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Remembering Art Gish

1 August 2010

American peace activist Art Gish died on Wednesday 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.

Art Gish in Hebron in 2003 standing in front of an Israeli tank to try to stop it destroying a market in teh Old CIty

Art Gish in Hebron in 2003 standing in front of an Israeli tank to try to stop it destroying a market in the Old City

The photo became famous when it was distributed by the Associated Press around the world.

Gish also published two books about his work in the Middle East, including Hebron Journal: Stories of Nonviolent Peacemaking.

He wrote about this specific incident, saying:

“The soldiers tried their best to ignore me, but I am sure they heard me. I ignored their commands for me to leave. One soldier spit at me, so I walked right up to him and invited him to spit on me. He declined the offer.

Three soldiers aimed their guns at and moved toward a group of Palestinian bystanders. It looked to me like they were going to shoot. I quickly jumped in front of the soldiers, raised my hands in the air and shouted, “Shoot me, shoot me, go ahead and shoot me.” The soldiers immediately left.

A tank came roaring toward me, its big gun barrel aimed at me. I raised my hands in the air in prayer, and shouted, “Shoot, shoot, Baruch hashem adonai.” The tank stopped within inches of me.”

He added: “The Israeli military had put all of Hebron under total curfew today, saying they were looking for terrorists. Now I wonder if there really were terrorists hidden among the apples and oranges. Or, are the Israeli soldiers committing acts of terrorism against the civilian population of Hebron?”

Art Gish (1939 - 2010) with his wife Peggy

Further tributes: