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Between 2004 and 2010, Just Vision interviewed more than 80 Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders. The interviews in this archive represent a fraction of the civic leaders working in the field at a particular moment in time, and aim to provide audiences access to a range of perspectives and approaches.

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George Sa'adeh

Three years ago in Bethlehem, George Sa'adeh, his wife Najwa and their two daughters were driving home from the supermarket. Israeli soldiers opened fire on their car, killing twelve-year-old Christine. Less than a year later, George joined hundreds of other Palestinian and Israeli families in the Bereaved Families Forum who work together for reconciliation and against violence and occupation. He is a school principal in Beit Sahour and recently became the deputy mayor of Bethlehem. George Sa'adeh is featured in Just Vision's documentary film, Encounter Point; to view one of his scenes, please press here.

  • Could you please introduce yourself and give us some background about yourself and your family?

    My name is George Anton Sa'adeh. I'm 42 years old, and I'm from Bethlehem. I am married and the father of two daughters. My younger daughter was killed on the 25th of March, 2003. Right now I'm with my wife and 16-year-old daughter. I was born in Bethlehem in 1962. I finished high school at the Terra Santa School in Bethlehem and went to college at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Then I came back to continue my life here in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ.

  • Can you tell us more about how your daughter was killed?

    As a result of the situation, the intifada, there were clashes going on in Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities. On that day--it was 6:30 in the evening--I was with my wife and daughters in the car going to buy some things from the supermarket. We saw three Israeli army jeeps on the side of the street. When we passed the first one we were fired at from all directions from a distance of 100 meters. I was injured and so was my older daughter who was 15 back then, and my daughter Christine, who was 12, was killed in that shooting. For some time we didn't know what happened to us as it all happened in a few seconds. My wife and I started shouting out for an ambulance to aid us. We were horrified. Then came the army vehicles, one had the Star of David on it and they took us to the northern checkpoint of Bethlehem. Then the ambulances with the Star of David took us to Hadassah Hospital. When I was in the ambulance I asked them why they shot at us when we are only civilians, and they said that it was a mistake. What happened is that there was a group of Israeli soldiers tracking three wanted Palestinians who were driving in the car behind me. They were all killed along with my daughter Christine. It all happened because I have the same car model that the wanted Palestinians were driving and it just so happened that we were there at the same time and the same place. This is a summary of what happened.

  • What happened when you were in your car and saw those jeeps?

    I saw three jeeps without soldiers; no one stopped me because there was nobody there. So I continued driving in the same direction. As soon as I got to the first jeep, the shooting started and we didn't know what happened because it was all in a few seconds.

  • What did you think when the shooting started?

    Christine was telling us that they were shooting at us because the glass was shattered and I had bullets hitting my left side. Then we heard nothing. I couldn't continue driving. There was no glass left in the car windows and it was a state of chaos, it was hysteria. My wife was shouting and my other daughter too, and blood was all over the car. After I stopped the car I put my hand out and yelled to them in English, "Stop shooting, we are civilians." Then we saw Christine. She was wounded severely in the head and neck, she was sitting in the seat behind me and was trapped between the seats, there was broken glass everywhere, blood all over. We called for help. The neighbors that were there came to help but we still needed an ambulance. Then came the army ambulance that was parked there. Two minutes later the soldiers came and put us in the army ambulance to take us to the hospital. When they realized their mistake they tried to help.

  • What was your condition at this point?

    I was conscious, but I couldn't carry my daughter because I was wounded myself; I had nine bullets in my body but I didn't know that until later on. My wife didn't know that I was shot, I tried to help and so on but when I got in the jeep I told the soldiers that I was shot and needed treatment. I couldn't get out of the jeep until they carried me on a cart. There was an ambulance for Christine because she needed intensive care; there was another one for my wife and daughter and one for me. At the checkpoint there was an army doctor, he came to me and said "Don't worry, we'll aid you." We got to Hadassah Hospital and the medical team there was very cooperative with us and they did their duty. Of course my daughter Christine didn't make it to the hospital because she was dead by that time. They tried to rescue her in the ambulance but her injury was fatal.

