Issue 05 /
July 2013 Focus

Promoting Peace: Peace Now as a Graphic Peace Movement, 1987-1993

DOI : 10.48248/issn.2037-741X/763

Peace Now,’ the leading Israeli peace organization, has mobilized the public to press governments to reach peace agreements, protest wars and oppression of Palestinians, obstruct settlements in the Occupied Territories and develop dialogue with Palestinians. Focusing on 1987-93, this essay conceptualizes the advocacy of peace by ‘Peace Now’ as public relations activity that promotes images of peace. It communicated its ideas by means of slogans in the form of material signs which were figured graphically in print media, on posters, flyers, placards and stickers. The images of peace that ‘Peace Now’ promoted belong to the category of political images, which are not simply pictures or visual images, but condensations of complex ideas, conceptions and experiences of peace. ‘Peace Now’ promoted three main images of peace from 1987 to 1993: peace as negotiation and compromise; peace as the ending of the oppression of occupation; and peace as separation between Israelis and Palestinians. While there are ambiguities within and tensions between all three images, the key trouble for the advocacy of peace of ‘Peace Now’ was that its third image of peace as separation undermined the other two, ultimately creating a recipe for ‘unilateral peace.’

Pressing for Peace, Protesting War, Obstructing Settlements and Developing Dialogue: an Historical Overview

The Medium of Peace: Public Relations and Political Images in the Public Sphere

Peace Now’s Images of Peace

Conclusion: Dilemmas of Action, Divergence of Images

Pressing for Peace, Protesting War, Obstructing Settlements and Developing Dialogue: an Historical Overview

‘Peace Now’ was Israel’s largest and most broadly supported peace group during the years of 1987-93, attracting 50,000-80,000 to a demonstration on 23 January 1988 against the government’s response to the first Intifada, and tens of thousands to a joyful celebration of the Oslo agreement on 4 September 1993.1 The story of ‘Peace Now’ over this period has been well documented already, so in the first section of the article I provide only a brief summary of the group’s activities prior to and during 1987 to 1993.2 In the second section, I turn to the main focus of this article which is on the means, or more precisely the media, by which ‘Peace Now’ promoted its message of peace, engaging in public relations as it sought to persuade and mobilize Israeli publics. In accord with its public relations role, the organization promoted three main ‘images’ of peace in these years, not all of which accorded with each other, which are discussed in the third section of the article. By focusing on ‘Peace Now’’s promotion of political images of peace, this article indicates deep ambiguities in the group’s peace imagery that undermined its advocacy. The essay is based on archival research, both visual and documentary, supplemented by existing secondary sources, but would undoubtedly be enriched by interviewing activists of the time and reviewing media reports.

I focus on 1987-93 because it is the period in which the greatest opportunity for peace, understood in terms of territorial compromise and mutual recognition of Israel and the Palestinians, was possible. In other words, if the goal of peace of ‘Peace Now’ were to be achieved, this would have been the time. Established in March 1978, ‘Peace Now’ began as a pressure group on the Israeli government in the context of stalled negotiations between Egypt and Israel, following President Sadat’s dramatic visit to Israel in November 1977. In so far as the Israeli government did agree to withdraw from the entire Sinai Peninsula, including from Israeli settlements, in the Camp David Accord of 17 September 1978, the movement appeared to be successful, both in terms of impressing Israeli Prime Minister Begin that there was a great deal of public demand for an agreement, and in embodying an Israeli consensus.3

‘Peace Now’’s core agenda following the Camp David agreement was to press for the implementation not so much of the peace with Egypt as the clauses relating to the West Bank and Gaza, concerning Jordan and the representatives of the Palestinian people.4 From the start, the group considered Israeli settlements, especially those championed by the religious Zionist, right-wing, settler ‘Gush Emunim’ (Bloc of the Faithful) movement in the Occupied Territories, to constitute the main obstacle to a comprehensive peace.5 Since August 1978 ‘Peace Now’ had protested in the Occupied Territories against such settlements, but their activity increased after the credit given to Begin’s government for the agreement with Egypt ran out in December 1978.6 ‘Peace Now’ thus consolidated as an organization as it opposed new settlements, attempting to portray ‘Gush Emunim’ as extremists and itself as expressing the view of the political center, by remaining within the law as it protested and avoiding confrontations with the army (in which citizens serve as reservists).7 However, the group was unable to prevent the settlements in the Occupied Territories from continuing even at the time that the settlements in Sinai were being removed by the government in the face of right-wing opposition, and the negotiations about the future of the Occupied Territories were suspended in December 1980.8 Moreover, the group’s activities had all but ceased for some months before January 1982, prior to and following the June 1981 parliamentary elections.9 To some extent the group did sustain its anti-settlement activity at the same time as protests about the Lebanon War and its aftermath continued, notably at a demonstration against the Har Bracha settlement on Israeli Independence Day, 18 April 1983.10 David Hall-Cathala notes that it is usual for a social movement that cannot attain its goals to adjust them.11 ‘Peace Now’ did not abandon its goal of stopping the settlements and pushing for a broader peace agreement, but it did adjust the means and focus of its process to achieve those goals.

‘Peace Now’ activities increased greatly because of The First Lebanon War that began in June 1982. Although ‘Peace Now’ was not the first Israeli peace group to demonstrate against the war, its largest ever demonstration (also supported by all the political parties from Labor to the left) on 25 September 1982, in the wake of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, attracted around 250,000 people (although a legendary figure of 400,000 has entered public memory). The following day Begin agreed to set up a commission of inquiry,12 and in February 1983 Defense Minister Sharon was forced to resign his post in light of that report and further demonstrations. Begin resigned as Prime Minister in September, perhaps in part as a response to additional protests.13 On the one hand, it can be argued that ‘Peace Now’ was the main articulator of protest against the Lebanon War, and that such protest created a public climate for Israeli military withdrawals without any political gains from some of Lebanon in August 1983 and then from all but a Security Zone in 1985. On the other hand, ‘Peace Now’ could not claim to be expressing a public consensus against the war, given the size and vociferousness of support for Begin and Sharon, including a hand grenade attack at the end of a ‘Peace Now’ demonstration on 10 February 1983 in Jerusalem that killed one protestor, Emil Grunzweig.14 Nonetheless, ‘Peace Now’ appeared to be an effective social movement in pressing for peace and opposing war.

Although ‘Peace Now’ was dedicated to pursuing peace as an Israeli interest,15 it necessarily had to address the question of with which Palestinians Israel should negotiate, given that there was no Palestinian government. From the autumn of 1978, the movement’s line was that the government should negotiate with whichever Palestinians adopted negotiation as the path to resolve the conflict, and thereafter contacts with Palestinians developed.16 Public activity declined after the campaign against the Lebanon War, because public attention (and some of the activists’ energy) focused on the July 1984 parliamentary elections, and because the ensuing national unity government was headed by Shimon Peres of the Labor Party.17 However, especially from the autumn of 1984, behind the scenes the small leadership cadre were busy meeting representatives of the Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, making connections between them and other Israelis including Labor politicians, while increasing their understanding of each other’s positions.18 These dialogues were to prove vital to the character of ‘Peace Now’ activities during the first Intifada, and to a significant change in its political stance. Indeed, the movement had already oriented itself more towards the Palestinians than it had originally been. When ‘Peace Now’ re-launched itself at the start of 1982, rather than confront the right-wing opposition to the dismantling of the Sinai settlements directly, the group began to focus on the ‘moral cost’ of occupation in response to disturbing reports from the Occupied Territories about punitive house demolitions and shooting of demonstrators. On March 27 1982 around 80,000 Israelis, including 26 Labor Members of the Knesset, demonstrated with ‘Peace Now’ against the government’s Iron Fist policy in the Territories.19

When the first Intifada broke out in the Occupied Territories in late December 1987, ‘Peace Now’ again became frequently and regularly active. It was not long before the group was leading large-scale demonstrations, also attended by other and more radical peace groups, against the national unity government’s repression of the Palestinian uprising. As well as big events such as the 23 January 1988 demonstration in Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv, attended by 50-80,000 people, in this third peak of ‘Peace Now’’s history, some 200,000 Israelis participated in various vigils, conferences, public discussions and other demonstrations.20 The group’s dialogues with Palestinians, most of who identified with the PLO, also continued, taking a dramatic turn following a change in PLO policy that was announced in various ways during the latter half of 1988. Once the PLO leadership had recognized Israel and in effect committed itself to a two-state solution to the conflict based on UN resolutions, ‘Peace Now’ also changed its direction by openly calling on the Israeli government to negotiate with the PLO, holding a well-attended demonstration in a rainy Tel Aviv to back its call on 24 December 1988, while also protesting the administrative detention of Palestinian leaders in the Occupied Territories.21 The group’s change of line also stole some thunder from more radical peace groups that had already advocated negotiations with the PLO and a two-state solution.22 ‘Peace Now’’s focus shifted to cooperative activities with Palestinians in the West Bank, and rather less co-ordination of these activities with the army than previously, including a series of ‘Days of Peace’ in 1989 in which Israelis and Palestinians were variously brought together by the organizers or kept apart by the army.23 The pinnacle of joint activity also involved European peace activists as well as a broader coalition of Israeli peace groups in a human chain around the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem on 30 December 1989, although media reports tended to focus on an outbreak of police violence at one section of the chain.24 ‘Peace Now’ continued in 1990 with protests against the government’s foot-dragging in response to a US peace initiative and its investments in settlements, especially by establishing a sustained and professional Settlements Watch project, while also responding to settler activities.25

