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Interview Archives

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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Aziz Abu Sarah

Aziz Abu Sarah joined Fatah's Youth movement after losing his brother, who died shortly after his release from Israeli prision. Aziz published many angry and vengeful articles in the organization's magazine. Years later, Aziz and his family agreed to attend a meeting of the Bereaved Families Forum. Aziz is now a member of the Forum and co-hosts a show on All For Peace Radio; he also runs an organization aimed at empowering Palestinian youth.

  • Could you give us a brief summary of who you are and what you do?

    My name is Aziz Abu Sarah. I live in Jerusalem, but I was born in Azariya. We moved to Jerusalem because of the problems we had with the ID. One cannot live in Azariya and hold on to the Jerusalem ID so we moved to Jerusalem. I studied Tourism Management but I did not work in that field because tourism was not going too well in the country. Afterwards I found work at a foreign institution that brings youth to volunteer at orphanages or with the handicapped. The institution belongs to a church, which I slowly began to work with until I eventually became this institution's director. What is the name of this institution? It used to be called Hope for Life- it is an international institution. Currently we're trying to make it a local one and trying to change its name. We are working on registering this institution in Bethlehem under the name "Giving Life" and are in the midst of completing the first stage of registration. Hopefully, by the end of this month, we will have it completed.

  • What are your other activities?

    The Bereaved Families Forum and All For Peace radio station1. With the Forum, I mostly give lectures and I am responsible for making connections with the Arab schools in Jerusalem. I visit certain schools, such as the Ma’munieh, Al-Rashidiyeh, Al-Mukaber, Abdallah-- all of them in East Jerusalem-- and we ask those schools to host a few of our lectures. Recently, this has been very successful. Usually, two members, one Palestinian and one Israeli, go into a classroom and each one of them tells his/her personal story. Sometimes we have a discussion with the students; other times we show them a movie. These things sometimes lead to heated discussions in the classroom while other times it goes really well. At the radio station, for four or five months now along with another Israeli member of the Forum, I have been hosting a program called “Changing Directions.” The guests of the program are usually members of the Forum itself or families who have also participated in activities the Forum. We examine what they went through and the reason behind their change. We interview students and participants from seminars held in schools to see what changed for them after those seminars. We have interviewed many members of the Forum, but unfortunately, there are many people on the list that we were unable to interview.

    • 1. A radio station broadcasting in Arabic, Hebrew and English with a staff of Israelis and Palestinians. Created in 2003 by the Palestinian organization Biladi, the Jerusalem Times and the Israeli organization Givat Haviva, the Jewish Arab Center for Peace. All For Peace Radio was forced to stop all air broadcasts in November 2011. See http://allforpeace.org/eng/radio-allforpeace-was-forced-to-halt-of-all-air-broadcasts.

  • How did you become a member of the Forum?