  • Did you speak with the soldiers at all?

    I spoke to the soldiers and I told them that we were wounded civilians. Four or five soldiers came to us with their commander and got in the jeep with us. In the first car they put us in, four of them sat facing us while I sat there with my daughter and wife who had Christine in her arms. They said that they were sorry because it was a mistake. I asked them why they shot at us, since we didn't do anything. They said, "We are sorry, it was a mistake." They stayed with us until we got to the checkpoint where all the ambulances were and they transferred us to them.

  • What were you feeling at that point?

    We were horrified and shocked at what happened to us, we were not fully aware of what happened. We only knew that we were shot at and that we were hurt, but at that time we didn't realize what was going on until we woke up from that situation. As a family, we were going to buy some stuff from the supermarket; milk and cheese, etc. We had no idea that this was going to happen to us.

  • Was Christine conscious?

    She was conscious when the shooting started; I didn't hear her voice after that. The last thing she said was, "They are shooting at us." My wife and I told her not to be afraid. We never heard her voice again.

  • You said that at a certain point you woke up and realized what happened. What did you think then?

    After what happened, after I was hospitalized and after I had gone through surgery, I found out that Christine had died. We started questioning why this had to happen to us. We didn't find any reason for it except for the situation and chaos we live in where there is no peace and security. We felt that we live in a place that's not safe. We still need time to heal from what we've been through, especially my wife, the mother of Christine, and my other daughter who was shot in her right leg, until this moment she's hurting from her injury and until this moment we are suffering mentally from all this. Of course it changed our lives completely. We were a happy family, now we are a family that’s missing a member and this affected us very much. All the plans that we had for the future, it's all changed now. All the hopes and ambitions... our life has become very difficult. We are suffering because of what our country is going through, politically and economically and of course we are only one of the families to have gone through this.

  • Did you have any formal apology from the army afterwards?

    We didn't get any because there is no contact between us [the governments]. But the soldiers in the jeep that shot at us apologized for what they did.

  • How did you respond to them in the ambulance?

    I wasn't aware nor was I fully conscious. I was just thinking about what happened to us, my injury, and my wife and daughters' injuries. I was focused on their condition and on whether or not they would survive. I still don't have a response to what happened.

  • How do you deal with this?

    With our faith in God almighty, we strongly believe in Him; this is what strengthens us--our faith and the forgiveness within us. We also call for peace that is just and real where there will be no Palestinian or Israeli family that has to go through the same thing we did. Our goal now is to try as much as we can through our love and forgiveness to carry on with our lives and help others not to go through what we went through. The only way to do that is to call Palestinians and Israelis to work for peace, peace that gives the Palestinian people the right to live in security and the right for the Israelis to live in security, in two independent states under the resolutions1 of the United Nations and the [Universal Declaration of] human rights, where there would be mutual respect among the two nations to be able to live in trust and love and each have his own life the way he wants, respectfully.

    • 1Refers to such United Nation Resolutions as 194, 242, and 338. United Nations Resolution 194 refers to the issue of Palestinian Refugees. United Nations Resolution 194 states "that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible." UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed in the November following the 1967 War, seeks both the withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces for territories occupied in the War of 1967 and respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, security, and right to live in peace for all countries in the area(i.e., Arab state recognition of Israel's right to exist.) United Nations Security Council Resolution 338, passed on November 22 1973, calls for a cease-fire and all fighting (referring to the 1973 War) to end. Resolution 338 also reaffirms the importance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 and for that resolution to be implemented. For a text of the above described resolutions see http://www.un.org/documents/.

  • Were you angry?

    Anger would do us no good. On the contrary, forgiveness would. Anger would not get Christine back or change the current situation. We try to compensate for what happened to us through love and forgiveness. We don't want other families to go through what we've been through. Without the hope for peace and mutual respect between the two sides, more families on both sides will suffer.

  • Has your relationship with God changed since that happened?

