Nafez Assaily

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Nafez Assaily (Arabic: نافذ العسيلي‎‎), born in 1956 in the West Bank, in the Old City of Jerusalem [1] grew up in Hebron, and is a noted Palestinian peace activist.

Life and activism[edit]

Though a Sufi Muslim, he received his early education at Christian schools in Jerusalem, and then began his tertiary studies at An-Najah National University in Nablus, where he majored in English and sociology.[1] There he was impressed, if not wholly convinced, by writers on non-violence as varied as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Martin Buber. A significant moment in his awareness came when he heard a talk given by Mubarak Awad, a Christian Arab, who subsequently founded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in Jerusalem in 1981, which, after his expulsion from Israel in 1988 Awad now directs from abroad, a project on which Nafez collaborated.

It was this talk which convinced Nafez in 1981 that the idea of non-violence was not merely a pipe dream. He has developed his own project of a mobile book-loan service called ‘Library on Wheels for Nonviolence and Peace' (LOWNP) in Hebron in order to encourage reading among the youth of the town, and in particular the study of non-violence.[2] His peace-campaigning is ecumenical, in that it draws on the writings of Gandhi, the Qur'an, the Torah and the New Testament. He often works to advise Palestinians demonstrating in Jerusalem on how to devise slogans that are less generic, and more in keeping with the realities of their everyday life.[2] Jerry Levin, formerly CNN’s Middle East Bureau Chief before he was taken hostage by Lebanese terrorists, and now member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in the West Bank, has singled him out as a 'creative Muslim exponent of non-violent activism'.[3]

He lost the use of sight in his right eye, following his participation in a protest rally at Al Aqsa mosque in October 1990 to protest the deaths of Palestinians killed there the day before.[citation needed] During the protest he suffered from fumes when a gas canister was fired into the crowd by Israeli police.[citation needed] He developed a severe eye infection, and he attributes his loss of sight to the effects of that particular gas.[citation needed]

Peaceful resistance to the confiscation of his property[edit]

Nafez lives on the northern outskirts of Hebron, close to the Jewish settlement of Ramat Mamre or Givat Harsina, one of the four neighbourhoods of Kiryat Arba. Assaily claims that the expansion of Givat Harsina has been at some cost to his family, since much of his own family’s land has been subject to a confiscation order in order to extend the development of Givat Harsina which was established partially on his land. The original family property of some 8 acres (32,000 m2),was purchased by his father in 1959.[4] According to a report by observers from the CPT, the fencing of an expanding perimeter which now abuts his house, has separated Assaily from a grape vineyard he owns, to which he was denied access.[5] Nafez applied for an injunction from the Israeli authorities to stop this unauthorized expropriation of his agricultural land, so far to no avail.[4][6]

Non-violence is the key to peace[edit]

In Assaily's view, since 1948 both Israel and the Palestinians have been unsuccessful in pursuit of their respective goals. Israel in trying to achieve peace and security through the exercise of force, the Palestinians by recourse to armed struggle, therefore, he argues, the time has come for non-violent pursuit of their respective goals.

'Only the Palestinians can give them peace. The US can give them money and weapons but not peace. And the only people who can give us peace are the Israelis. The Arabs can give us money and weapons, but they can not give us peace. We must act on these two facts. More nonviolence, more effectiveness.’ [7]

He continues to expound the philosophy of non-violence, and makes frequent appearances abroad as a lecturer. He was one of the five people featured [8] in Lynn Feinerman's film, If You Make It Possible.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nicoletta Flora, Le pietre dell'Intifada, Rubbettino, 1995 p.190
  2. ^ a b Minke De Vries, Verso una gratuità feconda. L'avventura ecumenica di Grandchamp,Paoline, 2008 p.173
  3. ^ Jerry Levin,West Bank Diary: Middle East Violence as Reported by a Former American Hostage, Hope Publishing House, Pasadena, California 2005 p.xx
  4. ^ a b Nafez Assaily Profile
  5. ^ Soldiers prevent access to Nafez Assaily's vineyard
  6. ^ Christian Elia, Testardo come un mulo: La storia di Nafez Assaily, un pacifista palestinese,
  7. ^ Andrew Rigand, Nafez Assaily, ‘The Intifada', in Nonviolent Struggle and Social Defence, (WRI, London 1991) web access
  8. ^ Feinerman at ImdB
  9. ^ "Putting a Face on Peace" by Allison Kaplan Sommer Jerusalem Post, Dec 18, 1995 summary

External links[edit]