However, the prompt for one of the biggest of ‘Peace Now’’s demonstrations in 1990 did not bode well. There had never been a majority of Israeli public opinion behind ‘Peace Now’’s and other peace groups’ opposition to military repression of the first Intifada, with as many Jewish Israelis responding chauvinistically to what they took to be Palestinian hostility to Israel. This rightward shift was also reflected in Labor’s weaker position in the national unity government following the elections of November 1988 (a government which Labor left in March 1990).26 As the first Intifada grew more violent and Israeli civilians were also hurt, among the Israeli acts of retaliation was the shooting dead in May 1990 by an extremist of seven Palestinian workers from the Occupied Territories working inside Israel. Although some 50,000 joined the protest of outrage, ‘Peace Now’ had itself become a target of the extreme right’s violence.27 It became all the more difficult for ‘Peace Now’ to persuade broader swathes of Israeli public opinion that the Palestinians were not hostile to them following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. The PLO supported Saddam Hussein and the Palestinians with whom ‘Peace Now’ had been cooperating more or less followed the line of their national leadership. Some influential Israeli public figures were scathing in their condemnation of the Palestinian position, which in their view undermined the credibility of the PLO’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. ‘Peace Now’’s leadership, however, preferred to heal the rift and continue the dialogue despite the difference of opinion.28 But the atmosphere for cooperation and dialogue became more difficult as violence against Israeli citizens and violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in Jerusalem peaked in October 1990.29 The government response was to close entry to Israel by workers from the Occupied Territories, which ‘Peace Now’ regarded as the opening for a call for separation between Israelis and Palestinians (into two states) as the basis for peace, as expressed by a demonstration in Jerusalem on 3 December 1990.30

Yet, in face of the growing anti-Arab racism in Israel ‘Peace Now’ had also strengthened its very weak relationships with Palestinian citizens of Israel, culminating in a joint human chain mass event on 13 January 1991 in the north of the country, just two days before the ultimatum for Iraqi forces to withdraw from Kuwait.31 There was a hiatus in activity during the course of the war amid media reports of Palestinians celebrating as Scud missiles fell on Israel, prompting one commentator to declare that the missiles had killed ‘Peace Now.’32 In the post-Gulf War environment in which the US administration opened a new peace initiative, ‘Peace Now’ returned to its pattern of pushing the government for peace and trying to rally public support.33 This time ‘Peace Now’ worked with its Palestinian allies while attempting to build a broader coalition under a campaign of ‘Time for Peace’ which drew 80,000 to a demonstration in Tel Aviv on 26 October 1991 on the eve of Prime Minister Shamir’s departure for the Madrid conference.34 The group also kept up its attention on settlements, finding an audience for its reports not only in Israel but also the US. Israel needed the US government to guarantee loans it needed to finance of the massive wave of Jewish immigration from the former USSR, but the US administration linked the loan guarantees to Israeli expenditure on the settlements.35

There was the usual drop in activity prior to the June 1992 elections following which a bloc of pro-peace parties, ‘Meretz,' joined the new Labor-led government.36 Hoping for much from this government, ‘Peace Now’ zigzagged between supporting its pursuit of peace in the face of mounting right-wing opposition, and opposing its continuation of settlement activity, as well as the deportation of 400 alleged ‘Hamas’ activists in December 1992.37 But the group mounted no concerted objections to the July 1993 military operation against Hezbollah in Lebanon, which prompted the formation of a new more radical, small but effective peace group, ‘Gush Shalom’, which did protest and was also critical of the Oslo process.38 When news of the Oslo agreement broke, ‘Peace Now’ was in effect fulfilling a role of cheerleader to the government, at a time of majority public support, matched by determined right-wing opposition.39 As the year 1993 drew to a close, ‘Peace Now’ understood it would have to continue if not intensify its public campaigning for the peace agreement in the face of an increasingly hostile political atmosphere, as it experienced great difficulty in countering the right on the streets.40

Although in 1993 a chronicler would be tempted to conclude a look at ‘Peace Now’ optimistically,41 with the benefit of hindsight it is clear that ‘Peace Now’ failed in its public relations campaign in the face of slow negotiations to implement the Oslo accords, increased terror attacks by ‘Hamas’ and ‘Islamic Jihad,' as well as the vicious opposition of the right that found expression in the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin on 4 November 1995.42 ‘Peace Now’ had some successes in having its ideas adopted by governments and publics both prior to 1987-93, notably in the 1978 Camp David accords and the establishment in 1982 of a committee of inquiry into the Sabra and Shatila massacres that paved the way for Sharon’s and Begin’s resignations and perhaps even the Israeli withdrawal from most of Lebanon. It also had a major success in these years in the form of the 1993 Oslo agreement with the PLO, yet the movement had achieved neither a fundamental shift in Jewish Israeli public opinion about Palestinian hostility to Israel, nor had it committed future Israeli governments to a path of peace modeled on the Oslo accords and a two-state solution to the conflict.43


The Medium of Peace: Public Relations and Political Images in the Public Sphere

Having presented an historical overview of ‘Peace Now’ prior to and during 1987-93, I now turn to the key issues of this article, namely the manner in which Peace Now operated as a peace group. Book length studies of ‘Peace Now’ have tended to consider it in the framework of social scientific literature on social movements, considering its relative success or failure according to criteria such as its ability to influence government policy and disseminate its views in the political culture.44 These are significant issues that scholarship should address, but not the only ones, there being additional, valuable research which concerns the symbolic and cultural aspects of ‘Peace Now’’s activities.45 This article is a contribution to such cultural-historical research, focusing on the manner in which ‘Peace Now’ addressed its Israeli publics, its interventions in the public sphere and in particular the images of peace that it advocated. In this section I characterize ‘Peace Now’’s advocacy of peace as public relations activity promoting images of peace.

‘Peace Now,' as does any peace group or social movement, needs not only to have ideas and messages, but also a means by which to convey them. This may seem to be such an obvious point that it is not worth mentioning, yet, as Régis Debray has argued in his work on ‘mediology,' if one is to answer how certain ideas such as those of Christianity or socialism became powerful social forces, one must understand how cultural ideas are transmitted and the nature of the ‘mediasphere’ through which they flow.46 Such a consideration is certainly pertinent for ‘Peace Now,’ whose core leadership wished from the start to avoid the process of carefully defining the ‘correct’ ideological position on what sort of peace should be achieved. By contrast, more radical groups criticized it for not developing its positions based on close political analysis guided by ideological principles.47 Yet, even activists in the more radical groups such as Reuven Kaminer acknowledged that Peace Now’s focus on achieving broader influence rather than ideological correctness was crucial for shifting the Israeli public towards accepting negotiations with the PLO: “Only Peace Now could rally enough of the public to make a difference.”48 Kaminer is disapproving when he writes that: “On a day to day basis, Peace Now’s policies were really the carefully chosen slogans it raised at its demonstrations.”49 Yet, ‘Peace Now’’s mode of communicating and disseminating its message explains its ability to rally the public on occasion.