    In fact our faith is strong; it's what strengthened us to overcome and survive this. It helped us continue our lives, because what happened to us is not a normal thing. I will even tell you a story about my daughter Christine. In the beginning of the year 2003, three months before the accident, we were watching a show about horoscopes. When Christine, who was a Scorpio, heard her horoscope she said, "I will die this year and I will be famous." We later found out after she had died that she said the same thing to her friends. It was God's power that inspired her about what was going to happen. Even half an hour before the accident, Christine's friend had given her a scrap book to write in and she wrote, "I wish you a happy life and a bright future because I'm leaving this world." One more thing, on that Tuesday the 25th, she usually leaves school after she finishes her classes but on that day she went back to say goodbye to her teacher and classmates.

  • Did you speak with her about the visions that she was having?

    No, I only knew about it after the accident happened, after she died. She didn't tell us about it, she told her friends. She was also religious, she liked to pray and go to church, and she loved to make donations to her friends. When she died she was fasting before Easter. Although she loved chocolate very much, she used to give her allowance to her teacher so that she in turn could give it to the poor. She loved to help her friends; she used to teach them how to pray. We taught her how to pray, how to respect and love others and how to be compassionate with the needy. She was brought up in the Christian manner based on our love of others--- as Christian Palestinians that are living in the Holy Land, in Bethlehem. We are used to welcoming visitors from all around the world, so we don't like to treat others badly.

  • What do you think about the fact she was getting all those signs about her own death?

    It's possible she had a vision from God to prepare her for what she was about to go through.

  • Did that help you accept what happened?

    This helps us to accept what happened with love. Of course losing her affected us so much but we believe that she's now an angel that moved to live in the other world with God almighty. This helps us endure what happened but we're still affected by losing her. Hopefully we will get used to it with time.

  • Do you miss her?

    Of course we miss her, we were a well-connected family; we miss her so much-- for her actions, for her movements, and for her love for people. She loved swimming, music and playing the piano. She participated in the millennium celebrations even though she was a child of 12. She took a Hebrew language course. She was very active and had a lot of hobbies. In addition, she was good at school, her friends loved her, and so did her teachers and principal. I imagine that everybody misses her but I know that we cannot change the reality we live in. We can only hope that through our love for her and for people there will be peace so that families and mothers can take care of their children and not go through the hardship and pain that we went through.

  • Did the shooting happen in a place you have to pass every day?

    Actually we try to avoid passing that place, especially because my wife keeps remembering what happened. So I personally try to avoid passing it because it has a negative impact emotionally. When we happen to be in that place... it brings back painful memories so it affects us so much.

  • Has there been any investigation?

    I have no idea if there was an investigation in this case.

  • Do you want an investigation?

    It would not do me any good. The mistake happened, the accident happened, so how will I possibly benefit from the investigation? Christine will not come back; it will not change what happened.

  • But do you think that if the army somehow took responsibility that it might help you move past?

    I don't think so; it will not affect me. It will be an internal issue if the army decides to investigate, but for me, it will not change anything.

  • How did you mourn?

    Having friends around helped me a lot. Christine's funeral was one of the biggest funerals in the history of Bethlehem, according to the press. I was in the hospital when she was buried and so was my other daughter. Only my wife was there with friends and family. We have a lot of good friendly ties with the people in Bethlehem, and we have a lot of friends abroad that grieved with us. A lot of them consoled us and stood by us; this gave us strength to overcome.

  • How did you first find out about the Bereaved Families Forum?

    There was an interview with us in an Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot,1 and as a result, a member of the Forum contacted us and explained what they do. They asked if we would mind meeting Israeli bereaved families; we didn't mind and we met. We talked about what we went through and they did the same. I found that we both are suffering because of this situation. Their thoughts were to try to help each other through forgiveness and achieve true peace. That is, a peace that will give both sides the peace we look for with mutual respect and right between the two nations.

    • 1One of Israel's most widely-circulated newspapers, published in Hebrew.

  • How soon after your daughter was killed did you join?

    First a journalist attended the funeral and met my wife and the others. Then three months later, they interviewed me; the journalist was Gideon Levi.1 They [Forum members] read the article; they took our number from him and contacted us. They asked if we didn't mind meeting them [an Israeli bereaved family], so we met three of them. They told us about what happened to their children and what they went through. So I found that we've been through the same suffering and all we want to do is to stop the suffering... and to prevent other families from going through the same suffering we went through.

    • 1is an Israeli journalist who writes for Ha'aretz.

  • How did you feel before you met the other families in the Forum? What did you expect?

    I didn't expect this would happen in the meeting, but now I have an idea about how the Israeli families suffer and they got an idea about what we suffer and go through. Both sides need to feel with each other and understand each other to be able to live together... and need to get legal rights.

  • Was it a scary idea? Was it strange?

    At first it was a strange idea, but after logical thinking, forgiveness and ethics, I didn't find a reason not to meet and explain to the others what we suffered and clarify our views. If we don't create respectful relations among each other, we won't be able to let them understand our case and we won't be able to understand theirs. Our relationship is based on common humanity, so we need to let the Israelis understand what the Palestinians go through. In addition, we need to understand how the Israelis think, and we need to let them know we suffer and they suffer with us. This is the best way to understand each other so that we can get mutual respect and the rights to live in two states safely.

  • Are there people in your community that are upset that you went to meet with Israelis?

    There was no disapproval from those around us because we are the ones that have been hurt. We are not doing anything wrong; personally I'm not a man of politics, but a man of science. I am talking out of my own understanding... The political issues are up to the politicians-- to make the decisions. Our opinion is not to get into politics, but to express our thoughts and feelings to help to get our view across so that both sides can work together.

  • I think you told us about why it's important to meet with Israeli families, but is there anything hard along the way?

    There are difficulties to meet them... the barriers that you need to cross and the necessity of permits to pass. They also can't come to meet us and see how we live. We do face difficulties, but we overcome them with time for the good of all.

  • Why don't they come?

    Due to political reasons and the current conditions, there's fear that prevents visit exchange. But we hope that it will get better and we will get to real peace where we can coexist, as I said, in mutual respect. Real peace will give the Palestinian people their right to live on their land in their country, and enjoy rights as human beings.

  • Are you ready to get up in front of a large group of people and tell your story?

    I am ready to tell my story because I'll be telling about something real that happened. The thoughts I say are my personal opinion coming out of our love for peace, for others, for mutual respect and for giving rights to others. I'm not saying anything false because this is something we truly believe in.

  • Does that feel difficult?

    I think that there isn't anything difficult; if you want to see it as difficult you can, but if you look at it in a more simplified way it will be simple and easy. We are working for the good and what's inside of us truly and sincerely so as to bring peace to the Palestinians and the Israelis and to live on this land, the Holy Land, in peace and security.

  • What do you think of the notion that acknowledging the pain of the other side makes you weaker?

    We went through a lot of pain, but it's not weakness to feel the pain of the other side because they felt the same pain we felt. We are at the same level and in the same group. It's hard to feel the pain of the other unless you've been through the same experience, unless you've suffered from loss, been deprived and hurt (from the loss of a dear one) so I feel that they've been though it like us and we could help each other to cross that bridge that was forced on us. For the sake of moving on with our lives, we could help each other bring divergent opinions closer and bring peace between the two nations.

  • You said you have a lot of faith that helped you through this; do you have faith that the situation will improve?

    As a result of the ongoing situation and what happened, without hope life loses all meaning. There's always light at the end of the tunnel and that's hope, the hope that we aim for, we keep on walking towards it and the light gets stronger and the hope gets bigger. And by God's will, there will be peace, we hope and pray for it, for just peace for all.

  • At the time of Christine's death there were a lot of Palestinian families suffering in the same way. What effect did that have on you?

    Faith in the first place was what helped us pull though this experience. We know that we live in dangerous circumstances due to the current situation but it was our faith foremost that helped us. I know there are a lot of families that went through the same experience but they didn't all pull through-- it is important to be able to move on in your life and have strong faith, because without sincere faith it will be difficult for one to accept matters and events that happen. But the most important thing is to have the ability to adjust and to forgive the other, to be able to move into a better life. Hate will not get us to a solution; it will not bring back the victims that were lost, only love and forgiveness will do that. The only thing is that we hope to see that the other side feels the same and that we will be rewarded by peace, which is the least we can get for the price that we paid. We hope that there will be politicians that will work for peace to protect the children. Without real peace and mutual recognition of the Palestinians' rights, there will be no peace.

  • Have you seen any families that lost someone react very differently?

    Of course there are other families that have been through having a martyr or other difficulties in life, and they try to overcome it I'm sure. I'm also sure that they will eventually forgive and have internal love. As much as they love the ones they lost they will love the other; but as I said before, all this must be crowned with our independence and security to be able to go on. Without peace to crown our pain, we will continue to live in the dark.

  • I've seen people on both sides that are angry and vengeful, if you see this, what do you think and why do you think they react that way?

    As humans we are all different, in our belief and faith and in comprehending the situation. I do not expect everybody to be the same as me or believe in what I believe. But in the end with forgiveness and love for one another we can get to a solution. We always hope that the other families are able to forgive so that they are able to live and move on. As I said we need support to help us get to real peace. We also hope that our forgiveness will be rewarded with peace.

  • What kind of support do you need?

    We need people to understand us and our suffering and work for peace. We are not asking for this for ourselves, but for the good of all. I don't think there's anyone that hates to live in peace, security and mutual respect. In the end we are all equal humans and wish to be like the rest of all other nations in the world, living in stability and tranquility and getting all our rights as Palestinians.

  • Wouldn't it be easier never to tell the story again?

    Retelling the story is definitely very painful, but after the pain, we hope there will be joy and happiness for everyone. The pain will not go away, we will always remember Christine; but in the end, I am sure that she wants peace, she always wanted peace and love, and so we do tell the story.

  • Do you think you can say you've forgiven those who killed your daughter yet?

    As for forgiving them, I am already forgiving. Even when it happened I had forgiven them.

  • Whom do you blame?

    I don't blame any one. No one. But I blame not having peace, because had there been real peace this wouldn't have happened. I can't blame a specific person. It's hard to suffer and at the same time forgive; this is where faith comes in. This is where we need to take part to bring peace. Without love, peace and forgiveness, it will be hard to continue with our lives.In the end I believe we are all leaving this world, and no one that left to the other life was able to take a piece of land or money with him; rather, he takes the love of others for him and his good deeds. This is my belief in life, so why should I hurt others? We all have faults and we will all be judged for our actions and the only one that can do that is God Almighty. This is according to our faith and belief and I'm sure that the three religions [Christianity, Judaism, Islam] believe in the same thing.

  • What in your life prepared you for this?

    For me, it's logic and telling good from evil, knowing God almighty, telling the truth and not lying, and not acting selfishly, because when someone is selfish he doesn't care. But when he has a conscience, does good, and treats his brother as he wishes to be treated, I believe there will be good on earth, peace and mutual respect. Most important is not to be selfish and wish everything for oneself; we should share it with others. Respect is very important, respect each other's opinions and dialogue so we can understand each other.

  • Do you think selfishness and lack of respect and dialogue is the problem here?

    I think that the main cause of the problems here is selfishness. Also not having faith in God almighty and trying to posses something that does not belong to you---all those cause trouble. There should be justice, law and equality to work with or else we will be living by the law of the wild; where the strong feeds on the weak. What I'm talking about is hard to achieve in the life we live because people are aiming for wealth and individual goals and interests. There are people that don't care if they hurt others, they only care about their own interest and this is where selfishness comes in. So we may be asking for ideals, which sadly do not exist in our lives, but with our faith we hope to come to some of it. As humans we are not perfect. We do have flaws, but we hope that people know which is right from wrong, so as to guide others to reach peace and mutual respect, especially now that we are living in the third millennium.

  • Who do you think knows what's right and what's wrong in the current situation?

    No one. We try to teach our children and others to live a more civilized and simpler life. To live in a place where there's respect for people not the money and power. Where there's law that serves justice to all.

  • What do you think is the root of the conflict?

    This is a big question, basically, the Palestinian Israeli conflict came from years of struggle even before Christ. If we go back to read the Torahand the Bible, we will find that there has always been conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.1 After the Second World War, after the Holocaust, and after the Jews' migration to the country, we all, of course, know what happened. History is all about conflict that continued because it wasn't solved in the right way. There are a lot of events that need explanation. Palestine, or let's say the Holy Land, has never experienced calm for hundreds of years.

    • 1Mr. Sa'adeh is referring to events in the Torah that depict the enmity and battles between the Jewish people and the Philistines. While it is unclear if their progeny currently inhabit contemporary Israel-Palestine, reference to the such events in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is used to demonstrate the longevity of the conflict occuring on the land between the Jewish people and a native population.

  • As a Christian where do you see yourself?

    As a Palestinian Christian living in Bethlehem, I feel like any other Palestinian in a Palestinian city. I am no different than the Muslim or the Jew.

  • Do you have any fears about life for your other daughter?

    Of course we have fears, all parents have fears because there is no security. As long as there's no peace, no justice and no law, there will be no security. But we try as hard as we can to provide protection and a good life for our children. But the sudden things--- we do not have control over what's going to happen in the future. Only God knows what will happen to us in the future.

  • Despite the loss of your daughter Christine, you decided to help remedy the conflict by joining the Bereaved Families Forum. How does this work or this organization contribute to improving the situation?

    Our work and organization can contribute by widening people's knowledge about the suffering and feelings of the bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families in addition to the general suffering for both peoples caused by the ongoing conflict.

  • Were you previously a member of any other organization that engaged in joint Israeli Palestinian activities?


  • What are your goals for the future?

    We want to express our opinions to the world and the Israeli and Palestinian governments. Our message to them is that we are a people that is willing to live peacefully and compassionately with our neighbors and we are a people in need of equal rights. We try to prevent additional Palestinian and Israeli families from suffering the loss of loved ones, as we did.

  • What are the challenges you face?

    The challenges we face are the ability to hold meetings and the inability to travel abroad frequently in order to express our views and ambitions. Despite the challenges, we are always hopeful that we can overcome the difficulties in order to have the opportunity to express our views and contribute to the peace process.

  • Do you think your work contributes to peace?

    We hope that we perform a modest role in achieving peace in the region.

  • Has your work had any effect on your life or relations with your family of friends?

    The change was only positive.

  • Did your involvement in the Bereaved Families Forum come as a surprise to you or people around you?

    Of course it came as a surprise. I found myself in a new situation. It isn't easy to perform this work. It requires courage, a strong belief, and love and forgiveness toward others. Our work requires great effort because many people aren't capable of losing a loved one and also participating in an activity with people from the other side. Based upon our religion and patriotism, we try to contribute to the effort of achieving peace. We think every Palestinian and Israeli should fulfill his obligations and receive his rights and we should live together with mutual respect.

  • Did you ever doubt that you are doing the right thing?

    I don't have doubts as long as my intentions are aimed toward achieving peace and love. We have good intentions: trying to influence Israeli, Palestinian and international public opinion in order to create a positive image. We, bereaved families, who have suffered the loss of loved ones, contribute to preventing additional families from suffering the same. We have good intentions and have suffered the most; therefore we try to contribute to peace and try to save other families from a fate similar to ours.

  • Do you feel there was a change in your sense of belonging?

    My sense of belonging changed in a positive way. Today I feel committed to human rights, the struggle of the weak and the peace process. We feel we should have a deeper commitment toward helping the poor and those in need. We should help ourselves, and as a people achieve an education based upon love and peace.

  • What is the main personal price you pay in order to work in this field? What was the hardest part?

    The hardest part was to meet with people from the other side despite all the pain they caused us. It was difficult to clear our hearts of hatred, have a clear conscience and face the other side with forgiveness. It isn't easy to control ourselves; this requires strong determination, deep belief and a high level of forgiveness.

