ISRAEL’S conflict-stricken West Bank
may seem an unlikely place for a New Zealand pensioner in her
mid-70s, but that’s exactly where Christina Gibb has spent two
tours as part of a Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT).
|Christina Gibbs is hopeful
Harmeet Sooden, pictured, taken hostage in Iraq, is
alive. Photo supplied.
Dunedinite, who is talking in Howick tomorrow night, was
inspired to join the CPTs after meeting a dedicated member in
2003. As a Quaker, she was committed to pacifism and keen to
put her beliefs into action.
Ms Gibb first visited
Hebron, south of Jerusalem, as part of a two-week CPT
delegation. She saw the building of the controversial security
wall segregating the city’s Israeli settlers from the rest of
the Muslim Palestinian inhabitants.
After training in
Chicago Ms Gibb returned to the West Bank in 2004 to begin the
first of two three-month postings in Hebron. CPT members, in
the city by Palestinian invitation, work with peace groups
from both sides in the cause of “violence reduction” and human
One duty is accompanying Palestinian children
to school through Israeli military checkpoints and settler
quarters — and interceding when embattled soldiers lean too
heavily on Palestinian residents.
physically get in the way and sometimes we try to negotiate
with the soldiers. We document any human rights abuses we
see,” says Ms Gibb.
“The Israelis are quite
heavy-handed, the occupation impacts heavily on all aspects of
life for all Palestinians all the time.”
She has never
been injured or felt her life threatened. But she was once
briefly detained by Israeli police and avoided their tear gas
only through a fortuitous change in wind direction.
while the violence showcased by the news media remains
unfortunately typical for Hebron, Ms Gibb says most of the
resistance offered to the Israeli occupation forces is
“There’s still a tendency by the media to
treat Palestinians as terrorists, but in our experience the
vast majority are engaged in peaceful resistance – the kind of
resistance of being absolutely determined to stay where they
have always lived, and not to be squeezed out and to carry on
with their every day lives under increasingly terrible
Conditions she says are only exasperated
by the wall and increasingly tight security.
everyday human contact where you get to know people as people
is now very difficult for Palestinians and
Ultimately she considers the conflict the
product of extremists, saying: “There are many people,
Israelis and Palestinian, longing for peace with justice for
everybody there. This conflict is not primarily between
Israeli and Palestinian per se, or between Muslims and Jews;
it’s between those who want peace with justice for everybody,
and the extremists on both sides who don’t.”
Ms Gibb is
part of a CPT Middle Eastern effort that recently made
headlines after Auckland resident Harmeet Sooden was kidnapped
by Iraqi resistance group, the Swords of Truth.
training in Chicago, Ms Gibb met another of the hostages still
held with Mr Sooden, American Tom Fox.
hope for their safety and was heartened by the latest of three
video messages aired on Arabic TV news channel,
She views her fellow peace-makers’
imprisonment as no different from that of other innocent
detainees held without trial at Guantanamo Bay and other
United States detention camps and hopes they’ll all be
returned home soon.
Ms Gibb speaks of her experiences
amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a public meeting
sponsored jointly by All Saints’ Anglican Church and the
Society of Friends on Friday at 7.30pm, in the Haseler Hall,
below All Saints’ Church, corner of Selwyn Rd and The Glebe,
Howick. Phone inquiries to 534-6864.
© Copyright 2006 Times