties, or ideologies. “Civilian-to-civilian relationships”
refers to the direct provision of protection and support by one group of civilians (the UCP organization) to
another, without the intermediation of governmental or military forces. It also refers to the empowerment
of unarmed and civilian actors in the conflict. Finally, civilian immunity in violent conflict refers to the
longstanding ethical principle embodied in international law and convention that those not “currently
engaged in the business of war [may not] be targets of deadly violence” (Primoratz, 2010), which inspires
and legitimizes UCP’s goals of civilian protection.
These key principles both implicitly underlie all of the following discussion and are also major points of
discussion at several points both in our discussion of good practices and in our later discussion of
dilemmas and challenges.
The first good practice consistently identified by our respondents was some form of local direction or
control, particularly an invitation from a local organization. The importance of this practice to our
respondents cannot be overstated. Particular forms of local direction differed radically among the
organizations. EAPPI, for instance, relies on the Local Reference Group, whose members, appointed by
the World Council of Churches, operate within a complex hierarchical governance structure. CPT, in
contrast, includes local Palestinians on its protection teams, and their individual voices contribute to the
consensus-based decision-making. ISM follows the direction of the Palestinian activists they work with,
although they do not necessarily do everything the activists request. Israeli organizations like CFP and
Ta’Ayush maintain bi-national staffs, and normally defer to Palestinian partners when planning actions.
Despite this diversity, every organization sought to have its programs and activities led by the expressed
and felt needs of the population they were intending to protect. Local direction or control was identified
as a good practice because of the specialized knowledge of local residents. International activists, even
outsider Palestinian activists, repeatedly described the limits of their own knowledge and their need for
local direction about what circumstances warrant what forms of protection, and when UCP organizations
should withdraw. Respondents told stories of Palestinians requesting that protection groups leave certain
situations when their presence would be escalatory, or telling them who in the community would be a
reliable partner in planning their protective strategies.
In addition to the ways that local direction and control were integrated into the organizations themselves,
several respondents also highlighted the importance of day-to-day flexibility and ability to rapidly
respond to specific requests from locals, such as to attend an olive harvest or a pending house demolition.
However, this ongoing responsiveness to local demands had to be balanced with the knowledge of
Palestinians within the organization who could assess the various requests. Thus, the general principle of
local direction was also critically balanced by careful discernment. Organizations chose their partners
carefully and then relied on these initial relationships in ongoing interaction with other locals.
Local direction and control also had an important effect on the UCP practitioners themselves. Several
respondents identified a problematic “savior complex” among some who seek to join their work. Local
direction helped change UCP practitioners’ patronizing, neo-colonial visions of “saving” the local
population, to seeing themselves as “partners“, “accompaniers“, or people standing “in solidarity.”
Recent research suggests that the lack of local direction and control has been a critical factor undermining the effectiveness of
international peacebuilding efforts in several areas around the globe (Autessere, 2014).
change both guided the strategic use of UCP and built trust among the UCP organizations and local
Clear Communication of Mandates
Mandates are a challenging issue in this context. As described above, there is significant variety in the
scope and direction of mandates of the organizations doing UCP work in Israel/Palestine. Distinguishing
between these varying mandates to determine a “good practice” of mandate and scope is beyond this
However, in this context of organizational and missional diversity, clear communication of each
organization’s mandate was consistently identified as a good practice. Respondents said that people often
confuse international organizations with one another, and Palestinians would sometimes call on
organizations to engage in activities beyond the scope of their mandate.
Language and Cultural
A frequently mentioned good practice was intensive language and cultural training, particularly for
international UCP practitioners. In our group discussion with UCP practitioners, knowledge of Arabic
was identified almost unanimously as the number one advantage certain organizations possessed over
others. Fluency in Arabic facilitated effective protection work through allowing organizations to partner
with and build relationships with a wide variety of local partners, not just well-educated Palestinian elites
who speak English. In crisis situations, when Palestinians would call on UCP organizations for immediate
intervention in an ongoing situation of actual or potential violence, having a fluent Arabic speaker on staff
able to rapidly receive the alert and disseminate it to the team was of critical importance.
In this regard, TIPH stands out as a particularly good example. Several of their patrolling positions
require fluency in Arabic, and thus a significant portion of the organization’s staff are always fluent
Arabic speakers. The benefits of this requirement were clearly evident when the researchers accompanied
a TIPH patrol through the Old City of Hebron. The fluent Arabic speakers were able both to engage in
informal networking and relationship-building and also to quickly gain firsthand knowledge of reports of
violence from the local Palestinians. CPT and ISM’s integration of Palestinian staff on their teams was
also a critical way of integrating these skills into their work.
None of the international UCP organizations teach or require Hebrew. All of these organizations
primarily partner with and serve Arabic speakers, and respondents differ about the possible value of
fluency in Hebrew. Israeli respondents, as well as some international respondents, spoke glowingly of the
positive impacts achieved by Israeli activists able to dialogue in Hebrew with IDF soldiers and defuse
potentially violent situations. Yet many international UCP organizations intentionally downplay their
interactions with soldiers believing it would undermine the trust they have built with local Palestinian
partners. We will discuss this issue at more length in the dilemmas and challenges section.
Cultural training and awareness were also identified as a key part of this good practice. Almost all of the
international organizations incorporate some training in Palestinian culture, while a smaller number also
include training on Israeli culture. Awareness of the cultural standards of Palestinian society, which is
often socially and religiously conservative, was crucial in building trust and gaining acceptance. Norms
on gender are a particularly key cultural issue. One of the negative practices of greatest concern to
respondents was the violation of cultural norms. One Palestinian respondent told us that he would never
again work with a particular international UCP organization because of cultural norm violations by
several of its members.
This issue will be discussed in more depth in the “Dilemmas” section.
Understanding the Conflict, Legal Realities, Monitoring Skills
Several respondents also identified a general introduction to the conflict, as well as technical training in
the legal and practical realities of the occupation as a good practice. Since most IDF soldiers serving in
the occupied territories are conscripts performing their required military service at age 17 or 18, they are
often poorly trained or simply unaware of the legal regulations that govern their activities. Thus in many
situations UCP practitioners can protect Palestinians from arbitrary harassment by knowing more about
the laws of the occupation than the Israeli security forces themselves.
Some respondents comment that organizations that lacked this type of training put both the population
they seek to protect and themselves at risk. One respondent expressed frustration at international activists
whose ignorance of their own legal protections under Israeli law made their arrest and sometimes
deportation unnecessarily difficult.
Many organizations also need to train staff and volunteers in the particular monitoring and recording
protocols they use. Several respondents spoke to the importance of training UCP practitioners in how to
best use monitoring tools, particularly video recording, so as to maximize its effectiveness both as
protection against legal consequences, and support for advocacy. Several respondents pointed to B’tselem
as a positive model for training practitioners in their meticulous standards for collecting and handling
Values and Team Building
Almost all of our respondents identified team cohesion as critically important to successful protection
work. Some respondents went so far as to identify intra-team conflict as the primary challenge facing
UCP organizations. Thus, training for how to deal with these intra-team conflicts, as well as initial team-
building exercises, were critical parts of the training and were identified across the board as an important
Within this general focus on training in team-building and cohesion, respondents identified several
specific practices that had led to better outcomes. Training in the theory, practice, and spirituality of
nonviolence to develop a clear commitment to the values of the UCP group was described by many of our
respondents as key. Others recommend building team cohesion through practices such as sharing life
stories and hopes and fears, or having team members lead regular religious reflections. Others instructed
their members in the spirituality of nonviolence during their training to deepen the sense of human
partnership and shared journey. Several respondents also identified training in undoing oppression as
good for internal conflict, growth within the team, and modeling for the local community the acceptance
of different ethnicities and genders.
Dimensions of Diversity
Moving beyond training to the character of the UCP organizations themselves, a major good practice
consistently identified was diversity in the team along a number of dimensions, including but not limited
to gender, age, nationality, and religion. Each of these dimensions warrants deeply complex discussions
beyond the scope of this case study, and so we will simply attempt to capture some of the most important
aspects of each.
In regards to gender, the most common observation by respondents, both UCP practitioners and
beneficiaries/stakeholders, was that women often have a greater de-escalatory effect than men. In
situations of potential violence, the presence of calm female observers was often a powerful deterrent
against violence. Respondents offered different explanations for this gendered effect, from a perception of
increased moral authority for women, to the ability of women to remind soldiers of their grandmothers,
mothers, and sisters, to perceptions that women were inherently less threatening, to a desire by the
predominately young, male soldiers to flirt or “look good for the ladies.”
Yet the impact of femininity on UCP work is by no means an unproblematic positive. Females also face
significant challenges as members of UCP organizations, from frequent sexual harassment,
vulnerability in certain escalating situations, to a perception of lack of seriousness to patronizing behavior
by soldiers, settlers, and even Palestinian partners and beneficiaries. Thus the good practice consistently
identified for most circumstances was not simply the presence of women but rather gender diversity.
Age was described by our respondents as playing a similar role as gender. Older UCP practitioners,
particularly older females, were reported as having a greater ability to de-escalate violence and reduce
harassment in many circumstances. One respondent described a Palestinian partner under threat urgently
requesting two older, female team members for a particular situation because of their unique de-
escalatory impact. Another respondent reported that elderly Palestinians are better able to interact with
and de-escalate violence by settlers. Yet the difficulties of maintaining a broad protective presence, and
the sometimes spartan living conditions of some of these groups means that UCP work is often very
physically taxing, giving younger UCP practitioners a comparative advantage. Thus as with gender, age
diversity in team makeup is a critical good practice.
A number of respondents also valued diversity of nationality. While each of the organizations interviewed
has a staff dominated by one of the three major communities (Palestinian, Israeli, or International), many
have sought to integrate members of the other communities into their teams. While many identified the
rationale of this practice as part of their ideology or mission,
integration of the various communities into
the organization also had important effects on the day-to-day practice of protection.
Each of the three populations was identified as possessing key advantages and disadvantages in protection
work. Palestinians, as mentioned above, have language skills, deep local knowledge, and can help provide
local ownership and direction to the work of the UCP organizations.
Israelis have greater ability to
communicate with soldiers and also to hold soldiers and settlers accountable through their access to
Israeli public opinion and the Israeli legal system. Internationals were frequently identified as raising the
profile of particular violent situations most effectively, with international access to media, local
communities in their home countries, and the protection of their embassies in Israel as key mechanisms.
International UCP practitioners were also identified as critical in becoming advocates for protection after
returning to their home countries. Because of the advantages afforded by each of these populations,
incorporating them all, as much as possible, into UCP work, was an important good practice.
Religious and spiritual diversity was also identified by several organizations as a good practice. Religion
and spirituality are of unique significance in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The religious aspect of the
conflict, as well as the significance of the place for people of all three Abrahamic religions, means that
UCP work in Israel/Palestine has an inescapably religious tinge. Several of the organizations profiled here
have an explicitly religious identity. For example, EAPPI is a project of the World Council of Churches,
CPT has its origins in the traditional “peace churches“, and Operation Dove originated from a Catholic
While many organizations have no religious identity, those that do identified it as a positive asset.
Identifying as a religious organization made the role of international organizations more understandable
to the generally very religious local population, and thus helped to build trust. For example, one
respondent reported that this connection with the local community based on religion was demonstrated
Reported by many of our respondents from multiple organizations.
Machsom Watch is the only organization which has an exclusively gendered identity. And even while they identify
themselves as a women’s organization, they welcome men to attend their activities as “guests.”
Organizations such as Combatants for Peace or Ta’ayush, for example, have bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in a
single community as a key aspect of their mandate.
Some Palestinian respondents also expressed concern that a lack of Palestinian presence in international or Israeli UCP
organizations can lead to unhealthy patterns of dependency.
Sometimes this diversity was incorporated by developing close working relationships with organizations from one of the other
communities. We discuss this at some length below.
when some international UCP practitioners from an explicitly Christian organization were rescued by
local Muslims as an “expression of their shared faith.” Religious identifications also provided ready-made
international networks, improving advocacy. Several respondents said that religious principles provided a
critical moral orientation for UCP work through a commitment to respecting the dignity of all persons, or
cultivating a love of enemies.
Yet while religious principles motivate several of these organizations, all of our respondents also
described religious diversity as critical. In a situation where religious diversity is a daily fact of life and
the lines of tension between religions play an important role in conflict incorporating this diversity
ensured that organizations had complex, nuanced views of the conflict and were not being dominated by
one narrow perspective.
Personal Growth, Spirituality, and Team-Building
In addition to the team-building practices incorporated in training, several respondents also identified
several mechanisms of continuing to build team cohesion, as well as encouraging the personal growth of
team members, as good practices. The challenging nature of UCP work suggests that incorporating some
regular practices to build cohesion are critical.
Specific manifestations of this good practice varied across the groups. Several respondents thought that
regularly discussing personal growth and challenges helped keep teams unified. Others incorporated
regular times of sharing personal gifts, such as humility or compassionate listening, and personal
limitations, such as a need for solitude or struggle with nonverbal communication. Respondents from
MPT mentioned that it was important to able to vent within the team. Other groups have daily centering,
emotional check-ins, team morning reflections with each member taking turns at facilitation, and end of
the day reflections. Different beliefs can be encountered in some of these experiences, which prepare
team members for field encounters with Israelis and Palestinians of various perspectives. Some described
fasting and prayer not only to center, but to discern direction and strategy as a good practice. Some draw
on value systems or spirituality to deepen a commitment to the dignity of all persons, seeing everyone as
a sister/brother, and even cultivating love of enemies. For instance, this has played out for some in
reporting harm done to all persons and questioning those throwing stones or harming others, even those
who may be identified as enemies.
Regular check-ins with evaluations of team members’ work and personal growth were also important to
several organizations’ work. While this was rarely formally institutionalized, some respondents also
considered formally evaluating members’ growth in key virtues, such as courage, compassion, empathy,
etc. as likely to enhance protection and constitute a good practice.
Incorporating ways for team members to care for themselves was uniformly described as a good practice.
UCP work can be particularly challenging for members of all three of the major communities described
here, and provision for regular times away, unwinding, and vacation were very important in keeping UCP
work sustainable. Some UCP organizations also have someone on site to provide counseling or health
care. Others commit to finding someone on the ground as needed and to ensuring trauma-counseling at
the end of deployment for both international and local staff. A number of respondents suggested this was
an area worth scaling up.
The vast majority of UCP organizations deploy civilians in the field rather than unarmed military or
police forces. Respondents identified several benefits of using civilians. Civilians were argued to be more
familiar with the conflict zones and thus more willing to forego arms there. Others argued that civilians
were often more patient and willing to take more risks to protect people. Some also said that civilians
were often more apt at being personable and skilled at developing trusting relationships. Other kinds of
virtues civilians often bring can also be more fruitful for team building and protection work, such as
empathy, compassion, nonviolence, assertiveness, mercy and humility.
Two groups do utilize members with military or police backgrounds, although for two very different
reasons. TIPH incorporates staff with military or police backgrounds for what they call “providing
security” and for facilitating relationships with Israeli and Palestinian military and police forces.
Combatants for Peace also intentionally draws on individuals with backgrounds in armed conflict to
model for Israeli soldiers and Palestinian armed actors an unarmed way of engaging the conflict. Thus, in
the case of TIPH, military and police individuals serve functions similar to their traditional roles, while in
Combatants for Peace the role as a former armed actor is in a sense inverted and used as a means of
encouraging nonviolence. See more about military/police in the dilemma section.
Risk Analysis and Strategic Risk
There were different approaches to risk analysis and risk taking in the field by the various UCP groups. It
is important to note that UCP work is inherently risky and none of the organizations seek to avoid all risk.
In fact, to different degrees, several of these organizations intentionally enter into the “risks” of the
conflict as part of their mandates. Attempts to minimize risks are usually for the purpose of protecting the
focused population, though all of the groups also attempt to protect their practitioners from all
unnecessary harm. Engaging in intentionally “risky” behavior, when it is done, is done carefully and with
significant individual discretion.
The vast majority of UCP practitioners in Israel/Palestine are not physically harmed, as is typical of most
UCP interventions worldwide. However, there have been notable traumas, a number of injuries, and seven
fatalities (5 from ISM and 2 off-duty TIPH members), incredibly low numbers compared to armed
interventions (Janzen, 2014).
In this context, one of the related good practices identified was to prepare for deployments by analyzing
the risks involved for team members and having clear plans for when harm occurs. Analyzing,
identifying, and strategically embracing risk in the field were usually enhanced by strong relationships
with the local community, including Palestinian partners, Israeli lawyers, older Israeli women, and even
soldiers. Further, because locals often sense the culture and habits better, they sometimes “protect” the
outsiders through early warnings, tips on whom to trust, and even direct interventions. People describe
this effect by saying there is a “double or mutual protection mechanism.”
Strong commitments to nonviolence and to remaining unarmed were also identified as key to minimizing
risks. Respondents said that this stance decreases the threat Israeli soldiers experience from these groups.
For instance, TIPH has a legal right to bear arms but has intentionally chosen not to do so. Further, many
UCP groups clearly state that they will not directly support any violent actors or activities, which also
minimizes risks and creates space for strategic risk-taking. Respondents also reported that a deep
commitment to nonviolence often inspired UCP practitioners and others to think of more imaginative
ways of nonviolently de-escalating and preventing violence.
Expose the Conflict
All of our respondents recommended careful consideration, including consultation with multiple other
actors, before beginning or ending a deployment. Deployments, over the long term or short term, should
be based on a strong underlying strategy, and not just on a purely reactive basis.
See more on this issue of risks in the good practice discussion of interposition as well as in the dilemma section on nonviolence
and direct intervention.
