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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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Sara Karajeh

During the first intifada while finishing her university studies, Sara Karajeh was imprisoned for five months in Israeli jail for resisting the occupation. Sara's husband, a member of the Palestinian Intelligence Service, was killed by the Israeli army during the second intifada. After her husband's death, Sara joined the Bereaved Families Forum, through which she works for understanding between Palestinians and Israelis and for nonviolent resolution to the conflict. Sara Karajeh is also the director of the Society for Women in Hebron which aims to elevate women's conditions in the city and surrounding rural areas.

  • Tell me about yourself, who are you and how did you become what you are today?

    My name is Sara Karajeh. I am from the town of Halhul in the Hebron district. I studied English literature at the University of Hebron. During my studies at the university I was a member of the student youth movement and was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces in 1989 with the charge of resisting the Occupation. I married a colleague of mine from university, and in 1991, during the first month of our marriage we were arrested. I was arrested, interrogated and released after a few days, but my husband was placed under administrative detention because he had a history in the struggle and had previously been arrested thirteen times. During the Al Aqsa intifada he was assassinated by the Israeli intelligence forces. He became a martyr on the 14th of May 2002.

  • Was your husband killed in a targeted assassination?

    Yes, of course. The assassination took place at one o'clock in the morning. My husband was an officer in the Palestinian Intelligence and was in charge of the northern part of the Hebron area. He was with his assistant and others staying at one of their hideouts. They were ambushed, and my husband and his assistant were killed. As long as there is occupation, we expect to become martyrs and to be injured or imprisoned in any minute. When there used to be shooting in town I would get worried and call him and ask what happened, but that night I heard the gunfire at one o'clock at night and I had a feeling that he was the one who had been targeted. I prayed two raka'as to God and asked Him to help me and make me patient. Thank God, He didn't let me down. He helped me and made me patient, thank God.

  • Tell me about the assassination.

    We live under occupation, so it is natural for every Palestinian who lives on this land to be targeted by the Israeli occupation, because it is the goal of the occupation to assassinate us by all means and using all the excuses necessary. My husband was an officer in the Palestinian security forces and only dealt with security issues, but despite this and despite the fact that they weren’t involved in any military activities, they were targeted by the occupation. They didn’t even carry weapons. Two weeks before their assassination, the houses of two of the members of the security forces were destroyed without any reason. They were ordered to leave the houses in the middle of the night and their houses were demolished. Also two weeks before my husband’s assassination, his nephew was martyred in the incidents of the Church of the Nativity1 (Al Mahd). My husband and his comrades were at a place they used to stay in, and were surprised by the soldiers of the Occupation army who opened fire on them. Two of them were killed, and the rest got away or were arrested.

    • 1Located in Bethlehem, a city in the West Bank, the church is considered by many to be the birthplace of Jesus. It is a primary pilgrimage destination for most Christians. This building is the oldest standing church in the Holy Land. Originally built by Constantine's mother in the 4th century, Emperor Justinian rebuilt the current structure around 530 CE. An intense standoff took place at the Church of the Nativity during the second intifada after scores of Palestinians (civilians and armed fighters) took refuge in the Church to escape Israeli troops.

  • What are your current activities?

    From the beginning of our work and our struggle to end the occupation and the suffering of the Palestinian people we have had relations with the Israeli Left and with Israeli peace organizations. During my arrest in 1989, very active lawyers from Peace Now visited me while I was in detention at the Russian Compound and in prison in Tel Mond. Good relations with them were formed which lasted even after my release. Even before my arrest I had relations with an Israeli lawyer who defended human rights and Palestinian youth. I used to say to my friends, relatives and those who were arrested in the Hebron area that this lawyer was the best choice for defending those arrested, because he was a person who believed in human rights and treated us as humans. I had great respect for this person, and my relations with the Israeli lawyers continued. At the beginning of the Al Aqsa intifada, in 2001, we had relations with the Ta'ayush movement, which is an Arab-Israeli movement. They visited us here in the Women's Society office more than once, offered help to Palestinian children, held a protest with us in the Beit Ummar area1 and offered financial help to poor families and families that were affected by the intifada and the occupation. In 2002 we established relations with the Parent's Circle/Bereaved Families Forum. An Israeli-Palestinian delegation was to hold a demonstration in front of the UN building in New York in which we planned to display coffins wrapped with the Israeli and Palestinian flags.2 These activities were planned in New York and in other places in the US. The Bereaved Families Forum contacted me and asked me to choose women from the Hebron area to participate in that demonstration, and I succeeded in choosing women to travel with them to the US and participate in the demonstration. I chose bereaved women who had lost their sons to the occupation. I never imagined I would ever be a member of this circle. I never thought I would work and sympathize with them, but the occupation demanded I become a member of this forum. It became an imperative on the 14th of May 2002, when my husband became a martyr. On the same day my husband became a martyr, Arab friends of mine from inside the lands of 1948 knew about what happened. An Israeli newspaper called me and asked what my response would be as a peace activist and whether my activities would change as a result of my husband’s assassination. I replied honestly and with all my heart that I would continue working and fighting for peace for the benefit of our children and for a better future for the future generations who deserve a better life. I became more interested in peace for my children, because I don't want my children to live, as we do, under occupation and in the middle of struggle, assassinations and arrests. God willing I will continue this work, and will raise my children to do the same. Despite the fact that I am a head of a women’s NGO,3 I encourage this idea because it is our right to live in peace and security, and it is our children’s right to live without violence and our right as women to raise our children with hopes for a bright future, not fear, terror and psychological problems. God willing this will happen.