‘Peace Now’ was (and remains) ‘essentially a movement of slogans.’ Describing its early years, historian Mordechai Bar-On notes that ‘Peace Now’ “devoted many of its meetings to devising clever short phrases and slogans appropriate for a specific occasion.”50 Although the same core group who would devise the slogans, acting like a group of copywriters, were professionals, academics, and intellectuals, they understood that they needed simple slogans to mobilize mass protests.51 The focus on slogans was also a way to sidestep the diversity of opinion within the group, which initially expected no more by way of ideological commitment than agreement with the slogan ‘Peace is Better than the Greater Land of Israel,’ the latter being the settlers’ vision of what Israel should become.52 A dominant figure in the leadership of ‘Peace Now,’ Tzaly Reshef, used a verbal image of the movement as a bus whose direction is defined in the most general terms possible in order that its passengers (supporters) would remain on it. Nobody left the bus when the group sharpened its opposition to the settlements, whereas recognition of the PLO was a change in direction that caused at least one veteran of the movement to get off the bus.53 Reshef himself was aware of the limitations of repeating simple slogans, but also understood their value.54

‘Peace Now’ did not so much express its ideas through slogans as it fashioned its ideas by formulating slogans. It solicited the agreement of members of the Israeli public to its slogans, which appeared in notices in the newspapers, on billboards, on public notice boards, on flyers distributed on the street, on bumper stickers, on the placards and banners held up at demonstrations and street vigils, and sometimes in the printed and audio-visual media reports of the events of ‘Peace Now.’55 In effect, ‘Peace Now’ was engaged in public relations campaigns for the positions and ideas it promoted, using the approaches and techniques associated with commercial advertising for political purposes. Significantly, ‘Peace Now’ considered itself to be operating antagonistically in a public sphere conceived as ‘the street,’ often in fierce competition with right-wing campaigns, as in 1993.56

‘Peace Now’ operated on the basis of the appropriateness of ‘public relations’ modes of address for discourse in a democratic public sphere. Yet, there is a strong and prevalent view that public relations are not compatible with democratic politics, a position articulated clearly by Jürgen Habermas in his classic case against the ‘intrusion’ of manipulative public relations into democratic politics and in favor of a normative, Kantian notion of ‘critical publicity,’ the principles of which inhered in the reading publics of early modernity. 57 Habermas criticizes the political use of advertising techniques, appealing images and visual, stylistic modes of communication in the place of verbal reasoning. However, there is a more compelling case that democratic publics have subsequently been constituted by media technologies that are not only verbal, but also audio-visual. There has been an incremental equivalization of ‘public’ and ‘popular’ both in relation to the expansion of the electorate and the ‘democratization’ of culture. Culture itself has become more ‘popular,’ and rather than being depoliticized, is precisely the site for a struggle for hegemony in democratic systems. 58

Much of the struggle for political-cultural hegemony is conducted through competing images – of justice, of the appropriate limits of government, of the purpose of education, and of peace. The images of peace discussed in this essay belong to the category of political images, which are not simply pictures or visual images, but condensations of complex ideas, conceptions and experiences of peace. The notion of a political image is both startlingly simple and yet also incredibly complicated. Political images are perceptual, mental and verbal as well as visual images. They are abstract notions that come into being only when materialized as signs in any form or medium. Political images are compelling ideas that carry emotional appeal, condensing concepts into performances of style and character, crystallizing ideas in fragments of cultural symbolism. Not only objects of analysis, political images are actors that compete with each other in public spheres and on public screens.59 Political images are neither superficial nor misleading versions of political reality, but vital components of political discourse. In promoting images of peace, ‘Peace Now’ used the currency of contemporary political discourse.

Yet, an implicit version of Habermas’ theory guided some of ‘Peace Now’’s original leadership based in Jerusalem, who regarded themselves as ‘the word people.’ They were comfortable with activities such as discussion and the dissemination of written material that suited their academic and professional backgrounds. By contrast, the Tel Aviv activists who came from the world of arts and entertainment favored non-conventional events and visual displays. As the spectacle of a human chain of 20,000 people passing a letter over twenty kilometers to the Prime Minister’s office while holding up ‘Peace Now’ banners grabbed media attention in 1978, ‘Peace Now’ leader Reshef realized that the group could not rely only on well-reasoned texts to get its message across.60 Michael Feige characterizes ‘Peace Now’ as deploying a “discourse … devoid of pathos, shunning dramatic metaphors’ and instead basing its advocacy of peace and territorial compromise pragmatically on ‘economic, demographic and universalistic reasons.”61 According to Feige, the movement was “trapped in the contradictions of modern politics, trying to advance logos without the aid of mythos.”62 Perhaps that is so for the particular case of memorialization of Emil Grunzweig, but it is probably more appropriate to characterize ‘Peace Now’ as in practice or implicitly rejecting the premise that reasoned public discourse must be verbal, non-metaphorical and devoid of pathos.

The formulation of ‘Peace Now’’s main public positions and messages as slogans indicates that the group did not for the most part attempt to practice a discourse of reasoned argument but instead produced an easily digestible discourse subject to either agreement or rejection. If one (or one’s friends) did not agree with a slogan, one most likely did not come to the demonstration, or vice versa. Yet, slogans are not disembodied ideas but also have to be embodied as material signs on newspaper pages, noticeboards, bumper stickers, placards and so on. In other words, the slogans must be shown repeatedly in the public sphere, somewhat like ubiquitous advertising slogans. The translation of slogans into material signs, with or without the addition of visual images, adds connotations and levels of meanings to the purely verbal message.63 The choice of font and the layout of even a verbal text are among the features that add significance and meaning to a slogan displayed as a graphic image.64

The significance of slogans as graphic images is tied to the very identity of ‘Peace Now,’ indeed to its most recognizable image, its logo. ‘Peace Now’ acquired its logo and name by accident at its first demonstration on 1 April 1978, when the core organizing group based in Jerusalem arrived in Tel Aviv to find that the group there were distributing placards designed by graphic artist David Tartakover reading ‘peace now.' There were misgivings that the slogan detracted from a conception of peace as a long-term Israeli interest that would take much time and effort to achieve, because of borrowed American emphasis on “now." Yet, the name stuck and the sign became the group’s name and logo.65

The logo consists simply of the Hebrew word for ‘peace’ in black in the Biblical Koren font placed above the word for ‘now’ in red in the contemporary headline-style Haim font.66 The combination connotes both a contrast between a biblical, perhaps divine notion of peace and the secular demand for its immediate achievement. Michael Feige observes that ‘Peace Now’’s main innovation was in relation to the temporality of peace being achievable in the short-term.67 The peace that ‘Peace Now’ demands is different from the sort of transcendental, metaphysical, messianic peace evoked by its opponents in ‘Gush Emunim,’68 and yet the spiritual value of peace is to be actualized somehow in the secular present. It remains ambiguous whether the transcendence of peace can be made actual, or must remain eternally untouched by secular actuality. An additional ambiguity inheres in the use of the alarming black and red colors, which signify the urgency of peace at the time of the negotiations with Egypt. The red, however, also connotes the political left, rather than the blue and white national colors of Israel. More recent graphic designs used by ‘Peace Now’ have indeed employed the national colors in order to promote the patriotism of the group, including the lettering of the logo, much to the chagrin of the original designer who intended the red hue to indicate the revolutionary character of the demand for peace.69 Whether ‘Peace Now’ speaks for a mainstream, consensual, Zionist politics or challenges that consensus is an ambiguity written into its very logo. The following discussion will uncover similar ambiguities within and between the peace images of ‘Peace Now.’

Fig. 1. Peace Now logo. There is no copyright on this image which is in the public domain. The Peace Now logo was designed by David Tartakover in 1978 and can be found on his web site at: (accessed 13 July 2012). 

‘Peace Now’’s practice in the public sphere established continuity between the words of its slogans and their graphic figuration in print media, on posters and flyers, and on stickers. Ideas were formulated as graphic images, sometimes along with pictorial images, all of which were disseminated across a public sphere in which what was to be shown was both textual and visual at the same time. In developing a clear and coherent promotion campaign for a potential agreement in April 1993, it was proposed that ‘Peace Now’ prepare a variety of publicity materials: not only stickers, posters and roadside banners, but also a petition, postcards to the Prime Minister, two bulletins for activists (as well as an effort to recruit more activists and prepare them for action), and four different pamphlets to be distributed by activists to the broader public.70 This continuity between slogans, graphic images, and more detailed textual explanation of the organization’s ideas was especially apparent when ‘Peace Now’ changed its position, as in December 1988 when it began to advocate negotiation with the PLO.71 It should also not be overlooked that the group held many public discussion meetings such as a series in 1992-93 in development towns, as part of a recruitment campaign.72 Overall, then, ‘Peace Now’ operated according to a conception of continuity between verbal and visual modes of address in the public sphere, as well as the appropriateness of ‘public relations’ modes of address for discourse in a democratic public sphere. It did not undermine reasoned, democratic discourse by doing so, but found a proper idiom for public address. In the following section I analyze the political peace images of ‘Peace Now’ by discussing one of its key forms of public address, namely its graphic images as they appear on posters held up at demonstrations, posted to billboards, and sometimes printed in newspapers. This graphic focus by no means exhausts the material signs through ‘Peace Now’ advocated peace, and hence I supplement the analysis with some textual evidence, but such a focus offers very clear insight into the group’s peace advocacy.73  


Peace Now’s Images of Peace

I identify three main political images of peace that ‘Peace Now’ promoted from 1987 to 1993: peace as negotiation and compromise; peace as the ending of occupation; and peace as separation between Israelis and Palestinians. I will discuss these conceptual images of peace through some of the material signs, the graphic images by means of which they were advocated in the public sphere.