Respondents brought up several factors to consider before deploying a team. A number of UCP
organizations indicated that there is value to offering UCP in areas that represent a microcosm of the
broader conflict, such as Hebron. Action in such areas helps to illuminate the broader conflict for others,
especially international actors, and it develops relationships with locals who can influence the overall
Respondents also said that areas with active civil society initiatives, such as Hebron, Susiya, and At-
Tuwani, have better information available to UCP groups about coordinating protection and advocacy,
and they are also more ready to benefit from UCP group’s capacity development initiatives. For instance,
Hebron has a relatively well developed educational system, religious communities, and economic flow of
goods and services. At-Tuwani has a well-organized popular resistance committee. Finally, the aspect of
invitation, discussed above, was also described as crucial.
Maintain Local Relationships and Institutional Memory
Respondents disagreed about the utility of longer or shorter deployments for individual team members.
However, there were two important points of agreement among our respondents in regards to good
practice: maintaining local relationships despite team turnover and preserving institutional memory across
the tenure of multiple teams.
Some respondents argued that longer-term individual deployments were the best way of meeting these
challenges through providing guidance and stability for relationships as well as assisting other UCP
organizations with shorter-term deployments. Practitioners with longer presence in the field accumulated
an impressive repertoire of deep contextual knowledge that helped them overcome day-to-day challenges.
They also better maintained institutional memory, though this was still a challenge even for some of these
Organizations that only deploy people for shorter terms pursued various strategies to maintain
relationships and institutional memory. These included passing on local contacts to new team members,
scheduling periods of overlap between incoming and departing teams, maintaining an “anchor” of staff
who live or stay much longer than other volunteers, and documenting individual deployments in as much
detail as possible to bring incoming team members up to speed rapidly.
While respondents from organizations with short deployments admired the expertise of those with longer
deployments, they also pointed out several advantages to the short-term deployment model, including
their faster-growing population of former UCP practitioners who serve as advocates in their home
countries. We will discuss these short-term/long-term tradeoffs in more detail in the dilemmas section.
Exit Strategy and Evaluations
Ending deployments, and more generally the question of organizational exit strategies, is a complex
question in this context and will be discussed in more detail in the dilemmas section. It bears mentioning
here that while many of the organizations profiled entered Israel/Palestine with the intention of only
none have to date executed a full-fledged exit strategy.
Our respondents did discuss quite clearly the importance of keeping specific deployments flexible and
being willing to redeploy to other situations based on constant evaluation of program benefits. Some
respondents also indicated that without a clear exit strategy or guidelines for leaving, the organization can
become more susceptible to being manipulated by outside parties, losing energy, and even possibly
becoming counter-productive to both protection and conflict transformation. For instance, if a UCP group,
particularly an international one, stays in a region for too long, it can become easier for government
actors, funders, or local leaders to use them to advance their own narrow political interest rather than to
serve legitimate protection needs. This risk can become particularly acute if protection issues appear
inadequately addressed, or the structural violence seems largely unabated.
For instance, the T in TIPH stands for “temporary.”
Supporting the decision of when to move or to leave is the good practice of smart and regular evaluations,
including evaluations of both individual members and their work and also the organization’s overall
efforts in the field and impact on protection goals. For instance, some good ways identified for internal
evaluations include daily personal reflections, occasional evaluations by the team, as well as mid-
deployment and exit reflections. Only a couple UCP organizations have formally evaluated their UCP
work as an organization, and they found such evaluations quite helpful.
Multiple respondents suggested
this as a good practice to either initiate or regularize.
High Integration into Local Community
Many respondents also identified integrating deeply into the local community as a critical good practice.
Several respondents spoke of the importance of not coming in just as an outside group with a goal, but
instead of truly integrating into the community, knowing the feelings and sharing the lives of local
Palestinians through friendships, shared meals, soccer games, and help with the harvest. Some
respondents suggested that “living simply” often builds better trust and relationships with the local
community, while appearing rich, with high salaries and sumptuous living arrangements, can be
This is particularly important because in the context of the occupied West Bank, trust is a key scarce
resource. UCP organizations, particularly those with primarily international or Israeli staff, often find trust
difficult to acquire. This process of trust-building is made much more difficult by practices which
separate the UCP practitioners from the local community and integrate them primarily with each other.
This practice was primarily identified by several respondents as important when beneficiaries and
stakeholders discussed the role of some Israeli UCP groups and the work of TIPH. For instance, while
many expressed positive feelings towards TIPH, and admiration for TIPH staff on an individual level,
their lack of integration into the local community was an area of concern expressed by many respondents.
For example, while organizations such as CPT, EAPPI, and ISM live in housing directly integrated into
the Palestinian community they seek to protect, TIPH members live in more isolated housing and tend to
spend their time outside of Hebron when not on patrol.
Individual TIPH staff members have built extremely warm relationships with Palestinians they encounter
on their regular patrols. Yet many respondents described the separateness of the organization as a whole
as a source of mistrust, communicating an indifference to the day-to-day welfare of the population they
are tasked to protect.
Deep integration into the community also facilitated another important practice emphasized by several
respondents: building relationships with key leaders in the community, such as elders, tribal and clan
leaders, and religious leaders. These close relationships were described as key in understanding the local
political dynamics that might be affected through UCP work, and as a key way of maintaining the
integration of the UCP organization.
Cooperation with other UCP Groups
Another good practice identified regularly by our respondents was close coordination within the network
of various protection groups. This network operates largely informally, though there is some formal
coordination through the “protection cluster” of more than 100 organizations convened by the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR).
For instance, EAPPI and TIPH have done formal evaluations.
TIPH respondents emphasized the importance of their arrangements for recruiting purposes, and for maintaining the morale
and stability of their team.
Even this formal coordination is largely voluntary, with the UNHCHR functioning primarily as a
convener and a sharer of information rather than a hierarchical organizer. For example, the cluster has
created an online platform on demolitions where organizations can easily identify needs and determine
how they can add value to specific efforts.The cluster can use its network to leverage multiple protection
mechanisms more efficiently and better plan for contingencies. They also have working groups, such as
an advocacy working group to coordinate basic messaging.
Coordination can also help smaller groups to cover more areas and avoid unhelpful duplication, as well as
bring in more people or organizations with key relationships to challenging situations as needed. For
example, some international civil society UCP groups who lack strong connections to the Israeli
authorities have invited TIPH to come to some challenging situations to document and share information
more directly with the governments of both parties in the conflict.
Local UCP groups suggested that cooperating with internationals shows the reality of life under
occupation to a broader audience and bring international law to bear on the conflict. Some suggested that
internationals are better able to do long-term protection than locals because locals have other life issues to
care for. Internationals can raise money for people in court and provide witness in the court room, which
has led to better results.
For international and Palestinian UCP groups, coordination with various Israeli activist groups was
consistently described as a good practice. While building trust with Israelis was described as a major
challenge, particularly for Palestinians, Israeli activists helped protect international activists from arrest,
provided legal assistance on home demolitions, and talked with Hebrew-speaking soldiers and settlers to
calm potentially violent situations.
For example, in At-Tuwani, the local Palestinian resistance used Israeli groups to advocate for their
village in Israeli media and support them through legal action. In general, Israeli groups have a greater
ability to raise conscience questions for Israeli society and for the diaspora. Some respondents suggested
that the more Israeli groups can unify into an Israeli movement, the better. Some Israeli UCP groups
expressed a desire for more Palestinian partnership.
In particular, respondents emphasized the importance of working closely with Israeli lawyers. Israeli
human rights lawyers have been particularly helpful to UCP groups in a number of ways. They have
defended Palestinians or internationals to reduce punishments, won the release of detained individuals,
and prevented home demolitions or wall building. These lawyers have also helped groups like Machsom
Watch enter the courts to document, which, according to our respondents, has led judges to take more
care when interacting with Palestinian defendants and provide better due process, which ultimately has
led to more positive outcomes. At times, when Israeli activists were arrested with Palestinians, it led to a
lighter sentence or even acquittal for the Palestinian. Lawyers can also train UCP groups in military
orders and how to act during an arrest.
Cooperation in the field with Combatants for Peace can be particularly helpful in opening up Israeli
soldiers to reflecting on and changing their behavior. Another good practice regarding cooperation with
Israeli groups is to rely on them to educate the Israeli society by offering tours for Israelis to the West
Bank where they normally are unable or unwilling to go alone. For instance, Combatant for Peace tours
have included Israeli government officials and European Union officials. Machsom Watch also offers
tours to help Israelis get to know Palestinians and some people join Machsom Watch after the tour.
Cooperation with Israeli and Palestinian Governments
We encountered differing opinions about how best to relate to the Israeli and Palestinian governments and
will discuss those in the dilemmas section. However, a few good practices identified by several
respondents do bear mention here. Some recommend keeping contact with the government limited to
specific issues, such as dealing with the Palestinian Ministry of Education regarding school protection.
Several Israeli respondents directly seek accountability from their government, though many expressed
cynicism over the Israeli government’s accountability.
The organization with the closest relationships with both governments is TIPH. Their officially
recognition gives them the opportunity to offer briefings, share reports, write letters, get incident
responses, get called to incidents, and have occasional direct meetings. This cooperation gives them
access to political decision-makers who have occasionally made adjustments based on their reports. Yet
many respondents expressed high degrees of skepticism over the degree of change TIPH has been able to
achieve from this greater government access.
Credible Messengers: To Impact Settlers and Soldiers
Respondents offered several insights on which relationships were most likely to impact acts of violence
by settlers and soldiers. On the question of settlers, respondents outlined a variety of approaches. One
consistent theme in these discussions was the importance of identifying credible messengers for different
settler groups who could effectively de-escalate violent situations.
Respondents reported a number of different specific individuals and groups who might fit this role,
including Israeli women, soldiers, lawyers, and less violent yet still religious settler groups. At times, they
may be Jewish women, particularly with economic settlers. For instance, in one story shared by a
respondent an Israeli woman stood between a settler and the Palestinian he was pushing, speaking to the
settler in Hebrew, and the pushing stopped. Some UCP groups say soldiers can be credible messengers
with settlers. Some Israeli groups argue that Israeli lawyers are the most protective when it comes to
preventing settler or soldier violence. When settlers from other settlements are present, some settlers (ex.
Hebron) are less prone to violence.
In regards to youth in particular, respondents argued that peers had particular credibility with other peers
because most youth go to high school away from home and thus are not as close to their parents or other
older settlers. Also, elderly Palestinians have had some relationships and influence with some elderly
Israeli settlers. Other respondents said to use credible Palestinians if trying to engage with settlers.
Clearly identifying the specific groups with greater credibility is a significant challenge, and we will
discuss it at more length in the dilemmas section.
In regards to soldiers, one of the main good practices regularly identified was the use of Israeli groups as
interlocutors. As one respondent put it, Israeli activists can challenge the claim Israel makes of being the
“most ethical army in the world.” Their abilities to speak Hebrew and to use the Israeli chain of command
to hold individual soldiers accountable were also key advantages in de-escalating soldier violence.
Because soldiers are typically very young, using more elderly UCP practitioners to de-escalate soldiers in
particular can be effective. Machsom Watch is a prominent example of this dynamic, as, in the words of
our respondents, they present the soldiers with older Israeli women who can look into their eyes as mother
For both Israeli and international UCP practitioners, interacting with soldiers with confidence, conviction,
patience, and in a human way were described as good practices. This is particularly the case when
attempting to hold soldiers accountable to occupation laws and regulations. Several respondents also said
that soldiers are often impatient, so being patient and staying for an hour or more in a particular location
can often lead to successful protection or at times expose their violence. Simply maintaining presence and
“waiting the soldiers out” can often be effective.
Further, some argued that making human connections with soldiers has been helpful for protection at
times, particularly if those soldiers were later seen abusing Palestinians.Respondents argued in particular
that attempting to talk with soldiers about the conflict, about the West Bank being Palestinian land, about
why they are making arrests, and about why they are soldiers can be helpful entry points to de-escalate
soldiers. However, not everyone supported interaction with soldiers, much less extensive dialogue. See
the dilemma section for more discussion.
Protective Presence and Accompaniment
In terms of practical strategies of protection, the most consistent lesson drawn from our interviews was
the necessity of wide, consistent presence, whether that took the form of stable “protective presence” or
mobile “accompaniment“, which may include moving with those in danger through more violent conflict
zones (Oldenhuis et al 2016)
The impact of presence in reducing violence and harassment was one of
the most common and consistent themes throughout our interviews, not just with practitioners but with
beneficiaries and stakeholders as well.
As with many other themes, the precise causal story of how and why presence is effective varied
depending on the respondent. Some argued that the simple feeling of being seen or watched, particularly
by someone with a camera, can reduce violence. Other respondents claimed that soldiers feared
international or Israeli media attention. Others pointed to protective presence as a way of creating
accountability within the IDF. Still others pointed to more immediate cognitive processes, as the presence
of Israelis or internationals “complicated” the thinking of soldiers in potentially violent situations, or
made them feel guilt or regret over their actions. It is well beyond the scope of this study to adjudicate
between these various causal mechanisms. Yet the basic relationship between simple visible presence and
reduced violence was consistently identified.
One of the most commonly referenced circumstances in which protective presence has been important is
at olive harvests. Olives are a key source of livelihood and represent a long, meaningful tradition in
Palestinian culture. Thus, an olive harvest free of harassment and violence also empowers Palestinian
identity, confidence, and activism. This incorporates the short-term goal of protective presence from
immediate violent threats with longer-term positive benefits of protecting livelihood. Respondents
reported that international and Israeli presence at olive harvests has reduced violence in many different
circumstances, in particular at olive groves adjacent to settlements or security zones.
Presence at checkpoints was also frequently described as another situation in which simple protective
presence and monitoring had an important impact. Groups such as Machsom Watch and EAPPI are
examples in this regard. Some local groups have played music at checkpoints or wall construction, with
international UCP organizations joining them. They have found that this calms the tensions and hostility,
and thus, fosters interactions with less harm and violence.
Presence has also been important in preventing demolitions. Because demolitions are highly visible, with
negative publicity reaching the wider public, Israeli authorities are often deterred from pursuing
demolition orders when international or Israeli activists are simply visibly present. Recently Israeli and
international UCP groups protected the village of Susiya from demolition thanks in part to coordination
from the UN Protection Cluster. UCP groups coordinated a 24/7 schedule of presence in Susiya. Despite
standing demolition orders against it, the village of Susiya remains intact as of this writing.
Protective presence may also have an impact when done by Palestinians. Some respondents, as well as
news sources, report that Palestinian night patrols have had some success at dissuading settlers from
violence in Nablus, Qalqiliya, and elsewhere. These night patrols, typically organized by local “guard
committees” originated in the First Intifada, and have been recently expanding according to media reports
In the village of Qusra, southeast of Nablus, a local committee has been active for the last five years. The
committee uses mobile phones and loudspeakers in mosques to warn residents of potential attacks, and
spotlights and unarmed village patrols to help dissuade attacks. They have prevented the abduction of a
This discussion incorporates elements of both the methods of “protective presence” and “protective accompaniment” as
described in Oldenhuis et al 2015. We include them both here to highlight the important common aspect of simple visible
presence in reducing violence, whether that presence is stable in one location, as in Oldenhuis and his co-author’s understanding
of “protective presence” or “in motion” as in their understanding of “accompaniment.”
There was one important exception to this general rule. One stakeholder respondent argued that protective presence was
actually counterproductive and led not to reduced violence but to increased violence as international and Israeli activists
encouraged and emboldened Palestinians to be more confrontational with soldiers and settlers.
Palestinian boy, put out a house fire started by settlers, and foiled a settler attack on a family of eight
(Melhem, 2015). According to media interviews with local committee organizers, the patrols are effective
because settlers usually attack this area covertly, unwilling to risk public confrontation. Respondents
reported that other Palestinian patrols have had some impact on Palestinian violence, and that
international UCP groups have occasionally accompanied these local patrols to assist their impact.
The visible presence of UCP practitioners has also been very beneficial in programs of accompaniment,
particularly of children on their way to and from school. In September of 2000, a curfew in Hebron put a
hold on thousands of Palestinian children’s education. TIPH pressured Israel to acknowledge its
obligation under international humanitarian law to allow children to attend school even under curfew
(Kern, As Resident Aliens: Christian Peacemaker Teams in the West Bank, 1995-2005, 2010). But
ongoing accompaniment by UCP organizations was still needed as orders did not always filter down.
Accompaniment became a particular need around 2002 as settler violence developed against Palestinian
Respondents described these school accompaniment programs as reducing violence from settlers and
soldiers, ensuring on-time arrival, and increasing the children’s feelings of security. Thus school
accompaniment helps accomplish short-term goals of reducing violence as well as long-term goals of
promoting education. Helping children also enables newly arrived internationals to connect with and be
moved by the conflict.
Respondents also reported that accompaniment programs reduced violence against Palestinian shepherds
in the South Hebron Hills, human rights lawyers collecting testimony, and groups delivering food aid,
such as Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders (Kern, 2009, pp. 157, 160).
Maintaining wide presence across many areas was identified by several respondents as important. One
particular challenge in this regard was the regular practice by the IDF of closing down particular areas to
UCP groups. Our respondents urged UCP organizations to be consistent and assertive in challenging these
restrictions. Respondents said that often, after one or two months it becomes quite difficult to ever get the
In light of the number and consistency of the examples our respondents provided, we identify the overall
good practice as making simple presence as wide, consistent, and pervasive as possible, whether that took
the form of static “protective presence” or mobile “accompaniment.” Key suggestions were to scale such
activity as much as possible, and insofar as possible, keeping the same staff in place. In terms of wide
presence, EAPPI is the outstanding good example. EAPPI is the only organization with a regular presence
throughout all the major areas of the West Bank.
Interposition and Intervention
While our respondents consistently named the importance of presence, opinions were more nuanced on
direct intervention or physical interposition. Some UCP respondents strongly encouraged pure monitoring
or presence, and, while not condemning intervention, explicitly discouraged it in most circumstances.