  • What do you consider a small victory?

    For me a small victory was to overcome the pain within myself and to deal with the people from the other side with love, commitment and forgiveness in order to achieve something for our people and humanity. What we want to achieve is a peaceful existence with each other.

  • What are the most important lessons you have learned through your work?

    The most important lesson is to understand the other side and to present it with a positive view of us. At the same time we should present them with our suffering while understanding theirs and live together as much as we can.

  • What is the main achievement you want to achieve for your people and country?

    I want to achieve what everyone wants: a state and law that is respected by the whole world, including Israel. I want us to live as a respected people with rights, enjoy mutual security and approach each other in a more humane way, not the way of war and hatred. Everyone loses from war, but from peace everyone gains.

  • What is required in order to achieve this?

    The fulfillment of our goals requires much hard work, patience, understanding the other side and making our suffering and life understood to them. In our current situation, the creation of love and peace is one of the hardest tasks; therefore in order to fulfill our ambitions, we need our belief to be strong and to possess hope and patience in order to withstand the pressures and difficulties we are exposed to.

  • What does the word "peace" mean to you?

    The meaning of the word "peace" to me is stability, providing others with their rights and recognizing the rights of others. People should live and feel their worth in a secure community, which is governed by humane international laws. We should live peaceful lives in which there is no aggression between people, and in which people live in harmony and love.

  • Do you think there will be peace in our time?

    We hope so. Without hope, we can't live on.

  • What do you foresee for the next five or ten years?

    I foresee that the next five or ten years are going to be hard but accompanied with initiatives.1 We hope the political leaders will help the Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace. In addition, we hope our children will have peaceful and secure lives.

    • 1Sa'adeh is most likely referring to peace initiatives. Over the past several years, peace initiatives related to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been put forth by individuals at both the civil society and governmental level. Such initiatives include the Arab Peace Initiative and the Geneva Initiative. In March 2002 in Beirut, participants of the Arab summit adopted the Saudi-proposed Arab Peace Initiative, calling for ""full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, in implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338... and Israel's acceptance of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel."" The plan also called for the right to return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. While the plan did not specify numbers, it did cite UN General Assembly Resolution 194, calling for the full right of return for Palestinian refugees. It received a lukewarm response from the Israeli government. See: http://www.mideastweb.org/saudipeace.htm. The Geneva Initiative (also known as the Geneva Accord) was a nongovernmental initiative launched in Geneva on the 1st st of December 2002 by Dr. Yossi Beilin from the Israeli side and Mr. Yasser Abed Rabo from the Palestinian side. The initiative outlined proposed steps and cooperation toward a final status agreement in fields ranging from economics to natural resources as well as the resolution of issues such as settlements, status of Jerusalem, and Right of Return for Palestinian refugees. The Geneva Accord never gained official recognition, although proponents continue to press for its adoption and implementation. For a full text of the terms outlined in the Geneva Initiative, see the Geneva Initiative website: http://www.geneva-accord.org/HomePage.aspx?FolderID=11&lang=en .

  • Who do you think are the people with the greatest influence upon the region?

    We, the Palestinians and Israelis are the people with the most influence upon the region. We need to work together in order to reach an understanding and a solution that will lead to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The obstacles will never be solved through killing and destruction, rather through compromises and understanding between the two sides.

  • And which parties are the most influential on the international level?

    On the international level we hope that the sponsors of peace, primarily the US and the EU, will work honestly and fairly in order to reach an equal settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

  • What is the biggest misconception about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both internationally and locally?

    They [Israelis] view the conflict from the point of view of land while neglecting the human issue. They act in a materialistic fashion and don't act correctly in regard to human issues. Their priority is strategically materialistic and concerns security and such issues, but they neglect the human aspect. I think the human aspect is the most important because when a human agrees to treat his fellow human with justice and conscience, then all the problems on the ground will be solved. [The international community] should develop the Israeli and Palestinian thinking and show them how to live together. The Israeli public should learn how to end the occupation of the Palestinian people and give them all their rights in order for them to live together equally. As long as there is discrimination between Israelis and Palestinians and as long as the occupation lasts, we will achieve nothing.