    It started out around sixteen years ago. This happened before the outbreak of the Gulf War in the 90s; I was nine years old. Sometimes, many things happen around you, but it’s hard for you to feel part of them. They might make you feel very annoyed, or angry, or nervous, but you can’t possibly feel part of it until it reaches your door step. Before I was personally affected, there was the massacre1 at the Aqsa in 1990 and our neighbor who lived right next door died as a martyr. I remember at that time, we went to their house to visit and gave our condolences. Everyone was outraged; everybody was sad. But after one...two... three weeks, a month passed by and one started to forget. My brother at that time was in prison. But there’s a feeling that’s a little different when you see something going on around you than when it happens in your own home. It was Ramadan then in 1990. At 5:00 AM, a group of Israeli soldiers came to our house and searched it, but found nothing. My four siblings and I were sleeping in the same room. They asked for IDs, asked questions, called their authorities, etc. and finally decided to take my older brother Tayseer with them to be investigated. He was eighteen years old then. They didn’t tell us why they were taking him, and for the first eighteen days, we had no information about his whereabouts. For the first eighteen days, the soldiers actually said that they didn’t arrest him to begin with. We tried seeking help from the Red Cross, from lawyers, from other people- nothing helped.After eighteen days, we were told that he was arrested for throwing rocks. Two or three months later, he was sentenced. During the period of time before his trial, we were allowed to visit him only three times, three people were allowed to see him each visit- I got to see him once. There was a fence that separated the two of us. Have you ever been to a prison? You stand behind a fence, and the prisoner stands a few feet away behind another fence, which prevents any physical contact between the two. The meeting lasted for ten minutes. A year or so later, he was released from prison due to his health condition. During the first eighteen days of his imprisonment, the time of his investigation, he was beaten and hit to admit his guilt. During this process, his kidney stopped working, and he started regurgitating blood. When he asked to see a doctor, they beat him up more. They didn’t allow him access to a doctor. Upon his release, we took him to Al Maqased Hospital in Jerusalem, where they diagnosed him and decided that he needed to undergo surgery to remove his spleen- I don’t know why. They removed his spleen a week and ten days after his release from prison. Within the next few days his condition improved a bit but soon after, it got worse. I remember the doctor approaching my mom to tell her that there was no hope. The way the doctor broke the news to her was by first asking her, “Do you have other children?” She didn’t really get it at first- why was he asking this question? She said, “Yes, I do have other children. Why are you asking this question?” He answered her saying that in a few days, she’s going to have one child less! Two or three days later, my brother passed away. The period of time from his release to his death was about three weeks. I was ten years old then and it took a long time for me to comprehend what was going on. How did this happen? Why did it happen? What was the reason?The only thing that was clear to me was that my brother was killed and the soldiers were the ones who killed him. Because of this, I grew up thinking that my goal in life was to seek revenge. Of course, I could not stand anything Jewish. I did not learn Hebrew, and even when we had Hebrew classes at school, I used to run away from the class. I even had someone else do the tests for me, I was very extreme in that regard. When I reached Tawjihi,2 I attended Al Rashidiyeh School for grades 10, 11, 12 and you know that big schools are influenced a lot by politics, and Fatah had a strong political presence in Al Rashidiyeh. I joined their youth movement and later became a member of their Administrative Staff and slowly I became head of the Cultural Committee involved with writing and their youth magazine in Jerusalem, and those kind of things. While doing that, I thought that it was highly possible for me to get revenge through what I wrote, to influence others and say what I thought. I used to write a lot. Each week I wrote two or three articles, and since I had no one above me, I didn’t need anyone to approve what I wrote - so I used to just sign the article off myself. The more extreme I was in my writing, the more people enjoyed reading them. Bibi Netanyahu was the head of Israeli government at the time, which made it easier for me with the protests that were going on because of the tunnel.3 People were really angry. That’s why I was able to write about anything I wanted. All my writings fell under titles like Zionist terrorism or things like that. But after a while, when I started the Tawjihi, I started thinking about what I was doing. I noticed that I thought that the more I wrote, the more I sought revenge, the better it made me feel. But realistically, that's not what happened. The more I wrote the angrier I felt, and I realized that that did me more harm than good! So I thought to myself that everything I did was of no use. Thus, I decided that I should leave this country, forget about politics, and apply to an American college. I finished my Tawjihi, and applied for a scholarship, but that didn’t work out for me. I was eighteen years old then and I was living in Jerusalem, and you know if you live in Jerusalem and you don’t know Hebrew, it’s a bit of a problem. I wanted to finish college, to study, to work, but without Hebrew, it was impossible. I found myself stuck.So I got jobs here and there, and in the process, I learned that in order for me to live here, I needed to know Hebrew. This gave me a really bad feeling, but when you have to do it, you have to do it. When I went to all the Arab institutions that taught Hebrew, I realized that none of their graduates advance much after that, so I knew that I had to learn at a Jewish institution. I went to a place called “Ulpan Mila”4 on King George Street. Everyone in my class was either Jewish or foreign, and I believe that the first change in me started here. In this class there was something a little different. The teacher was nice to me, the students were nice to me. I didn’t find the racism I had encountered all my life. All the encounters I’d had with Jews until the age of eighteen had been really bad - they were with the soldiers at the checkpoints who usually mistreat people. Since my ID was issued four months later than it should, and since we had to move from Azariya, I used to illegally pass through checkpoints. I was in the same position as someone from the West Bank and if I were caught, I’d get into a lot of trouble and be sent back to where I came from. This just increased my hatred towards Israeli soldiers. Me’a Sha’arim5 is only 200 - 300 meters away from Al Rashidiyeh School but we never met an Israeli student, and we never had any sort of communication with them. And for the first time in a classroom that was not completely Arab, I found people who were not like those I met at the checkpoints. I know it might sound sarcastic to say “the color of our blood was the same.” We were able to talk together about the same genre of music, we used to go have coffee together, even though we sometimes disagreed on what kind of coffee to drink. But in general, we were the same - human beings. This was hard for me to accept because the idea that I had was not one that someone told me about, it was my own experience that made me see the Jews from a limited perspective - they were all soldiers, they all hated Arabs, they all mistreat us. For the first time I was in a classroom that had Jews who were different; and it’s really hard to break from a barrier that you have previously formed; it took me along time. Even when I was with them, I used to question their kindness - why were they treating me like this, why were they nice to me? Maybe they’re trying to get something out of me. Maybe they were from the intelligence service. My family had the same doubts. One day one of them asked me to go to a coffee shop with him to have a drink. I had a lot of doubt and fear then, but with time, I began to see that they were just like me. What alarmed my family at home was when I sometimes slept over at their houses, and they began to think I had gone crazy.Even though I began to have a lot of relationships with Jews, I still stayed by myself and didn’t join any of these joint organizations. I didn’t even know that such groups existed. At that same time, Dr. Adil Misk, a friend of the family, was the director of the Palestinian office[of the Bereaved Families Forum]. He invited my parents to attend a meeting, which people from both sides would attend. My parents, at first, did not want to go, but they did so out of respect for Dr. Adil. They went to the meeting, and when they came back, I found that my father was not very affected, but my mother was very much so that she came back crying and sad. I asked her what was wrong, and she said that it was her first time seeing Jews who were feeling pain because of losing their children. She saw that both the Arab and Jewish pain were the same. At that point I became interested in the activity, and I went to the office a few months later after scheduling an appointment with Dr. Adil to talk about the Forum. I decided to join. I was asked if I wanted to participate in the activities but I didn’t really feel like it then, because I thought that everything I was doing was useless. So they invited me to a lecture at a Palestinian school in which one of the speakers was Khaled Abu Awwad and the other was an Israeli. We went into the classroom and each one of the speakers told his story. When the students were given a chance to speak, they were all very outraged, and they were screaming at both speakers. They told Khaled that he was betraying his brother6 by doing this and told the Israeli that his people were murderers. Everyone was very nervous. The change I saw in the class after one and a half hours was really strange for me. Before we left, we were given feedback from the students, and what I read was very strange. Some students wrote that before the lecture, “I had a certain perspective and now you gave me a new way to look at things. Now I think that there is hope.” And I figured out that what I was doing was useful and could lead to change, which gave me a head start to participate in part of the activity.

    • 1. Refers to the clash between Palestinians and Israeli Police on the morning of October 8, 1990, leading to the death of 21 Palestinians. 200 Palestinians, 20 Jewish worshippers, and 6 Israeli Police were also injured. A group by the name of " The Temple Mount Faithful" wished to place a cornerstone (symbolizing the construction of the Third Temple) on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. The "Temple Mount Faithful" were not granted the required permit to enter the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, however, many Palestinians went there in protest.
    • 2. The 12th grade general examination required by Palestinians for university admission.
    • 3. The tunnel alongside the Western Wall and Al-Aqsa Mosque was opened in late September 1996, under the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, for archaeological and tourist purposes for the state of Israel. The tunnel opening sparked protests amongst Palestinians and led to four days of clashes and approximately 70 deaths. See "Palestinian-Israeli Violence Subsides," CNN World News Online, 28 Sept 1996. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9609/28/israel.palestinians/.
    • 4. An ulpan is a Hebrew language immersion program.
    • 5. Ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem.
    • 6. Referring to Khaled Abu Awwad's brother, Yusef, who was killed by an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint at the enterence of the village of Beit Ummar in 2000.

  • What other activities are there at the Forum, and what do you specifically do there?

