Israeli peace activist who has been instrumental in the development of numerous Israeli peace and human rights organizations. His life-long commitment has been to build alliances for a future of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.
Michel Warschawski was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1949, the son of a Polish rabbi. Warschawski moved to Israel at 16 to study the Talmud in Jerusalem. While studying at Hebrew University in 1968, he joined the anti-Zionist organization Matzpen, a political group that advocated for a single state for both Jews and Arabs. Warschawski met his wife, human rights lawyer Leah Tsemel, in 1968 when she was studying law. Warschawski and Tsemel have three children.
Throughout the 1970s Warschawski made frequent trips to Europe, where he met Palestinian leaders and activists and began his life-long commitment to building alliances for a future of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. Warschawski would later state that, "Israeli-Palestinian peace will be a peace of cooperation, of coexistence, or it simply won’t exist."
Warschawski was instrumental in the development of several Israeli peace and human rights organizations. In the early 1980s he helped to build the Committee in Solidarity with Birzeit University, a Palestinian university located in the West Bank. The committee organized public meetings, joint press conferences and demonstrations, art exhibitions, and space for Israelis and Palestinians to get to know one another in a solidarity framework. He later co-led the Committee Against the Iron Fist with the late Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini, organizing nonviolent protests and developing common analysis and strategy to end the occupation.
At the start of Israel’s war in Lebanon in 1982, Warschawski helped create Yesh Gvul (Hebrew for "There is a Limit/Border"), the first collective attempt to form an organization of Israeli reserve soldiers to refuse service in the Israeli military. Warschawski was jailed for 63 days in an Israeli prison for refusing to serve in Lebanon.
In 1984 he co-founded the Alternative Information Center, an organization that combines grassroots activism with critical research, analysis, discussions, and the dissemination of information on Palestine and Israel. By producing tools for advocacy and solidarity, Warschawski believes the center makes "available to the communities on both sides of the border information that was not otherwise readily available to them…to write in Arabic about Israel and to write in Hebrew about the Palestinian reality." He believes this effort helps people work together for a common strategic vision and future.
Due to his close ties to Palestinian activists and efforts to expose human rights abuses by Israeli forces, Warschawski was arrested in 1987 for "providing services for illegal (Palestinian) organizations." He was sentenced two years later to 30 months in prison, although this sentance was later reduced.
Two of Warschawski’s recent books, Toward an Open Tomb: The Crisis of Israeli Society and On the Border, deal with his work for peace and justice.
Commenting on what he sees for the future, Warschawski writes: "As long as we are ready to combat colonialism and occupation, as long there are soldiers refusing to serve in an army of occupation and men and women who will fight for a true cohabitation, 'ta'ayush', between Jews and Arabs, the chances of avoiding a catastrophe for the peoples of the region will be increased."
To learn more about the Alternative Information Center see http://www.alternativenews.org/.