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Inspiration In Action: Neta Golan

May 31, 2011

Neta Golan is a close friend and ally of Michigan Peace Team, serving as not only a person of support for our teams in Palestine, but an incredible inspiration for all individuals pursuing a path of non-violence.  She lights up the international activist arena with her dedication, power and humility and has an extensive track record of successful non-violent action for social change.

Neta is third generation Israeli, born and raised in Tel-Aviv she attended Jewish schools where “Jewish history and religion were taught as regularly as arithmetic” (180, Brave Hearts Rebel Spirits).  Throughout her education, she was taught a strict Israeli agenda that engrained in her mind the view of Israelis as victims, and “Arabs” (lumped into a single group to erase the Palestinian identity) as inherently violent.  She was taught as all Israelis are, to hate their neighbors, to feel superior and violated by them.  However, as a teenager she was given a sneak peak into the realm of atrocious human rights violations and the moral fiber of her being began to violently reject the assumptions she was taught to make about Palestinians and their land.

Resultantly, this amazing woman dodged the Israeli draft in pursuit of non-violence, went on to study Buddhism in Canada and created her own foundations of spiritual non-violent resistance.  Delving deeper into the foundations of non-violence, Neta then spent months in France at the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village Buddhist Retreat Center, as well as taking time to practice meditation in prolonged silence in India.  It is my belief that these personal forays into spirituality profoundly effected Neta by grounding her in a life-long dedication to non-violence.  As a result of this deeply grounded stance, she has repeatedly put her body in potentially lethal danger, using her own flesh as a shield protecting Palestinian civilians from armed Israeli settlers and soldiers.  In 2002, Neta was among several other non-violent activists who voluntarily barricaded themselves inside Yasser Arafat’s compound and the Church of Nativity, where dozens of Palestinians were holed up against Israeli fire.  Using themselves as protection meant to the Israeli army that killing Arafat and other Palestinians in the compound meant the possibility of killing Israelis as well as international observers.

This type of non-violent action is known by numerous names, but we at Michigan Peace Team call it Third Party Non-Violent Intervention (TPNI).  Through this strategy, internationals (or in Neta’s case, untouchable nationals) provide protection simply by their presence.  This method of non-violent action has proven to be successful again and again, and is part of the provocation for the incredible organization Neta co-founded in 2001, International Solidarity Movement (ISM).  Among other incredible and like-minded individuals, many of whom are Palestinian, Neta organized a “movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent direct-action methods and principles” (www.palsolidarity.org).  ISM has enjoyed continued exposure as a non-profit and may be the most well-known pro-Palestinian movements worldwide.  This is the same courageous organization that in 2003 lost to Israeli military machinery, non-violent activist Rachel Corrie, whose parents spoke at MPT’s most recent “Signature Event”.  Rachel Corrie’s death is still in the process of being vindicated, as her parents struggle through the corrupt Israeli court system.

Neta has been a backbone through these kinds of horrid events occurring to both internationals and Palestinians engaged in non-violent action in Palestine.  Throughout her time living in Palestine with a history of engaging in non-violent action, Mrs. Golan has sustained numerous injuries and near injuries.  She knows first hand how to deal with these situations and has come to MPT’s aide numerous times over the course of our action in Palestine.  Most recently, Neta has worked and continues to work with our own team member Sandy Quintano, who was severely injured earlier this month while participating in non-violent action in the field.  The incredible perseverance Mrs. Golan has continues to create positive change within individuals and throughout the world.  She now lives with her husband and children in Palestine, working extremely hard to train Israelis, Palestinians and international activists in non-violent action as well as support current activists on the ground in the territories.

With the recent brutal attacks on non-violent protesters during the commemoration of Nakba day throughout Palestinian territories and along the borders of Syria and Lebanon, activists such as Neta have their work cut out for them.  However, the power individuals like Neta have in their commitment to non-violence fosters dreams for peace and keeps the will to partake in non-violent action alive.  Neta’s life accomplishments and perseverance in the face of a way of life contrary to her  moral stance is an inspiration and encouragement to all who face adversity in the struggle for peace.  Her humble nature, hard work and uncrushable spirit encourage young minds such as mine to actually be that change Ghandi so eloquently asked of us.  Differences in this world do not come solely from the minds of our government officials, but begin with focused, passionate individuals, presser-veering through hardship to create positive and sustainable change through non-violent social action.  The change is happening all around us and we have ourselves, other non-violent activists and Neta Golan in particular to thank.

-Kellie Brandt-MPT Intern

Interested in learning more about Neta and others like her?  Check out the book “Brave Hearts, Rebel Spirits: A Spiritual Activists Handbook” by Brooke Shelby Biggs!

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