Some organizations only allow verbal intervention, such as verbally de-escalating when a child is in
danger. Other groups that allow interposition do not require it of their members but will support them if
they make such a choice.
Several respondents believe that interposition with bodies is a good practice under certain specific
conditions. Several respondents reported that interposition has helped prevent the arrest of Palestinians.
Even UCP practitioners whose interpositions did not prevent arrests often secured less serious
consequences for the Palestinians they were supporting, when they were arrested, too.
Others indicated that interposition has helped prevent checkpoint harassment, house demolition, violation
of sacred sites, and both settler and Palestinian violence. Some primarily use it in urgent conditions, such
as when a life is at stake. One prominent example of interposition came early in CPT’s time in Hebron,
when several CPT activists interposed themselves between a Palestinian youth demonstration and a line
of Israeli soldiers with their guns raised to fire. Following the interposition the soldiers lowered their
weapons and did not violently suppress the demonstration (Kern, 2010). Other examples will be described
in the effects section.
Respondents who did engage in interposition and other more confrontational strategies outlined a few
important principles. First, when possible, confirming with the accompanied group that bodily
interposition is desired is a key. For instance, respondents from Operation Dove reported that they use
interposition when it strengthens the nonviolent resistance movement by “creating a large space and a
firmer courage.” They avoid interposition if it “steals the space” of Palestinians who are ready to
overcome being “victims” and to “pay the price.” Second, interposition can be made more effective when
UCP practitioners willing to use interposition coordinate with other UCP organizations to document the
event and maintain protective presence once the interposer has been arrested. This can unite the
advantages of each practice into a cohesive protection mechanism.
Some UCP groups do not allow this practice for various reasons (e.g. liability, fear of escalation, etc.),
and some but not all of their members see it as problematic. We will elaborate on these differences in the
Monitoring and Documentation
Beyond providing immediate presence and accompaniment, UCP organizations’ documentation of
brutalities of the occupation and advocacy for reductions in violence were identified by the majority of
respondents as good practices. UCP organizations on the ground were crucial sources of “early warnings”
which could attract diplomatic or media pressure to particular situations. Within this general good
practice of publication and documentation there were significant differences in mandate and differing
prescriptions for advocacy. In general, though, international organizations argued for at least some
requirement that former UCP practitioners engage in advocacy upon return to their home countries.
Monitoring and documentation have been particularly effective at checkpoints. This monitoring is
facilitated by the type of coordination described above, with Israeli groups such as Machsom Watch
monitoring the Israeli side of the checkpoint, while international groups, such as EAPPI monitor the
Palestinian side. Respondents argued that monitoring checkpoints has led to less abuse and delays, more
access to health care facilities, and various other improvements in the quality of life for Palestinians.
These effects were attributed in part to simple protective presence, but monitoring and publicity also had
important effects. Machsom Watch has often threatened to create “scandal” if there is significant
harassment of Palestinians at checkpoints. This is a credible claim because of their long-standing
comprehensive documentation of conditions at checkpoints, which they publish on their website and
occasionally distribute to media. One area for growth in the monitoring process identified by some
respondents is rural checkpoints, which are often out of sight and thus characterized by greater abuse.
Several respondents brought up data sharing and coordination as keys to effective monitoring and
documentation, whether in the form of informal comparing of notes between groups after events to
electronic file-sharing and reporting. Sharing data gives all groups a broader view of the conflict, and
provides multiple verifications of specific incidents. International UCP groups often share information
with Machsom Watch, who can contact Israeli military commanders when needed. EAPPI was regularly
cited as very good at data collection and sharing.
Some respondents reported that some Palestinians see the various documentation efforts as a competition
among UCP groups, and emphasized the importance of communicating to Palestinians about coordination
and mandates. Other respondents said that a good practice with so many groups reporting would be to
create a more central reporting system for those able and willing to share information.
In monitoring efforts, several respondents argued that it was important to write the truth of the stories and
see “both” or various sides to every incident. This is an important moral principle for several groups, such
as CPT, and also important in making UCP organizations credible. Reporting that is seen as biased in
favor of the Palestinians was argued to be less effective in creating public accountability. Solid, extensive
documentation creates a historical record that can be useful in future legal or communal efforts.
One particularly important and unique model of monitoring comes from TIPH, who regularly report on
incidents of violence, settlement expansion, and other violations of the Hebron agreement to both
government parties, while keeping these reports confidential from the general public. This opens dialogue
and was reported by respondents as leading the parties to offer official explanations and sometimes to
change behavior, although the specifics of these changes were kept confidential from us. One challenge
has been a feeling, expressed by some TIPH respondents, of disconnection from the results of the reports,
since they were unclear about what was done with their reports. One of the adjustments sought by TIPH
governments has been to help TIPH staff to better understand how they use the reports.
One increasingly common practice in monitoring is the use of cameras and video footage. The camera
program run by the Israeli human rights group B’tselem is the pioneer in this area, but a number of other
groups have also incorporated video collection into their monitoring. This has bolstered the credibility of
UCP organizations’ monitoring, attracted more media and popular attention, and empowered Palestinians.
Respondents reported that videos have been used to identify and arrest of settlers responsible for violent
attacks, to secure the release of nonviolent activists, to decrease violence in particular situations, and even
to inspire apologies for violent incidents. Video footage was pointed to as particularly valuable for
protecting Palestinians falsely accused of violent attacks in Israeli military courts.
In such a highly politicized context, doubt is often thrown on claims made by UCP groups, even when
videos from an event are available. Respondents highlighted the importance of always providing raw,
unedited footage in addition to skillfully edited final videos, and of having clear procedures in regards to
chains of possession in ensuring the credibility of video footage.
The majority of our respondents described some kind of advocacy as an important part of their work and
as effective in reducing violence in a number of different situations. Respondents reported a number of
potential good practices that made advocacy efforts more effective. First, particularly for internationals,
respondents reported that comprehensive knowledge and personal experience of the conflict were key.
This knowledge and experience could then have a powerful mobilizing effect in the international UCP
practitioner’s own country.
Several respondents also discussed specific advocacy efforts such as speaking tours for local nonviolent
groups in other countries as important in building international support to help protection. For
international UCP practitioners, visiting one’s country’s embassy and inviting them to key locations can
increase attention from political offices.
For international UCP groups, several respondents argued that good practice also entails requiring
specific advocacy from individual UCP practitioners upon return to their home country, such as a
minimum number of reports and speaking events, with some flexibility to encourage creative advocacy.
Some respondents spoke encouragingly about advocating on new media such as blogs, Instagram and
YouTube, while others also spoke to the importance of traditional advocacy efforts such as letter writing
Protection clusters, such as the one coordinated by the UN, can also serve to link and coordinate more
effective advocacy. Some groups provide indirect advocacy by briefing official visitors, such as
diplomats, government officials or journalists. Yet, some recommended more attention to ensuring
accountability for harm done in the conflict, particularly by Israeli soldiers and settlers.
Israeli groups often have better access to local Israeli media than international UCP groups do, and thus,
they can influence Israeli society more directly. Yet some Israeli respondents argued that Israeli society is
increasingly indifferent to the problems in the occupied territories, and thus some Israeli groups choose
instead to focus on international advocacy through books, films, and speaking tours. Others, such as
Ta’ayush, have minimal advocacy efforts in order to devote their time and energy on direct action. Some
Israeli respondents argued that international UCP organizations should advocate more and document less,
because violence is unlikely to change unless the underlying conflict changes, and they believe the
underlying conflict will not change without greater advocacy.
As described here, our respondents argued that a number of different potential avenues for advocacy may
be effective in reducing violence. Indeed, many argued that advocacy was an inextricable part of their
mission, and central to changing the overall conflict dynamics. Yet there was little agreement on how
much to focus on advocacy, as opposed to proactive engagement or monitoring. Nor was there consensus
on a particularly effective model of advocacy. Thus, while we consider some advocacy a good practice,
the particular dimensions of when and how it is a good practice will be discussed at more length in the
Finally, many respondents reported that increasing local capacity, particularly by supporting local
nonviolent resistance, has been an important good practice. UCP work is inextricably tied with nonviolent
resistance in many parts of the West Bank, and a common practice of UCP groups is presence at
Several respondents reported that enabling nonviolent resistance is a key to increasing international
support, which can enhance protection. Yet there can be a danger in too much international involvement
in resistance, and several respondents emphasized the importance of keeping a significant Palestinian
presence at demonstrations in order to prevent unhealthy patterns of dependency. In addition to presence
at demonstrations, some respondents indicated that providing access to resources about Gandhi, Martin
Luther King, Jr., and other theorists of nonviolence can be helpful.
Some respondents reported that training locals in community-based protection mechanisms engenders
more participation and increases the potential for sustainability in protection. Working with social and
religious leaders to cultivate and enhance such mechanisms was described as crucial. Respondents
reported that good precedent exists for this from community-based mechanisms during the Second
Intifada. These included working with civil society leaders to prevent both armed activity by children and
child labor, as well as helping locals to claim their rights. Helping to train and expand some Palestinian
guard committees near Nablus, as described above, would be another way to scale up such mechanisms.
Another capacity development practice suggested by some respondents was healing relationships and
trauma, both within and between communities. Some respondents suggested that such healing can be a
key to lowering violence and increasing the capacity of locals and the conditions for UCP groups to offer
protection. Respondents also indicated that promoting the habit of “seeing the other as human” is another
way UCP groups can support healing, capacity development, and transforming the conflict.
Other respondents emphasized education as a key capacity UCP groups can develop through various
forms of support or direct protection, such as school accompaniment. Others spoke of the importance of
inter-religious dialogue as a specific way of diminishing violence.
While many more specific examples of good practices could be presented, the list above represents the
most consistent, clear, and well-supported good practices reported to us by several of our respondents
from multiple organizations in different circumstances. Having identified the key good practices, we now
illustrate the importance of these good practices in a discussion of the outcomes and impacts of UCP
reported to us by our respondents.
3.5 Effects, Outcomes and Impacts
In this section, we will review effects of UCP efforts. Although this analysis will include both healthy and
harmful effects, we will give particular attention to the healthy effects associated with the good practices
identified above. We wish to avoid the debate about what effect in what time frame is needed before
something is considered an “impact” or an “outcome“, and how much verification is needed. All the
effects, outcomes, or impacts described below were reported by multiple respondents. Often several
respondents mentioned the same events and effects that were also described in reports and publications.
We will use the words results, effects, outcomes and impacts in a general sense here, somewhat
interchangeably, though impacts are understood to be longer-term effects.
Helpful Effects on the Protected” Or “Accompanied” Population
Enhancing Palestinian Leadership and Nonviolent Resistance
Some international UCP groups have enhanced Palestinian leadership by hiring Palestinians to offer UCP.
This has led to better communication with Palestinians, deeper trust, more recognition in the street and
better information sharing. Other UCP groups have integrated Palestinians as translators, which has also
led to better communication and has times increased solidarity among Palestinians. For instance, one
UCP group hired a Christian Palestinian to translate in a village of mostly Muslim Palestinians. Positive
interactions between the Christian translator and the Muslim villagers led to better Palestinian
UCP groups have also strengthened nonviolent resistance against the occupation and its various abuses by
Palestinian civil society. For instance, UCP groups have helped ensure that weekly vigils or
demonstrations are characterized by more access, less abuse, fewer arrests, fewer curfews, more media
attention, and greater outside advocacy. These nonviolent demonstrations have in turn had substantive
political consequences, including increased services, legal recognition of buildings and villages, and the
demolition or re-routing of security barriers. Further, the presence of International and Israeli UCPs has
often heartened Palestinians. Some Palestinians feel more secure and express gratitude and a desire for
even more UCPs.
Keeping Land and Communities
Several respondents reported that Israeli and international UCP groups have helped Palestinians stay on
their land. One prominent example is the village of At-Tuwani. Respondents from At-Tuwani reported
that the village had been under constant threat of eviction since 1967, with settlers and occupation
authorities pursuing a gradual strategy of squeezing the Palestinian villagers out of the village through
land confiscation, road closures, denial of basic services such as running water and electricity, and other
harassment. Palestinians were required to obtain permits to build on their land, but applications for
permits were almost universally denied. Shepherds were particularly targeted for entering evicted land,
now called “settlement land.” They would often get arrested and have to pay fines. Settlers from the
nearby settlements of Ma’on and Havat Ma’on would also harass shepherds and school children and
occasionally killed their livestock.
In 1995 the Oslo II agreement made At-Tuwani part of Area C, with full Israeli civil and security control.
In 1999, occupation authorities demolished 14 nearby villages, forcing many of the former residents to
find shelter in At-Tuwani. Despite the extent of the demolitions, the villagers got little media attention.
Even as villagers from outside villages sought refuge in At-Tuwani the civil administration was also
demolishing more and more homes in the village itself, building a wall to separate the village from a
major highway, and using the surrounding land for training exercises.
The village leaders committed to nonviolence so as to avoid giving the army any excuse for violence and
found inspiration in the works of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Yet even nonviolent resistance by the
villagers was met with significant violence and failed to lead to major changes.
Frustrated at the limited effectiveness of their efforts, community leaders from At-Tuwani first turned to
Israeli groups, such as B’Tselem and Rabbis for Human Rights, for help in advocacy and legal assistance.
Building trust between the two sides to work together was challenging, but their gradual cooperation
eventually led to more media coverage of events in At-Tuwani and a favorable Israeli Supreme Court
decision that allowed them to stay in their village and lifted the threat of demolition for the entire village.
Nonetheless, night raids by the IDF and harassment by settlers still continued.
In light of the continuing harassment, a local Palestinian popular committee leader invited two
international UCP groups, CPT and Operation Dove, to the village in 2004. While their primary programs
were accompaniment of school children and shepherds, UCP practitioners also practiced protective
presence at local demonstrations. On the second day of international UCP presence with the school
attacked a group of children being escorted by two American UCP practitioners from
CPT. When the CPT activists attempted to shield the children from the attack they were both severely
injured, one suffering a broken arm and the other a broken leg (Kern, 2010).
The attack gained significant media attention due to the severe injuries sustained by the American UCP
practitioners. Following the media backlash, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) committed to the rights of
the children to attend school, and ordered Israeli soldiers to protect the school children of At-Tuwani from
violent attack. While the implementation of this protective order has been sporadic, it has significantly
reduced harassment of school children by settlers. The international UCP organizations continued to show
the reality of the situation to others, address the propaganda of the occupation, and bring international law
to the issue.
For instance, Operation Dove, with a deep commitment to nonviolence, has provided presence in At-
Tuwani since 2004 to school children, shepherds, and nonviolent demonstrations. They share the lives of
the villagers and try to “feel what they feel“, in part to better describe the reality of the situation to others.
To further address the propaganda, they have talked with soldiers about their work, using questions and
statements to challenge them to reconsider what they are doing. Team members have different
perspectives about whether and when to interact with settlers. Some team members consider their
cooperation with Israeli UCP groups mentioned above as more important than cooperation with
internationals primarily due to the legal access and impact they can have. Operation Dove issues press
releases on various incidents to show the reality, address the propaganda and bring international law to
Since the intervention of these UCP groups, violence towards Palestinian nonviolent demonstrations
dropped significantly, with no more fatalities (a significant change from the past); harassment of settlers
and school children similarly dropped; and nonviolent activism by the village’s residents was
significantly empowered. Ultimately, this deployment has kept the Palestinians in At-Tuwani on their
land, gotten the wall declared illegal and removed, and created the conditions for economic development
of the village, including an official master plan with a new school and clinic to legitimize its presence.
While the leaders of the village do believe that more Israeli and international support is needed, they
described the current interventions as crucial in transforming the situation in At-Tuwani from one of
fundamental instability and pervasive violence to one of relative calm and a better life for all of the
In the village of Susiya, 24/7 presence by internationals was pointed to by many respondents as key in
preventing destruction of the village. Susiya, like At-Tuwani, is in Area C of the West Bank, the area
under full Israeli civil and military control. The village, with a population of roughly 350 people, has been
moved twice since the beginning of the occupation, once in 1986 following the discovery of a historic
synagogue near the village and then again in 2001 when Palestinians killed an Israeli from a neighboring
settlement during the Second Intifada (Knell, 2015). In both cases, following the eviction settlers either
occupied the vacated land, or the civil administration allocated the land to settlers (B'tselem, 2015). When
While the attackers wore masks and did not identify themselves, the CPT activists reported that the attackers entered the
settlement of Havat Ma’on following the attack (Murphy, 2004), and a security guard from the settlement later told the CPT team
that the attack had been carried out because CPT’s presence upset the balance of power between the settlers and Palestinians
(Kern, 2010). Representatives from the settlement denied responsibility for the attack.
the village moved to its current site, the residents sought to obtain building permits from the Israeli Civil
Administration but were denied, putting them at risk of eviction and demolition.
A lengthy process of legal appeals by the villagers, with assistance from Rabbis for Human Rights, was
defeated in May of 2015 when a High Court of Justice Judge rejected a petition for an interim order to
freeze demolition. Following this ruling, which removed any legal barriers to demolition, the human
rights group B’tselem urgently warned that demolition was imminent. Multiple UCP groups responded,
and a system of 24/7 protective presence by international and Israeli activists was rapidly put in place.
The UN Protection Cluster, discussed above, played a critical role in orchestrating this protective action.
The UN created a plan including legal protection mechanisms, protective presence, and diplomatic
pressure by the international community. The legal mechanisms included the military court,
administrative authorities, and other judicial processes. While the legal efforts gained time by delaying
formal approval for the destruction of the village, by living in the community the direct protective
presence served a crucial role as an early warning alert system, preventing the occupation authorities from
demolishing the village without international attention. Yet, the cluster did experience an initial challenge
in finding funding to continue the presence.
