A brief historic overview of PCR
Since its establishment in 1988, PCR has been working to bridge the gap between Palestinians and peoples from different part of the world. The past two decades witnessed some landmarks that PCR contributed to and was affected by as well. These periods can be divided into three:
1988-1994 – First Intifada Period
During the first uprising, PCR pioneered nonviolent resistance. We provided training to locals in conflict resolution management, peaceful resistance, and cross-cultural dialogue. We were the first group in the West Bank to have a formal and periodic (bi-weekly) dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. This dialogue continued on a regular pace for 12 years even as the uprising and the violence escalated. It kept the hope alive of coexistence and peace.
PCR played an important role in organizing the 1989 tax resistance (No Taxation without Representation) that gained the admiration of people of good will around the world including our Israeli colleagues and dozens of international visitors who visited even during siege and curfew. (More detailed information can be found in this publication )
That experience taught us to learn to disseminate information and was a prelude to our accelerated media efforts during the second uprising.
1994-2000 – Oslo and Post- Oslo period
The decrease in violence during the Oslo years did not decrease our commitment and interest in peace making and direct action. PCR with support from the Israeli members of the dialogue group supported the land defense committees that challenged the building of settlements on Palestinian lands. The most prominent case, PCR was involved in was Jabal Abu Ghneim where we kept a protest tent in operation with Israelis and internationals for four months 24 hours a day. We challenged the settlement activities in Israeli courts including this case that moved for nearly four years (a good delay for us) until the Israeli Supreme court ruled in favor of the State and in violation of International law.
PCR did not feel defeated. To protect Beit Sahour Land threatened by the Har Homa settlement on Jabal Abu Ghneim, we worked with a number of groups and land owners to encourage buildings on their lands as close as is feasible to the settlement. These threatened lands we knew would be protected if we had people living there. This included a housing project in the area of Mazmouria. The land belongs to people from Beit Sahour, however, as residents of the West Bank, we can not build houses there, because that land was identified within the borders of Jerusalem. Therefore Jerusalemites were the perfect candidates for such a project.
A housing committee was founded that included people from Jerusalem who need to build houses, but do not have land in Jerusalem. One land owner with an area of around 40 dunams agreed to include his land in this project. The idea was to plan a housing project on that land, apply for building permits from the municipality of Jerusalem and if permits were granted, the members of the housing committee will buy lots in this land. In this case, the land owner is selling his land to people from Jerusalem to build houses.
A Palestinian famous architect who lives in Jordan, volunteers most of his effort and time in planning the area and designed houses with Arabic architecture. The municipality of Jerusalem refused to allow the housing society to officially submit the full application and kept asking for modifications. In October 2000, shortly after the second intifada started, the Israeli army built a military road to connect the settlement on Abu Ghneim with the military base in Beit Sahour, and with other settlements. This road went right through the project’s land, which was the last nail in the coffin for this project. But the experience was worthwhile and the citizens of Beit Sahour developed housing projects very near the Har Homa settlement (but outside of the illegally expanded and illegally annexed East Jerusalem lands).
In those years, PCR also developed programs for training youth and women in leadership positions, expanded its activities in community development and education, and hosted many international delegations on fact finding and solidarity trips.
2000-2008 – Second Intifada Period
Our community service program was expanded and made a formal division of PCR. We engaged more youth with nonviolent resistance. In one capacity building program 70 young Palestinians received training in advocacy, communication skills, conflict resolution and democracy. When trained and empowered these young advocates became the backbone of other PCR and community activities.
One project we pioneered and led by the young people was the Displaced Shepherd project which aimed at renovating homes damaged as a result of the Israeli shelling of the Eastern neighborhood of Beit Sahour from the military base in Ush Ghrab.
The young activists of PCR visited all families and documented damages and recorded stories. They uploaded all this information as family profiles on the internet. This information was used a fund raising campaign in which raided $400,000 USD raised with the municipality of Beit Sahour as a joint effort. As a result, almost all families managed to return to their homes in few months.
In 2000, we mobilized our dialogue group and international friends for actions to reclaim the military base that was located on town land and was a major issue in the community. We successfully held nonviolent protests at the base (even getting inside the base by the hundreds) and this success led to the formation of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). PCR was heavily involved in ISM for five years, during which it had employed around ninety percent of its efforts and finances to support ISM. PCR hosted ISM in its headquarters until 2005 when the headquarters was moved to Ramallah.