 A.    Peace as negotiation and compromise

‘Peace Now’ advocated an image of peace as a process of negotiation and compromise both in relation to official government negotiations and to the organization’s dialogue with leaders of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. To present such an image entailed also conceiving of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians (as well as other Arab nations) as amenable to such compromise, although this was not the emphasis of the group’s campaigning. Baruch Kimmerling conceives of such a ‘compromise orientation’ as one of three main orientations within an overall social complex of ‘civil militarism,' all of which perceive Israel to be under a threat requiring the mobilization of resources for a military response. According to the compromise orientation, Israel’s conflict with the Arabs is akin to other conflicts over concrete interests such as territory and boundaries, in which a peace agreement based on territorial compromise will bring Israel security.74 ‘Peace Now’ adhered to a pragmatic conception of peace (having never been a pacifist organization).75 An aspect of that pragmatism was to pressure the government of the time to bring home positive results from which ever peace process and negotiations were on the agenda by mobilizing public support for the negotiations. Another way to put this is that ‘Peace Now’ orchestrated public relations campaigns to create an image of public enthusiasm for peace agreements, which it did quite successfully three times over the six year period of 1987-93.

The first occasion was on 12 March 1988 during American Secretary of State Schulz’s peace initiative, on the eve of Prime Minister Shamir’s visit to Washington. As many as 90,000 demonstrators rallied to the slogan of ‘Peace Now’ ‘say yes to peace’ in Tel Aviv.76 The second occasion was once again a send-off for Shamir, on his way to the Madrid conference that kicked off the American peace initiative in October 1991. At this point ‘Peace Now’ was operating clearly along the lines of public relations when it underwent something of an attempted rebranding in its efforts to win public support for, and government commitment to, the US-backed peace process. Since late 1989, ‘Peace Now’ had hired its first professional staff, and it seems around the same time also started making use of professional advertising services. The idea was to appeal to a broader base by working under the banner of ‘Time for Peace,’ but there was not much success in attracting those who identified with the Labor Party rather than the peace camp. Still, the campaign did build to a significant demonstration on 26 October attended by about 80,000 people.77 The flyer calling for the rally uses ‘Peace Now’’s logo colors and presents the new logo of ‘time for peace’ in white letters in the lower black band, in the Biblical font in which ‘peace’ had appeared previously. Significantly, the flyer makes a bid for consensus through the bold central claim that ‘Israel wants peace,' the first two words appearing in black and the word ‘peace’ appearing in red. The name of a publicity company, Zarfati Shternshus, also appears vertically on the notice. The theme of the temporal attainability of peace contained in the group’s name is present even if the word ‘now’ is missing. The smaller letters at the top of the notice declare the group’s differentiation from the right: ‘In the face of doubters, opponents and expansionists on the right, come to demonstrate.’ ‘Peace Now’ figured itself as representing the national consensus, and the settlers as being beyond it. Yet, a deep ambiguity troubles the temporality of ‘Time for Peace,’ a phrase borrowed the Book of Ecclesiastes 3, 8. There is also according to the same piece of scripture a time for war. While the post-Gulf War international atmosphere prompted the ‘time for peace’ sentiment and the Madrid conference, the verse itself suggests that another change in circumstances would justify war.

Fig. 2: ‘Israel wants peace: Time for Peace.’  Flyer, Peace Now archive, file # 1,33,92, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.
Fig. 3: Electronic image of a collage representing activities and events in 1991, Peace Now 30 year exhibition. Peace Now archive, catalogue # 7,2,2-121, dvd2, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.

The sheer presence of numbers at such a demonstration is the basis for the rhetorical claim of a national consensus for peace, and hence it is not a surprise that ‘Peace Now’ chose to represent its activities of 1991 in its 30 year exhibition with a photograph of that massive demonstration. Both the large banner and most of the placards in the picture repeat the slogan ‘Israel wants peace,’  while an additional banner carries the message: ‘The chance for peace must not be missed.’ 

On the third occasion ‘Peace Now’ did not need to pressure the government to compromise during negotiations but instead congratulated the government on the secretly negotiated Oslo accords. On 4 September 1993, a large joyous crowd celebrated the agreement in Tel Aviv.78 The main slogan for the event was ‘The People stand for Peace,’ which had already been circulating in previous months as a response to the widely disseminated right-wing slogan against withdrawal from the Golan Heights, ‘The People stand with the Golan.’79 Additional slogans were also those already in circulation to build public support for the peace process: ‘there is a mandate for peace’ and ‘the right won’t prevent peace.’80 Those slogans can be made out in a photograph of the demonstration that appears on the cover of a ‘Peace Now’ report on its activities, as well as a large banner of the Labor Party’s Young Guard. On all three occasions, ‘Peace Now’ orchestrated an image of massive public support for peace negotiation

Fig. 4: 1993 demonstration. Peace Now ‘Summary report of activities – 1993-94.’ Peace Now archive, file # 1,33,92, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.

However, at the start of the first Intifada, and again after the collapse of Schulz’s peace initiative, there was no prospect of negotiation by the government, so ‘Peace Now’ had to engage in dialogue with Palestinians to construct an image of peace as negotiation.81 Such dialogue was a shift in the movement’s focus on the Jewish Israeli public, but enabled it ‘to build in practice an infrastructure of peace relations.’82 Above all, ‘Peace Now’ needed to show that there were Palestinians willing to engage with not only the radical, non-Zionist groups (for whom the official PLO stance prior to 1988 of a secular democratic state in all of Palestine was acceptable) but also with ‘Peace Now’ as a Zionist peace group.83 This process had already begun towards the end of 1984, and by 1985 ‘Peace Now’ was already campaigning for dialogue with Palestinians. A poster declaring that ‘Now – it’s time to sit down and talk’ was published at least by January 1985, and retrospectively placed in a collage representing activities for 1987 in ‘Peace Now’’s 30 year exhibition.84

Fig. 5: “Now – it’s time to sit down and talk.” Peace Now poster, 70 X 50 cm, design by Aryeh Agg. Peace Now archive, item # 14 in file # 5,96,120, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.

The poster draws on the well-known logo and branding of ‘Peace Now’ which appear at the bottom of the poster, which uses only the red and black of the logo, but also stresses the ‘now’ of the need to talk, as well as being translated into Arabic (although the Arabic for ‘now’ is misspelled). The chair and mosaic floor that are depicted figurally connote an old-style domestic building pre-dating 1948, called an ‘Arab house’ in Hebrew. 85 There is ambiguity in this image too. Does it signify the past presence of Palestinians in Israel and the possibility of a shared space, or Israeli ownership of the space (and a stereotypical view of such ‘authentic’ space)? The empty chairs are waiting to be filled, perhaps by regular citizens rather than politicians, as this is not an official setting. Yet, one wonders if dialogue can succeed in this detached space in which the chairs do not face each other.

The poster suited the position of ‘Peace Now’ at the time, before they wanted to be specific about which Palestinians should be the partners of dialogue, but by November 1988 that had changed when ‘Peace Now’ began a campaign to advocate negotiations with the PLO,86 and hence the partner of dialogue became the focus of the campaign. A new slogan appears in a poster for a demonstration that month, declaring ‘Talk peace with the PLO now,’ which again draws on the movement’s logo and colors. Its demand is stated bluntly, its lack of ambiguity actually loosing ‘Peace Now’ some support, as noted above. Although in a less bold grey, the letters for ‘with the PLO’ interrupt ‘peace’ and ‘now.’ This image shows (rather than says) that the PLO (rather the settlements) might be the obstacle to peace.

The government clearly did not agree with ‘Peace Now’’s demand or assessment of the situation, given that it had placed Faisal Husseni, the leading figure of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, in administrative detention following a significant conference meeting with ‘Peace Now’ in July 1988 in which he had clarified that an earlier statement by one of Yasser Arafat’s advisers did indeed indicate that the PLO had recognized Israel.88 Feeling responsible and angry, ‘Peace Now’ organized a demonstration on 6 August 1988 targeting the Tel Aviv home of the Minister of Defence, Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party, under the slogan of “Don’t imprison them – talk with them!”
The notice for the demonstration features a photograph of Faisal Husseini talking in front of the ‘Peace Now’ banner, as if he were actually speaking for the movement. Indeed, Reshef himself believed that if all Israelis could be brought to conferences with the ‘non-terrorist branch of the PLO,' they would all understand that there was a partner for peace, despite the government’s denials and a law forbidding Israelis to meet with PLO representatives.89 However, the demonstration in support of Husseini attracted only a few thousand, reflecting the movement’s weakness when confronting Labour rather than Likud politicians, but also the dilemma that ‘Peace Now’ constantly faced in promoting peace as dialogue when the Palestinians were regarded by so many Israelis as hostile and violent.90 For Husseini to appear to be speaking for ‘Peace Now,' while getting in the way of ‘peace now,’ was too much for ‘Peace Now’’s broader public.