    I believe that the lectures are the most important thing. It’s more of a discussion actually than a presentation, which is what makes it hard. Well first, I go to the classes and tell the students what happened to me - the story of my brother, and the other person with me relates his story as well. When I go into an Israeli school and tell my story, most of the people there say that it was the first time that they saw a Palestinian that had feelings like they do. They say, “We can’t believe that our army could do such things.” This is one of the responses that I get very often. Same thing in the Palestinian classes. At the same time, this whole thing is hard because sometimes you relate your story, which some people find hard to do, and then students jump out at you and tell you that you’re a traitor and Jews want to kill all Arabs. It’s really hard and even people in the Forum have refused doing this activity. They are involved in other activities, but they couldn’t go to a class and relate their story. At this point, we have done almost 1,000 lectures, attended by around 30,000 people. This year we began thinking that even though the lectures at schools are really good, we’re supposed to be reaching out to more people. Thus, we started going into Arab villages [in the West Bank] saying that we want to speak to the people. One of our members may know people from this village and would arrange for a meeting at their house. The elderly and any one else interested in the meeting would attend, and some of the meetings would include 50 to 100 people. Again, we bring a Palestinian and an Israeli and they start talking about what they’re doing. We have done so in Beit Ummar, Jenin, Tel Aviv, and other places, and many of those who attend are usually important figures in their communities. We’ve even had meetings with people from “Shabak”, with soon-to-become soldiers, settlers-- people whom it was really hard to deal with, the lectures were simply very hard, sometimes, even people working in newspapers and television. Another thing we have recently begun doing is reaching out to global establishments, and when foreign delegations arrive, we try to meet them if possible. We also began organizing international journeys. Five months ago, I went on a journey to the States, visiting around 25 universities on the East Coast. Because most people in Europe and America are one-sided, it was important to show that the point is not to prove that one side is a hundred percent right or a hundred percent wrong. The point is to sit together and help the two sides figure out what exactly they are doing-- right or wrong. In America, people thought that Palestinian meant terrorist - period. So it was really important to let them know that this is wrong. Many students declared that they knew nothing but what they heard on TV, which is normally totally wrong. The other things we plan are summer camps. This year we had around 50, 60 children from the Forum, who have lost relatives, attend the summer camp that we held up north. My nieces were also there. What is amazing to see when working with children - yes, they might be scared because of the difference in language at first, and because it’s hard for them to adapt to the new environment, but after two or three days, they forget all of that. They will even begin to understand each other’s language; one may speak in Arabic and the other in Hebrew but somehow they understand what the other is saying. When they start playing, they forget who’s Arab and who’s Jewish, all they think of is who plays soccer better. It maybe harder for children who have lost a sister or a brother to understand what it means to lose someone, but it easier for them to differentiate between the person that hurt them and the other Jewish children who are just like them. The change that I personally noticed with my nieces was that before they went to camp, they could hardly see anyone who was Jewish as a human being. When they got back they wanted to learn Hebrew so that they would be able to communicate with the Jewish campers. We also have big meetings with all members of the Forum- like the meeting that my parents went to which influenced them a lot by. Generally 300-400 members attend these meetings. During the meetings, we try to get to know each other more, to listen to each other, to understand what the other wants to say and find out how we can reach reconciliation within ourselves. During the last meeting, we had Palestinian and Israeli lecturers explain about the Palestinian and Israeli histories, each with his own narrative. What we were all surprised by was the fact that the Palestinian history is very different from the Jewish history.1 Even though we’re talking about the same time period, the same war, the same topic, each one sees the story in a completely different way. So it was really important for us to understand the other side without having to judge whether they were right or wrong. It’s more about understanding how the other side thinks, and respecting their thoughts. But at the same time, we have our own way of thinking that we want them to understand. Such activities make a lot of connections and allows us to have discussions to figure out what are the things that we agree and disagree on. We try to understand the past of each nation, the traditions of each people, the economy of each side, which makes it a really good meeting. We were also supposed to carry out a seminar two weeks ago, but unfortunately, we had to cancel it because we couldn’t get permits for most of the Palestinian members to leave the Palestinian territories as a result of the closure imposed because of what happened in Gaza; the pullout. There was also a closure on Jenin and Ramallah, three or four days before the seminar and all the issued permissions were canceled. We had reserved hotel rooms and had everything set, but were forced to cancel everything. It was a big problem.Another thing we have is "Hello Shalom", which is basically a phone line.2 If you remember, three years ago, you turn the TV on and you'd hear the expression "there is no one to talk to from the other side." Sharon often said "There is no partner."We want peace but they don't. There's no one to talk to." So we decided to start a free phone line (*6364) and through this phone line, people, whether they are Palestinians or Israelis, can call, register their name, whom they would like to talk to and in which language. That gets saved in the voicemail and other people can also save their details on the voicemail or call the person that had left his/her information. In three years, there were more than 500,000 phone calls in the voicemail. Of course, not all the callers were ones that wanted peace and not all of them were people who loved each other, but the point we thought of making was that if we started talking to each other, then it would be much easier to get a result than if we just hated each other. Maybe those people did not agree with everything the other person said, but they began to understand that there was a way to talk to each other. We've asked people who wanted to talk about the experiences they went through to talk to us. So we got phone calls from people who talked to settlers, and they said that throughout the whole half hour of talk, they were just basically screaming at each other. But at the end of the call, they decided to exchange phone numbers, so that they'd stay in touch in order to discuss the topics they'd talked about. This was a very good step because it seemed like people were now trying to help each other, people who began to meet up, which showed progress.There’s this other activity as well. It’s about seminars that we started having for students. We used to go to schools and lecture, and at the Israeli schools, after we had finished our presentation, the students didn’t want to have a discussion with us, they said “we agree to what you’ve said but we don’t want to talk to you, we want to talk to Palestinian students: we want to build a relationship with them.” So we began to connect schools - a Palestinian one and an Israeli one - take one class from each school, put them together for three or four days, a weekend together, here in town, and we set up a program which gave them the opportunity to get to know each other, and the chance to learn more about the other side. The latest of these activities was with a school from Jenin and a school from Tel Aviv, I believe, or from up north. Another was with a school from Beit Safafa and another from Ashdod. The results we got were very pleasing. Those were kids that had to convince their parents to let them join the workshops because the parents did not approve at first, they are 16 or 17-year-old students. We had an activity in which we grouped them in pairs, each had to tell the other person what was the most painful thing for them concerning the conflict, and that person would tell his partner’s story in front of the whole group. As a result, many of them began to cry as they were telling about the pain of the other person. The relationships went on between the students. We also had an internet program among Israeli and Palestinian schools in which the students could talk to each other through the internet. It was now easy for any student to log on and build a relationship with anyone, whether Palestinian or Israeli. There were activities that drew public attention like the one where a group of Palestinians donated blood to Israelis who were injured in a bombing. Israelis went into Ramallah after one of the bombings that took place there, and they decided to donate their blood over there. That night, Israeli TV interviewed the people who went to Ramallah to donate blood and asked them how they could donate their blood to someone who is their enemy. One of the interviewees, Rami Elhanan, said that he’d rather donate his blood to a person in need than have it spilt for nothing. And of course, this displeased the TV crew. We also had a tent at the opposition rally that took place in Gush Katif to show that we are pro-disengagement.3 We also created a display of coffins. Many hear the number of people that died, but they don’t realize how large those numbers really are. When the intifada started, there were about 1000 people killed from both sides during the first few months.4 So we made around 1000 - 1200 coffins wrapped with Palestinian and Israeli flags and placed them in Rabin Square.5 Of course, this brought us a lot of trouble, and we were forced to remove the flags and decrease the number of coffins, but the point was to show how big the number of 1200 people really is. We called the UN and they asked us to have the same display in New York in front of the United Nations headquarters. So we took the 1200 coffins and arranged a display in New York. There were all sorts of media around except the Israeli media, as if this event was meaningless. But the point was that when you hear 1200, you could see 1200 coffins; they weren’t just numbers; they were people. We even had some of the parents of the victims attend so that people could see the families of those who died because of the conflict. There are other activities but I can’t remember all of them.

