Entry 17: Peggy Gish and her late husband Art Gish– they walk the talk

Israel/Palestine
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This is Entry 17 in the Mondo Awards end-of-year Inspire-us contest.

Over thirty years ago Art and Peggy Gish started standing in the front of the Athens Ohio County Court House on every Monday. They began this tradition with a focus on peace and justice in the middle east. Art and Peggy would stand with signs saying “Honor the 67 internationally recognized border” “Stop the building and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements” as well as many other signs promoting peace and justice. Over the years many of us would join them. In the mid 80’s they joined with Christian Peace Maker team’s in their efforts to be witness to the human rights crimes being committed by Israel and other nations. They were going to stand with as Art used to say “with the people with far less power.” Soon after their original trips to Israel Art continued to go back to Israel and to the Palestinian territories. He worked with the Christian Peace Maker Team. He walked Palestinian children to school often through vicious illegal settlers screaming at the children and sometimes spitting on them, he protested with the Palestinians, he confronted Israeli soldiers who were humiliating Palestinians, he stood in front of Israeli tanks about to bulldoze Palestinians homes and businesses, he lived and worked with Palestinian shepherds. He would send us letters emails and finally wrote several books about his experiences. He did this for at least 15 winters. Art died this past summer in a tragic tractor accident on their organic farm in the foothills of Appalachia in southeastern Ohio. Many of us miss him daily.

Peggy Gish first went to Iraq in the fall of 2002 months before the illegal and immoral invasion of that country by U.S. and coalition forces. With the Christian Peace Maker team Peggy has documented the abuses at Abu Gharib starting soon after the invasion. Peggy and the CPT tried early on to hand their reports over to U.S. officials and were sent away by I believe Paul Bremer. Peggy has gone back to Iraq numerous times over the last 8 years. She has worked with the Iraqi people both in Baghdad and Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq. Peggy has not only shared her love with the Iraqi people but her commitment to peace and justice and to bring the truth to the American people about what our military has and is doing in that country. She has also written several books about her work in Iraq.

What is it that gets under my skin and tweaks my spirit and thousands of others in such a powerful way by the actions of both Art and Peggy Gish? Most of us are brought up with some type of religious training or spiritual belief. Many of us are aware that many do not come even close to living or being examples of those religious or spiritual beliefs. Art and Peggy Gish walk the talk of their deep Christian beliefs like no one no one I have ever met or been in the presence of. They are kind, loving, compassionate to everyone that I have observed them interact with even those they disagree with. I have watched Art over and over again try to enter into civil dialogue with those who have sometimes been quick to call his peace and justice efforts his actions in Israel, here in the U.S. and around the world as “anti semitic.” He was able to swat these false claims down by his persistent examples of compassionate actions. Along with his willingness to discuss, debate and take on anyone who made such weak claims . Even though he had become convinced over the years that Israel did not really want peace with the Palestinians but more territory by what ever means necessary. He never ever gave up on peace in the middle east. Never.

Art (bless his soul) left a formidable mark on thousands of us. A thirst, a lifetime of effort focused on peace and justice. Peggy continues to do so.

Art standing in front of an Israeli tank

Remembering Art

American peace activist Art Gish died on August 1, 2010 in a tractor accident on his organic farm in Athens, Ohio, at the age of 70. Gish and his wife Peggy – currently in Iraq – dedicated much of their lives to promoting peace in the Middle East through nonviolent action.

As a member of the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) based in Al Khalil (Hebron) in the West Bank, Gish lived up to the CPT’s slogan “Getting in the way” when he faced up to an Israeli tank in 2003 to try to prevent it from destroying a market in Hebron’s Old City.

Peggy interviewing people in Iraq BBC

“Eyewitness: Taking detainee testimony in Iraq US-led international forces in Iraq are currently holding thousands of Iraqi people suspected of involvement in the violent campaign against the Iraqi government and the occupying forces. But some detainees complain of arbitrary detention and abusive treatment. Peggy Gish, 62, is an American woman who has spent 13 months over the past two years logging the cases of Iraqi detainees with the ecumenical humanitarian group Christian Peacemaker Teams. She told the BBC News website about her experiences.”

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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