    • 1is a village north of Hebron.
    • 2Footage of the event can be found at the Parent's Circle website. Click on the "Coffin Display" link. http://www.theparentscircle.com/Activities.asp?sivug_id=3#
    • 3Mrs. Karajeh is the director of the Society For Women in Hebron.

  • What does the word peace mean to you?

    For me peace means security. Peace means comfort, peace of mind and everything related to security.

  • Tell me about your activities with the Bereaved Families Forum. What are the activities of the Forum and who are the people you work with?

    The members of the Bereaved Families Forum are all people who lost their loved ones during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are Israeli members who lost their sons in the 1967 or October War and during the daily struggle with the Palestinians, but the Forum expanded and now includes any person who lost their next of kin. Parents who lost their sons, wives who lost their husbands or people who have lost their brothers or sisters have the right to be a member of the Forum. The goals of the Forum are very noble, the Forum isn't a political party and isn't involved in any political issues; it tries to make the world, which hasn't understood this fact yet, understand that the occupation is the reason for our tragedies and suffering. More than once during joint Israeli-Palestinian meetings, Israeli women who lost their sons said that the Palestinian fighters didn't kill their sons because they were "David" or "Isaac", they killed them because they were a symbol of the occupation. This encourages us Palestinians because these people agree with us that the occupation is the reason for our problems and suffering. We do what we can in order to convince the global public that the occupation is the reason for our suffering. The world supports the occupation and knows nothing about what happens here on the ground in Palestine; they think the Palestinians are terrorists who carry weapons and kill the Jews who are sitting confined to their homes. This is the main goal of the Forum. There are additional goals, such as bringing the two sides closer to each other in order to apply pressure on powers such as the Israeli government to release prisoners and withdraw from the Palestinian territories. These are plans for the future, because at present the political situation hasn’t allowed us to reach this stage. Our ambition is to adopt a better strategy, but as a beginning we have adopted this strategy and feel that we are comfortable with it to an extent.

  • What are the difficulties you face in this work?

    To be honest, there are no difficulties. I have faced this question many times. People ask me what my family, neighbors and colleagues think about my work. To be honest, the Palestinian people may be boiling, but inside they are very simple and interested in sharing the company of people whom they can trust. The people that engage in dialogue with Israelis are well respected among Palestinians. We aren’t engaged in dialogue with Intelligence officers, we are engaged in dialogue with people who have lost their loved ones, were oppressed and have suffered from the occupation.Thank God I haven’t faced any problems or difficulties.

  • As a woman from Hebron, technically speaking, how do you hold your meetings with Israelis?

    The meetings with Israelis take place as part of our activities. We hold cultural and educational activities that aim to influence school childrens’ views of peace and attitudes towards coexistence between the two sides. The meetings with the Israelis take place as part of these activities. We sometimes organize fun meetings, activities and summer camps for the children of victims of the conflict, who live with difficult emotional conditions. These activities are for both sides, and we meet the Israelis through them. We are sometimes invited to international conferences as Israelis and Palestinians or as the Bereaved Families forum. During these meetings there is Israeli and Palestinian representation through which we meet the Israelis.

  • Where do the meetings take place?

    The meetings take place either inside or outside Palestine, in Jerusalem, Jordan, Spain or Italy depending on the location of the conference we are invited to. I meet my Palestinian colleagues from the Forum every week, but the last time I met my Israeli colleagues was during a joint conference in Tel Aviv. We were invited to the conference and Israeli and Palestinian women took part in it. This was a conference for women.