    • 1. Aziz is refering to Professor Dan BarOn and Professor Sami Adwan from Peace Research Institute of the Middle East. See http://vispo.com/PRIME/
    • 2. For more information on the Israeli-Palestinian telephone line, known as Hello Peace Project, see the Parents' Circle website at http://www.theparentscircle.com/Activities.asp?sivug_id=2. See the Hello Peace website at http://www.hellopeace.net/.
    • 3. For both Israeli and Palestinian death toll statistics from the second intifada during the years 2000-2005 see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3694350.stm.
    • 4. For both Israeli and Palestinian death toll statistics from the second intifada during the years 2000-2005 see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3694350.stm.
    • 5. A large square in the center of Tel Aviv. Formerly known as Israel Kings' Square, the square was renamed Rabin Square after Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated there by a Jewish extremist during a peace rally on November 5th, 1996. Rabin Square is the site of numerous rallies, demonstrations, and exhibitions.

  • Could you tell me more about how is it like working at the radio station, All for Peace?

    It’s really nice to work there. Of course, my work there wasn’t professional when I first started. During the first month, when my partner and I used to prepare shows, we made a lot of mistakes so none of them were used and nothing was taped. It’s not just a job, I really enjoy doing it. I think it’s very influential to be able to deliver a message, usually the media is used negatively. They look for the items, the actions that make people get angry and scream at each other. I went on an Israeli TV show a while ago, and there were five of us together. One of the things we were told was not to wait for the other person to answer, just talk. Don’t wait until someone else stops. If you want, just cut him in the middle of his sentence or stop him. They usually look for things that stir up trouble more than things that promote peace. To be able to use media for a different purpose is a very good thing. Most of the people that I meet there and the staff is easy to work with . People who listen to the program say a lot of good things about it. The next thing we’re aiming for in the future is broadcasting our show live, so that listeners would be able to call us and tell us what they think and what their opinions are. We want to have a discussion with our listeners, and to make a difference. We can’t be the only ones doing the talking. We would also like to hear the opinions of those who don’t even like us. It’s very exciting.

  • Could you describe the radio station?

    The radio station has been broadcasting for about a year and a half now I think. It’s goal is to provide an alternative to other media, which do not influence people in a positive way. Its goal was to prove that it was possible for both sides to work together, and we wanted to give the listeners something different. Media that was totally diverse- one that would portray how Arabs and Jews could work together, one that could allow the Arabs to get acquainted with Jews better and vice versa, or often one that could just get away from the conflict. We air musical programs, and other such programs that remind us about a life other than the conflict we’re living in. The radio station broadcasts in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. What is awesome about it is seeing the cooperation there between the Arabs and the Jews. You don’t feel discrimination between Arabs and Jews, you feel like you’re working at a radio station with other people who are human beings. We’re all the same. The radio broadcasts on 107.2 FM, or at www.allforpeace.org - 24 hours a day. It was an initiative of Giv’at Haviva - they supported this station.

  • In what language is your radio program?

    In both Arabic and Hebrew. Everything we say gets translated. I work as a commentator and as a translator at the same time - I translate from Arabic to Hebrew and from Hebrew to Arabic. That’s why I talk a lot on the radio.

  • I want to go back a little bit to the lectures you spoke of earlier. You said that there were some aggressive students. What is the most common reaction of the students you talk to?

    The most common phrase that comes up from both sides is, “We want peace, but they don’t,” and each sides talks about their “new start.” When I’m at a Palestinian school, I hear a lot words like “We’ve stopped the bombings, we want to make peace and we are the pitiful ones in this whole arena.” This is very understandable. On the Israeli side, I hear, “We’ve evacuated Gaza, but they still want to kill us, and whatever we do is not enough.” These are usually the most common answers I hear. In every classroom, the first thing that pops up is, “We want to, but they don’t.” But sometimes, it gets really personal. A student might accuse you of being a traitor, betraying your brother or father or mother: “How could you come talk to me about peace with someone like him? How could you put your hands in those of a Jew’s or vice-versa? How could you do such a thing?” This is very hard for me at times, it’s hard to deal with it, because you feel yourself being attacked personally. But it’s very important for one to stay calm, and to understand that whatever is coming out, comes out one of pain. What I remember most is myself when I was their age. If someone came to my school and talked to me about this topic, I would’ve done the same thing. It’s very difficult to change someone’s opinions a hundred per cent in one meeting. The point is to bring about an idea that there is something different out there. Even if they weren’t a hundred percent convinced, they’d still know that there’s something different. At one of the lectures I went to, there was a girl who was an extremely conservative settler from Efrat. There were other settler girls but she was the most extreme of them. The discussion was just between me and her, while everyone else was watching. She screamed and got nervous, “You’re this and you’re that!” And I began answering her and explaining to her what it meant to be Palestinian, what it meant to live in the West Bank, what it meant to live such a life, what it meant to be occupied. Step by step, without telling her you’re perfectly wrong and we’re perfectly right, I began explaining to her what exactly she was saying. I told her that there were things she was saying that were true, that she was not totally wrong, but that she had to understand what the other side thinks, and one of the questions I asked her was if she had ever met a Palestinian. Her answer was yes; she had met Palestinians who worked at their house. I asked if she ever sat with them and had a conversation, and her answer was no. So I asked, “Where did you get your ideas?” and she answered me, “From TV.” At the end of the lecture, she came up to me and said that it was the first time she had met a Palestinian who talked to her in a normal way. She didn’t think that there were educated Palestinians, sadly. Then she invited me and the other Israeli speaker that was with me to lunch. We had lunch together, and she told me that she never imagined sitting at lunch with a Palestinian, and eating at the same table. She said that some of her neighbors were killed in one of the bombings carried out by a Palestinian, which is why she was very nervous and angry. After that, she said that she wanted to convince the other people in her settlement to allow me to give a lecture over there. Of course, she didn’t succeed in doing such a thing, but I think about the change she went through from this lecture. The change may have not been 180 degrees, but the resolution she got to —after she had started off by planning to kill me—was very positive.

  • You said you were more extreme when you used to write during school but your encounter with Israeli civilians caused a change. Was there a specific point for it or was it a process?

    I believe it was a process and I believe that the process is still going on. My way of thinking changes everyday, and the more I learn, the more I change. When I was ten years old, I never understood that there was something called choice - that I could choose the reaction I wanted to respond to the things I experienced. Usually, I think that when a certain thing happens to me, I have my own reaction towards it, which is a natural one. And concerning me, the only reaction I ever had to anything was based on the idea that revenge is the only solution. When I got to this level in life, I began to understand that I have the ability to choose a different way of thinking. And this is really hard. It’s really hard when I realized that I cold think before I judge, and not only judge based on the feelings I have, the pain I have. It’s possible to think over what I can do in a logical way. There are things that happen to us, in which it is difficult to choose these things. My brother was killed, and I don’t think that the person who killed him was acting as a human being. But this shouldn’t force me to act in an inhumane way. Even if a person decides to leave his humane ways, and act in a wrong way, I still have the ability to choose to be like him, to stop acting as a human being, and to look upon others as inhumane. Or I can choose to act like a human being and think this way: if I reacted in the same way he did, where is this going to take me? Am I supposed to revenge or hate the whole Jewish nation because of what one Jew did? Is this way going to solve or complicate the problem? I began to think this way, and that showed me that I have a choice to find another solution, other than revenge.