Fig. 6: ‘Talk peace to the PLO now.’ Peace Now poster, design by David Tartakover,87 89 X 57 cm. Peace Now archive, item # 13 in file # 2,96,120, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. 
Fig. 7: ‘Don’t imprison them – talk with them!’ Detail from electronic image of a collage representing activities and events in 1987, Peace Now 30 year exhibition. Peace Now archive, catalogue # 7,2,2-121, dvd2, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.

In order to promote an image of peace as reconciliation and dialogue there also had to be experiences of those concepts to symbolize. A milestone in ‘Peace Now’’s efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together during the first Intifada was an event to create a human chain around the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The event was planned over months not only by ‘Peace Now’ but also by Palestinian counter-parts and European peace activists.91 Hence, the promotion of the event did not employ the colors of the ‘Peace Now’ logo, though the large letters reading ‘Time for Peace’ in Hebrew uses the same font that the word ‘peace’ was usually displayed in. Blue is used to symbolize Israel colours, and green and black both appear in the Palestinian flag. The theme of temporality is sustained from previous slogans by proposing that peace can be brought in the coming year, and the final phrase of the text at the bottom speaks of joining hands in the hope of peace now.

Fig. 8: ‘1990: Time for Peace.’ Poster, 70 X 50 cm. Peace Now archive, item # 11 in file # 5,96,120, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.
Fig. 9: ‘Spreading peace.’ Poster, 70 X 35 cm, design by Rafi Ettinger. Peace Now archive, item # 11 in file # 2,96,120, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.

However, the predominant images of the event were not of negotiation and compromise. Although for the most part it was a festive occasion on a sunny afternoon, the police attacked protestors in one section with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets. From the perspective of ‘Peace Now’ this was an undesirable outcome and hence much effort was put into blaming the police for the violence (which was the finding of a commission in April 1990).92 Yet, from the point of the view of both some Palestinian and European protestors, as well as more radical protestors, such repression of peaceful demonstrations by the Israeli authorities was not uncommon, while exposing the violence of the authorities was an aim of their protest.93 As we shall see shortly, ‘Peace Now’ had no problem with portraying the occupation as oppressive and the settlers as dangerous, but it consistently wished to sustain an image of itself as moderate and mainstream, which its leaders believed rested on avoiding confrontations with the state authorities.94

Another human chain event that ‘Peace Now’ led but was co-organized through a broader coalition was held in January 1991. To a large extent ‘Peace Now’ had overlooked relations between Israel’s Jewish majority and its Palestinian minority. 95 But in the increasingly chauvinist atmosphere in Israel during the first Intifada in which all Palestinians, whether citizens of Israel or residents of the Occupied Territories might be subject to attack by Jewish extremists, ‘Peace Now’ felt the need to develop ties with Palestinian citizens of Israel. The timing of the event proved to be awkward: it followed the crisis of relations with Palestinian interlocutors over the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and occurred just a few days before the ultimatum for Iraqi withdrawal. Yet, it was well attended, so its anti-racist message must have resonated.96

The poster for the event was even less marked as a ‘Peace Now’ image than the ‘1990: Time for Peace’ poster. Its emphasis is more figural than the generally slogan-based designs for the movement’s publicity, as it is left to the text around the picture in the center to utter the call to ‘come and give a hand to a Jewish-Arab peace chain’ and to list the organizations participating (as well as the date and location). The dove-as-hand image invokes conventional icons of peace, combining them together to symbolize the coming together of Jewish and Palestinian Israelis, as seen in the juxtaposition of the blue and the green. Yet, there is only one hand, as if only of the two sides is rooted in the green earth, as if the two cannot join hands as equals.

 B.    Peace as the ending of the oppression of occupation

Although ‘Peace Now’ had thought of itself as an extra-parliamentary group expressing a long-term Israeli interest in peace agreements as the best means to achieve security for Israel, even before the first Intifada it devoted energy to protesting the ‘moral cost’ of occupation for both Israeli occupiers and Palestinian occupied. 97 In part ‘Peace Now’ had wanted to demarcate between itself as a Zionist peace group and other, more radical groups that tended in their opposition to the occupation to identify with and express solidarity for the Palestinians.98 Yet, its supporters often wished to express outrage about military and settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied territories, and hence ‘Peace Now’ also worked in tandem with more radical groups such as the Committee for Solidarity with Bir Zeit University in March 1982.99 When the first Intifada erupted ‘Peace Now’ was not the first or most vocal of the peace groups protesting the repressive military response to the uprising,100 but it held a first, small demonstration of about 1,500 in Tel Aviv on 19 December 1987 under the slogan ‘Why are the territories burning’ (attended mostly by more radical activists) and another much larger demonstration with 50-80,000 people on 23 January 1988. On both occasions the flyers and slogans blamed the violence on the government’s unwillingness to negotiate and compromise over the territories, meaning that the ‘peace as compromise’ image was at play. But significantly, at the December event, both a Palestinian Israeli (Ahmad Abu Asneh), and a Palestinian doctor from Gaza (Zakariyya al-Agha) spoke from the platform, indicating a degree of solidarity with Palestinian suffering.101

‘Peace Now’ continued to demonstrate against the repression of the first Intifada. On the uprising’s second anniversary, 9 December 1989, it held a torch-lit demonstration in Jerusalem attended by 3,500 people who walked silently while carrying pictures of the 143 Palestinian and Israeli children who had been killed so far in the uprising.102 The poster (and flyer) calling for the demonstration is distinctly verbal in orientation, lacking much by way of visual design, reminiscent of the wall posters used by the ultra-Orthodox community. This was to be a small event compared to the upcoming ‘Time for Peace’ event at the end of the month, and so the poster was of the sort to be posted on public billboards on campuses and around the city, the red paper calling attention to the notice. Using the font of the ‘now’ in the ‘Peace Now’ logo, it declares in bold letters at the top: ‘And we all remain silent’ and then the large print continues below with a call to a protest march, listing time and place, underlined by the ‘Peace Now’ logo in black letters. The smaller print in between picks up the ‘we’ of the first line, involving the reader in a sense of responsibility for silence about the two-year long Intifada, the trampling of human rights, oppression of the Palestinian people, the erosion of ethics, asking how many need to be killed before hearts are opened, until when will ‘we’ allow (Prime Minister) Shamir to lead us into a political stalemate. The text then returns to the point about silence in the face of global changes. After a line break but still (oddly) in small letters, it reads: ‘Come to demonstrate with us in a cry to end the killing and to speak peace with the PLO now.' This poster has to be read rather than taken in at a glance (as a glance would not reveal the purpose of the demonstration, other than that it is organized by ‘Peace Now’). The text suggests a collective civic responsibility for the suffering of the Intifada and for the occupation, while proposing that there is a political alternative of peace. But the image of peace as negotiation is downplayed compared to the implicit understanding that occupation must be ended in order to bring peace now.

Fig. 10: ‘And we all remain silent.’ Poster, 50 X 35 cm. Peace Now archive, item # 4, file # 8,96,120, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.
Fig. 11: ‘Shooting and Laughing.’ Poster, designed by David Tartakover, 1989, 96 x 68 cm. Peace Now archive, item # 2, file # 2,96,120, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.

In addition to contrasting peace with occupation, ‘Peace Now’’s image of peace as the ending of occupation also casts the settler-occupiers as the enemy. A key motivation for establishing the movement had been to counter ‘Gush Emunim’ with a ‘sane’ version of Zionism.103 That theme is also prominent in a June 1989 poster designed by David Tartakover that was used by ‘Peace Now’ for fundraising (the small vertical script on the left side provides the movement’s bank account details for donations). The poster features a photograph of a notorious settler leader, Rabbi Levinger, grinning with pistol in his hand, decontextualizing him against a stark red and white background, while the bold script labeling him reads ‘Shooting and Laughing.' The phrase is a variation on the expression ‘shooting and crying,' which refers to the practice of executing violence and then bemoaning it later. Already the title of a book of columns by journalist Nahum Barnea, the phrase was also the title of a controversial rock song (that was banned by army radio) by popular musician Si Hi-man in 1988, protesting the violent repression of the Intifada.104 The poster demonizes Levinger, and by implication the settlers in general, as lacking even the conscience to agonize over their violent behavior. As in much anti-occupation imagery, peacefulness is not symbolized by the image, which pictures antagonism to those held responsible for the absence of peace.

