Palestinian co-founder of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and the International Solidarity Movement. He has been a proponent of nonviolent resistance for decades.

Ghassan Andoni is a physics professor at Birzeit University who has combined his teaching with peace activism since 1988. He is best known for co-founding the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, but his peace activities began much earlier.

While a college student in Iraq, Andoni dropped out to work in refugee camps in Lebanon during the civil war there. Returning home from Lebanon he was arrested and jailed for two years for his supposed involvement in the military conflict. His Israeli judge refused to believe that he was a hospital worker and sentenced him for alleged membership in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

“Conflicts are fueled by the tendency of the powerful to exploit the power and the anger and frustration of the powerless, which turns into violence. International Solidarity Movement activists are attempting to confront the exploitation of power and to bring back hope to the powerless.”

During the first intifada, 1987-1993, Andoni was an active participant in the tax resistance movement that took place in Beit Sahour, a town in the West Bank. He expanded his understanding of nonviolence from being a personal position to a public one that, if successfully employed, could lead to a mass movement of liberation.

In 1988, after another jail term for his participation in the tax revolt, he co-founded the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People. The center’s aim was to allow those in conflict to acknowledge each other’s humanity and to work together for a world in which they could peacefully coexist. It did this through dialogue and joint activities between Israelis and Palestinians. As the Israeli military occupation wore on, Andoni and the Rapprochement Center moved from dialogue to direct nonviolent action intended to end the occupation.

As part of this work he co-founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), coordinating international volunteers with Palestinians and Israelis in nonviolent actions that called attention to the oppression created by years of occupation. In working with ISM he has insisted that all international participants commit themselves to nonviolence, both physical and verbal.

As he continued his peace work and organizing among Palestinian youth, Andoni demonstrated an ability to think strategically and tactically. He realized that a nonviolent movement must always be creative and experimental, not staying with patterns of behavior that once may have been successful but that, if made routine, run the risk of becoming rigid and mechanical.

His creative, proactive responses contributed to a growing prominence within the peace community, even as he turned from international work back toward a focus on Palestinian civil society. For this work, the AFSC nominated him and Israeli activist Jeff Halper for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. He currently works for Birzeit University as Director of Communications.

For more information about Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People see www.pcr.ps.

For more information about the International Solidarity Movement see www.palsolidarity.org.