  • You said that when you used to think about revenge, the more you wrote aggressively, the more painful it was for you. What has changed now? What does the sense of revenge mean now?

    To me, revenge was to hurt the other side - to do anything to hurt them. When I used to write, I felt that I was hurting the other side. Many people may read what I write, which would force them to think a specific way or do a specific thing that matched my way thinking.

  • What do you mean when you say they did a "specific thing"? Do you mean violence?

    Maybe demonstrate or do anything they can. What I understood at that time is that I personally didn’t want to do something that was violent, and one of the reasons was that I promised my parents I wouldn’t do anything too crazy. They were worried that the same thing that happened to my brother would happen to me. I thought that I wouldn’t do this for long, but I still had to do something. I wanted to influence people to go my way instead of the peaceful way. They should not be easy on the Jews; they should see that we were against them, and they should do something. When a bombing happened, I used to be happy about it. Whenever I heard that a soldier was kidnapped, I would be excited because I thought that it was going in the direction I wanted it to- it was just. But when you hear that someone’s been killed and you’re happy about it, you feel wrong inside; that’s what wore me out. Bitterness makes you bitterer, it doesn’t make you feel better. When you start walking a different way, even if you get hurt - have you ever read the Bible? There’s a passage in it that says something like, “To die for righteousness is better than to die for a bad cause.” Suffering to do something good is better than suffering to do something bad. And that’s one thing I became bound to, but it doesn’t mean that everything is OK with me. Yesterday, I went to Bethlehem, because I work there often, and I was stopped at the checkpoint for an hour; they humiliated me, but I felt good being humiliated for a good cause rather than for a bad cause. Usually, I embarrass the soldiers because afterwards, I go up to him/her and say, “this is what you’ve done to me and this is what I’m doing right now to change the situation here.” This usually makes him think that I’m either crazy, or I don’t understand what I’m talking about.

  • You said you wanted to tell the Americans and Europeans not to say, "this is wrong and that is right," but rather help in reaching a solution. Do you think there must be a third party in order to reach a solution?

    I think that we do need a third party, but that party should not be biased. It is very clear that the other parties involved are one-sided. When two students fight in class and the teacher immediately starts beating one of them without hearing his story, those two students will never solve their problem. The teacher should really step in as a mediator to help - try to identify the problem and correct the one who made the mistake. America which is the most involved right now, is one-sided. I keep hearing Bush1 saying that Israel is our ally and no matter what happens, we will always choose to be their ally. These phrases will make any Palestinian wonder how he or she could trust America to be a mediator. It has been Israel’s ally from the beginning, so it will definitely not help the situation. This will not help at all, and what America doesn’t know is that these actions hurt Israel as much as they hurt Palestine. It’s like when you side with a person, and say that you’re on his side against the other person, and then say “I want to help you two solve the problem”. Israel similarly suffers from the conflict, maybe not as much as the Palestinians, but it still suffers. This means that they are not helping, but hurting them. If the USA really thinks it’s Israel’s ally, then it’s supposed to help Israel figure out what it is doing wrong and not to just say, “It’s OK you’ve done something wrong.” What I see abroad is that Arabs and Jews are the same. Usually, here we think that sometimes we are a little wrong. Over there, it’s like I have to support the Israelis (or the Arabs) blindly. It’s my people so I have to support them - whether they are right or wrong. I think this is more damaging than helpful. To criticize your own people over something they are doing wrong is really important. Maybe I can’t do much to correct the Israeli people, but I can look at the Palestinians and say what we’re doing wrong regardless of what is going on in Israel. I care about correcting the wrongs on our side, because it is my side, it is my people. It hurts me when a Palestinian bombs himself, not only because he’s killing Jews. That our mentality has reached an extent where a person’s life is not that important, hurts me as a Palestinian. I feel that that needs to change not just because it hurts them, but also because it hurts us. And if each side reflected on this, I think there would be a huge difference.Take for example the checkpoints and the soldiers who stand at checkpoints. One of my [Israeli] friends refused to enlist, so I asked him why he did so. He said, "When I am at the checkpoint, I become a god. I don't feel like a soldier. It doesn't matter what is right or wrong. I feel like I am god and I decide everything. As a human being, I can't take the place of God, so I refuse to stand at checkpoints." I look at those who do stand at the checkpoint as victims, because after they come out of a place like that, they can never be normal human beings. It becomes hard to act like one. If you're 18 and you're taught that it's OK to humiliate someone aged 60, you will think the same way when you go back home, it's not going to change. Both societies think that they need to destroy the other but they don't see that they are destroying themselves along the way.

    • 1. (b.1946) President of the United States from 2001-present.

  • When you use the word martyr or martyrdom, to some people, those words are a little problematic as their meaning may not be clear. At the Forum, what is the term that you use?

    For the Palestinians, we surely do use the word martyr. We’ve decided at the Forum that the Palestinians decide what they want, and the Israelis decide what they want, and each side must respect the decision of the other. It is sometimes hard for an Israeli to accept the word martyr and one of the reasons for that is that they just don’t understand it’s meaning. Anyone who is murdered violently or in an unnatural way could be called a martyr. According to religion, even if a person drowned in the name of religion, he is called a martyr. We’ve decided to refer to the Palestinians as martyrs because that is the way we feel about them. God is really the one who decides, but what we have decided is each person can choose the name he wants to use without judging anyone else. It is hard for a Palestinian to hear someone use the word martyr when referring to a soldier killed in a bombing by a Palestinian. But they have decided to refer to him like this and we are to respect this decision. We may not agree with it, but we will respect it. Similarly, they may not agree with the terms we use, but they will respect us because it is important for us to call this person a martyr.

  • What does the word martyr mean for Palestinians and Arabs in general?

    We usually use the word martyr to refer to anyone who has been killed because of the Arab/Israeli conflict. I think it’s meaning goes beyond that of a religious one. If you die trying to serve your country, then people look at you as a person who has served his country a lot - someone who was willing to give up his life. I might differ from others in the way I struggle, because in my opinion, violence is always bad, but a different person might be convinced of his own way of fighting; a soldier who is killed is convinced of his way, and so I will refer to him the way he deserves to be referred to.

  • So both Palestinians and Israelis killed could be referred to as martyrs?

    The Jews use the word Khalal. I believe that at the end of one of our movies- Tears of Peace- two candles are lit and there are two phrases, one on each candle: “For the Palestinian Martyrs” and on the other, “For the Israeli martyrs” which is translated in Hebrew.

  • You said your family's opinions, and you said they were worried about you when you joined Fatah, and when you became friends with students from the Ulpan. What do they think of what you're doing now at the Forum and at the radio station?