‘Peace Now’ was also busy protesting the settlers and their activities on the ground, of which there were many, as is evident in a newspaper notice calling on supporters to a protest vigil in opposition to a ceremony to be held in the presence of government ministers to dedicate some Torah scrolls at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, on 3 May 1990. This was a period of intense confrontation between ‘Peace Now’ and the radical right in a series of small protests on site. At the top of the notice in large letters is the slogan ‘The graves of our fathers or the lives of our sons,' a slogan which had been used as early as March 1978, then in protest against Prime Minister Begin’s apparent preference to keep the site of the graves of the Biblical forefathers in Hebron at the expense of a peace agreement with Egypt.105 The rest of the text declares that the ceremony will celebrate the annihilation of the peace process, lists recent settlement activities in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, Dugit and Joseph’s Tomb, accuses the government of preferring fetishes to peace and settlements to immigration, and calls on the reader to ‘come and denounce the abomination of Shechem [the Hebrew name for Nablus] – because peace is better than the greater land of Israel.' The term ‘abomination’ references heathen practices, Shechem also being the name of a Biblical character who ‘defiled’ Jacob’s daughter Dinah and was then slaughtered in revenge along with his father and kinsmen by Jacob’s sons Simon and Levi.106 Also of interest is the handwriting on the archive copy of the notice, which refers to the five different newspapers in which it appeared on 2 May, from the mass circulation «Yediot Ach’ronot» to the ‘Kibbutz Ha’artzi’ movement’s newspaper, «Al Hamishmar». However, ‘Peace Now’ had to appeal to the High Court against the military authorities in order to be allowed to protest at the site, and only tens of demonstrators were permitted to be there under a compromise agreement. In the face of such constant provocations, ‘Peace Now’ established its permanent Settlement Watch project, which is today the mainstay of the group’s activities.107 ‘Peace Now’ had consistently regarded the settlements as an obstacle to peace, but in figuring peace as the ending of occupation it expanded both its willingness to identify with the Palestinian victims of occupation and its sense of the damage done to Israeli ethics. Yet, once again, the newspaper notice did not symbolize peacefulness but antagonism to the settlers, divisiveness rather than peace between sons, while also suggesting that a choice must be made between attachment to Judaic tradition and peace.

Fig. 12: ‘Graves of the Fathers.’ Newspaper notice, May 3 1990. Peace Now archive, file # 1,28,92, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.

A very different sense of the harm being done to Israelis prompted ‘Peace Now’ to promote another image of peace as separation between Israelis and Palestinians during the first Intifada. The context was the nasty atmosphere in October 1990 when violence against civilians on both sides escalated, and in response to stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians from the Occupied Territories the Israeli government closed off those areas, thereby blocking all those who crossed from there into Israel daily from earning a livelihood. ‘Peace Now’ activists saw this as an opportunity to build on public sentiment and re-draw the ‘green line,’ meaning the effective boundary of Israel that had been established by the armistice agreements of Israel with Egypt and Jordan after the 1948 war and held until the June 1967 war. The Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini also accepted the notion of separation in principle, but the more radical and leftist Israeli groups did not regard such separation as a step to peace or a value but as a measure taken in a spirit of anti-Arab racism at a time when the voices on the right were proposing the ‘transfer’ (meaning ethnic cleansing) of Palestinians. ‘Peace Now’ held a demonstration in Jerusalem on 8 December 1990 under the slogan of ‘Part ways for/to peace’ and published a pamphlet titled ‘We can’t go on like this.’ 108 

C.    Peace as Separation

Fig. 13: ‘Part Ways for Peace.’ Poster, 70 X 50 cm. Peace Now archive, item # 16, file # 5,96,120, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Reproduced by permission of the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.

The slogan found its way to a poster that cleaves very closely to the ‘Peace Now’ logo, adding in a different and slighter font the word ‘to part ways’ (or separate), the three words reading together ‘part ways for peace now.' The blunt message was intended to articulate between the concept of separation and peace, even as ‘Peace Now’ was developing its links with Palestinian Israelis in preparation for the January 1991 event against racism. Moreover, the linkage between separation and peace was no mere temporary tactic. Writing after Rabin’s assassination, at the end of his history of ‘Peace Now,’ Reshef writes that ‘there will be no peace without separation’ and that ‘separation is needed to enable the two people to recover from the traumatic history of the relations between them.’109


Conclusion: Dilemmas of Action, Divergence of Images

‘Peace Now’ operated as a public relations agency advocating peace. This mode of operation suited its mode of organization, which was not a mass party-like movement, but one in which a relatively small, socially homogenous, central leadership group reached consensus and directed the timing and type of activities, reinforced from late 1989 by a professional staff.110 This was a ‘low cost’ approach to building and periodically mobilizing a substantial public following that depended on quite a close group assessing which particular political messages and images of peace would resonate among the public at which particular times. Such assessments are akin to advertising agencies figuring out which campaigns will boost products and brands, or entertainment producers estimating which films, songs or television programs will be popular. Peace Now had quickly established a brand and a recognized logo that it redeployed throughout 1987-1993 as way to underline its calls to its supporters and sympathizers. In the absence of today’s social media, and without the financial resources of commercial and entertainment industries, Peace Now gauged public opinion sometimes by trial and error, sometimes by beginning campaigns in small ways and building to large rallies such as the one in October 1991, and by consulting public opinion polls.111 The organization acted across a vibrant public sphere, disseminating its messages graphically across public and private billboards, on bumper stickers and flyers, on roadside banners and flyers, in the ‘image events’112 of its demonstrations, as well as public discussions and printed material. Implicitly at least, ‘Peace Now’ had grasped that rather than relying on face-to-face communication between members of a mass party style organization, it could rely on various modes of verbal and visual communication. It had considerable success in mobilizing public support for peace as compromise and negotiation, as well as protests against oppressive occupation and settlements that conveyed a non-pacific image of peace as the ending of occupation.

However, ‘Peace Now’ also confronted the limitations of its specific public relations approach to promoting peace. The public relations task of ‘Peace Now’ entailed not only promoting peace but changing the image that many Jewish Israelis have of the conflict, to conceive it as a conflict amenable to compromise. During 1987-93, ‘Peace Now’ was successful to some extent in doing that, by promoting the PLO’s change of line as an opportunity for peace. However, ‘Peace Now’ could not frame public interpretation of all the developments of this period in terms that fitted a pragmatic, compromise orientation to the conflict. In particular, at the end of 1990 and into 1991 when there were increased attacks by Palestinians on Israeli civilians, when the Palestinian national leadership supported Saddam Hussein and the Israeli media reported Palestinians rejoicing as Scud missiles fell on Israel, the case that Palestinians were not hostile to Israel was hard to make in the face of contrasting images of the Palestinians and the conflict.

‘Peace Now’ was very successful in branding peace, in associating peace and itself, but it was fair less successful in attaching that brand to some sort of emotional experience of peace, or some deep cultural association with its brand of peace. To some extent, this is a common problem encountered by groups who have to deal with the difficulty of symbolizing peace, because of its iconographic poverty, especially with regard to any notion of ‘positive peace’ rather than the mere absence of war, or in Israel’s case, occupation.113 But it is also the case that ‘Peace Now’ did not dig deep enough into Israel’s cultural repertoires of ‘peace,' especially its Judaic sources, to compensate for that problem, and for the relative infrequency and insignificance of activities that brought Jewish Israelis and Palestinians together in experiences of co-existence.114 ‘Peace Now’’s inattention to Israel’s Jewish culture draws attention to the group’s other image problems, as commentators have explained: being seen as unpatriotic, disloyal, defeatist, naïve, liberal, Western, Ashkenazi, elitist, middle class, and secular. 115 As Hermann notes, ‘Peace Now’ always suffered both from sociological alienation from broad sectors of the public, and political and ideological distance.116 By its very nature the Israeli peace movement as a whole and ‘Peace Now’ in particular were out of step with the Jewish Israeli consensus on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Even though ‘Peace Now’ embraces what Kimmerling refers to as the compromise orientation, which is one of three ‘ideal types’ of Jewish Israeli political orientations to the conflict within Israeli ‘civil militarism,' it is still mostly at odds with the other two orientations of ‘conflict’ and ‘security.’