  • Do you think the joint work, meetings and activities contribute to peace?

    Of course. Our journey is long and hard and it is not easy to make change overnight. I have been a member of the Forum for three years and the activities remain limited. We wish to reach the whole world overnight, but the world is large and we can’t reach every person and every home. We may issue a newspaper in the future on behalf of the Forum that will reach every home, through which people will be able to read about our activities and ideas. That will enable us to recruit more members, especially on the Palestinian side, which is a beginner in relation to the Israeli side. The Israeli side has been involved in this work since the early nineties or the eighties; we are still new to this work.

  • You were active during the first intifada resisting occupation, when did the turning point that caused you to change and cooperate with Israelis take place?

    There is no change; it is a consistent sequence of events. Each stage of resistance to the occupation has its own ideas and requirements. The occupation must be resisted. If Israelis who have lost their sons, daughters or wives in Palestinian martyrdom operations say they are resisting the occupation and want to stop it because it is the reason for their tragedies, then how can we, as Palestinians who have suffered so much under the occupation, not resist as well? This is a kind of resistance to the occupation, but we consider it a peaceful struggle that is carried out in a non-violent way. In the end this struggle aims to end the occupation, which is the reason for our problems and tragedies.

  • You say that you work only with those who agree with you and have the same views as you. Have you ever tried to work and talk to people from the Israeli mainstream who may not agree with you?

    This may have happened to friends of mine who have encountered people who don’t agree with them, but the geographical distance of Hebron from the Israelis and the lack of interaction with the Israelis take its toll. I don’t interact with Israelis and the people I choose to interact with during meetings or joint activities are people who want peace, who think the occupation and violence should end, that the Palestinians should be given their rights, that the prisoners should be released and that the demolition of houses and olive trees should cease. Mostly I meet people whose views are very close to mine and there is no dispute between us.

  • As a Muslim woman in Hebron, tell me about the situation in Hebron generally and what is the extent of people's acceptance of such ideas?

    Hebron is of course a part of Palestine and the Arab world, so the people in Hebron aren’t as primitive as is widely perceived. The opposite, the people are very civilized and are very open to modern ideas that suite these times but which don’t contradict religious ideas and principles. Many of the people of Hebron participate in such seminars and conferences and aren’t at all conservative regarding this issue. Some people think that those who meet with Israelis or pursue peace are rejected by the society, but it is the opposite. There are people who are interested in peace and in living in security and having honorable lives. As long as people don’t hurt their culture, religion or national values, the people of Hebron will support them and won’t disagree with them.

  • What are your future projects or activities?

    At the moment we are working on educational programs that aim to strengthen the concept of peace in schools. We are working to allow greater interaction of school children from both sides with each other. Children remain children; we want to know what their views and thoughts about peace are. It is necessary to address and try to influence the children at a young age.

  • Do you work with schools in Hebron?

    We haven't yet reached this stage in Hebron, not because it is difficult to reach those schools, but because most of the schools in Hebron follow the government's [Palestinian Authority's] curriculum.1 As a part of our agenda, we plan to approach the Minister of Education with the possibility of choosing a school from each district in which Israeli and Palestinian lecturers would give a presentation and listen to the views of the pupils. These are our plans for the future.

  • Does the special situation of Hebron and the presence of Jewish settlers inside the city have an influence on the attitude of the people in terms of dealing with Israelis?

    The presence of the settlers within the old city of Hebron is considered a cancer cell, which if not removed, will have negative effects. There are daily confrontations with these settlers and the Palestinians during which the settlers hurt Palestinian children on their way to school, hurt women and hurt youngsters. These confrontations happen on a daily basis and this of course creates hatred among the Palestinian side. It is not easy to tell a Palestinian to shake the hand of an Israeli after what they see. Despite this, we are mature in terms of our thinking and awareness. We have extracted this from our religion and culture and recognize that there are other human beings, who want to live in peace with us and put their hands in ours; therefore we will not reject them. The Arab manners that existed in the past but have faded away in some places still exist in Hebron. The values of forgiveness, generosity, and kindness still exist in Hebron. Therefore a person from Hebron who is mature and understands their religion, manners and national values, will never reject an Israeli who holds out their hand for peace and says they are also suffering because of the occupation. A Palestinian will never reject this person. On the contrary, they would be proud of their existence and treat them with the greatest honor despite the fact that their Jewish settler neighbor hurts them, throws garbage and stones at them and abuses their children on their way to school. There is a group called the Christian Peacemaker Team.1 This group consists of Americans who have rented a home in the heart of the old city of Hebron in order to help the Palestinians who are abused by the Jewish settlers. These people are greatly respected in Hebron despite the fact that they come from America, which is considered by us to be the number one enemy and Israel's sponsor--giving it the green light to treat us this way. The people of Hebron realize that these Americans sympathize with them and support them, therefore they are greatly respected and invited into people's houses and eat with them at the same table. The people of Hebron are aware and capable of distinguishing between people.

