Safety and dignity: Enhancing unarmed civilian protection amongst Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills (Masafer Yatta)

In the South Hebron Hills (Masafer Yatta) of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) there are a 32 small Palestinian farmer and Bedouin communities living and working on land from which the Israeli state and settlers seek to expel them. To support the local resistance numerous actors (Palestinian, Israeli and international) have sought to protect the civilian population from the escalating acts of violence by settlers in which their crops, livestock, dwellings and lives have been targeted. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation concluded that the Israeli state has been using settler violence to cleanse the area of Palestinians.

This research seeks to analyse the history of the twenty or more years of attempts by civilian actors to support the local communities in their attempts to create safer spaces within which they can continue to maintain their livelihoods, hold on to their land and way of life. The case study is particularly significant because of the number and range of actors intervening, each with their own mode of operation and motivation. As such it presents a special opportunity to examine the challenges faced by those seeking to broaden the scale of civilian intervention in violent conflict situations as a basis for sustainable peace.

Project Team

Dr Marwan Darweish is the principal investigator (PI) of the project, with overall responsibility for the management, planning and delivery of the project.

Marwan Darweish has an unparalleled research background in the OPT and Israel. He has conducted many research projects and consultancies with Palestinian and Israeli NGOs and EU about conflict transformation and nonviolent resistance. As a Palestinian with Israeli and British citizenship his political involvements and his fluency in Arabic, Hebrew and English have enabled him to develop a close relationship with many Israeli solidarity and peace activists and with their Palestinian counterparts – a trust relationship that makes his research in this conflict zone so rich and textured.

Dr Andrew Rigby is Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies with the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR), of which he was the founding director.

He began researching and writing about unarmed civilian resistance in the OPT in the 1980s, and has continued his involvement over the ensuing four decades as a researcher, consultant and advocate of unarmed resistance to occupation.

Over the years he has developed a wide network of contacts amongst Israelis, Palestinians and representatives of international humanitarian aid and human rights agencies. He will draw on these contacts throughout the period of the proposed research project.

Dr Mahmoud Soliman is a Research Fellow at the CTPSR, based in the West Bank and closely associated with the Al-Shmoh Cultural Center, a small NGO in the OPT. Mahmoud is a highly regarded activist, community organiser and researcher. He will be ‘in the field’ for the majority of the research project, liaising with key informants, organising the field visits and taking a leading role in the dissemination of the findings of the research the follow up in-country activities. He will be the main contact with a Local Advisory Group (LAG) which will be established as part of the research process.

Mahmoud Soliman in a civilian protection gathering in the West Bank

South Hebron Hills (Masafer Yatta) during spring, Mustard seeds flowers

Internationals accompany children to school passing in front of army vehicle.

Palestinian activists protecting local community from settlers attack