Efforts by the UN protection cluster to mobilize the international community brought diplomats and UN
officials to the village to publicize the issue and launch an advocacy campaign. Diplomatic figures
visiting Susiya included Ambassadors and Consul Generals from various countries, including from the
U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. They intentionally recruited figures from beyond the usual donor countries
to broaden the publicity of the issue. The protection cluster would also inform Israeli authorities of these
visits to ensure that the Israeli government was aware any demolition would involve significant
international publicity. The UN Secretary General and High Commissioners, as well as the EU and U.S.
government publicly supported protecting the village. However, according to one respondent the U.S.
statement was vague.
While these diplomatic efforts were perhaps the highest-profile aspect of the protection of Susiya, they
were limited by the short attention span of the international community. Thus, following the arson attack
by suspected Jewish extremists in the village of Duma, international attention largely shifted away from
Susiya. However, the coordinated protective presence by Israeli and international UCP organizations such
as CPT, Operation Dover, and others, has continued. While the village remains under threat of
demolition, the Israeli authorities have not carried it out while the international and Israeli activists are
present, and the village remains intact as of this writing.
Less Soldier Violence
UCP groups have helped to change the discourse on the “appropriate” use of violence by soldiers. UCP
groups in many circumstances have a broad, de-escalating effect on soldier violence. For example, in At-
Tuwani the Operation Dove group has de-escalated soldiers by talking to them. The Meta Peace Team
reported instances of seeing soldier abuse, intervening, and causing the soldier to stop. The presence of
observers, international or Israeli, is reported consistently to lead to less violence. For example, child
arrests have gone down after significant reporting to the international community and press. Members of
CPT have challenged soldiers’ arrests of children without talking to their parents, which they reported to
be against occupation regulations, and the challenges have sometimes either prevented arrest or enabled
the parents to accompany their arrested children.
Respondents also reported that the presence of UCP groups has also led to less harassment by soldiers.
For instance, respondents reported that international UCP groups with cameras during “Settler Tours” in
Hebron have led to Israeli soldiers being less aggressive when detaining Palestinians and less likely to
point their guns at Palestinian children.
Respondents from Meta Peace Teams described a particular incident in the city of Tulkaren. During an
armed clash between Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinian youth, soldiers shot over the heads of
fleeing Palestinians, while surrounding the area with fifteen army vehicles and snipers. Meanwhile,
members of Meta Peace Team with a few other internationals stayed in a visible space where they could
be clearly observed by both sides. The clash escalated quickly, with local leaders reporting to the team
that fatalities were extremely likely. During the ordeal, local journalists asked MPT to go to a nearby
Palestinian woman’s house where Israeli soldiers thought the woman’s brother might be hiding. As MPT
members slowly approached the house, the Israeli soldiers noticed them, stopped firing their weapons,
and left the area.
Combatants for Peace have used the “Theater of the Oppressed” as a way for all parties, including
soldiers, to express their feelings in the midst of a land confiscation. In Theater of the Oppressed, CFP
facilitates Palestinians, Israeli activists, and even soldiers, in role-playing the events of their lives such as
Palestinians passing through checkpoints. The aspects of performance and role-play, which are often
humorous, help de-escalate both Palestinians and soldiers.
In addition to Theater of the Oppressed, CFP has also used their identity as former soldiers to engage
current soldiers in dialogue and to model the possibility of violent actors making a commitment to
nonviolence. This witness was reported as then evoking behavior that lowers violence and increases
protection. Some soldiers have resisted their role as soldiers, cried, joined the Refuseniks,
and become teachers.
Some respondents also pointed to more dramatic and high-profile examples of UCP in reducing soldiers’
violence. One respondent argued that the presence and interposition of ISM activists had played a critical
role in saving the life of previous Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during an evacuation in an ambulance.
The same respondent reported that ISM activists had been crucial in ending the siege and preventing the
continued shelling of Palestinians in the Church of the Nativity by putting their bodies in the Church.
Less Settler Violence
Israeli and/or International UCP groups offering presence and recording incidents have made Israeli
soldiers more willing to arrest settlers involved in violence, and thus, improve protection of Palestinians.
For instance, respondents reported that in At-Tuwani filming by Israeli groups of a settler harming a
Palestinian shepherd led to the arrest of the settler.
Respondents also described protective presence as effective in preventing settler confiscation of
Palestinian homes. Several respondents told about a house in Hebron that settlers had threatened to take
over. When international UCP practitioners entered the house at the invitation of the Palestinian owners
and refused to leave, their presence deterred the settlers from entering. After days of waiting, the settlers
finally left, allowing the Palestinian family to remain in their home. As mentioned previously, media
sources also report that some unarmed Palestinian night patrols in Nablus have dissuaded some settlers
from abuse and attacks simply by making covert attacks on property and isolated individuals more
difficult to conceal (Melhem, 2015).
A large number of our respondents reported that UCP groups have helped to protect shepherds, children,
farmers and crops, especially during olive harvest, a time of particularly high risk for settler attack. In
particular, respondents told stories of settlers approaching Palestinians harvesting olives while firing guns
in the air. When the settlers saw young American UCP activists, they stopped and left. The protection
cluster coordinated by UNHCHR in particular has been effective at coordinating these olive harvest
Less Palestinian Violence
By supporting Palestinian nonviolent resistance, some UCP groups have contributed to less reliance on
violence by Palestinians. In particular, some respondents reported that UCP groups have challenged
Palestinian youth about throwing stones, leading to much less stone-throwing by school children. Further,
some UCP groups have accompanied local Palestinian patrols trying to prevent other Palestinians from
An informal designation for those Israelis who refuse to perform their military service.
shooting near Bethlehem. This led to some displacement of the shooting, but the overall shooting from all
parties in the area subsided after about four weeks (Kern 2010, 194). Also, some respondents argued that
by reducing the systemic violence against Palestinians, UCP groups diminish the rage that often leads to
UCP groups have prevented numerous Palestinian houses from being demolished through protective
presence, assistance with legal appeals, and advocacy. Groups like ICAHD have helped rebuild close to
200 houses. This provides some stability for families in the midst of ongoing conflict. Many different
strategies have been used to achieve this, including legal aid, public advocacy, and direct physical
presence and intervention.
Protecting School Children
UCP groups have helped protect Palestinian school children on their way to and from school, most
prominently in Hebron. This protection has most commonly taken the form of simple accompaniment and
protective presence. Respondents reported that this protection program helped students to have more
regular on-time attendance, and increased the students’ feelings of safety, trust, and excitement about
school. Accompaniment also helped students to experience the daily passage through checkpoints in order
to get to school as less traumatic and troubling, helping them to learn better in school, and thus build
long-term societal capacity.
One accompaniment program in Hebron by CPT has assisted children at a Palestinian preschool located
just outside of the Ibrahimi Mosque. The preschool’s location meant that in order to come to school the
vast majority of children had to pass through at least one and often two checkpoints. The main road to the
school was also blocked off by Israeli soldiers and reserved for settlers, while the Palestinian preschool
children were required to walk along a narrow passageway full of garbage and with several treacherous or
dangerous portions. This combination of military presence and physical danger made the preschool
children afraid to go to school and their parents afraid to send them. Thus enrollment in the preschool had
dropped precipitously, and the remaining children often came to school late or very infrequently.
The principal of the preschool approached the CPT team in Hebron to request their assistance in making
sure the children were able to make it safely from their homes to the school. After extensive discussion,
CPT agreed to accompany the children during the school year, helping them pass through the checkpoints
and making sure that they made it through the dangerous narrow path to the school.
Respondents reported that the presence of CPT members with the preschool children completely
transformed the children’s experience of their daily trip to school. Instead of a daily ordeal of security
checks and intimidating soldiers, the trip became an exciting chance to meet and talk to their friends from
CPT. Children began attending the preschool regularly, arriving on-time, and being more engaged and
happy during the school day.
School accompaniment has also decreased stone throwing by Palestinian children. In a prominent
example of various UCP groups coming together to achieve a goal, in Hebron a multi-pronged plan was
developed to reduce child-perpetrated violence. The UCP groups, the local community and the staff at the
school understood that multiple issues contributed to the violence. These included the trauma that the
children have suffered as well as the ongoing direct intimidation and violence of soldiers or settlers. But it
also involved structures such as a school building in decay, which reduced children’s motivation to attend
school, and the larger system of injustice related to the political situation.
Following this joint analysis, a comprehensive plan to address violence in the schools was adopted. TIPH
helped to fund school renovation, while various groups assisted in psycho-social intervention and in
bringing in visiting diplomats. UCP groups also coordinated groups of Palestinian parents and other
supervisors to stand by the school to dissuade Palestinian children from using violence, while CPT
monitored the school and nearby checkpoint to dissuade Israeli soldiers and settlers from harming
Palestinians. This approach has worked extremely well in generating the positive outcomes mentioned
above, and has also significantly reduced stone throwing, and violent responses to stone-throwing from
Decreasing Checkpoint Abuse
Multiple respondents reported that Israeli and international UCP groups have helped to decrease denials,
delays, and arbitrary abuse of Palestinians at checkpoints. For instance, one respondent relayed the story
of a Palestinian father and child trying to cross a checkpoint to get to a dialysis appointment for the child
in East Jerusalem. Soldiers prevented them from passing through the checkpoint because of an allegedly
expired permit. At this point, activists from the Israeli UCP group Machsom Watch stepped in and
threatened to cause a “scandal” if the soldiers did not let the Palestinian family through. After some
negotiation, the soldiers allowed another family member who possessed an active permit to take the child
through the checkpoint to receive dialysis. Other respondents reported many similar stories, many of
which revolved around medical emergencies.
Better Use of Law and Government
Some respondents reported that international UCP groups have used international law to protect
Palestinians. One respondent argued in particular that TIPH’s interactions with the Israeli government
have increased the government’s recognition of the Geneva Conventions. However, having the Israeli
government acknowledge violations of the conventions is still a challenge. TIPH reporting based on
international law has led to direct discussions with Israeli government officials, explanations given, and
some unspecified examples of changed behavior.
Actions by UCP groups have also improved Palestinians’ treatment under occupation law. For example,
international UCP practitioners have on occasion offered themselves up for arrest in place of Palestinians,
helping to prevent indefinite detention and other harms to Palestinians.
Video footage captured by various UCP organizations has been particularly effective in acquitting
Palestinians falsely accused of violent offenses in Israeli military court. As mentioned previously, the
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem is the pre-eminent example of this practice, achieving a major
impact through distributing a large number of cameras to Palestinian volunteers and giving their
volunteers extensive training in careful videography and meticulous chain of possession documentation.
UCP was also described by respondents as effective in ensuring fair trials and due process of law for
Palestinians in Israeli military courts. These courts suffer from multiple difficulties, perhaps the most
pervasive of which is language. Respondents reported that most military judges do not speak Arabic,
making the trial an interaction almost exclusively between the lawyers and judge, with Arabic-speaking
Palestinian defendants often left confused and unable to understand the proceedings.
reported that the presence of UCP observers in courts has led judges to be more careful to observe norms
of due process, leading to better outcomes for Palestinians.
Some UCP organizations have also provided legal aid and direct assistance in removing roadblocks,
increasing access and reducing restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement. Legal challenges in
tandem with protective presence, interposition, and other methods of UCP have also led to walls being
removed or their construction delayed, and house or village demolitions being prevented or delayed, as
mentioned above. Overall, international UCP organizations, particularly through the good practice of
close coordination with sympathetic members of Israeli civil society (particularly lawyers), have had
many significant successes in using legal means to achieve protection of Palestinian civilians.
While the military courts do provide Arabic translation, respondents reported that in practice the translation is quite poor, is
done only sporadically, and often gives the defendant little additional information.
Improved Economic Development
UCP has also had some economic effects, both directly through grants, and indirectly through the greater
feeling of security provided by the work. In regards to direct effects, economic development projects by
TIPH in Hebron have helped somewhat to build a normal life and feeling of security among Palestinians
there. However, some respondents also speculated that it creates “winners/losers” in the grant process,
which leads to unhealthy competition and division in Palestinian society and may undermine Palestinian
support for TIPH.
In general, respondents reported that as Palestinians feel more secure through presence and
accompaniment by the international UCP groups and Israeli groups, they are more enabled to focus on
economic development. While respondents were cautious about drawing any direct link between these
two processes, it does bear mentioning that both places with extensive UCP deployments: Hebron and the
village of At-Tuwani, have seen significant economic growth over the period of the UCP groups’
presence. The H1 area of Hebron has grown into one of the most vibrant economic centers of the
Palestinian West Bank, while At-Tuwani has built a school, a clinic, and gained access to many basic
services not generally provided in the South Hebron Hills. More study is needed before making a strong
causal argument in regards to these links, as many other factors doubtless have affected these outcomes,
but the correlation is intriguing.
Harmful Effects on the “Protected” or “Accompanied” Population
While the emphasis in our discussions was on good practices and positive effects, we also asked our
respondents about past mistakes and negative effects of their work. Some respondents from UCP
organizations shared stories of past mistakes that had to be corrected. Outside stakeholders also offered
candid evaluations of the various UCP organizations. While the healthy or positive effects demonstrate
the powerful impact of UCP, these negative effects show some of the challenges UCP organizations face,
which make the adoption of good practices particularly important.
Some respondents reported that international UCP members have sometimes acted too provocatively with
soldiers. For instance, insulting soldiers or settlers was identified as unnecessary provocation. Due to the
privileges of being international, such behavior often has few or at least manageable consequences for the
UCP activists themselves, but it can lead Israeli soldiers to take out their frustration on Palestinians,
leading to more harm.
To be clear, some respondents argued that the increased risk and harm resulting from some provocations
are necessary costs of nonviolent resistance: they expose violence or oppression and thus erode the moral
standing for the practitioners of violence. But others described insults and other provocations done
without consulting with Palestinian partners, or out of ignorance of the dynamics of a particular situation,
that led to unintentional escalations. We discuss this issue more in the dilemma section.
Even when completely peaceful and respectful, UCP groups were also sometimes reported to escalate
situations unhelpfully. At times Palestinian families have asked UCP groups to leave their homes because
they were attracting attention in a way that heightened risk. On a few occasions Palestinians with cameras
from human rights or UCP groups have been harassed, but no major harm has been reported.
Romantic relationships between UCP activists and local Palestinians were described by several
respondents as problematic. Several respondents believed these relationships undermined the trust
between UCP organizations and the local population. Others said that these relationships had resulted in
several Palestinian community leaders leaving Israel/Palestine to be with their romantic partners,
weakening the Palestinian community. At the very least romantic relationships between Palestinians and
activists present a significant challenge. Many UCP organizations have specific prohibitions against
Respondents also reported that international UCP activists sometimes presume too much power or
privilege, contributing to an unhealthy dependency or passivity in Palestinians, if local ownership, buy-in,
and responsibility are not carefully cultivated. Almost all of the organizations interviewed reported being
aware of this problem and attempting to deal with it. For instance, one UCP member reported no longer
drawing on the idea of “getting in the way” of violence or abuse, due to the disproportionate assumption
of power it represents. Yet in practice balancing the mandate of UCP groups to protect and to empower
has been challenging.
At times, international UCP groups have responded too readily to requests, compromising their focus and
capacity. Several respondents reported the necessity of developing careful, in-depth knowledge of the
local community to prevent this from occurring. Without local knowledge UCP organizations’ attention
has been so badly divided that they have been unable to prioritize, severely hampering their efforts.
Helpful Effects on the Practitioners
In addition to the positive and negative effects on the Palestinian population, respondents reported that
UCP deeply transforms the practitioners themselves. There were many avenues through which these
transformations took place, and the majority of them were described as very positive.
Some international UCP groups have integrated anti-oppression and anti-racism into their training and
regular practices. As a result, Palestinian team members feel more support from internationals and stay in
the organization longer, increasing its capacity, and putting their best efforts into it. Similar benefits have
spilled over into home communities.
Other respondents reported that practices of spirituality and virtue development incorporated in their UCP
work have had various positive effects on practitioners, including personal growth, better relationships
with team members, better discernment, and even connections with the local community that have led to
practitioners being protected. Several respondents reported that such practices helped to center and sustain
team members, relieve their stress, and deepen trust within teams. Encouraging ways to encounter
different beliefs was reported as helping to broaden the view of some team members, making them more
open-minded and empathetic. Through fasting and prayer, practitioners have been helped to not only
center but to discern direction and strategy. Some respondents described drawing on spirituality during
UCP work to deepen a commitment to the dignity of all persons, seeing everyone as a sister or brother,
and cultivating love of enemies. Others said that discussing personal growth and challenges on a regular
basis helped them to grow in key virtues such as courage during their deployment and afterwards.
Coordination between UCP organizations, particularly between international organizations and Israeli or
Palestinian groups, has affected the practitioners themselves. Respondents reported that these
relationships had many positive effects, including increasing their ability to deal with conflicts, legal
issues, locals who abuse women, incident reports, and common advocacy. The diversity of UCP groups
has exposed practitioners to the many different types of people who practice UCP, improving their
understanding of the diverse motivations and methods of UCP.
Overall, the many positive effects on practitioners described by our respondents speak to the importance
of several of our good practices, including close coordination with other UCP groups, and encouragement
of personal growth and self-care.
Harmful Effects on the Practitioners
While most respondents from UCP organizations were very positive about the effect their UCP work had
on them, there were some regularly reported negative effects that we think it is important to highlight.
Some respondents reported being unclear on what happened to their substantial reports and whether they
led to any outcomes. As a result, some practitioners come to doubt the value of their work, becoming
cynical about the larger impact.
Some UCP practitioners have faced violent threats and risks to themselves. Respondents had water
thrown on them. They suffered thefts of notebooks, verbal abuse, and sexual harassment. More rarely,
some respondents have been detained or deported, and a very few have suffered serious injury or death.
