Israel-Palestine war: Prominent Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver missing after attack

Lubna Masarwa

Middle East Eye  /  October 9, 2023

Vivian Silver was a board member of top human rights group B’Tselem and has most recently been leading anti-occupation group Women Wage Peace.

A longtime Israeli peace activist and former board member of Israel’s largest human rights organization, B’Tselem, is missing following the shock Palestinian attack launched from the Gaza Strip.

Vivian Silver lives in Beeri, a kibbutz near the boundary between Israel and Gaza. On Saturday, it became a battleground, as hundreds of Palestinian fighters flooded into Israel by land, air and sea.

Around 800 Israelis have been confirmed killed by the ongoing assault, while Palestinian factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad say they have taken some 130 captive in Gaza.

Yonatan, her son, is leading efforts to find any information about her whereabouts.

“We haven’t heard from my mum since Saturday. We have turned to her Bedouin colleagues and contacts in the Negev, but no one knows if she was in fact kidnapped to Gaza,” he told Middle East Eye.

“Given that she went missing on Saturday, it looks very much as though she was abducted. But, so far, there has been no way to confirm it.”

Act of solidarity

Professor Oren Yiftachel, who was a colleague of Silver’s on the board of B’Tselem, said she was on the organization’s board for six or seven years.

B’Tselem is Israel’s largest and most prominent human rights group. In 2021, it officially declared Israel an apartheid regime enforcing Jewish supremacy between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan river.

“She would come with us to the occupied territories as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, and as an activist against the occupation.

“She was also active in women’s organizations on both sides of the Green Line,” he told MEE, using the term for the demarcation line that separates Israel from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Silver was executive director of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development, which encourages collaboration and partnership between Jewish and Arab communities.

Together with Amal Elsana Alh’jooj, she founded the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation, which in Arabic means “I am coming towards you.”

More recently, Silver has been active as a leader of Women Wage Peace, an anti-occupation group that focuses on women.

“Just a week ago she helped organize an activity they called ‘From Jerusalem to Jericho’,” Yiftachel said.

“All of us who are her friends and of course her family are seeking to learn whatever we can about what has happened to her.

“Since she also has Canadian citizenship, the Canadian embassy was contacted and there are officials in Canada working on it,” he added.

“There is no proof so far that she was abducted. Some people say they saw her on a video. But there is no confirmation. Meanwhile, she remains missing, and we are looking for any shred of information.”

Lubna Masarwa is a journalist and Middle East Eye’s Palestine and Israel bureau chief, based in Jerusalem