|Nour Shehadeh, Coordinater of Active Nonviolence Network in Tulkarem
accompanied me from the bus station to the MEND office, I was overwhelmed by his evident popularity.
Quite literally every As Nour Shehadeh, MEND Coordinator in Tulkarem, few seconds he would be greeted by
Nour works as the Coordinator for the Northern West Bank, and is a crucial member of MEND. His
commitment to nonviolent conflict resolution has made him a well-known figure in Tulkarem.
The city’s less well-known reputation belies its population of nearly 55,000 people, amongst whom MEND
locates one of its Active Nonviolence Network centres. Indeed, the first regional MEND office was built in
Tulkarem, which now hosts between 500 and 600 volunteers, coordinated by Nour.
These include 20 young Menders, aged 14-17, who are particularly active. They attend twice-weekly
training, put on performances of theatre and dabka – Palestinian folk dance – and recently produced a film
about street children, all of which provide creative and nonviolent expressions for their grievances.
Leadership training was underway when I arrived at the office – ‘What is a leader?’ the question on the
table. Nour provides these workshops to equip the leaders of the future with nonviolent apparatus with
which to challenge the status quo. Recent training sessions have included a focus on Gandhi, and a
comparison of violent and nonviolent outcomes.
38 year-old Nour is not preaching from a position of comfortable distance. He lost eight years of his life from
1987 when he found himself on an Israeli Government ‘wanted’ list. He was on the run until his arrest in 1990,
and served five years in an Israeli prison. These unenviable credentials nevertheless provide him with
access that others would not have.
He spreads a message of nonviolent resistance to members of the Al-Aqsa Brigade, the military wing of
Fatah. He encourages them to pay MEND a visit and consider nonviolent alternatives.
“I hope in the end this people will adopt nonviolence” he says, “and that ultimately Palestinians and Israelis
will make peace.” He dreams of working with likeminded Israelis, “but,” he continues, “violence has
produced bloodshed, violence has produced hatred between Israelis and Palestinians.” This hatred is, for
now, a formidable barrier.
So does this nonviolent resistance actually produce change? “Yes!” he answers definitively. He raised the
example of a conference in March, attended by around 50 people, at which nonviolent resistance was the
subject of discussion. From this they are due to launch a nonviolent demonstration against a chemical
factory near the 1967 border which produces significant air pollution and is allegedly the cause of unusually
high incidences of cancer among local Palestinians.
On Nour’s desk sat a calendar upon which was written Gandhi’s famous saying: “First, they ignore you. Next,
they laugh at you. Then they fight against you. And you win”.
In Tulkarem, it seems to me, the struggle to promote nonviolent resistance has already reached the final
stage. They are winning. His popularity among locals is evidence of the impression he has left on Tulkarem’s
heart and mind. Nour Shehadeh has walked a long path to this point, and he will continue to walk it until this
victory is complete.
This article is based on an interview conducted on March 7th 2007 by Takanobu Nakahara, International
Public Relations volunteer for MEND.
Author: Takanobu Nakahara
Edited by:: Mark Calder
Photo: Takanobu Nakahara