These violent experiences have sometimes led to psychological or physical trauma. While some UCP
organizations support their staff in dealing with violent trauma, that support is often inadequate.
There was some debate among our respondents on these risks. Some saw these personal costs as an
important part of their work: in exposing the violence of the occupation, they undermined its moral
standing and thus ultimately benefited protection. However, while several respondents argued that under
some circumstances experiencing violence served this important purpose, several also argued that injuries
and deaths were sometimes unnecessary or due to poor situational awareness or unduly confrontational
behavior, and could perhaps have been avoided if training, tactics, strategy, and even mandate were
As with the positive effects, these negative effects on practitioners speak to the importance of several of
our highlighted good practices, including training, following local direction, and carefully considering
confrontational tactics such as interposition.
Helpful Effects on the Long-term Conflict Situation
In considering effects on the long-term conflict, we draw on the approach to conflict transformation
utilized by John Paul Lederach. Lederach argues that conflict transformation entails addressing four
dimensions of conflict: personal, relational, structural, and cultural. It goes beyond “ending something we
don’t desire” to “constructing something new” embedded in the ways of just peace (Lederach, Conflict
Transformation, 2003). He defines conflict transformation as envisioning and responding to “the ebb and
flow of social conflict as life-giving opportunities for creating constructive change processes that reduce
violence, increase justice in direct interaction and social structures, and respond to real-life problems in
human relationships” (Lederach, 2003, pp. 390-97). To that end, our analysis of long-term effects does
not look solely at political dimensions but include these larger dimensions of transformation.
More International Understanding and Attention
Many of our respondents, both in and out of UCP organizations, reported that UCP groups have impacted
the international understanding and attention to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In particular, injuries or
deaths of activists, such as Rachel Corrie of the ISM, have brought significant media attention to the
conflict. In addition to seeking to influence the media, several international groups have created large
advocacy populations back in their home countries. Documentation and data collection from UCP groups
has led to communities knowing the hot points of violence and key statistics that have been used in
various educational courses. Reports also create a historical record for a broader look and potential legal
use in the future.
Increased Israeli and Palestinian Self-Reflection
Several Israeli respondents reported that Israeli UCP groups have stimulated more self-reflection among
Israelis, particularly about dramatic issues such as home demolitions and the arrest of children. While
some fear the occupation has become a non-issue for many Israelis, other Israeli UCP groups see some
progress and continue to educate and expose through tours, events, and media.
Many UCP groups have enhanced the nonviolent efforts of Palestinians and some have challenged
Palestinians on stone throwing and other violent tactics. These efforts spur some self-reflection in some
Palestinians about resorting to violence as a response to the conflict. As far as some groups combine
protection practices with trauma-healing and dialogue across the conflict parties, they also contribute to a
deeper transformative reflection in all parties. Such reflective practice is a key to transforming the long-
term conflict, well beyond ending the occupation.
Transforming Violent Actors
Combatants for Peace have helped former participants in violence to change their behavior and even
commit to nonviolence. As former combatants they provide a unique, effective model of former Israeli
and Palestinian violent actors transforming and cooperating nonviolently for a just peace. Even in the
midst of conflict, such witnesses powerfully affect some of those prone to violence.
challenge stereotypes of the “other” as inevitably violent or evil. Such stereotypes are a means by which
cultural violence perpetuates direct and structural violence in this conflict situation.
Increased Solidarity and Practice of Nonviolence
Some UCP groups have increased the solidarity and the practice of nonviolence by actors in the conflict,
which may impact the long-term conflict. This has been achieved through building close relationships
through deep life-sharing and the witness of UCP groups that nonviolence is the most effective way to
transform the conflict. Thus, they have enhanced the practice of nonviolence, particularly in Palestinians,
which has contributed to healing some internal Palestinian conflicts, built up civil society, and even
improved the impact of nonviolent campaigns such as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.
Maintaining Some Palestinian Property and People
The short-term protection of individual homes, farms, and other Palestinian property has important
ramifications for the long-term conflict beyond the immediate protective impact. Insofar as the current
state of the conflict has been critically shaped by the “facts on the ground“, preventing the facts on the
ground from shifting towards more settlement and fewer Palestinians in vast sections of the West Bank
creates pressure for a conflict settlement in line with international law. This is a key impact on the
structural dimension of the conflict.
Many UCP groups engage in some form of advocacy, such as legal work or lobbying on government
policy. Respondents reported that this experience has increased individual, community, national, and
international advocacy related to this conflict. Some Israeli and international UCP groups have influenced
the UN on this issue. The coordination efforts of the protection cluster have improved advocacy through
mechanisms such as standardizing messaging around “collective punishment.” Some international UCP
groups have impacted the growth of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, particularly
regarding settlement production and companies profiting from the occupation. The European Union has
been an increasingly notable example of BDS related activity.
Harmful Effects on the Long-term Conflict Situation
Many of our respondents voiced concern either that their work was having little impact on the long-term
conflict, or that their presence had a negative long-term effect. Several noted that the individual victories
achieved by UCP, as well as the tolerance of international UCP organizations by the Israeli authorities,
supported the Israeli government’s narrative of a “humane” occupation. To that end, some respondents
This particular witness may especially stimulate what other researchers have identified as mirror neurons, in others who are on
the scene prone to violence. Activating these neurons draws them physiologically closer to nonviolence, which makes them more
likely to consciously choose nonviolence sooner. See Metta Center, “Mirror Neurons.” http://mettacenter.org/definitions/mirror-
In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it
complies with international law and Palestinian rights. Most groups focus BDS on the settlements but some include products
from the rest of Israel as well. See http://www.bdsmovement.net for more information.
It is important to note that while some organizations explicitly encourage their participants to participate in this type of
explicitly political advocacy upon their return, others take a very different approach. EAPPI, for instance, only asks its EA
volunteers to relate the stories of their experiences when they return to their home countries, and leaves any more explicitly
political advocacy up to the individual.
argued that protection should take a back seat to advocacy that would focus less on preventing day-to-day
violence and more on undermining the deeper structural violence of the occupation. While we consider
this an important potential effect to note, since it was a common theme among our respondents,
identifying a substantive effect is more empirically problematic. Thus we simply note the comments here
and discuss the question in more detail in the dilemmas section, to which we now turn.
3.6 Dilemmas and Challenges
In this section we present several of the most prominent dilemmas and challenges facing UCP
organizations in Israel/Palestine. Many of these dilemmas are common to all of the UCP organizations
interviewed for this study and were described in similar ways by different organizations. However,
several other dilemmas reflect the different choices in mandate, organization, and practice that
organizations have chosen. They thus reflect debates on good practice that respondents from various
organizations shared in the course of interviews. Because the value of these practices were reported
inconsistently by different organizations we discuss them here as challenges.
Mandate and Group Proliferation: Are There Too Many Different Mandates and UCP Groups?
As discussed previously in the good practices section there are multiple international, Israeli, and
Palestinian UCP groups in this region with sometimes similar but sometimes very different mandates.
While many respondents described the current networked structure as a strength, questions remain about
its relative benefits and challenges. In particular our respondents having so many groups caused confusion
within the Palestinian community, with attendant effects on protection trust, relationships, and media
Some respondents argued that having multiple, diverse UCP groups is good based on a theory of
“blocks.” Some groups can fill the blocks at the bottom as long as there are other groups filling in the
other blocks. The ability of various groups to fill different roles or blocks was emphasized by many of
our respondents. For example, some groups have closer connections to the local population and thus are
better able to generate social mobilization, while other groups with more government connections are able
to generate more dialogue with Israeli government officials. Respondents also argued that this multiplicity
of groups allows more types of persons with different skills to participate in UCP activity, which may
increase impact or at least the numbers of people potentially engaged in advocacy.
However, this model was not without its challenges, and some respondents argued that having one or two
large UCP groups with some smaller diverse groups might be a better model than so many small, diverse
groups. The current system of many smaller groups with different staff/volunteer turn-over times makes
institutional memory and coordination difficult. It can lead to confusion among Palestinians who may
confuse different groups’ mandates and may have false expectations of what particular groups do, which
can at times be dangerous.
Respondents reported that a structure of multiple small groups also leads to some Palestinians choosing
some groups over others to trust with information. This can be good if it leads to more Palestinians
overall sharing information, but can be challenging if the information is not coordinated well among
groups. At times this information is not coordinated well due to staff limitations. At other times, for
instance in regards to TIPH, the group’s mandate explicitly prevents sharing of timely, detailed
information with other UCP groups. These informal or formal limits on information-sharing can limit the
effectiveness of the current structure of a network of small UCP groups.
Mandate: Protection vs. Systemic Change - What Should Be the Emphasis of UCP Groups?
Another dilemma related to mandates, which UCP organizations in this conflict face, is whether to focus
on immediate protection or on systemic change. Focusing on protection keeps the mission specific and
feasible, but it can leave systemic issues that arise as a result of the occupation such as trauma or lack of
Focusing on the systemic conditions that give rise to the need for protection could perhaps prevent
violence in the long-term as well as transform the conflict. But t in the short-term it could mean more
people harmed by direct violence, perhaps even in ways that escalate destructive conflict. Another trade-
off is that the UCP groups, especially the international ones, could become more entrenched, extending
their deployments for the long-term. And finally, a focus on systemic change may be more likely to be
interpreted as “political” by local actors, undermining the nonpartisan character of UCP work, an issue we
discuss at more length below.
UCP groups focused more on protection in this conflict include Machsom Watch, TIPH, and MPT. UCP
groups more in the middle include EAPPI, CPT, ISM, and Operation Dove. UCP groups more focused on
systemic change include B’Tselem, ICAHD, Combatants for Peace, and Holy Land Trust.
This challenge of addressing both short-term protection needs and long-term needs for systemic change
may be a point in favor of having many, diverse UCP groups. When there are effective groups in the
conflict area working on systemic change, then UCP groups are in a better position to focus on protection.
Yet if such groups working for systemic change are not in place, or if the need for change is particularly
urgent, then UCP groups may need to focus more on systemic change.
Contrarily, if the need for protection is high, even when there is a lack of capacity to work for systemic
change it may still be wise to deploy UCP groups focused on immediate protection since this may help
create the conditions for the emergence and successful work of groups focused on systemic change. We
address this question in more depth under the dilemmas on advocacy and short vs. long term goals below.
Deployment Length: How Long Should UCP Members Commit?
International UCP groups have widely divergent periods of deployment, from as little as three weeks to
one month, three months, six months or even several years. Organizations with shorter deployments see
several significant advantages to this model. It makes participation more attractive to international
activists, increasing the total number of participants. It led to the rapid growth of a large network of
former UCP practitioners back in their home countries who could engage in advocacy and other conflict
transformation activities on the home front. Finally, having an expectation of a short-term stay freed
participants to engage in more confrontational tactics with less fear of being deported since their
expectation had only been for a short stay and the organization’s model did not rely on them being present
in-country for a long period of time.
Yet many respondents also emphasized the importance of long-term deployments as crucial in building
trust, institutional memory, and local relationships. While organizations with shorter-term stays cultivated
relationships at the organizational level, making individual long-term stays less important, UCP
practitioners with longer stays in Israel/Palestine evidenced crucial advantages in quotidian operational
knowledge which short-termers had to rely on to make their work effective.
One possible approach to this dilemma is to match the length of commitment with the mandate. For
instance, if the mandate is primarily about protection or solidarity then longer commitments, such as six
months or longer may be more appropriate to allow practitioners to build up the crucial stock of local
trust, day-to-day knowledge, and practical and technical skills which will make them most effective. If the
mandate is primarily activism and enhancing Palestinian nonviolent resistance, then shorter commitments
might be fruitful. If the mandate is primarily about advocacy then something in the middle, around three
to six months, may be most appropriate.
Staffing: Who Should UCP Groups Hire?
Should UCP groups hire Israelis, Palestinians, or internationals? While each population offers unique
strengths, and diversity is valuable in itself, the particularities of what each population brings creates
multiple dilemmas and challenges. For instance, Israelis may be the best people to de-escalate violence
from soldiers due to their perceived legitimacy as Israeli citizens, their ability to communicate in Hebrew,
and their access to the Israeli public and local media. Yet there may be barriers to some Palestinians
Presence of internationals communicates international solidarity, “confuses” the calculus of violence, and
attracts international attention to situations of violence and abuse and thus pressure for change. Yet
internationals are often limited by visa requirements, ignorance of the local language, culture, and
politics, and perceptions of creating dependency. At times, international activists are even seen as outside
agitators, potentially exacerbating soldier or settler violence, and de-legitimizing local struggles.
Palestinians have the highest level of local knowledge, bring impressive expertise to these organizations,
and can build a deeper sense of trust with the local community. Yet they face significant risks of violence
when engaged in UCP work. They can also be imprisoned for long periods of time and face movement
restrictions and potential conflicts based on local clan or political party dynamics.
As mentioned previously, most organizations attempt to leverage these various advantages and
disadvantages by incorporating different communities into their work or cultivating close relationships
with organizations from one of the other major communities. Specific efforts include hiring Palestinian
team members or field coordinators, EAPPI’s use of a local reference group that includes equal numbers
of the three major religions in the region, intentional efforts by international UCP groups to include
Jewish persons from other countries on their teams, and close coordination with Israeli UCP groups.
Other organizations such as Combatants for Peace and Ta’Ayush intentionally incorporate both Israelis
and Palestinians in equal numbers in their leadership structure.
Positioning: Where on the Spectrum of Partisanship and Nonpartisanship Should UCP Groups Land?
The issue of partisanship/nonpartisanship is hotly contested and one of the main dilemmas for UCP in this
context. By nonpartisanship we mean not taking a side(s) in a conflict whereas by neutrality we mean
being passive in a conflict. UCP groups that choose a greater or lesser degree of nonpartisanship may still
be active players in a conflict, and thus, not neutral.
Mahony and Eguren describe the position of nonpartisanship as one in which UCP groups say: “we will
be at your side, but not take sides against those you define as enemies” (Mahony and Eguren 1997,
p.236). Some respondents described themselves as nonpartisan in terms of the politics of the conflict but
on the “side” of principles such as human dignity, human rights, conflict transformation, or international
law. Being “for” these elements are of course social and even political positions, however, they are not
necessarily the same as taking the full political position of a core party to the conflict. One respondent
fervently argued: “one cannot be impartial in regards to justice.” Yet in a conflict where questions of the
meaning of justice are deeply contested, even this standard raises troubling dilemmas.
Several respondents argued that in an occupation, where the military, political, and economic power
between the two sides is highly unbalanced, taking or appearing to take certain political positions is
unavoidable to the basic mission of preventing violence. Thus, in this case, most UCP groups explicitly
oppose the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of their mandate, a stance that
causes most if not all of them to be identified as on the “Palestinian side” of the conflict. Yet, UCP
organizations in other conflicts with unequal power dynamics have maintained stricter nonpartisan
Other types of power beyond these traditional dimensions may also be important in determining a UCP
organization’s positioning along the spectrum of nonpartisanship-partisanship. For example, integrative
power; the ability to draw parties together through acting in accord with human dignity, regardless of the
other’s actions, may be one important aspect of power to consider. So, does the “opposition to the
occupation” positioning help or harm protection work? Beyond the occupation position, should groups
limit their advocacy to particular violations of human rights and particular violent situations? Or should
they advocate on a broader set of political questions? Most UCP organizations that take explicit political
positions only go as far as “ending the occupation” or “ensuring human rights.”
No group that we spoke to identified a detailed political solution to the conflict as its mandate, and many
vigorously objected to identifying themselves with any position on the most appropriate way to end the
conflict. However, it is important to note that in the Israeli/Palestinian context, phrases such as “respect
for international law” and “ending occupation” are often considered, particularly among Israelis, to be
basically equivalent to advocating for a two-state solution that would turn over all or most of the occupied
West Bank and Gaza Strip to Palestinian control and return Israel in large part to its pre-1967 borders. A
few Israeli respondents laughed at the idea that organizations which advocated “ending the occupation”
were advocating anything meaningfully different from a two-state solution.
Some UCP practitioners argued that “pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli” framing does not adequately express
the complexities of the conflict, and that there are not simply two sides. Some conceived of multiple sides
in civil society and governments, or of one “side” in humanity. Even those with Palestinians in leadership
roles argued that this practice does not make their organization “pro-Palestinian” in a strict sense, because
their group does not advocate for a particular political solution, even if they explicitly support Palestinian
On the one hand, some respondents argued that if UCP groups intend to be less connected to the people in
civil society, then it is more acceptable to be impartial. On the other hand, others argued that if UCP
groups work with highly political Palestinian actors, which may be critical to building good local
relationships, then it is important to be partial. For instance, some respondents claimed that in cities like
Ramallah Palestinians generally “don’t want any interaction with Israelis“, so clear partiality for
Palestinians is a key. However, in places like South Hebron, Israeli UCP help for short-term protection is
generally welcomed, so clear partiality is less necessary and perhaps even harmful.
Some UCP groups argued that they were partisan, but to principles of international humanitarian law and
human rights, stances which, while they might be interpreted by some as being “pro-Palestinian” could
not be reduced to a purely political stance and still reflected openness on the question of the most
appropriate resolution of the conflict. Others described this as “principled impartiality“, which means they
do not take sides in the conflict and do not discriminate but they are not neutral in terms of human rights
and international humanitarian law. Respondents suggested that such a position can be helpful for
advocacy. Yet, respondents reported that this nuanced position is often communicated poorly to the local
community. They seek to end the occupation because it is harmful to both peoples, so in that sense they
are present for both peoples. However, does this translate into protection of both peoples?
Several Israeli respondents reported that Israelis hear being in favor of “international humanitarian law”
as code for being against Israel, so even though some groups claim impartiality most Israelis and even
many Palestinians perceived them as being pro-Palestinian. Some respondents suggested that UCP groups
should be more open to Israeli and settler concerns and be willing to protest Palestinian violence. Some
UCP groups do seek to reduce Palestinian violence, particularly stone throwing, but these efforts may not
be widely communicated. Other UCP groups, while saying their general political position is simply for
human rights, do not consider it their role in a situation of occupation to directly protect both parties.