    My mom and dad have joined the Forum ever since the meeting, and little by little they change the way they think. I think what they’re going through is a process as well, but they still haven’t reached my level of thinking. I believe that it’s going to be a long process for them to reach the same place I have reached. My mother is more into what I’m doing than my father is - she’s more understanding. As time goes by, they are changing their ways of thinking more and more, and of course, they both are members of the Forum. The past year, about ten months ago, a seminar took place and my siblings attended it and joined the Forum as well. The process goes by slowly. It took me seven to eight years; it took them ten or twelve, my siblings maybe fourteen - each person takes his own time. But I think this is very encouraging because there are some people who think that if one had a certain way of thinking, it would be impossible to change it. I don’t agree with this because I’ve seen own and my family’ shift, from one side to the polar opposite.

  • What about your friends, what do they think of your work?

    It depends - there are those who completely support what I’m doing, and there are also those who completely don’t. I have both Arab and Jewish friends, and I have Jewish friends that do not support what I’m doing. But none of my friends have stopped talking to me or stopped wanting to be my friend because of what I do. Each one has his own opinion, and there are many who do not have hope that people can change. They might agree with what I say, but then what? What can I do about it? I totally disagree with them because I believe that if you’re not doing something, then you accept reality, and if you accept reality, then you agree with the fact that the only solution is for us to keep killing each other. It’s hard for me to understand how you can accept something like that. One should do whatever he or she can to change the situation. Even if there is a tiny bit of hope, I think it is better to try to do something than sit there and do nothing.

  • What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

    Time...to be able to balance your time between your own personal life and your work is really difficult. You’re always trying to make time for these things. It’s easy to get caught up with life especially if one has a good job and life is going well. It’s not easy to find the time to do this work because that is really important for him. I need to start doing this, and I need to start making time for it. A lot of times, it’s easy to ignore things and say I have my own life. It’s also really hard emotionally to keep telling your story, to stay caught up in the same atmosphere. A lot of people choose to run away from it or forget about it - they try to forget or ignore or pretend it never happened rather than live with it, and live with the pain. Every time I relate my story, I have to remember everything I went through, and remember every person that stops me to tell me that what I’m doing is wrong. This is really difficult. The only thing that helps me to keep going is the belief that even though it’s hard, maybe I am helping someone not to go through the same thing. Maybe what I’m doing influences one person and would prevent him/her from going though what I’ve been through. It could affect a soldier and prevent him from acting the same way he would have because I talk to many students who are soon-to-be soldiers - I might influence them to not act the same way the current soldiers did with my brother. I may influence a Palestinian who may want to bomb himself - to back away from this decision- but again I may not succeed. Nevertheless, I think there definitely is some influence: you may be preparing people to have the willingness to accept the other side, which is very important. The more I think about it, the more I believe that this isn’t about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, but about human beings in general. It's hard for us to accept others who are different in their way of thinking. You may see this between religious and secular people, between the poor and the rich, and in a lot of other situations in which one still wants to hear the other side's opinion even if it is hard to accept it.That’s why I feel like what we’re doing is not just for the Israeli and Palestinian cause, but also for the general public - to be able to open doors for human beings to allow them to hear the other side. A lot of times it’s hard to listen, but it’s important - even if I disagree. It was really important for me to study Jewish history from the Jewish point of view, and to read the Tanakh1 which I’ve read more than once. This is a book that I really like reading, a book that I can learn from, and a book that I believe in.I also like going to the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, but it’s really hard to do that as a Palestinian because if you admit that the Jews have gone through some really hard times, then that means I accept their being here, and that the occupation is OK, and that is something that’s not true. To accept the fact that they’ve been through a lot is one thing, and to say that the occupation is OK is another thing. It’s not about land, but I’m trying to understand how they think, and I’m learning about what they have gone through. This helps me understand where the other person is coming from. I can’t just say, OK, they just came here all of a sudden and they have no history. Being able to understand how they think allows me to understand why they act the way they do. Again, this doesn’t mean I agree with their actions. A lot of people whom I talk to think that my working for peace means that I accept their taking our land, their killing my brother, etc. Until now, I believe that what the soldier has done to my brother is inhumane; I think it’s wrong. Until now, I think that the occupation is wrong and it needs to stop. My way of thinking has not changed in this matter. The fact that I work for peace, or that I don’t hate the other side, doesn’t mean I agree with what they are doing. You may not hate someone but can still say that what he’s doing is wrong.

    • 1. Hebrew term used to refer to the Jewish scripture, consisting of the Torah, Prophets, and Writings.

  • Generally, young people your age were the most affected in society by the intifada, where are you in relation to your peers, do you think your work is marginalized? How effective do you think your work is?

    I don't think I'm marginalized. There are certain times when they get afraid of what I am saying; they may think I am normalizing. But I still think it has a lot of influence over a lot of people whom I talk to. It begins to change their way of thinking, and I have a lot of friends who started changing their way of thinking; people who have decided to participate in organizations like Ta'ayush because of the conversations we had. I want to quote again from the Old Testament: "I believe therefore I speak." If you believe in something, it's hard to be silent about it. And because I believe in what I do, I don't care a lot about what others think about me, and I will continue doing so even if this will cause trouble. I believe that the influence may possibly be small, but it would be very important. There is a story that talks about a person who got to the seashore and found a lot of starfish dying there. So he began throwing them back into the water. Another person standing there told him, “You won’t be able to do anything; what you’re doing will not have a lot of influence. Look, there are 10,000 starfish, you won’t make a difference.” So he picked one starfish up and replied, “This is the difference that I can make,” and he put the starfish back into the water. Maybe it seems like we don’t have a big influence because there are a lot of problems, but I believe that even if one can make only a small difference, then it’s important to do it. One of the things that I have perceived about our youth is that they lost hope. Yesterday I had a meeting with a young man who has just completed the Twajihi and is thinking about what he wants to do in life. He was telling me that there’s no hope for him to live here; he needs to study abroad. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve always dreamed of living abroad, of living in America; now, I have the opportunity to go abroad, but I won’t go because I learned that this is my homeland and I need to keep improving it here, not improving it in different countries. What I’ve noticed is that many people are losing hope, and what I’m trying to give them is the idea to come back here, gain hope, and start helping to build their nation - to believe that we can make a difference as youth. As you said, we are the largest group in society, and if we gained back hope and believed that we can make a difference, then we will. But again, there are many people who have lost this hope.

  • What is in your opinion the biggest stereotype people have about coexistence work?

    The idea that when we work with Jews, we give them the legitimacy to do to us what they are doing now. That our working with them means that we became collaborators and work for them in one way or another, that we agree with what they do and we are part of it. I believe that this is a false belief and that actually, I work with Jews so that the Palestinians may someday have their individual, personal rights to freedom. When I am confronted by an Israeli whose son, daughter, brother have been killed by a Palestinian but regardless says, “I am willing to help you in making Palestine unoccupied,” it’s hard to tell him, “No, I don’t want your help.” That’s what we need to take into consideration. When a Jew comes up to me and offers his help, I’m supposed to hold on to him and say, OK, let’s work together. We shouldn’t judge him by his nationality. Same thing happened in America, when the Black people were suffering from racism, there were white people on their side, and white people who were killed for working on their behalf. We can’t judge each and every Jew - he’s bad, he hates Arabs. I know people who care more about the freedom of Palestine than Palestinians themselves.

