Peace Now

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israeli peace protest movement.

Peace Now, the oldest, largest, and at times most effective peace movement in Israel, was founded in the spring of 1978 by a group of reserve officers of the Israel Defense Forces who, in response to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's dramatic November 1977 visit to Israel, wrote a collective letter to Prime Minister Menachem Begin, imploring him not to miss this opportunity to conclude peace with Egypt. The letter was followed by a number of large demonstrations in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Begin claimed that these demonstrations impressed him sufficiently to persist in his efforts to conclude the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty the following year.

The Egyptian-Israeli agreements signed at Camp David in September 1978 provided also for further negotiations on the Palestinian question. When these negotiations, which became known as the "autonomy talks," failedand in reaction to the massive increase of Jewish settlements in the occupied territoriesPeace Now decided to focus on the struggle against the occupation in general. This decision put the movement in a direct clash with the Begin government, in opposition to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982 and in protest against the involvement of Israeli forces in the massacre perpetrated by Lebanese Phalange militia in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut. The movement organized a number of massive demonstrations, the largest of which assembled over 250,000 demonstrators (some estimates reached 300,000 and 400,000) in the Tel Aviv Municipal Square.

The success of Peace Now in mobilizing sizable parts of the public against the war drew the attention of right-wing extremists, and Peace Now activists became targets of personal attack and abuse. On 10 February 1983, during a demonstration near the prime minister's office calling for the dismissal of Ariel Sharon as minister of defense, a hand grenade was thrown at the demonstrators, killing Peace Now activist Emil Grunzweig and wounding seven others.

Peace Now is not a membership organization. However, counting the number of signatures on recurrent petitions, financial contributions, and participation in demonstrations, the movement reached at its peak more than 200,000 supporters. In order to maintain is broad cross-party support, Peace Now has declined offers to become an established political party and run in Knesset elections. Nevertheless, a number of its leaders have become members of the Knesset and even cabinet ministers (such as Minster of Immigration Absorption Yaʿel Tamir, Minister of Industry and Commerce Ran Cohen) while belonging to other parties.

Over the years Peace Now has also been heavily involved in dialogue with Palestinians on every level, from the top leadership to meetings of youth and students, as well as in local initiatives. Peace Now was also involved in defending Palestinians whose rights were encroached on by settlers, especially in Jerusalem, where a special litigation institution called Ir Shalem was established. The well-known human-rights watch group B'Tselem was also started by activists of Peace Now.

After 1993, when the Rabin government followed, through the Oslo process, policies long advocated by Peace Now, the movement seemed to lose much of its raison d'être. But the decay of the peace process after Rabin's assassination, during the tenures of Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, revived the movement, whose activities were concentrated during this phase primarily on public monitoring of settlement activity. The outburst of the second Palestinian Intifada after the collapse of the Camp David negotiations in July 2000 left Peace Now discouraged, and reflected a general malaise of the Israeli left. Yet with the continuous financial support of its support organizations abroad it manages to continue its activities and even attract many younger people to the ranks of its leadership. Its most recent initiative was the creation of a broadly based Coalition for Peace in which a number of Palestinian activists, led by Sari Nusayba, the chancellor of al-Quds University in Jerusalem, became active as well.


Aronson, Geoffrey. Israel, Palestinians and the Intifada: Creating Facts on the West Bank. New York: Kegan Paul, 1990.

Bar-On, Mordechai. In Pursuit of Peace: A History of the Israeli Peace Movement. Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1996.

Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock, and Hocking, Mary Evelyn, eds. The Struggle for Peace: Israelis and Palestinians. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.

Kaminer, Reuven. The Politics of Protest: The Israeli Peace Movement and the Palestinian Intifada. Brighton, U.K.: Sussex Academic Press, 1996.

mordechai bar-on