REFORM has successfully intervened and reconciled the deep issues between different Palestinian groups in the town of Al-Samoua

The use of weapons has become prevalent in Palestinian society in recent years, severely harming the social harmony and cohesion. The lack of trust in security bodies amongst the citizens causes them to resolve their differences on their own terms, which undoubtedly will have detrimental consequences.

For example, over the past few months, the exchange of gun fire between different groups of people in Al-Samoua caused the residents in the area to feel unsafe and threatened for their well-being. These clashes resulted in multiple injuries and the recent death of one young Palestinian man this past March.                                                                                                        

Due to the death of the young man, the situation escalated, mainly between the family of the victim and the opposing party, resulting in open clashes in the streets of Al-Samoua.                     

When interviewing bystanders in the community, there were multiple statements that clearly express the frustration of the citizens’ in regards to the responsiveness of the Palestinian police to serve the community quickly enough. Additionally, the slow responsiveness to complaints, the weak follow up and the lack of privacy when complaining to the police leads to people taking justice in their own hands, resorting to their families and other community ties for support. The residents of Al-Samoua are more likely to trust traditional mechanisms of justice than formal systems of justice.

Unfortunately, the police station in Al-Samoua neither has the human capacity nor the tools to effectively serve the local population of over 27,000 people, in order to manage the overall situation in the town.

After several months of failed reconciliation efforts in the town, REFORM intervened by organizing a roundtable discussion where the voices of social and political activists, officials from the governing bodies and tribe’s representatives were heard in open and safe platform.

Following the discussion, REFORM was invited to several media spots, news portals and public discussions to talk about the conflict happening in Al-Samoua and a Facebook campaign was started.

REFORM launched two radio episodes over its program “Citizenship Issues under a Microscope”, to address the issues of the spread of crime in the Palestinian civil society, specifically in Al-Samoua. In these episodes the head of the Palestinian police in Hebron, the governor of Hebron, the Head of Tribal Affairs, and members of the Civil Coalition for Promoting Peace and the Rule of Law participated.                                                                                                                                                              

As a result, the governor decided that immediate action was necessary in order to reconcile the issue. Therefore, he urged for joint efforts from officers and sheikhs from different villages and towns within Hebron to intervene within the conflict in Al-Samoua. As community members came together to meet and discuss the root causes of the current issues, they came up with multiple recommendation to resolve them. The meetings also resulted in opportunities for networking and social mobilization - a mission against crime and the spread of illegal weapons was launched.    

During one round-table discussion held by REFORM, Dr. Sulaiman Jaradat, the Advisor to the Hebron Governor for Civil Peace and Tribal Issues, stated: “Through its intervention mechanisms in Al-Samoua, it is clear that REFORM has the experience and ability to improve concepts of civil peace all over the country. The town of Al-Samoua greatly values REFORM’s determination in resolving these recent conflicts, bringing together all the parties involved from the moment the clashes started until the dispute came to a peaceful ending. We hope that REFORM continues its work on achieving social harmony and civil peace by remaining a pioneer in the social and political spheres. Furthermore, we encourage REFORM to use this success story as a model in other communities, holding conferences, workshops and coordination meetings with all community components, in order to enhance the social cohesion within Palestinian society.  

Sayel Za’reer, a resident of Al-Samoua, stated: “Despite the tension between the two parties involved and the initial resistance in  resolving their issues, REFORM was able to bring everyone together and to secure the peace again in our town. The situation is   relatively calm now and I hope it will stay this way. We thank REFORM for its interest and the vital role they played to resolve this violent conflict.”

Moreover, the participants of the roundtable discussion agreed that official bodies, civil society institutions, the tribal council and the Municipality of Al-Samoua need to increase their reconciliation efforts through the adoption of such mechanisms used. These efforts will contribute to creating a culture of civil peace and social harmony and will protect the social fabric within Al-Samoua and in Palestine in general. They added, that it is crucial to unify the people of Al-Samoua so they overcome the town’s most troubling issues.

A lesson learned through these reconciliation efforts is that early recognition and intervention of a conflict, in addition to collective efforts in combating violence and securing civil peace, are key factors to resolve these issues. In conclusion, it is very important to promote civil peace in Al-Samoua in order to create a positive atmosphere and to eliminate crime.

The Mayor of Al-Samoua Municipality, Mr. Hatem Mahareeq, believes: “The roundtable meeting organized by REFORM, created an atmosphere that obliged the security forces to do their duty and brought attention to the conflict in Al-Samoa. REFORM brought many different players together; I believe that this was the key to the community’s success.”

The next steps will include enhancing social harmony and creating conditions for bridging the gaps between the different social components. Specifically, a platform will be established to promote dialogue as a means of promoting a collective identity, civil harmony and the enforcement of law. To achieve this, REFORM will work in partnership with the official state bodies and various civil institutions to ensure the promotion of pluralism and equality.

REFORM's intervention mechanisms come as part of its Civil Peace and Social Inclusion project, funded by ZFD (German Civil Peace Service of the GIZ), which aims to enhance social harmony and bridge the gap between the different social components, promoting dialogue as a means to support collective identity, civil harmony and the enforcement of law. REFORM aims through this project to promote social awareness of the proliferation of weapons and its dangers.

The member organizations of the Civil Coalition for Promoting Peace and the Rule of Law are: The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development- REFORM, The Palestinian Initiative for Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy- MIFTAH, the Women Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC), the Human Rights and Democracy Media Center (SHAMS), ACT- Alternative Dispute Resolution and Studies, and Raya FM.