  • Why do you think that it's important for individuals to be active? Why did you personally not count on the political leaders to solve the conflict and took it upon yourself to be active?

    In the end, I guess that the political leaders are the ones that are going to have to do something - there are certain things that I personally cannot do. If I sign a paper with an Israeli and solve the whole conflict, it would be great. But I’m not the one who will do this. In the end, it will be Sharon or someone else, maybe Abu Mazen or his successor who will sign the paper. I think that the grassroots work is very important. In the previous peace process - the Oslo Convention - people felt no change taking place, nothing that made them feel peace. In other words, there was no change in education. The leaders thought that if they only signed papers for a peace process, everything would change, and this belief is erroneous. If the common people do not understand or interact or agree with what is going on, it’s hard for anyone to succeed in fulfilling a treaty. Both sides are important. The political figures are going to have to sign the papers, but we are also responsible for spreading awareness among the ones we can reach out to. And if we succeed in destroying the wall of hate that currently exists, then we could achieve something. In the end, we were the ones who elected those political leaders, and the reason most of them got to the position they are in is fear, hatred, and ignorance of the other side. The reason the civilians elected Sharon was not because they love him but because they are afraid of something called “Palestinian.” They believe that every Palestinian hates the Jews and this is not true. When they come to realize that this is not true, this wall of hate that separates us can be destroyed and if he [Sharon] doesn’t accept this resolution, then the people will elect someone else to represent them.

  • What about the people who want to get to know the other side and be able to communicate with the other side, and they want to be active, but they don't know where to begin? What advice do you for have for them?

    Good question. It depends on which stage this person has reached. Maybe he is not prepared to meet a Jew and needs to begin somewhere else, but I believe there is more than one place to start . He may start by joining a Palestinian organization, there are a lot of them that work for peace. It’s really hard to join our organization if you have not lost a relative in the conflict, which is good because the fewer members there are the better, but this is not working unfortunately, because the number of member increases day by day. There are a lot of other organizations a person can join. Reform in our society is also very important . You may start working for peace by personally talking to those around you about what you believe in; you need to talk and not be scared of saying what you believe in, which is very important. This is one of the questions I am asked at school. I tell them to try to get ten or fifteen people together, and call us and ask us to come talk to them. It may be harder for this student to connect to them and for those people to listen to what he or she says, but it’s more likely they would listen to us. So this student cab help us reach other people. A lot of Palestinian schools are afraid of us giving lectures, especially in the West Bank. The students can help us in this area. It really depends on your location, but I think that the best place to start is by starting to get to know the other side. You don’t necessarily have to meet them face to face; you could just read about the other side, research, or visit a certain museum. You can really begin to know who those people are.

  • If you had the chance to change something, what would it be?

    If it were in my hands, I would change the way I acted during school, during my youth. At the same time, I think it was necessary for me to go through this process in life. Sometimes, there are things that you strongly wish you could change, but on the other hand, you know that if these things were to change, you would know that you probably wouldn’t be the person you are now. Maybe I won’t change anything, I don’t know if I would want to change anything. In the movie Lord of the Rings, there’s a point where Gandolf sits with the young guy, Frodo, the bearer of the ring, and Frodo tells him, “I wish this ring had never gotten to me, I wish none of this ever happened to me, I wish this responsibility didn’t fall on me.” So Gandolf replies, “We don’t choose the time or the things that we go through, but we do get to choose how we want to use the time that is given to us.” Sometimes the things you go through that are really tough make you the person you are, who wouldn’t be as strong if you had a simple, easy life.

  • What are the most important lessons you learned from your experiences?

    To respect each and every person even if he were extremely different from me, which is something that is really hard to do, even now, but I am learning. Another thing that I’m also struggling to practice right now is the denominations we ourselves form amongst people - Arab vs. Jewish, Muslim vs. Christian, religious vs. secular, Catholic and Orthodox, Shiite and Sunni, Hebronite and Jerusalemite - simply the way we make sectarians out of ourselves, which is really painful to witness. I’m trying to stop looking at people like that, to forget which religion, or city, or neighborhood he is from and look at him as a human being like me. It’s really difficult, but I’m trying hard- to not view people from a certain perspective.

  • What is the most important thing you want to achieve for your nation/country?

    Freedom - not just from the occupation but also from the mentality; to stop blaming the Jews for everything that has happened to us. We need to start taking responsibility for our own actions, and start trying to build ourselves on our own, and not depend on Israel to do it for us. A lot of times we blame Israel for mistakes we are responsible for. I remember a while ago arriving at a really important meeting, wearing Jeans and a T-shirt, and having a really bad hairdo. I was asked why I was attending the meeting with such a look. My first response was the checkpoint. It was what first came to mind, and I began to wonder why it was the first thing that popped into my mind. I said it as a joke, but I was wrongly blaming it on the checkpoint when it had nothing to do with it! I think we need to start thinking about how to build ourselves, and this is what I try to achieve. Even at work, when I talk to the youth, I try convincing them to volunteer, even if it’s something that’s really simple - to go to a nursing home, and promise an elderly person that they’ visit once a week, even though I’m not going to get any benefits or get paid (even though I think that in one way or another this is really helpful). It’s really important to want to “help and care” and have the spirit for it, which is something we really lack in our society, but are truly in need of. When I speak to certain youth groups or at certain schools, it’s really hard to convince them to volunteer. I’m not even talking in relation to the Palestinian Israeli issue, I’m talking about their own communities. Usually, the question I get all the time is “What am I going to get out of all of this? What are you going to give me?” It’s very painful to hear these responses because one realizes that our mindset is not exactly going in the right direction. I’m trying my best to develop the youth around me, to have them be able to get to a point where they can take responsibility for their actions. The establishment that I am now working on in Bethlehem requires a lot of work because it’s really hard to get a license - we’ve been working on it for the past year and a half now. One of the criticisms that we got from the Palestinian Authority is that all the establishment’s members are youth - they’re all college students-- college students who are successful in life, but still, they are college students, which is why it’s been hard for us to get a license. They tell us that there are no old people in the establishment, and the oldest one is only 25 years old - what can you do? This is so wrong. The reason our establishment would be successful is that the oldest one of us is 25 years old and all the members are college students. Simultaneously, my goal is to achieve this in each of our cities - to be able to form groups that would serve their communities not just because they’re expecting something in return, but just to be able to contribute to their respected communities.

  • Since there is asymmetry in the Israeli and Palestinian life standards, in your opinion; what is the difference, if there is any, in the motivation of Israelis and Palestinians to want to work together?