So, although ‘Peace Now’ at times tried to present itself as representing the Israeli consensus and the settlers as being beyond it, it could not do so consistently and persuasively. Moreover, in its promotion of peace through an image of opposition to occupation, it tended to posit settlers as dangerous enemies. Whereas the image of peace as compromise posited turning Palestinian enemies into neighbors, this negative image of peace pulled against that pacific orientation. From within the Jewish Israeli consensus, it thus appeared as if ‘Peace Now’ would make peace with Palestinians but were ‘at war’ with (at least some) Jews. In addition, as we have seen, the image of peace as compromise as given in graphic images was itself often ambiguous, open to doubt about the possibility of achieving peace in the present or doing so with the Palestinians.

Most significant, however, was the tension between the images of peace as compromise and as anti-occupation, and the image of peace as separation. When ‘Peace Now’ introduced the last image, it did so as a response to the public mood that Israel could withdraw from Occupied Territories out of its own security considerations, and at the same time preserve the principle of compromise (by relinquishing some presence in the occupied territories), so the image was not in need of much promotion. However, it was also an image at odds to a significant degree with the other two images of peace. If negotiation and compromise would bring peace (and security along with it), then why would the two peoples need to separate? The image of peace as separation allows for a continuing perception of Palestinian hostility to Israel, and hence also for a peace that does not have to be achieved through negotiation and compromise, since separation can be imposed unilaterally. Certainly, the principle of two states for two peoples and territorial compromise entails some types of separation, such as the dismantling of the Israeli settlements in the future Palestinian state. Yet, with hindsight and in light of both the building of the separation wall and the unilateral disengagement from Gaza, it is also clear that separation of that sort has not brought peace any closer.117 It is an image that justifies continued restriction and occupation of Palestinians, as they are hostile enemies. Peace as separation has become a recipe for the oxymoron of ‘unilateral peace.’



I am grateful to the College of Arts and Humanities Institute, Indiana University for a Travel Research grant that enabled me to conduct research during the summer of 2011. I was also a fellow of the Schusterman Center Summer Institute for Israel Studies that summer, which prepared me well for the research trip academically and funded my travel to Israel. Much of my research was undertaken at the Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva, where the ‘Peace Now’ archives are held. I would like to thank the entire staff at the archive not only for making my work there productive but also for providing such a friendly and supportive atmosphere. I am also grateful to comments from the audiences at three events at which I presented the paper: Keynote speaker, for ‘Imagination & Images,' 10 year anniversary conference for the Hebrew University Cultural Studies program, November 13, 2012; Seminar of the Department of Communication and Journalism, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, November 20, 2012; Seminar of the Department of Communication, Tel Aviv University, November 28, 2012.