Some respondents claimed that to have an effective impact on protection UCP groups need to go further
and convey they are there to protect all people at risk of violence, since this gives them greater credibility
with all sides. Some UCP groups do claim to protect all sides, but this is not the same as implying there is
a balance of need or of violence. For instance, some groups, such as CPT, say their work is not about
choosing a side, but that Palestinians have a greater need for protection and they are there first and
foremost to protect the people most vulnerable to violence.
Positioning on the question of partisanship/nonpartisanship has also had important implications for the
shape and effects of different groups’ protection work. Different groups’ level of partisanship radically
shaped their goals and the specific strategies they pursued to reduce violence.
For example, groups positioned more towards nonpartisanship such as TIPH, EAPPI, Machsom Watch, or
Combatants for Peace have identified major points of effectiveness such as engaging government actors,
building a wider and more consistent presence on the ground, reducing the abuse of Palestinians at
checkpoints, and modeling transcendence of violence respectively.
More partisan groups, such as
ICAHD, CPT, MPT, and ISM identify primary positive effects such as reducing home demolitions and
rebuilding homes, showing solidarity with and protecting Palestinian school children, protecting
Palestinians from abuse and arrests, and empowering nonviolent resistance respectively.
While all of these groups argue that these effects reduce violence towards civilians, we find adjudicating
to what degree partisanship has helped or hurt the effectiveness of particular groups a question beyond the
scope of what this research can address. In brief, the question of nonpartisanship is a crucial challenge for
many of the UCP organizations profiled in this study, particularly those that are primarily international.
Although insights can be harvested, no easy or straightforward solution was apparent from our
Local Direction vs. Independence of UCP groups: How Much Independence Should UCP Groups
Maintain in Determining Their Strategy and Practices?
Although most groups clearly identified local direction as a good practice, the “degree of discernment”
UCP groups maintain remains a dilemma. On the one hand, if UCP groups commit to a high level of local
direction with little questioning or independence, they can gain more credibility with some locals and
perhaps sustainability with both local empowerment and buy-in. However, the local voices a UCP group
follows could be a narrow group, could be unwise at times in their analysis, and could be using the UCP
group to further unjust practices. Another disadvantage could be inadequate relations with all the parties
to the conflict.
On the other hand, if UCP groups commit to local direction but maintain greater independence from
specific local partners, then advantages are a more mutual relationship, which models a healthier way of
transforming the conflict, a more multi-perspective analysis, and openness to a broader set of relations
with other parties in the conflict. The disadvantage is the temptation to or the perception of becoming too
controlling of the strategy and disempowering local actors, which can create passivity or unhealthy
As we have discussed above, different UCP organizations handle this question in different ways. EAPPI
draws on a local reference group for direction. Other UCP organizations, such as CPT, hire locals on their
staff and include them in direct decision-making of strategy. Others follow the direct lead of key
nonviolent resistance leaders in the deployed area, although they still claim “not to simply do whatever
the locals ask.” TIPH reports to the two governments, who agreed to TIPH’s mandate. Yet, within that
framework, TIPH maintains some independence about what they report, and how they engage the
governments as well as civil societies. Many of the Israeli groups that work in Palestinian areas will take
their lead from Palestinians. Although when Israeli UCP’s are working on Israeli society or government,
there is more independence.
Some respondents wondered if TIPH is too tied to the government elite, particularly the Israeli
government, and thus lack adequate “independence” for more effective protection work. Others wondered
if ISM is too tied to the aggressive Palestinian resistance, and thus, lack adequate “independence” for
more effective protection work.
In this particular conflict with entrenched distrust, high risk of manipulation, and multiplicity of actors, it
appears particularly important to maintain some degree of independence, or at least to select one’s local
For B’Tselem, the primary effects have been empowering Palestinians with cameras, decreasing both abuse and court
punishments of Palestinians, and educating Israeli society.
For Operation Dove, the primary effects have been a strong sense of solidarity, protection of Palestinian shepherds and school
children, and successful nonviolent resistance to maintain land and build civil society in a particular village.
partners and maintain those relationships with great care both for the sake of the protection and better
impact on the conflict.
Advocacy: Should UCP Groups Do Advocacy? If So, to Whom and How?
This is a particularly salient dilemma in a conflict so embedded in structural violence. Does advocacy
help or hamper protection capability and impact? If UCP groups do advocacy, should they focus more on
advocacy or protection? While a number of UCP groups seek to excel in both, there are tradeoffs for all of
these organizations in time, resources, staffing. What is the right balance?
Respondents from several organizations reported that international advocacy had led to restrictions and
hassle from the Israeli government, as well as suspicion and attacks from some settlers. Some suggested
that this is simply the price that must be paid to do advocacy well and that the benefits in terms of
achieving political change outweigh the costs. Yet there are real questions regarding the impact of these
increased restrictions on day-to-day protection work. If organizations are engaged in less advocacy work,
then they might be less hampered by the suspicion advocacy produces. Yet other respondents argued that
it is protection efforts themselves that create suspicion and roadblocks, and thus sacrificing the political
benefits of advocacy in the hopes of improving protection would be counterproductive.
Several respondents argued that international advocacy should be directed almost exclusively to home
government actors and expressed skepticism about the potential impact of advocacy towards religious
communities or civil society groups. TIPH is a prominent example of a group whose reporting and
“advocacy” is solely government-based, since they are legally restricted from publicly releasing any of
their reports. This grants them direct access and dialogue with government officials, but appears to limit
their trust with the local community and the protection they can thus offer to them.
A common theme from our respondents was that UCP groups must do advocacy because of the primarily
structural nature of the violence and the urgency of the injustice as settlements continue to grow and the
mechanisms of occupation continue to deepen. Without political action, respondents argued, protection
efforts often only buy time, since the underlying political problems remain unresolved.
Respondents argued for several specific strategies of advocacy. Some emphasize ensuring accountability
for specific human rights violations. Others say advocacy should include more attention to boycott,
divestment, and sanctions from settlement production or those profiting from the occupation. Still others
emphasized the religious dimensions of the conflict and called on religious actors in the U.S. and
elsewhere to offer a prophetic voice to prevent the growth of extremism. And finally, some UCP groups
have created specific campaigns to stop international funding for organizations that support settlement
activity and restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians.
Some Israeli UCP organizations focus their advocacy on Israeli society through avenues such as public
events, tours, and local media, in order to influence the Israeli government. However, other respondents
argued that the Israeli public is too reconciled to the situation, and thus argue that Israeli UCP
organizations should focus more on international community actors such as the UN, governments, and
civil society leaders. However, those doubting Israeli society also argued that Israelis may engage the
issue more and in good faith if they get a clearer sense that their security is more ensured.
Some respondents argued that in general advocacy needs more vision and strategy. Thus, UCP
organizations should work towards or at least encourage local partners to form clear political solutions,
not just towards raising awareness of the conflict. Yet other respondents argued that advocacy should
focus on specific human rights issues rather than on larger political stances on the conflict such as “end
the occupation.” They argued that positions such as “end the occupation” simply cut off the necessary
dialogue to actually make progress, and that once the specific human rights issues are better addressed the
conditions for a just political solution will be more favorable.
In short, the character, degree, and audience of advocacy by UCP organizations all remain highly
contested among our respondents. While most agree that some advocacy has important effects on
protection, beyond that point of agreement there is a wide divergence of opinion.
Dialogue Partners: Should UCP Groups Seek to Build Relationships and Communication With All
Parties In the Conflict or Just With Some?
This dilemma is related to the positioning and advocacy dilemmas, but on a more specific and practical
level. Many UCP organizations struggle with whether, even if perceived as “pro-Palestinian”, they should
still seek open dialogue, or even interaction at all, with Israeli soldiers and settlers. The major issue
brought up by respondents in this regard was trust. Even without dialogue with soldiers and settlers,
building trust with the local Palestinian population can be a challenge. If UCP organizations seek to build
actual relationships with these Israeli groups, even if the relationship-building is done solely with the
intention of improving their protection work, it may seriously harm this limited amount of trust and create
a perception of UCP organizations as collaborators or normalizers. In turn, some more nonpartisan UCP
groups tend to make efforts to build closer relationships with Israelis, while the more partisan UCP
groups are more careful and limited in any interaction with Israelis.
The question of recognition is also relevant for this dilemma, particularly in regards to dialogue with
settlers. Several respondents expressed a feeling that interacting with, engaging in dialogue, or some kind
of formal relationship with settlers would imply recognition of the legitimacy of the settlement
movement, a political statement fundamentally opposed to their mission. Other respondents expressed
concern that, even were they to reach out, Israeli settlers and soldiers would have little or no interest in
dialogue with them. Thus the act of seeking to establish dialogue would have little or no benefit and
potentially large costs in undermining trust with the Palestinian community.
Dialogue and Cooperation with Other UCP Groups
As mentioned previously, many UCP groups cooperate informally or formally. This is particularly true of
the international groups, many of whom have quite close and cordial relationships. Formal cooperation
through the UN protection cluster also incorporates over 100 local and international groups cooperating.
Yet, close cooperation is by no means universal across all groups in this cluster, nor those engaged in
UCP work, and it brings up several challenges. For instance, some groups express resistance to
cooperation with Israeli UCP groups due to Palestinian direction. This has frustrated some Israeli UCP
groups seeking more Palestinian partners. They particularly critique the “anti-normalization” argument
from some Palestinians.
In a different take on this dilemma, the governmental nature of TIPH is an obstacle to formal contact with
most other UCP groups. Respondents expressed concern that more formal or regular connections with
groups operating in an ambiguous or quasi-legal fashion in Israel would put TIPH’s position with the
Israeli government at risk. However, there is internal debate within TIPH about relations with UCP
groups. Some respondents from TIPH did report that the relationship does often operate the other
direction, with other UCP groups contacting TIPH for support in emergency situations, and asking them
to be present at particular incidents.
Further, some groups avoid contact with more “provocative” international UCP groups. At times, there
seems to be an assumption underlying some of this avoidance, which is that “provocation” or conflict is
generally an unhealthy thing for UCP work. For instance, some government-based groups and groups
which focus largely on dialogue tend to avoid such “provocative” UCP groups.
This distance between groups was concretely demonstrated in Hebron during our observation of the
weekly “settler tour” through Palestinian neighborhoods. Each Saturday, a group of 10-25 settlers goes on
a religious tour with 25-30 soldiers surrounding them. When we observed this event, four UCP groups
were present, yet they positioned themselves in very different spaces as soldiers spread out along the
narrow street. ISM had cameras regularly flashing a few feet from the soldiers who were closest to the
settlers and detaining Palestinians trying to walk by. CPT was next closest, but EAPPI was also about a
few yards away documenting on notebooks, yet also between the soldiers. TIPH was about 25 yards away
watching with cameras around their necks and just outside the last soldier position.
This encounter demonstrated several points. First, it showed that the level or distance of UCP cooperation
is in part driven by mandates. While three of the four groups gathered afterwards to compare notes, TIPH
did not. The experience also illustrated the use/non-use of greater confrontation, as some were willing to
engage or even hope to stir a constructive conflict by being close to the soldiers or flashing cameras
frequently, while others stood far away.
The physical positioning of the groups in the event also strongly communicated the positioning of the
UCP groups regarding partisanship, not to mention their closeness to or distance from the Palestinian
community. The closer the UCP group was to the soldiers, the more partisan they are usually perceived,
and generally the closer relationships they tend to have with the Palestinian community. The ISM
activists seek to catch any harm or violation on film to provide strong evidence as well as let the Israeli
soldiers in charge know they are being closely watched, so they get close. CPT, in this case, and EAPPI
are focused on data collection to report to other groups and identify patterns. TIPH stays far away due to
the decision-making power of the former military/police TIPH patrol person, who may be seeking to
restrict exposure to potential risk of violence. Yet, while such positioning signals their presence, it also
signals acquiescence to the authority of the Israeli soldiers.
Some degree of interaction between UCP practitioners and IDF soldiers is unavoidable due to the
pervasiveness of the system of occupation. Almost all of our respondents from UCP organizations
described some common understanding developing through regular interaction between their members
and the soldiers deployed to their areas. However, beyond this initial baseline level of interaction there
was significant disagreement over the appropriate levels of contact and friendliness of interaction.
Some UCP groups try to make human connections with soldiers whenever possible. Some engage soldiers
in questions, on the spot participatory theater to express feelings, and sometimes direct challenges. Israeli
groups speaking Hebrew often have better impact on soldiers and thus regularly interact. Some directly
call Israeli commanders to hold ground-level units accountable. Motherly Israeli UCP practitioners often
treat soldiers as young kids with the hope of tapping into something deeper than their job. Some offer
events, such as movies, to stir questions in soldiers or soon-to-be soldiers. Some dialogue has led to
changes in behavior, tears, and even departures from the military. Combatants for Peace is the most
prominent example of a UCP organization engaged in this type of individual transformation. Some talk
with Israeli soldiers in order to keep them accountable to Israeli law or to stop settlers.
Some Palestinians encourage UCP groups to interact with soldiers to de-escalate their abuse, and even
some Palestinians will directly interact. However, other UCP groups normally avoid interaction or
dialogue in order to protect their relationships with Palestinian partners. Some Palestinians are extremely
wary of any contact with Israeli soldiers. Soldiers have noticed this and even tried to intentionally
discredit UCP groups by calling out to them as if they were friends, for example saying things like:
“thanks for the pizza” or “thanks for hanging out last night.” Meanwhile, some UCP practitioners try to
not only avoid dialogue but even intentionally disrupt or “annoy” soldiers so they cannot do their mission
or at least will get distracted from harming Palestinians.
Israeli Government Relations
In addition to person-to-person dialogue with soldiers, several UCP organizations have debated the degree
to which they should interact with the Israeli government. Some respondents argued that dialogue will not
lead to a policy shift and will primarily legitimate the occupation, make the fundamentally unequal
conflict seem equal, and undermine trust with Palestinians. Other respondents reported some benefits in
protection through on-the- ground or informal contacts but eschewed formal organizational contact.
Several respondents said dialogue with the Israeli government was a good idea because ultimately
decisions by the Israeli government are necessary to solve the occupation. Others pointed to short-term
benefits from dialogue with the government, such as greater on-the-ground access. Many Israeli UCP
groups do try to directly relate and influence the Israeli government, and some of the international UCP
groups affirmed their efforts. There is a division of labor that functions on this issue as some groups
(TIPH, Machsom Watch, B’Tselem, C4P) emphasize relations with the Israeli government, while others
(ICAHD, EA, CPT, Op. Dove, MPT, ISM) do more direct protection and international advocacy.
Some respondents claimed that having regular access to authorities is improved when the UCP
organization avoids public advocacy. Yet the avoidance of advocacy in order to maintain government
relationships raises a challenge of needing to guard against “self-censorship” in what the UCP group
reports or calls for dialogue on.
Organizations based on the coordination of six governments, such as TIPH, may also have difficulty in
forming consensus on talking points to bring up with Israeli and Palestinian government partners.
Sponsoring governments can be too focused on national self-interest, obstructing progress in dialogue and
dealing with injustices. In contrast, an NGO-based UCP organization could get such access perhaps with
less conflict of interest, and thus, potentially more impact on injustice and protection. A challenge in this
context is that the NGO-based UCP groups are generally seen as or explicitly claim to be “activists“,
which limits access to some authorities.
Legal registration with the Israeli government is another major challenge, particularly for international
organizations. The divergent strategies pursued by various international organizations are displayed
prominently in their differing strategies for entering Israel/Palestine. Some come on tourist visas and do
not disclose their intention to engage in protection or advocacy work. TIPH members come as part of a
registered organization with the Israeli and Palestinian governments.
Those with legal registration have more access, greater leverage, more communication with security
forces from both sides and usually a clearer role, which is well-understood by the major parties. They also
enjoy more consistent staffing, with little or no fear of internationals being arrested, deported, or not
allowed back in the country.
However, legal registration is not an unqualified positive, since it also leads to significant restrictions on
organizations’ actions. For example, several respondents reported that TIPH’s high level of
confidentiality was crucially important in protecting their legal status. This confidentiality and heavy
engagement with the Israeli government were reported as reducing the trust of the local community,
which can hamper protection and the “feeling of security” aims.
Some respondents argued that if UCP groups need funding from Israeli society then legal registration may
make sense, but groups can lose some administrative time and not necessarily get more access or
government influence. Others suggested legal registration might be helpful for building a movement but
would have ambiguous impacts on protection. Some had considered attempting to gain legal registration,
but were concerned that applying and then being denied might result in a government crackdown, making
even entering the country on tourist visas unfeasible. Several respondents argued forcefully that if a group
does seek legal registration, they must be particularly vigilant to not allow manipulation of their
protection work in order to “hold on to legal registration.” Some respondents expressed concern that
merely applying for legal registration would give even more power to the Israeli government, and would
thus undermine their efforts to change the extreme power imbalance of the conflict.
This is a pervasive problem for the semi-legal groups which some respondents reported as imposing not insignificant
On the other hand, some respondents encouraged UCP groups to work legally and be fully transparent
about their work, and spoke against international activists entering Israel on tourist visas. They argued
that this approach creates suspicion and roadblocks in dialogue with Israelis. They argued that a more
honest approach with the Israeli government would lead to the Israeli government allowing them to do
UCP work and move more freely, ultimately increasing the UCP organization’s capacity to protect.
Many of our respondents had strong emotions about interacting with Israeli settlers. They vigorously
disagreed about whether such interaction would discourage settler violence or whether it would
undermine UCP work. Some UCP organizations, especially international ones, argued that any formal
dialogue with settler groups would cost them the trust of Palestinians. They also expressed concern that
such dialogue would confer legitimacy on the settlements, saying they would engage in dialogue only
when “settlers leave the land they took.”
