|Network in Ramallah
Two hours before our meeting, Osama Abu Karsh had returned from a reconciliation conference in Turkey,
involving 120 NGO’s, and many Palestinian and Israeli activists. Still, the 35 year-old was full of humour and
a contagious idealism as we began our interview at the European Coffeeshop, his favourite place for
discussions such as these.
Osama has worked tirelessly for nonviolent conflict transformation throughout the Middle East – in the
international field, for example as a delegate at last November's Arab Regional Nonviolence Network
conference, and locally, as Coordinator of the Active Nonviolence Network in Ramallah.
It has not always been this way. When he was 14 years old, he was jailed for three years for throwing a
Molotov Cocktail at Israeli troops. Upon his release he was active with Fatah’s youth wing, and he
continued to believe in the legitimacy of violent resistance.
The process of transformation was not overnight. Many of the factors in his transformation are mundane:
marriage, a change in his job, and higher education – he has a Masters in Social Development from Bir Zeit
University. The outbreak of the second intifada also forced him to rethink the old violent methods of
resistance he once espoused.
If there was a single decisive turning point, it was January 18th 2003 – he has no difficulty remembering the
date. Osama attended a nonviolence training event organised by MEND.
He was persuaded. Six months late, he was elected Coordinater of the Active Nonviolence Network in
Ramallah and threw himself wholeheartedly into MEND projects, such as the well-known Radio Soap Opera,
and a ‘curriculum reform’ project. He also co-led the 2006 Summer Camp, which drew around 80 young
people from all over the West Bank. If they are able to raise the funding, the camp will be repeated this
He has also been instrumental in the ‘Alternative Youth Leader’ program, a project initiated in 7 villages
with 20 to 50 participants in each village. Palestinian young people aged between 22 and 28, and
particularly members of local social and sports clubs, are trained in a range of skills, such as nonviolence
and conflict resolution, and computer literacy. Participants are then encouraged to apply their training
within their local area.
Like many of the ANN offices, the Ramallah base has had to close due to lack of funding. Whether
negotiating checkpoints, avoiding internal fighting, or suffering the direct effects of occupation, his job is
tough and getting results can be a very slow process.
"We make few changes in adults," he admits candidly. "But," he continues, "we see big changes in Menders",
referring to the force of young Palestinians who have signed up to Active Nonviolence.
But for him, it is not only about results, it is a matter of right and wrong. I ask him whether, over all, people
are moving towards nonviolence. "We sometimes see change but no big change. Still, we believe in this
This article is based on an interview conducted on February 26th 2007 by Takanobu Nakahara, International
Public Relations volunteer for MEND.
Author: Takanobu Nakahara
Edited by: Mark Calder