    It is different for an Israeli because an Israeli may be scared of going into a restaurant or on a bus fearing it would blow up, so his motivation would be to feel more secure. For a Palestinian, the motivation is to start living, to have peace means to start a new life. When I look at the statistics for the social situations, I see that in the West Bank, 50% are unemployed.1 These people are either living on donations or on nothing at all. There is no symmetry. I'm not comparing pain, because I know that it’s painful for both sides. But there is no balance between the sufferings, in one way or another. I'll give you an example. When I leave to Bethlehem, a lot of times I have to take a cab, and it costs me 50 NIS2 each way, and usually, my work pays transportation costs. It costs me 100 NIS to go to work in. One morning, I stopped at a restaurant in Beit Jalato get some hummus, and the waiter was a boy around 15 years old. It was in the morning, and school was still on, for vacation had not yet begun, so I was wondering why he was here during school hours. He told me that he had to do this to support his family because no one else in his family works. I asked him how many hours a day he works and how much money he gets per hour. He told me that he worked 12 hours a day, and he got 20 NIS a day. I started thinking to myself, “It costs me 100 NIS just to get to work, and all he gets for working one whole day is 20 NIS. How could he live? That this is what’s destroying our societies. It’s hard for a person like him to think about peace; all he thinks of is survival, not peace. Another question I usually get asked is why don't Palestinians demonstrate for the cause of peace. A Palestinian thinks about what he is going to have for dinner, not that he should demonstrate for peace, and even if he did think about that, all he is going to find is a checkpoint preventing him from demonstrating for peace. Instead of demonstrating for peace, he would want to demonstrate against the checkpoint. It makes no sense. It’s hard for a Palestinian to get to this point. At the same time, I’m not saying this is good because we do need to start working for peace, but it’s just that it’s so much harder for a Palestinian to get to this point. He’s the one being occupied, not the occupier, which makes it harder for him to give in and say, “I’m OK with it.”

    • 1. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in the West Bank during the 4th quarter of 2005 was 21.8%. See the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics "Labour Force Survey (October-December, 2005) at http://www.pcbs.org/Portals/_pcbs/PressRelease/lfsq42005_e.pdf.
    • 2. Approximately $11 US dollars.

  • In your opinion, what are the conflict's most important elements?

    Well, the occupation plays a huge role, the settlements are also a major factor, the extremists who have big influence, and the indifference of a lot of other people. There is a small group of extremists who speak loudly with hatred and anger in their voices. And yet, there is a large group of people who don’t. But this small group is usually 100% more active and influential than the large group that doesn’t have animosity towards Palestinians. What we need to work on with both sides is the existing indifference - the people who do want peace, but don’t want to work for it. They want to sit at home and have someone up top sign a treaty and that’s it - it’s all going to happen. I think the hatred and ignorance that exist towards the other side is also an important cause. During the Vietnam War,1 Martin Luther King took a stand against the war. But when he began talking out his beliefs, everybody went against him - even the black people - because they thought the only way to become the white people’s equals was to fight with them regardless of the fact that this was wrong. But one of the things that King said was, “We will never reach the end of this war without understanding the Vietnamese people.” And that’s what was really hard for people to hear - when he began talking about who the Vietnamese people are. We will not reach a finale until we understand, know, and respect the person standing in front of us. Simultaneously, I think that justice is important in the peace process. You can’t say that you want peace but you’re not ready to sacrifice - that’s impossible. Both sides are going to have to make some sacrifices, but as much as we sacrifice, it will not be a bigger sacrifice than the one we are giving right now. You need to be prepared to sacrifice land (I’m not talking about sacrificing more land, not to be misunderstood; I don’t mean to give more lands of the West Bank, but for example we need to accept the fact that Tel Aviv is now part of Israel, and we’re not going to get it back. As for the Israelis, they need to realize that there will be no such thing as “Eretz Yisrael Hagdolah”.2 These are sacrifices both sides have to make for the sake of peace. But still, there are the people who think, “Oh, where are we going to live (this is one of the points that come up in some classes) if we give them the West Bank?” or, “If we give them Tel Aviv, where would we live?” There’s a lot of land to live on, but the problem is the people who are dying now who did not have a place to live anyway.

    • 1. Refers to the US War in Vietnam of the mid-1960's until the early 1970's. For more information on the Vietnam War see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/vietnam/.
    • 2. Hebrew meaning "Greater Israel." The concept and ideology of a Greater Israel predominantly refers to an Israel state that encompasses Israel within the Green Line as well as the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, Greater Israel, to lesser extent, is used by some more extreme groups to advocate an Israeli state that encompasses the above in addition to territory in Jordan and reaching as far as modern day Iraq. In the latter case, the concept of Greater Israel is derived from what some believe as the territory promised to the Jewish people by God in the Torah.

  • How do you envision the solution to be?

    You'd be surprised, you may ask other people this question and they would actually have a map of where the boundary should be. As for me, I have not yet reached a point where I perfectly know how I want things to be. I do know that it is highly possible to reach a solution, which both sides would be satisfied with. It doesn't matter what that solution is to me. Both sides may decide they could live together in one country, even though I wouldn't prefer that, or that they want two separate countries (which I think is better). Where the boundaries are? I don't know and I don't really care that much. One meter less is not such a big deal to me (even though many Palestinians disagree with me about this). I don't think this is fundamental. What is fundamental is that both sides are satisfied, and both sides stop killing each other. This is my ideal solution. We need to stop looking for excuses to seek revenge.

  • What would it take to reach such a solution?

    For both to sit together, talk together, and be satisfied with the solution: to be able to reach a solution such that when it is presented to the Palestinians, they won’t feel injustice, but they would feel they got their rights back. And when it is presented to the Israelis, they would be able to live with it. The way to get there I guess is by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. When both sides try to reach an agreement, the Palestinian should put himself in the Israeli’s shoes and consider how much he’d be willing to give away, and vice-versa. This would make it easier to reach a solution. Of course, a Palestinian is not going to say, “OK, you can have the West Bank.” That’s the least they’ll accept, to have a country, to have a place, to have a country that is respected, unlike the simple oppositions when Gaza was evacuated - one couldn’t certian things like hunting animals, or even leaving the city. This is not the kind of country we want to be in. We don’t want an offer that gives us lands but prevents us from doing other things freely. As for the Israeli side, they usually ask for security. We are the only people who can grant Israel security. Their power - the bombings, the assassinations, the prisons - as much as it kept them going, it didn’t help at all. It didn’t give them the security they were looking for. They will not be able to achieve security through violence. The only thing that would give them security is if the Palestinians felt they got something that is enough. And if we reach a just solution, I think that the Palestinians will be the ones that will keep this need. The Palestinians will prevent any operation from taking place; they will stop the extremists. The only people able to stop the extremists are us. As much as the Jews do, it will never help.