Some respondents argued that dialogue and interaction with soldiers in tense situations is more productive
than talking with religiously radical settlers. Some respondents even suggested that some settlers enjoy
annoying internationals, making interaction with soldiers more beneficial. This general opposition to
formal dialogue does not imply that UCP groups have no interaction or lines of communication with
settlers. Somewhat regularly, UCP groups will interact at least in a minimal sense to de-escalate settler
hostility or prevent direct violence. That said, most UCP groups do not maintain more consistent lines of
communication with settlers.
Nonetheless, other respondents argued that by excluding settlers from any meaningful dialogue UCP
organizations risk seeming “pro-Palestinian” and not really interested in human rights and safety for all.
Some UCP groups report violence from all parties in order to create a better space for Israeli/Palestinian
dialogue and transformation of the occupation. Some groups do a bit of protection work as well as formal
dialogues through trauma-healing programs. The thinking here is that much of the violence is driven by
trauma, so to have a significant impact on violence requires facing and transforming the trauma. Some
Israeli UCP groups also invite moderate settlers to events, such as dialogues or movies.
Regarding potential Palestinian interaction with settlers, some respondents argued that any contact with
settlers must be made through credible Palestinians, not through internationals, and as part of a strategy
for Palestinian resistance. Further, they suggested that if the Palestinian movement is strong then it is
more acceptable to reach out to settlers. Other respondents suggested that day-to-day contacts between
Palestinians and settlers were the best avenue for dialogue. For example, respondents suggested that
Palestinian shop owners who interact with particular settlers daily and thus have relationships with them
could be effective in influencing their behavior. Respondents also described elderly Palestinians who have
some relationships with elderly settlers getting settlers to apologize after violent events.
The settler population is extremely diverse, providing some points of leverage for reducing violence.
Even within the more religious settler community there is a wide diversity of opinion on the appropriate
way to interact with the Palestinian community or international UCP organizations. Respondents reported
that in some settler communities, settler leaders can have some impact on reducing the violence by more
extreme settlers. Yet they also said that younger, more radical settlers feel under attack and disappointed
with older settler leaders for their actions during the “dis-engagement” from Gaza in 2005. Thus, peers
have more credibility with some settler youth.
Some respondents reported that less-destructive settlers visiting from other settlements could dissuade
settlers from violence. Others reported that some settlers have turned in violent settler youth to the Israeli
police. Stopping settler violence is a frequent topic of conversation on a settler community listserv. Yet,
respondents from the settler community doubted whether settlers would be willing to organize an
unarmed settler protection group to prevent other settlers from doing violence. That said, we do of course
have examples of other Israelis forming UCP groups, so more investigation into this option would be
Respondents reported that some settlers want more dialogue, but feel that language describing the
occupation as an “illegal system” cuts off these opportunities. These respondents reported that their
narrative is not being heard. Some educational institutions have made some efforts in the area by
organizing formal inter-religious dialogues. They say anyone is welcome to the conversation, even the
extremes if they are willing to talk. They argue that exposing people to a broad array of groups can be
helpful to creating space for the kind of dialogue that may reduce violence.
In one example of this dynamic, a Rabbi from a settlement learned about Tent of Nations, an educational
and environmental farm which seeks to build bridges between the local communities (Tent of Nations,
2015). He then reached out to an ecumenical educational institution to arrange a meeting. This occurred
and a Palestinian from Tent of Nations was invited to visit the Rabbi’s home in a settlement. The
Palestinian was previously involved in violence but changed approaches after his brother was killed by a
soldier. The Rabbi brought 20 other very religious settlers to his home and some of their mentality was
changed. They created an organization that continues this kind of encounter and dialogue.
Human Rights and Human Dignity For All: Should UCP Groups More Clearly Recognize the Dignity
of All? If So, How Should This Get Expressed? Should They Promote Love of Enemies, Especially
Christian UCP groups?
Many UCP organizations draw on the theme of universal human rights to justify and orient their work. It
is one thing for UCP groups to affirm a commitment to human rights, but how closely is that connected to
recognition of human dignity for all people? Does it show up in the training, within the attitudes of UCP
members, in particular practices, and in understanding of effective protection? How important is
extending the recognition of human dignity of all to an orientation and practice of love of enemies? Is this
of broad importance for protection work? Do Christian groups have a particular responsibility to make
Some in the community experience some UCP organizations doing work that appears to uphold the
dignity of some but not all people. Thus, the UCP claims made for defending human rights may be
undercut or even ring hollow, and, by extension their credibility to protect may be undermined. Yet, if
they make more intentional efforts to express the dignity of all this may harm trust with some
Related to but extending the issue of dignity, some UCP groups have a particularly Christian orientation
and have thus incorporated the love of enemies as a key value. Yet it is not clear if and how this value is
enacted in their UCP work. In light of the ongoing distrust and intractability of the conflict, this may have
a particularly important role. However, it may be difficult to accept for key actors in the field, and thus,
perhaps obstruct protection work.
Some UCP groups seek to affirm the dignity of all by telling the truth of all stories, even if they involve
Palestinian violence towards Israelis, by hearing all perspectives, and by challenging Palestinians who
engage in violence. Others, such as EAPPI, affirm human dignity by including equally Jews, Christians,
and Muslims on their advisory committee. Combatants for Peace express dignity by existing as a bi-
national organization of Israelis and Palestinians, with an equal share of decision-making.
Some UCP groups say they serve Palestinians but still see settlers and soldiers as brothers and sisters, a
perspective even included in their training. Such a view is a way to express love of enemies. They also are
willing to protect settlers and soldiers if that is the immediate situation. Some have written about love of
enemies in press releases and statements, particularly after receiving death threats. Yet, one respondent
said that when they are invited for patrols, they admit they are often not focused on their love of enemies.
Another in the same organization said they do not try to stop Palestinians from throwing stones, which
could be one way to express love of enemies. Entering into dialogue with, naming the good in, willing the
good and generating empathy for, or facilitating trauma-healing of the adversaries, such as soldiers and
settlers, could be other ways of expressing love of enemies. Yet, care is needed when one communicates
“love of enemies” to those who have suffered immensely.
Some respondents said that accepting the other as human is a key to ending the conflict. For instance,
people or organizations who expect their commitment to human rights to seem credible, must clearly and
concretely respect the dignity of all people, which is the basis for human rights. They might legitimately
put more energy into protecting those whose rights are most threatened, but any sustainable success in
this effort will requires a commitment to the human dignity of all people.
This question of human dignity relates to the previous discussion of nonpartisanship, as well as particular
tactical questions of levels and forms of dialogue with various actors. As with those discussions, the
particular expression of these values of human dignity is deeply complex in a context of ubiquitous
mistrust and highly imbalanced levels of most types of power. All of our respondents from UCP
organizations at least nominally valued universal human dignity, and some found concrete ways to live
that out. Many respondents also went so far as to express love of enemies as a value as well. Yet how to
incorporate these values consistently in ways that honored the complexity of the situation and did not
undermine the effectiveness of their work remains a major challenge.
Trauma-Healing: Should UCP Groups Link More with Trauma-healing, Restorative Processes, or
Public Health Approaches?
Presently, most UCP groups do very little trauma-healing or restorative processes. Those that are more
clearly connected to these processes tend to do very little direct protection. Yet, as the occupation
continues and even grows, trauma is doubtless a central driver of continued conflict. Some said that
seeing the other as human is what will end the conflict. They suggest that ending the occupation will not
end the conflict unless this humanization occurs. The question of whether UCP groups should make
trauma-healing and restorative programs a part of their work, or at least more direct and regular referrals,
was a vibrant area of discussion.
Some respondents expressed a need for protection groups to be more involved in trauma-healing as key to
lowering violence and increasing protection. They pointed out that these practices were critical since most
violence comes as a response from people who are themselves experiencing disrespect, harm, and other
types of violence. Trauma was identified by some as one of the key drivers of the conflict, with one
example being the common use of or comparison to “Nazis” to justify violence (Kern 2010, 169, 172,
Holy Land Trust (HLT) and the Wi’am Center are two Palestinian organizations with trauma healing as
an important part of their work. HLT also offers trauma-healing between Palestinians, Israelis, and
Germans, as well as training in nonviolent communication and nonviolent resistance, while Wi’am offers
mediation and reconciliation for Palestinians. HLT also participates in UCP through travel and encounter
trips which include protective presence at olive harvests
Trauma healing efforts may be a key to achieving many UCP organizations’ ultimate goal of ending the
occupation as well as to improving protection outcomes. But are they just as important, or even more so
than strengthening “nonviolent resistance” efforts? It may be that political agreements that address
structural elements will not be reached without adequate trauma-healing and trust-building. Even if they
are reached, sustainability may be an issue, as political agreements so often fall short or fail completely.
There are multiple avenues in which trauma healing could be incorporated into the work of UCP
organizations. For instance, organizations that explicitly do development work, such as TIPH, could
emphasize programs as trauma healing, restorative processes, or nonviolent communication training.
Others say that referring people to these programs may be helpful, but the focus needs to be on direct
protection and/or on advocacy.
Related to the issue of trauma-healing/restorative programs and UCP is the public health approach to
violence in communities, which identifies violence as a disease in need of treatment. This perspective
inspires the work of Cure Violence, an international UCP group considering a program in Palestine. They
hire street credible persons to utilize or build key relationships that will enable them to “interrupt” the
transmission of violence in a community. They also work to change the norms of the community
regarding violence. This public health approach could help increase the capacity and commitment to
nonviolent practices, which may indirectly strengthen the nonviolent resistance of Palestinians that many
present UCP groups on the ground are trying to support. By strengthening the nonviolent resistance, it
may also increase and improve the impact of the advocacy that others consider an urgent need.
In sum, trauma-healing seems to be a key need for the conflict and some UCP connections have been
made, but these connections remain limited, and we wonder how best to incorporate such programs into
the work of the organizations currently on the ground. The public health approach offers one broader
paradigm that could make such connections more understandable and effective.
Nonviolence: What Should the Commitment to Nonviolence Look Like?
Respondents expressed many questions about how much UCP organizations and members, as well as
protected/supported persons and organizations should be committed to nonviolence. Key questions
included the impact of a commitment to nonviolence on protection work, as well as the specific character
of nonviolence. While all were usually in agreement that UCP practitioners should commit to refraining
from direct physical violence,
and most Israeli groups lean towards a general commitment to
nonviolence, at least as a political strategy, respondents disagreed about the value of additional
commitments to refraining from emotional/psychological/spiritual, cultural, and structural violence.
For instance, TIPH hires military and police as part of their patrol teams and the Head of Mission has
consistently been military. Thus, these persons may have a temporary and politically strategic
commitment to nonviolence. Although they officially have a “right to bear arms“, they presently do not
choose to exercise this right. Some claim these persons trained in armed action better understand
“security” than civilians, so they are important in the field. They also seem to provide some “credibility”
to other Israeli military actors.
Others claim such persons have caused problems in the team because they are often dis-interested in the
work, less personable, focused on punishment for resolving internal issues, impatient rather than
reflective and open to discussion, and want controlling about “security” decisions due to “disrespect” for
civilians regarding security. We wonder if other drawbacks or impacts may be related in some ways to
their approach to nonviolence, such as TIPH’s lacking strong connection to the community, facing
noticeable distrust, having their headquarters attacked, and even having two off-duty persons killed.
The commitment to and understanding of nonviolence in a UCP group is a key to how that group assesses
“security”, and therefore, how they do protection. For instance, is “security” thought about more as
requiring attention to physical violence in the area, a focus on punishment and threat to deter, and creating
distance between adversaries, or is it really more about paying attention to cultural, structural, and direct
violence, restoration of harm, building and healing relationships, and increasing connection between
adversaries as themes like “human security” and “just peace” have been helping us to see? If the
commitment to nonviolence is deep in both personal and social dimensions, then that normally correlates
with recognizing and approaching security strategies more in terms of the second description, which is
more sustainable and transformative. Thus, for UCP groups maybe the civilians, who may bring a
different set of habits, character, attentiveness, as well as a broader experience with nonviolence, actually
do more for “security” both within the team and externally. In turn, for groups like TIPH should civilians
not trained in armed action be the ones solely on the streets, while a military person perhaps could be
stationed in the office as a liaison to Israeli military leaders?
While almost all UCP groups share some kind of commitment to nonviolence, they express this value in
various ways. For instance, some UCP groups will not accompany persons with guns or provide presence
TIPH is a possible exception since it does not require a commitment to nonviolence and maintains its personnel’s right to self-
It is still debated who killed these persons, but Israeli military court did convict a Palestinian.
at houses where guns are kept. While most agree that a commitment to physical nonviolence is central to
their work, groups varied in their commitment to “deeper” versions of nonviolence, more akin to a virtue
approach, which can include anti-oppression work within the team as well as spiritual practices and
values, such as love of enemies.
One particular expression of this difference was in various groups’ attitudes about deceiving or
misdirecting Israeli authorities. Some UCP groups intentionally and explicitly deceive authorities on the
grounds that this can further their protection work. Others viewed such deception as deeply problematic
and out of line with a more Gandhian, personal and social, view of nonviolence, which sees it as
intimately and inextricably connected to truth.
Respondents who practiced this kind of explicit deception argued that it was necessary in this particular
context, and in no way out of step with a commitment to nonviolence understood as the absence of
Yet those respondents with a commitment to the more truth-based conception of
nonviolence argued that deception was a damaging practice with harmful effects such as communicating a
lack of clarity on who to trust and increasing deception in relationships. In more formal evaluations of
UCP, it may be helpful to assess the link between the type of commitment to nonviolence and the impact
of protection work.
Direct Intervention: Should UCP Groups Intervene? If So, Under What Circumstances and How?
Respondents reported a wide variety of opinions on direct intervention. Some viewed it as an important
part of their work, and at times expressed disappointment towards those who refused to engage in direct
intervention. Others argued that intervention was at times damaging and counterproductive.
A UCP practitioner who intervenes incurs risk and may at times unhelpfully escalate a situation.
International practitioners who intervene can be arrested, deported, and prevented from re-entering Israel
for a period of many years, causing staff turnover. Israeli practitioners can be arrested and banned from
the occupied territories. And Palestinians who intervene face the most dramatic consequences of all, with
potential arrest and indefinite detention, and very violent reprisal. A few respondents believed that
refraining from intervening earned UCP group’s greater access and respect from officials and some
soldiers, which may improve their ability to change these people’s behavior.
Some respondents from UCP organizations expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of intervening in
some circumstances. For instance, they advised against it if the Palestinians involved in the incident do
not want UCP practitioners to intervene or if their intervention would “steal space” from Palestinians who
are ready to overcome being “victims” and to “pay the price.” Some described physical intervention as
needlessly confrontational and sometimes unhelpfully escalatory. For instance, if cameras/video, presence
or verbal intervention is sufficient, then they advised against physical intervention.
Respondents who advocated for more direct intervention pointed to the importance of intervention in
directly protecting the civilian population, and thus not only would they be doing their job, but they
would also earn more credibility with those in need of protection. Such credibility can lead to greater
access to “street” information and protection results. Others pointed out that such physical nonviolent risk
can also encourage others to use nonviolence in the midst of conflict and violence.
Some groups use interposition precisely when it strengthens the nonviolent resistance by “creating a
larger space and a firmer courage.” For some the risk is understood as part of the process of exposing the
violence of others to lessen their moral standing. If they don’t intervene some Palestinians may then doubt
their impact and even wonder if they are simply perpetuating a “softer” occupation.
CPT previously had a significant emphasis on “getting in the way“, including interposition. However, this
became less of an emphasis and more one method among others, primarily as they began to highlight anti-
oppression work, issues of power/privilege, and local direction.
Notably, these same respondents explicitly respect the “rights” of Palestinians to use violent resistance.
Different UCP groups have various methods of direct intervention. Some UCP groups intervene verbally
or physically with bodily interposition when Palestinians are being harmed by soldiers or settlers. This
has occurred successfully during both low-intensity and high-intensity violence. Respondents described
two prominent examples of the latter during armed clashes with Meta Peace Team in the city of Tulkaren
and ISM in the Church of the Nativity. With MPT, as described earlier in the case study, staying in a
visible location and gradually approaching the house Israeli soldiers were moving towards was followed
by an end to the firing from Israeli soldiers. In the case of ISM, activists put their bodies in the Church
that was getting fired upon, a factor they argued was critical in stopping the bombardment.
Some UCP groups that do physical intervention do not intervene in Palestinian on Palestinian matters,
because they expect the Palestinian police to do that. Some UCP groups only intervene to protect
children. Some UCP groups only use verbal intervention. Some UCP groups focus on “active cameras
and video” as a way to interfere if not directly intervene. Some claim not to directly intervene at all, and
only to monitor, report, and be present with the hope this will dissuade violence either in the immediate
moment or at least in the long-term.
It is notable that in this context, those UCP groups that usually do not intervene, such as TIPH or EAPPI
are also those most interested in claiming nonpartisanship. But this is not a necessary correlation as UCP
groups in other conflicts have been willing to intervene and also clearly commit to nonpartisanship.
wonder how such an approach would play out in this context.
In short, direct intervention of various kinds is a matter of significant debate among UCP organizations in
Israel/Palestine. While many were skeptical of its effects, and counseled caution in its use, others saw it as
key to achieving the goals of their work. Several respondents expressed a belief that this dilemma was
best responded to through the existence of multiple organizations with various mandates. The varying
practices in regards to intervention were painted by many respondents as complementing one another. Yet
significant debate remained within almost all of the organizations about appropriate forms and levels of
Humanitarian Aid and Development: Should UCP Groups Be Directly Involved in Humanitarian Aid
or Development Work?
