Gush Shalom (Hebrew: גוש שלום, lit. The Peace Bloc [Coalition]) is an Israeli peace activism group founded and led by former Irgun and Knesset Member and journalist, Uri Avnery, in 1993. The left-wing organization has been involved in several Israeli controversies, such as sending a “Relief Convoy to Gaza” while it is under Hamas administration, and has elicited the mainstream Israeli media to describe it, on occasion, as "radical" and "extreme". The American Friends Service Committee has described the group as "one of Israel’s most influential peace organizations."
The movement was established in 1993, by Uri Avnery. Avnery stated that he started Gush Shalom because other Israeli peace groups did not take a strong stance against what he considered "the repressive measures" of the government of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Gush Shalom is an extra-parliamentary organization, independent of any party or other political grouping although it has members who are associated with various political parties.
Gush Shalom objects to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and argues that the occupation is illegal and that Israel is committing war crimes on a daily basis. It opposes Israel's policies of blockade and non-recognition of the Gaza Strip. It supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine question, with the 1967 border between Israel and Palestine, and with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.
The movement supports soldiers' refusal to serve in the West Bank or Gaza strip, recognition in principle of Palestinian right of return, and an Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line. Gush Shalom activists regularly confront Israeli security forces at construction sites in settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and along the Separation Barrier. Gush Shalom said that Israel's offer to Yasser Arafat in the Camp David negotiations of 2000 was not a "generous offer" but "a humiliating demand for surrender," publishing the maps from the proposal (seldom published in the US), and an animation from the maps showing how little would be left for a Palestinian state under the proposal Avnery was among the first to meet and negotiate with PLO leader Yasser Arafat. In 2001 the organisation made a peace proposal on the basis of a two-state solution with the 1967 boundaries.
During the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Gush Shalom was a vigorous critic of the Israeil attack on Gaza. Avnery described it as "the Election War" since he believed it was intended to increase the election chances of Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in the planned February elections.
Every left-wing body fears with terror the one who is on its left. The right-wing of the Avoda party is afraid of its left-wing. The left wing is afraid of Meretz. Meretz is afraid of Yossi Beilin, who was pushed out of the Avoda by Amram Mitzna and his leftist friends and that Meretz also didn't give him a realist position on its list. Meretz is afraid of "Shalom Achshav". "Shalom Achshav" is afraid of "Gush Shalom" and the Arab parties.
Praise and criticism
International human rights groups, including Amnesty International, American Friends Service Committee, and others, have lauded Gush Shalom for promoting peace and understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. The AFSC awarded Avnery the "Profiles of Peace" honor for his work for peace. The Haaretz newspaper subsidizes a weekly editorial statement by Gush Shalom in its weekend edition.
Israeli journalist Uri Dan, a close friend and confidant of Ariel Sharon, described Gush Shalom in the Jerusalem Post as "lunatic fringe" due to the group's statement that they are monitoring Israeli soldiers activities and will consider submitting collected evidence to international courts. Dan described the announcement as "preparing to inform on their brother soldiers - who are defending them too."
Isi Leibler, an influential Jewish leader and commentator, criticized the group for techniques that mirror images of the Soviet models, "exploit[ing] emotions" by creating bodies associated with 'mothers' and 'children', such as "Women in Black" and "Mothers against War". He stated this was done in order to further their interests under the guise of promoting peace, and noted that, in a similar manner, communists also encouraged draft evasion in democratic countries as Gush Shalom are doing. Leibler criticized the group members for "[believing] they and they alone represent the true apostles of peace and those opposing them are fascists, racists, and warmongers", further describing the group as "[part of] the radical wings of Israel's contemporary peace movement".
- . Haaretz, 2006.
Translation: Large organized bodies of Arabs in Israel - among them Hadash and Balad - arrive in masses from the Galilee to the protest in Tal-Aviv in the middle of a war, also that the occasion was joined by the left wing of the Zionist left - such as pastime Meretz chairman Shulamit Aloni and Galia Golan. This, alongside the radical left of Gush Shalom, the refusal movement Yesh Gvul, the anarchists, women's coalition for peace, Ta'ayosh and more. - Original:גופים מאורגנים גדולים של הערבים בישראל - בהם חד"ש ובל"ד - מגיעים בהמוניהם מן הגליל להפגנה בתל אביב בעיצומה של מלחמה, אלא שלמעמד חבר האגף השמאלי של השמאל הציוני - כמו יו"ר מרצ בעבר, שולמית אלוני וגליה גולן. זאת, לצד השמאל הרדיקלי של גוש שלום, תנועת הסרבנות "יש גבול", האנרכיסטים, קואליציית נשים לשלום, תעאיוש ועוד.
- , Yediot Ahronoth, 21.11.2009.
Translation: The extreme left wing movement Gush Shalom - Original: תנועת השמאל הקיצוני גוש שלום
- 'Profiles of Peace: Uri Avnery' (American Friends Service Committee)
- "About Gush Shalom". Gush Shalom. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
- "Aims of Gush Shalom". Gush Shalom. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
-  Flash Animation of "Barak's 'Generous' Offer
- Barak's Generous Offer. Maps of Barak's offer to Arafat at the 2000 Camp David talks.
- "Gush Shalom: Israel not without blame for Hamas takeover". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- Le Monde Diplomatique 10 August 2001 (in French)
- "Uri Avnery: Molten Lead". Scoop. 2009-01-06.
- "Left-wing conflicted on war with Hizbullah". The Jerusalem Post. 2006-07-17. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
- "US policy and the pro-Israel lobby: A university in Jerusalem takes on the debate". The Christian Science Monitor. 2008-06-14. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
- "High Court to rule on settler's radio station". Ynetnews.com. 2008-10-09. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
- Haas, Danielle (2002-08-19). "Israel agrees to partial pullback". sfgate.com. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
- אבנרי, אורי. "דרוש: שרון שמאלני" (in Hebrew). gush-shalom.org. Retrieved 2008-12-14.) Original:
כל גוף שמאלי פוחד פחד-מוות מפני מי שנמצא משמאלו. האגף הימני של מפלגת-העבודה פוחד מפני האגף השמאלי שלה. האגף השמאלי פוחד ממרצ. מרצ פוחדת מיוסי ביילין, שנדחק אל מחוץ למפלגת-העבודה על-ידי עמרם מיצנע וחבריו השמאלנים, ושגם מרצ לא נתנה לו מקום ריאלי ברשימתה. מרצ פוחדת מ"שלום עכשיו". "שלום עכשיו" פוחדת מ"גוש שלום" ומהסיעות הערביות.
- Broken Lives - a Year of Intifada (Report by Amnesty International, 2002)
- 'Profiles of Peace: Uri Avnery'
- "Right Livelihood Award: 2001 - Gush Shalom / Uri & Rachel Avnery". www.rightlivelihood.org. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- Gush Shalom's Jewish informers Uri Dan, in the Jerusalem Post, August 8, 2002
- "The decline and fall of Labor Zionism" by Isi Leibler, in the Jerusalem Post, December 8, 2002