The only source of information most of us generally get about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is what we see or read in mainstream news. We’re skeptical with what we learn since most of us have come to the conclusion that the way in which these media report to us is slanted and biased. Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) is a non-profit organization that aims to promote a network of informed and active individuals that are knowledgeable with real hands-on experience of this conflict to spread and teach others interested in also learning. IFPB is unique in that they aim to empower individuals by sending them to Israel or Palestine to provide support to those who are are already working for sustainable peace. IFPB’s mission is inspiring and their dedicated work to alleviating this conflict is commendable. Take a moment to learn more about what’s in store for their future as we feature IFPB in this week’s Non-Profit spotlight.
November 2000; Became an independent organization in July 2006
About the non-profit
Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) fosters a network of informed and active individuals who understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the United States: political, military, and economic role in it. To build and nurture such a network, we lead delegations of people from diverse backgrounds to Israel/Palestine. These delegations emphasize listening to and learning from those immersed in the reality of the conflict, and advancing the work of Israelis and Palestinians committed to nonviolent struggle and peace with justice. We seek to empower delegates to educate their local communities and the media, counter unfair or inaccurate stereotypes, and advocate for a more just US foreign policy that:
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
We lead 4 delegations a year to Israel/Palestine; there is a lot of recruiting, planning, and logistic preparation that goes into making each one to a success.
After delegations return, we work hard to provide support for delegates’ education and advocacy efforts as they engage their local communities throughout the US and advocate for better US foreign policy on Israel/Palestine.
Most notable milestones
Our first delegation to Israel/Palestine took place in January 2001–four months after the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. We began these delegations at the invitation of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
In April 2002, we lead a delegation that took place despite the massive Israeli incursions into the West Bank and Gaza that month. This delegation ended up participating in several solidarity actions and was among the first international groups to enter Jenin and bring humanitarian aid to the devastated refugee camp.
By March 2007, we had sent 21 delegations and about 300 people to Israel/Palestine. We have made the transition to an independent organization and are looking to continue building our network of educators and activists in North America.
What’s the niche?
Many organizations bring tours and pilgrimages to the “Holy Land.” Our delegations differ from other tours in several ways:
1) Our delegations are a political commitment. We concentrate on learning about the conflict and the people who live there–not just visiting religious and tourist sites.
2) Our delegations provide support for local Palestinians and Israelis who are working for a just and sustainable peace.
4) We have a strong commitment to supporting individual delegate follow-up work after the delegation. The delegations are intended to motivate and encourage action back home in North America to better educate our constituencies and advocate better foreign policy.
What’s the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge, in the words of one of our past delegates, is helping people interested in joining a delegation to overcome their “personal checkpoints” that they face in deciding to join a delegation like ours. These “personal checkpoints” are many, but most often include:
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Working on this issue requires cooperation and collaboration with other organizations. We work with a variety of national and regional groups to increase our collective strength.
Guiding principle in life
Eye-witness experience is transformative. It educates and inspires action—and leads to a better understanding of the situation in Israel/Palestine and US foreign on the issue.
Yardstick of success
This is a tough one. We haven’t effected any massive policy shifts in terms of US support for Israel. But our 300 delegates have returned to their home communities and begun the grassroots organizing—and education—that is essential groundwork for shifting the climate of discussion in the US. Delegates from our trips have given countless presentations, organized solidarity actions, taken part in campaigns for justice, raised funds for Israeli and Palestinian organizations, and many have gone back to Israel/Palestine to work and volunteer for groups working towards peace with justice.
Goal yet to be achieved
End of the Israeli occupation and a just and sustainable peace for all peoples in Israel/Palestine.
Best practical advice
You have to see it to believe it.
The experience changed my life and I continue to be committed to advocate for a peaceful and just end to the situation there. For what it is worth, I highly recommend taking part in this amazing opportunity. You cannot truly understand the severity of the situation until you see it for yourself. Once you witness the truth of what is happening in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories you will be compelled to share your experiences and information with others.
(Donna Nassor, summer 2005 delegate)
I don’t know of any program like this, or any other way you could do as much in such a short time.
(Alta Schwartz, Summer 2003 delegate)
The delegation really has been one of the most valuable experiences of my recent past and our trip continues to influence my thinking on a day-to-day basis, and perhaps some of my actions as well. I think we’d all be much better off if more people attempted to learn more about what’s going on ‘over there.’
(Raja Shah, Spring 2006 delegate)
Our mentors are the Israelis and Palestinians that we meet who live the conflict everyday and work tirelessly for peace and justice. They inform us of the realities of the conflict, inspire us with their action, and show us that another future is possible.
What motivated you to get started?
Before 2000, we had been leading delegations to the Middle East on an irregular basis; the outbreak of the intifada convinced us that more regular delegations with a clear goal of motivating work in the US after the delegation were necessary. We were also invited by several Israeli and Palestinian groups who felt that such delegations were necessary.
Like best about what you do?
Inspiring others for action, hearing about what all of our delegates do when they return to their home communities.
Like least about what you do?
The logistics of making each trip happen can often be quite time-consuming.
What’s in store for the future?
More delegations – we have three more scheduled for 2007. Our May 2007 delegation will focus on the 40th anniversary of the 1967 war, and its lasting affects today. Our July delegation will focus on meeting with courageous Israeli and Palestinian women working in their communities. The November Olive Harvest Delegation will take a close look at Palestinian farmers.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
We welcome all interested in learning more about Israel/Palestine to contact us. Anyone interested in joining a delegation or in working here in the US for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. We’re also looking for support—we are a non-profit organization funded by private donations. Anyone who would like to support our work is welcome to contact us!
|May 30th, 2007, 13:23:26||permalink|
This was a great interview. I really loved learning about the various delegations that Interfaith Peace-Builders has. Such important work. Keep it up!