Unfortunately, this year’s Human Rights Day is no reason to celebrate. On the contrary: around the world, the observance of human rights is under threat to varying degrees. In many places, activists who campaign for and demand the preservation of human rights face state and social repression, are imprisoned or even have to fear for their lives because of their activism.

Our partners from Israel and Palestine are currently reporting to us that, in addition to the human rights violations in Gaza in the wake of the war that followed Hamas‘ attack on Israel, human rights activists in Israel and the West Bank are currently under even greater threat than before. In Israel, critical voices that question the bombing of the Gaza Strip and the actions of the Israeli army in general or criticise the government are often vilified as Hamas supporters and delegitimised as enemies of the state. In the West Bank, too, it is difficult to speak out publicly about human rights violations without immediately being suspected of terrorism.

Activists in Gaza are currently mainly fighting for survival. In an interview as part of the dialogue seminar for women from Israel and Palestine in summer 2019, a participant from Gaza stated: „I have experienced a lot, the first intifada, the Oslo Accords, the peace process, the second intifada and the evacuation of the settlements in the Gaza Strip. And even after three Gaza wars, my belief in building peace is growing every day. Killing will bring more killing. But love and passion will bring more love, more peace, will make us understand each other and allow us to recognise each other’s identity. (…) I wish I could do more“.

This quote sounds like it comes from another time, as the experiences of the last two months have put many activists, who are fighting non-violently for a just and peaceful future in the Middle East to a crucial test and raise questions about how dialogue and encounter will be possible after all that has happened and will happen.

As a dialogue project, we will continue to try to create spaces for exchange, discussion, dispute and potential cooperation.