Sunday, May 18, 2003

Louisville duo hopes to end
Israeli occupation

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Two local peace activists hope their travel to the Middle East will help end Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Sharon Wallace, 44, and Mateo Bernal, 22, left Friday and plan to participate in an international effort during their two-week stay.

Wallace, who traveled to the West Bank on a similar mission last year, said she's going back because "once you end injustice of the occupation, the violence ends."

"The Palestinian people feel they are ignored and denied a voice, and our being there brings hope," she said.

Wallace said each participant is given training in nonviolent opposition for two days upon arrival, with a focus on role plays and the philosophy of nonviolence for dealing with settlers or soldiers.

Bernal, a senior history major at the University of Louisville, said he wants to help the Palestinians and promote their cause.

"I feel that there will be no end to terrorism unless there's a just solution in Palestine, and it's going to have to be brokered, in part, by the United States," he said.

Ibrahim Imam will keep in contact with Wallace and Bernal during their stay. He said he hopes their presence, as part of the International Solidarity Movement, will increase awareness of what's going on in that part of the world.

"The Palestinians have no names, no faces, no identity, and this society forgets they exist and do not treat them like people who are being killed," he said. "There are peaceful calls for ending the siege and hostilities, and that's what ISM is all about."

Imam said the volunteers could assist in a number of activities, from observing military checkpoints to helping farmers harvest their crops to escorting Palestinian children to school.

Peter Anik, community relations director for the Jewish Community Federation of Louisville, declined to comment on the trip but said his organization supports anyone who works for peace promoting the safety of all involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We also hope that those who strive for peace avoid involving themselves in activities that exacerbate the conflict," he said.

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