[1] Mordechai Bar-On, In Pursuit of Peace: A History of the Israeli Peace Movement, (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute for Peace, 1996), 309-10; Reuven Kaminer, The Politics of Protest: The Israeli Peace Movement and the Palestinian Intifada, (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1996), 224, fn. no. 3.
[2] See Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace; Tamar Hermann, The Israeli Peace Movement: A Shattered Dream, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009); Kaminer, Politics of Protest; and Tzaly Reshef, Peace Now: From the Officers’ Letter to the Peace Now, (Jerusalem: Keter, 1996) (Hebrew). Readers familiar with the history of ‘Peace Now’ may prefer to skip this section of the article.
[3] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 112; Reshef, Peace Now, 56.
[4] See the ‘Camp David Accords’ in Israel in the Middle East: Documents and Readings on Society, Politics, and Foreign Relations, Pre-1948 to the Present (2nd Edition) eds. Itamar Rabinovich and Jehuda Reinharz (Waltham, MA; Brandeis University Press, 2008), 376-83. Reshef, Peace Now, 128.
[5] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 111; Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 89; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 31; Reshef, Peace Now, 59.
[6] Reshef, Peace Now, 54-55, 60.
[7] Reshef, Peace Now, 61-62, 66.
[8] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 125, 120.
[9] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 131-33; David Hall-Cathala, The Peace Movement in Israel, 1967-87, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990), 56; Reshef, Peace Now, 82-85. As Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 25 puts it: “the voice of protest is hushed when electoral canons are being fired."
[10] Reshef, Peace Now, 126-28; Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 174.
[11] Hall-Cathala, Peace Movement in Israel, 60-61.
[12] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 155; Reshef, Peace Now, 106 - 108.
[13] Reshef, Peace Now, 116-17.
[14] Reshef, Peace Now, 99, 110-115; Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 146; Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 92.
[15] Reshef, Peace Now, 30.
[16] Reshef, Peace Now, 78-79.
[17] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 193; Hall-Cathala, Peace Movement in Israel, 60; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 98-99.
[18] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 214, 217; Reshef, Peace Now, 141-44.
[19] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 134; Hall-Cathala, Peace Movement in Israel, 57; Reshef, Peace Now, 90.
[20] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 230; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 99-100; Reshef, Peace Now, 148-151.
[21] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 246-51; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 105-11; Reshef, Peace Now, 151-59.
[22] Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 120-21.
[23] Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 108, 117-18; Reshef, Peace Now, 162-69.
[24] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 264-64; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 165-67; Reshef, Peace Now, 175-82.
[25] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 266-69; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 172-73; Reshef, Peace Now, 199-200.
[26] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 270; Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 98; Reshef, Peace Now, 156, 199.
[27] Reshef, Peace Now, 185-86; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 173.
[28] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 272-74; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 189-93; Reshef, Peace Now, 191-95.
[29] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 276; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 197-98; Reshef, Peace Now, 184-85.
[30] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 277, 284; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 199-200; Reshef, Peace Now, 188.
[31] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 278; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 196; Reshef, Peace Now, 189-90.
[32] Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 107; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 202; Reshef, Peace Now, 196-97.
[33] Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 108.
[34] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 287-89, 292; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 212-14.
[35] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 285-86; Reshef, Peace Now, 201-6.
[36] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 295-97.
[37] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 300-304; Reshef, Peace Now, 220-21.
[38] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 308; Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 108-9; Reshef, Peace Now, 220-21.
[39] Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 109-10; Reshef, Peace Now, 218-19
[40] “Activity report for the months of November and December," Peace Now archive, file # 5,3,92, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva; Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 135-36; Reshef, Peace Now, 221.
[41] See Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 318-322; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 216.
[42] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 316-16.
[43] Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 111-14, 120-73, refers to the period after the Oslo accords, from September 1993 to May 1996, as a ‘rest area zone’ in which there was still substantial yet wavering public support for the Oslo agreements but an over-estimation on the part of ‘Peace Now’ and other moderates in the peace camp that the Oslo process was inevitable. She argues that as late as 1997 the movement continued to assess incorrectly both the public mood and the extent to which a Likud-led government under Prime Minister Netanyahu was obliged to continue the process. See pp. 157-60.
[44] See especially Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 12-44, 240-66; but also Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 315-332; Hall-Cathaler, Peace Movement in Israel, 21-23, 195-98. There are also article length studies that consider Peace Now as a social movement in comparative perspective, such as David Newman and Tamar Hermann, “A Comparative Study of Gush Emunim and Peace now" Middle Eastern Studies 28/3 (1992): 509-30.
[45] Of note is the research of Michael Feige: “Peace Now and the Legitimation Crisis of ‘Civil Militarism'" Israel Studies 3/1 (1998): 85-111; “Rescuing the Person from the Symbol: ‘Peace Now’ and the Ironies of Modern Myth”, History & Memory 11/1 (1999): 141-68; One Space, Two Places: Gush Emunim, Peace Now and the Construction of Israeli Space, (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2002) (Hebrew).
[46] Régis Debray, Media Manifestos: On the Technological Transmission of Cultural Forms, trans. Eric Rauth (London: Verso, 1996).
[47] Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 99-103; Reshef, Peace Now, 34, 37-38.
[48] Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 112.
[49] Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 113.
[50] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 106.
[51] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 189.
[52] Reshef, Peace Now, 38. Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 102 translates the same slogan as ‘Peace is Better than another Piece of Land’ in an effort to retain in translation some of the similarity of sound in Hebrew of the words ‘peace’ (shalom) and ‘whole’ (shlema), the ‘Whole Land of Israel’ being the literal translation of the Hebrew expression for ‘the Greater Land of Israel’ that includes the Occupied Territories.
[53] Reshef, Peace Now, 38, 61, 157-58.
[54] Reshef, Peace Now, 48.
[55] Lynn Renée Bloch has argued that bumper stickers have been a particularly fruitful way for Israelis to express their political opinions forthrightly since 1977. See her “Rhetoric on the Roads of Israel: The Assassination and Political Bumper Stickers," in The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, ed. Yoram Peri, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2000), 257-262.
[56] “Summary of Coordination Meeting – 25 March 1993” (Hebrew), Peace Now archive, file # 7,3,93, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.
[57]. Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, (Polity Press: Cambridge, 1989), Chapters I and II.
[58] I have argued for the democratic potential of popular mediated culture in “The Radical Democratic Possibilities of Popular Culture," in On Radical Democracy: Politics Between Abundance and Lack, eds. Lars Tønder and Lasse Thomassen, (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2005), 149-66; “Popular Culture and Mediated Politics: Intellectuals, Elites and Democracy," in Media and the Restyling of Politics, eds. John Corner and Dick Pels, (Sage: London, 2003), 171-89; and “Governing The Public: Technologies Of Mediation And Popular Culture" Cultural Values, 6/1&2 (2002), 167-81.
[59] For a more expansive discussion of political images, see Jon Simons, “From Visual Literacy to Image Competence," in Visual Literacy, ed. J. Elkins, (New York: Routledge, 2008); and on peace images see Jon Simons, “Peace Now or Never: Images of Peace in the Israeli Peace Movement," in Representations of Peace and Conflict, eds. Stephen Gibson and Simon Mollan, (Palgrave-Macmillan: Basingstoke, 2012).
[60] Reshef, Peace Now, 45-46.
[61] Feige, “Rescuing the Person from the Symbol," 152.
[62] Ibid.,, 161.
[63] Roland Barthes, “Rhetoric of the Image” in Id. Image, Music, Text (London: Flamingo, 1984).
[64] Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen, Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design (London: Routledge, 1996).
[65] Reshef, Peace Now, 29-30, 88.
[66] ‘David Tartakover’ on the Tipografia Ivrit blog: (accessed 10 July 2012).
[67] Feige, “Peace Now and the Legitimation Crisis of ‘Civil Militarism'" 92-93.
[68] See David Newman, “Conflicting Israeli Peace Discourses" Peace Review 9/3 (1997): 423; and Adi Ophir and Ariela Azoulay, “Peace, How are You?" Plastika 2 (1998): 76-80 (in Hebrew).
[69] Interview with David Tartakover, Tel Aviv, 16 December 2012.
[70] “Work plan for Peace Now: 1 December 1992 – 3 April 1993” (Hebrew), Peace Now archive, file # 1,2,92, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.
[71] Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 113.
[72] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 295.
[73] The material signs that should be taken into account in a full discussion of the images of peace advocated by ‘Peace Now’ would also include demonstrations at which speeches are made, banners displayed, songs are sung, public space is organized and filled, as well as research reports written and disseminated, opinions published and disseminated in print and electronically, legal action taken, education programs conducted and so on.
[74] Baruch Kimmerling, The Invention and Decline of Israeliness: State, Society, and the Military (Berkeley, California University Press, 2001), 209-12, 223-25.
[75] Newman and Hermann, “A Comparative Study of Gush Emunim and Peace Now," 514.
[76] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 233; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 102-3; Untitled list of Peace Now activities from 1983-89, (English), Peace Now archive, file # 8,6,92, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.
[77] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 287-88; Kaminer, 212-13. Kaminer claims that the ‘Time for Peace’ campaign made use of ‘patriotic’ blue and white colors, but I did not see examples of that in the Peace Now archives, which admittedly are not complete.
[78] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 309-10; Reshef, Peace Now, 219.
[79] In 1993 the visible, official peace process following the Madrid conference seemed to be leading towards an agreement with Syria, at least in the eyes of the right-wing public. Their slogans, stickers and posters of the time can be viewed at: (accessed 13 July 2012).
[80] “Preparations for the demonstration on Saturday 4.9.93 – ‘the people stand for peace’” (Hebrew). Peace Now archive, file # 5,3,92, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.
[81] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 187-88, reports that Peace Now waited for the failure of Prime Minister Peres’ meetings with King Hussein of Jordan in 1985 before focusing on its dialogue with Palestinian leaders.
[82] Reshef, Peace Now, 141.
[83] Reshef, Peace Now, 143.
[84] A copy of the poster in English advertises a conference between several Palestinians and Israelis on 1 January 1985 at the Gerard Behar Centre in Jerusalem. “Press Cuttings” (Hebrew and English), Peace Now archive, file # 5,7,92, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva. Electronic Images of the exhibition of ‘Peace Now’ marking 30 years of its existence are also held in the archive, catalogue # 7,2,2-121, dvd2.
[85] Perhaps ironically, many of the homes in the area where the ‘Peace Now’ offices in Jerusalem are located are such old-style houses. Many Palestinians lived in the area until being put to flight during the war of 1947-9.
[86] Untitled list of ‘Peace Now’ activities from 1983-89, (English), Peace Now archive, file # 8,6,92, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.
[87] Although the artist’s signature does not appear on the poster, it is displayed on David Tartakover’s website: (accessed 13 July 2012).
[88] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 246; Reshef, Peace Now, 151-54.
[89] Reshef, Peace Now, 160.
[90] Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 89, 99.
[91] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 264; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 163-65; Reshef, Peace Now, 176-81.
[92] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 265; Reshef, Peace Now, 180-82.
[93] Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 166-67.
[94] Reshef, Peace Now, 48, 61-62, 66, 120, 125, 159, 166. Whether or not Reshef and the leadership were correct in their assessment is another matter.
[95] Reshef, Peace Now, 142.
[96] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 278; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 196; Reshef, Peace Now, 189-90.
[97] Reshef, Peace Now, 30, 90.
[98] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 224, Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 261.
[99] Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 34.
[100] There were many other protest groups that either sprang up or gained strength (and then sometimes declined) during the first Intifada and until the Oslo agreement, and so there is not space in this article to discuss them. See Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, chapters 11-14; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, chapter 3-14; Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 98-110. There is also a large body of journal articles and other research documents about these smaller protest groups, for which the bibliographies of these books are helpful.
[101] Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 99-100; Reshef, Peace Now, 149-51.
[102] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 263-64; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 163; Untitled list of Peace Now activities from 1983-89, (English), Peace Now archive, file # 8,6,92, Yad Yaari Institute, Givat Haviva.
[103] Reshef, Peace Now, 15, 27, 37; Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 90.
[104] Nahum Barnea, Shooting and Crying: On Politicians, Generals, Journalists and other Narcissists (Tel Aviv: Kinneret Zmora Dvir, 1981) (Hebrew); Si Hi-Man and the Local Band, ‘Shooting and Crying’ on the album, The Second Record. NMC Music Ltd., 1988; song available at: (accessed 14 February 2012; for more about the context and reception of the song, see Scott Streiner, ‘Shooting and Crying: The Emergence of Protest in Israeli Popular Music' The European Legacy  6/6, (2001).
[105] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 102, 268.
[106] Genesis, 34.
[107] Reshef, Peace Now, 200-201.
[108] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 284; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 197-201; Reshef, Peace Now, 188.
[109] Reshef, Peace Now, 222-23.
[110] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 103-5; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 115-16; Reshef, Peace Now, 43-44.
[111] Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 117.
[112] See Kevin DeLuca, Image Politics (New York: Guilford Press, 1999) for the conception of social movement protests as ‘image events.'
[113] See David Barash (ed.), Approaches to Peace: A Reader in Peace Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) both for the common distinction between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ peace and also for the perception that peace is boring, an unworthy subject for cinema, unlike war.
[114] See also Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Dialogue, Conflict Resolution, and Change: Arab-Jewish Encounters in Israel (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999) for a critical analysis some coexistence activities.
[115] Bar-On, Pursuit of Peace, 121; Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 241; Kaminer, Politics of Protest, 22; Reshef, Peace Now, 119.
[116] Hermann, Israeli Peace Movement, 241.
[117] For a fuller discussion of the ramifications of peace as separation, see Simons, “Peace Now or Never.”

Jon Simons is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Culture, Indiana University, Bloomington. His research and teaching focus on the interface between media, social and cultural theory, with a particular interest in popular, mediated, democratic politics and images. In the summer of 2009 he began a study of images of peace used and advocated by the Israeli peace movement, followed by a research trip in the summer of 2011. The project analyses critically the images (visual, pictorial, conceptual, ideological) of peace that are advocated by the peace movements and assess the role of those images in constructing peace. He continued his research in Israel in the autumn of 2012 as a Lady Davis Fellow, affiliated with the Hebrew University’s Department of Communication and Journalism. He writes a blog connected to this research project:

How to quote this article:
Jon Simons,
Promoting Peace: Peace Now as a Graphic Peace Movement, 1987-1993
Israelis and Palestinians Seeking, Building and Representing Peace. A Historical Appraisal,
ed. Marcella Simoni,
Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History. Journal of the Fondazione CDEC,
n. 05,
July 2013
DOI: 10.48248/issn.2037-741X/763