  • You say that the Israeli people are oblivious to the plight of the Palestinians. How can that change?

    We do our best to make the Israelis understand that they are dealing with a people made up of humans. The Israeli attitude toward the Palestinians should be free of all claims over the land. They should let the Palestinians live their lives in order to achieve equality between the two sides. Thus the Israelis will enjoy security. There shouldn't be a selfish people that feels that its interests are more important than those of the other side. This is what causes the problem. There should be equality in abilities and life. There should be human equality rather than a single side's attempt to control the situation.

  • What is the biggest misconception about the nature of your work? Did you ever meet someone who appeared to know nothing about your work?

    No. So far all the people we met support us and encourage us to continue our work and convey our message of peace, love, and justice to all parties. We hope to continue our effort despite all the difficulties and get our message through in one way or another. Our message is clear and aims to achieve peace between the two sides and end the pain we've suffered.

  • Has anyone ever accused you of normalization?

    No, we aren't a forum for normalization; we aim to make both sides hear our voices in an attempt to live in peace. We aren't involved in politics; the politicians are those who contribute to the political effort while we concentrate on the human side. We don't aim to normalize relations with the Israelis-- this is a political issue. We are distanced from politics and deal with each other as humans. We understand each other's feelings and seek to provide the politicians with ideas for addressing the other side in human ways instead of ways that can harm people's lives. We try to provide politicians with ideas so they can make the right decisions for the Israeli and Palestinian community. We aren't involved in politics because it is the role of the politicians to make the right political decisions. We attempt to convey our message that we are two people with equal rights and obligations and call for mutual respect and security. We don't accept the killing of either Israelis or Palestinians and work together as humans and leave the political work for the politicians. Politics is the work of the politicians, while our work is humane. The goal of our organization isn't to achieve normalization, but we think peace can be followed by normalization. As long as there is no peace, there will be no normalization. When people live in peace and feel its presence, normalization between the two countries and people will be a simultaneous result. We try to provide the Israeli and Palestinian people with hope. We, who have suffered greatly, try to contribute to the peace process and make it clear that the Israeli and Palestinian people are humans that have the right to live honorably and securely in either a Palestinian or an Israeli state. We claim that the occupation is the source of all our problems and claim that we should end the occupation in order to live securely and peacefully in two countries for two people.

  • The word "normalization" has different meanings for different people. What does it mean to you?

    Normalization means I want to have mutual relations with another who shares my peaceful intentions in a peaceful environment. Currently there is no peace, rather negotiations for peace. I think the process of normalization occurs after the peace process is completed, not prior to it. After the establishment of a state and human rights for the Palestinians there can be normalization between two countries and two people, but normalization attempts will fail as long as there isn't peace.

  • Do you think fear plays a role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

    Fear can have an effect, but I think the interests of one people that come at the expense of another is the cause for wars. When one people exploits and occupies another, conflicts are created. But when people live alongside each other with mutual respect, I don't see any reason for fear or hostility. The ending of the occupation will give a push for peace, and normalization following the peace. I realize that ending the occupation quickly is an extremely difficult task, but we hope that the Israeli and Palestinian sides will find a solution that will lead to peace in the region. I think the one who can create peace is the one who possesses power, not the weak. We hope the Israeli people and government will end the occupation as soon as possible while maintaining mutual rights, respect and security. Our hope is that this will happen within recognized international margins and principles.

  • You claim that ambitions, not fears, drive the conflict.

    Ambitions drive feelings. Conflicts are created when ambitions are based on the expense of others. We should try to base our ambitions on our own expense, not on the expense of the rights of others.

  • What creates fear between the two peoples?

    The current situation creates fear between the two peoples; when real peace initiatives are created, these fears will fade. In order for a people to feel secure, they should have peaceful and enjoyable lives, work and care for their families. The ending of the current conflict will terminate the fear and provide people with hope and calm.