Whether or not to provide direct humanitarian aid or economic/social development funding was another
dilemma our respondents discussed. Doing so can of course meet urgent needs or relieve poverty and lead
to institutional growth. These activities can protect people from homelessness, illness, hunger, and some
types of abuse. However, there can be drawbacks to such efforts that can affect other, sometimes more
direct protection goals.
Several key questions related to this dilemma over whether these efforts would improve the overall
protection and whether they would improve nonviolent resistance. More negatively, respondents
questioned whether development work might take capacity away from direct protection, undermining
local support because of competition over funds.
Some groups do development work directly through providing funds for economic projects. Other UCP
groups contribute indirectly by accompanying humanitarian organizations delivering food. Some UCP
groups contribute to capacity building, usually focused on nonviolent resistance organization or at times
local unarmed protection actors. Others do a smaller mix of protection activity and a larger focus on
education or trauma-healing. Some respondents reported that one of the under-attended to issues related
to protection and development is ecological, such as the increasing toxic chemicals from settlements
polluting Palestinian areas.
Some respondents said that economic development projects give UCP organizations visibility and
popularity, particularly when not normally engaged with civil society actors. Yet, others wondered if it
For instance, the Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan or the Philippines. See case studies in this research project.
creates “winners/losers” within the Palestinian community, which leads to unhealthy competition and
division in Palestinian society. It may also erode Palestinian support for the UCP organization, especially
if it is already at some distance from civil society actors. If this group or even other UCP groups that are
closer to civil society offer economic grants, this might skew the protection information they receive
because of some locals trying to “get credibility” with the organization in hopes of improved chances at a
grant, or it might restrict information because of some locals feeling slighted about not getting a previous
Some UCP groups accompanied the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders to deliver food (Kern 2010,
160). They also directly delivered food when Hebron municipality workers were denied access, but they
soon found out they did not have enough for everyone, including children. This approach did feed some
hungry people, but it also led to some morale issues within the UCP group (Kern 2010, 145). Yet, in other
conflicts, such as South Sudan, there is growing collaboration between humanitarian or development
organizations and UCP organizations, particularly regarding the former seeking some protection services
from the latter. This can be an improvement to relying on armed security or even UN armed
peacekeeping, especially in light of the pattern of struggles with sexual abuse and exploitation.
Language of Protection: Is “Protection” the Best Language For What UCP Groups Offer?
Several of our respondents expressed discomfort with using the term “protection” to refer to their work.
While some were simply not familiar with this language, others wondered about the implications it has
regarding power and privilege.
Some UCP practitioners expressed concerns that the language of protection “assumes a lot” about power
dynamics and even creates difficult expectations. They preferred “accompaniment” or “solidarity“,
because of the greater implications of mutuality in these terms. Further, “protection” language can
contribute to an unhealthy dependency by the locals on outsiders for their protection needs, especially if
there is not a concerted effort to train and build local capacity for unarmed protection. If there is such an
effort, then perhaps “protection” language can function fruitfully. In this context, CPT has incorporated
local Palestinians onto their staff, B’Tselem has trained Palestinians to use cameras for protection needs,
and the Israeli UCP groups are local Israelis. However, more effort in this area, particularly with
Palestinians, might be beneficial.
As mentioned earlier, there is also the common experience that locals who sense the culture and habits
better have at times served to “protect” the outsiders. This occurs by early warnings, tips on who to trust,
and even directly intervening in situations. So, at the very least what’s often called a “double or mutual
protection mechanism” needs to be acknowledged and even embraced.
A key advantage with the language of “protection” is that it directly challenges common assumptions that
protection or security comes from weapons. It recognizes that protective environments are created by
close relationships and life-giving initiatives of cooperation. So, “unarmed civilian protection” language
helps to shift the imagination and cultural horizon in ways that can actually improve broad trends in
meeting the human need for safety. With all the abuse and human rights violations in this conflict, there is
certainly a need to challenge assumptions about the means to security.
Constructive Conflict: Does the Presence of UCP Escalate the Conflict or Even the Violence?
Some respondents expressed concern that the very practice of UCP might escalate violence and conflict.
This raises a dilemma of how to discern constructive conflict versus destructive conflict. UCP is not the
same as nonviolent resistance, since UCP focuses on protection or reducing violence while nonviolent
resistance focuses on changing an unjust practice or system. However, there is some overlap generally
regarding modeling nonviolent responses to conflict and building capacity for such responses. In this
conflict many UCP groups are directly supporting local nonviolent resistance efforts.
Those reflecting on the practice of nonviolent resistance point out that conflict itself can be constructive,
particularly when the dignity of all is practiced. Good historical examples of this would be the
Montgomery Bus Boycott during the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. with Martin Luther King Jr., or
the Salt March in India with Gandhi. In Palestine, the nonviolent resistance in At-Tuwani exposed
injustice and led to the official protection of the land and the building of a school and a health care
facility. Similar efforts during the First Intifada also exemplified constructive conflict. Thus, there are
appropriate times to escalate a conflict in part to expose the violence and injustice of the oppressor.
However, if the resistance resorts to intense insults, physical abuse or, some would say, stone throwing,
then the line between constructive conflict and violence has likely been crossed.
At times, when UCP organizations are present in Israel/Palestine, especially with cameras, some
Palestinians appear to escalate not only the conflict, which is understandable in a resistance approach, but
also acts of violence in order to instigate soldiers to get caught on camera. This pattern raises several
challenges for UCP groups, including the need to communicate ahead of time or have clear lines of
communication with such actors in the midst of the event. Otherwise, this violence could spread not only
in that moment but in future events when the UCP group is present, thus undermining the protective
capacity of the group. To this end, some UCP groups will not protect or support any violent actors or
activity. Some even dissuade nonviolent resistance actors from engaging in insults and physical abuse,
while others attempt to directly prevent stone throwing.
On the other hand, some UCP groups do not challenge violence by Palestinians, at times because of
previously agreed obedience to local Palestinian direction. They would argue that it is generally up to the
Palestinians how they want to resist. Yet, such an approach does increase the risk that the presence of
such UCP groups could escalate violence. Further, sometimes such UCP members directly engage in
insults and deception which can be a destructive form of conflict by stirring de-humanization and
Sometimes the mere presence of UCP practitioners can agitate. Several respondents reported that settlers
have sometimes become agitated by the presence of international or Israeli UCP practitioners and thus
increased their harassment of Palestinians. This presents a challenge for UCP groups to discern
constructive conflict in particular situations. For instance, in a constructive way an agitated settler may
get distracted from harming a Palestinian and turn towards an international, an example of protection of
the Palestinian (though of course a risk to the UCP practitioner). On the other hand if violence towards
Palestinians and Israeli UCP practitioners becomes more intense when internationals are present this
could be destructive conflict and perhaps counter to the mission of UCP.
In sum, this challenge of constructive conflict reflects the importance of several of the good practices
discussed in the previous section, such as local direction, intensive training in the dynamics of the current
situation, and respecting human dignity. While some types of escalation or provocation may be helpful in
some circumstances, discerning these circumstances is challenging, and relies on these good practices to
A related challenge for UCP groups is the practice of damaging property not just by some Palestinians but
by members of the UCP group itself. Those who do this argue that if the property is directly part of the
occupation, such as a roadblock, then it is just to remove or damage it. Some Palestinians trying to get to
land, extended family, health facilities, or other important locations often appreciate such action. Other
UCP groups avoid this practice in order to focus more on protecting people, homes, or land; as well as
according to some respondents to not escalate the conflict “unnecessarily.”
Our respondents disagreed about the most effective way for UCP groups to make decisions. These
decisions get made in planning spaces as well as in the field. The process often creates habits in the
individual persons, which may or may not benefit protection work. There was a general spectrum of
models from a flat, consensus-based decision-making structure to a more hierarchical structure.
Consensus may help in getting buy-in and preventing single egos from directing programs in harmful
ways, but may be driven by groupthink or too slow in urgent situations. Hierarchy may be able to clarify
roles and make more efficient decisions.
Several UCP groups primarily rely on consensus and address urgent decisions by using prior consensus-
based designations of crisis roles ahead of time. For instance, one group designates an “anchor” rather
than a “director.” These groups often explicitly see the means as the seeds of the ends, in other words, the
process is as important as the aims. An advantage to this approach is the embedded attention to the long-
term, which is a key for such an entrenched conflict.
In contrast, other UCP groups rely on hierarchy, which serves to keep roles clear and can speed up
decision-making. If everyone understands his or her role, how it fits with the others, and how others are
fulfilling their roles, than this structure can offer some benefit to protection. For instance, the protection
work could address multiple issues and dimensions to the conflict. A challenge is that these groups have
struggled keeping members on the same page about their mandate, how it gets implemented, and whether
their individual roles actually contribute. This can create unrealized potential from some members or even
passivity, both of which limit the protection work in the field.
Exit Strategy: How Valuable Is a Clear Exit Strategy For UCP Groups? How Best to Develop it?
The question of exit strategies was only discussed directly or indirectly with a few respondents. Yet, these
responses indicated some of the problems of not having a clear exit strategy. Some expressed a belief that
a clear exit strategy was important. Yet a dilemma remains about how valuable an exit strategy is and
how best to develop it. On the one hand, it may be really important for setting clear boundaries. On the
other hand, it could be of little importance in such a dynamic and entrenched conflict. Questions of how
important an exit strategy is to overall strategic vision and whether UCP groups should include a clear set
of criteria for when to exit the conflict, or simply remain as long as they are wanted, are central to this
All UCP groups have some invitation or legal requirement for being present. So, one potential approach is
to simply say that once the local group or governments the UCP groups are affiliated with decide they no
longer need or want them, then it is time to exit. However, there are limits to this approach. For instance,
some respondents argued that if the UCP organization does not develop a broader set of indicators then
the organization becomes more susceptible to being manipulated, losing energy, and actually becoming
counter-productive to both protection and conflict transformation. UCP groups closely affiliated with
governments are probably most at risk of these issues. However, other UCP groups affiliated with civil
society are also at risk, particularly if they create an unhealthy dependency or passivity in the local
population, or if mutuality is not adequately embodied such that the UCP groups become mere tools.
Short vs. Long Term: Does UCP Perpetuate the Occupation?
A pervasive issue which all of our respondents discussed to some extent were the potential contradictions
between short-term goals of protecting individuals from violence and long-term goals of ending structural
violence and the conflict. The congruence between the short and long term is by no means unproblematic.
Several respondents discussed concern that their presence “lightened” or ameliorated the particular
brutalities of the occupation, ultimately making the deeper structural violence more bearable and
undermining the potential for greater conflict transformation. Even the most explicitly pro-Palestinian
organizations admitted that their presence in some ways legitimizes the Israeli government’s narrative
about the “humane” nature of the occupation, and thus supported the rhetorical justification for its
Yet this perspective by no means made UCP groups argue that the best course of action would be to
withdraw. Some respondents argued that the Israeli government can make the occupation bearable even
without UCP, so UCP groups are not perpetuating the occupation. In contrast, the monitoring, publicity,
and advocacy aspects of their work undermined the narrative of a “humane” occupation and thus affected
the deeper conflict dynamics. Some respondents argued that the occupation is made more “bearable” not
by UCP groups but by humanitarian aid groups such as USAID and the EU, whose aid is often directed in
ways that heighten Palestinian dependency on Israel, for instance through paying the electric bills which
Palestinians owe to Israeli corporations, rather than encouraging the local production of electricity and
other necessary services.
Some respondents argued that achieving long-term political change requires vision and strategy more than
UCP. Some respondents even argued that protection is too often a diversion from political advocacy and
even a mere version of conflict management or resolution. They argue that the key violence in this
conflict is bureaucratic (or structural) violence, so direct protection has less value and advocacy is a
This could point to the need for UCP groups that do advocacy to better coordinate, scale-up their efforts,
and focus on key decision-makers (see the advocacy dilemma above). Others say the main struggle is
against greed and control of resources, so in order for UCP to be helpful or at least not a diversion, this
must be acknowledged in advocacy materials and strategy. These arguments all push against the focus on
direct or immediate protection and towards more comprehensive, strategic approaches to the conflict as a
One group of actors who experience this tension between short-term achievements and long-term goals
are the Israeli human rights lawyers who work in the occupation military courts. Respondents spoke very
highly of their work and their dedication to protecting Palestinians from unjust or arbitrary detention on
spurious grounds. Yet others expressed concern that the presence of Israeli defense lawyers legitimized a
faux-legal system which is fundamentally illegitimate because it does not represent the interests of the
Palestinians being tried in it.
Another example of this dilemma is embodied in TIPH, which was agreed to by both government parties
in 1994, but also claims to be a voice for international law. They argue with many others that settlements
are illegal in an occupation according to international law, yet these settlements have been continuing to
grow even over the 20 years or so of TIPH’s presence. TIPH is able to engage the Israeli government in
some discussion and get some unspecified behavior changes, but if they do not change behavior there are
no other consequences identified as part of the agreement. Every six months the two governments in the
conflict determine whether TIPH will continue. There is also no clear “exit strategy“, but as long as the
governments of the conflict agree to their presence, they plan to stay to help “contain” actors prone to
Some groups argue that UCP impacts the occupation and longer-term trends of the conflict by increasing
international understanding and attention, increasing Israeli and Palestinian self-reflection, offering
effective witness to transformation of violent actors, increasing solidarity and practice of nonviolence,
maintaining some Palestinian property and people, and increasing advocacy, such as in the growth of the
BDS movement. Yet while such effects can be pointed to, some think that their impact on the actual
dynamics of the conflict is not impossible, but difficult to evaluate.
Concluding Thoughts on Dilemmas and Challenges
The complex environment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led the various UCP organizations
present there to adopt a number of different approaches. While several common values and practices are
apparent, as we highlighted in the good practices section, major points of disagreement remain. Yet we
believe that the details of these dilemmas and challenges also provide critical information for the practice
of UCP, and can offer many lessons for other UCP organizations around the world.
As with all of our analysis, to do justice to our respondents we must emphasize the contingent nature of
these challenges. Respondents spoke from their particular experiences, and emphasized again and again
that they did not know how the challenges they faced might translate to UCP in other places and in
conflicts with different dynamics. The political structure of occupation and asymmetric conflict in
particular run through almost all of the good practices, effects, and challenges we have discussed here.
Applying these insights to other contexts will require careful attention to the principle we discussed at the
beginning of the good practices section: deep, contextual knowledge, based on the situational and political
expertise of local partners.
Having presented the main points of our analysis, we now move to offer some concluding thoughts which
bring together these sections.
This case study was a fascinating experience in part due to the type of conflict and in part due to the
multiple and diverse types of UCP groups engaged there. Understanding the conflict was certainly a key
to grasping the experience of the respondents as well as to identifying good practices. The UCP
respondents were very interested in reflecting on their work and seeking to help the development of the
While, as we have mentioned repeatedly, our respondents emphasized the contingent nature of their
knowledge, some of the core good practices from this study may be helpful in other conflicts where UCP
is or should be deployed. Such core good practices include local direction, clear mandates, language and
culture training, relationship building, and the identification of credible messengers to different violent
actors. Wide and consistent proactive presence, accompaniment, and even in certain circumstances
interposition and intervention were also identified as good practices. Finally, our respondents supported
monitoring, using video, advocating, and enhancing nonviolent resistance.
These practices and others have had a number of healthy effects but also at times some harmful effects.
Respondents consistently reported that UCP activity has diminished violence from soldiers, settlers, and
Palestinians. Palestinian school children have been protected and enabled to get an education. UCP
practitioners have grown personally and spiritually, but also at times faced harassment, injury, and
trauma. The occupation and the long-term conflict have been affected in some important ways, but the
occupation continues and more is needed to transform the conflict.
Thus, we encountered a number of fascinating dilemmas and challenges. One of the key dilemmas was
about how UCP groups position themselves along the spectrum of nonpartisanship and partisanship.
There are advantages and drawbacks to the different positions taken by UCP groups. However, there is
still some ambiguity both in some UCP actors and in some stakeholders about the most appropriate and
beneficial position to take on this issue. We also noticed that there is not presently a UCP group on the
ground that combines NGO status, nonpartisanship, and willingness to regularly directly intervene.
Another key dilemma was related to short vs. long-term impact, particularly the question of the ongoing
occupation and conflict. Part of this relates to the capacity of UCP groups, but also touches on broader
questions of practices and strategy. For instance, should UCP organizations be doing more and smarter
advocacy? Should they include a broader set of dialogue partners and even promote trauma-healing or
restorative processes? Should they begin to or do more direct interposition and intervention? How deep
should be their commitment to nonviolence and how do they relate to the escalation of constructive
In the end, we come away filled with a great deal of gratitude for the immense courage and compassion
embodied by so many of the UCP practitioners and local stakeholders. There is certainly hope but also
some desperation and serious urgency in many of our respondents. With appropriate adaptation, the good
practices they helped us to identify are very rich in potential for assisting other UCP groups in this and
other conflicts. We encourage future studies to look more closely at the key dilemmas raised.
In the midst of the complexity of conflict it is difficult to formulate explicit recommendations, and we are
cognizant of our own very limited knowledge. Many of our respondents brought years of practice, deep
contextual knowledge, and impressive insights. We are humbled by their expertise and do not wish to
appear to “know better” than our subjects.
However, after reflecting on the practices, effects, and dilemmas, a few explicit recommendations we
would raise here are that UCP groups seek to expand their presence in as wide and consistent a way as
possible, to carefully discern their mission following the direction of local partners, and perhaps most
centrally to cultivate a deeper commitment to nonviolence. We see these as key to wiser strategy, better
practices, and a more sustainable just peace. We hope the good practices and further reflection on the
dilemmas will contribute to significant scaling-up and improvement where needed for the practice of
UCP, and that they may contribute in even a small way to reducing violence in a world that desperately
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