    • 1was founded in the mid-1980s in order to offer a non-violent "alternative to war and other forms of lethal inter-group conflict." The group is based in America and conducts projects in the West Bank, Iraq, Colombia, and North America. In the past it has also worked in Haiti, Puerto Rico, Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. The group has been active in Hebron since 1995 with its "Campaign for Secure Dwellings" which works to provide a "violence-reduction presence" through street patrols. See http://www.cpt.org/ and http://www.cpt.org/csd/campaign.php for particulars of the Hebron project.

  • What is the most important thing that you want to achieve for your people and country?

    The first thing that is always on my mind and for which I pray every time I pray is that God release the prisoners. The issue of the prisoners is like a thorn caught in our throat. The numbers of prisoners isn't small and there is nearly a prisoner from every home.1 More dangerous is that these prisoners are sentenced to long terms in prison, and administrative imprisonment sentences of others is extended every month and lasts for years.2 I feel that when the prisoners are released the people will breathe a sigh of relief. Most importantly, the prisoners have children, and their families are concerned with the question of when the prisoners will be able to see their children, who grow up day by day. The issue of the prisoners is our greatest concern, because human life is the most valuable thing for us. Of course land is also valuable, no one can deny that, but we know that the issue of the liberation of the land and the removal of the settlements will be dealt with in later stages.

    • 1According to a varun Badil Resource Center article from August 2004, there are currently 7000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The article claims that 600,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned since the Israeli occupation in 1967, including 40,000 arrests during the first intifada and over 18,000 detentions during the second intifada. See http://www.ppsmo.org/e-website/Others-Press-Reports/002-04.htm
    • 2Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial, authorize by administrative order rather than by judicial decree. Because of the serious injury to due process rights inherent in this measure and the obvious danger of abuse, international law has placed rigid restriction on its application. Administrative detention is intended to prevent the danger posed to state security by a particular individual. Administrative detention hearings are not open to the public, and the judge's ruling is based on confidential material pursuant to which the order was issued. The confidential material is not provided to the detainee or his attorney .Detainees have the right to appeal, yet the appeal is submitted to a military appeals court judge, and heard behind closed doors. See http://www.btselem.org/english/Administrative_Detention/Index.asp

  • What should happen in order to realize this ambition?

    If the Arab nations, the Quartet, and the UN applied pressure, then Israel would be forced to release the prisoners. Throughout modern history there was never a peace agreement that didn't include the release of prisoners. I am also surprised at the Palestinian leadership: how could the Oslo peace agreement be signed without the release of prisoners?! To my regret, there are people who were imprisoned before Oslo and are still in prison. It is the responsibility of the Palestinian and Arab leadership to see to the immediate and unconditional release of the prisoners. More than once I have heard a proposal for a ransom to be paid by the Arab leaders in order to free the prisoners. I say, let this be a first step. An Arab millionaire offered to buy the Israeli settlements in Gaza in return for the evacuation of the settlers from them. I think as long as there are such proposals, ideas and good intentions, proposals should be put forward concerning the issue of the prisoners. The prisoners should be released using all measures, including money. The Arabs have a lot of money, which in the end reaches America through its presence in Iraq and through oil and arms deals. If the Arab money reaches Israel and America anyway, let it be in return for releasing the prisoners.

  • Which international audience has the largest influence on the conflict?

    At the moment I don’t feel that any international audience affects the situation. The Arab or Islamic audiences may have had an effect in the past, to my regret today there is no action and I don’t know if the people have taken tranquilizers or can’t move their tongues any more. Even the European people took a stand at one stage, but at the current stage I don’t see any movement.

  • Why do you think the previous peace initiatives didn't bring peace?

    I will speak honestly, even if certain people may be offended by what I say. I will present the dialogue that is going on within every person who suffers from the occupation. The main blame is on the occupying power, which didn’t fulfill its commitments. The second reason is the Palestinian leadership that failed completely. The Palestinian leadership was concerned about its personal interests such as who will become a minister or a manager or a legislative counsel member and didn’t think about the suffering of its people. Something that the people always say is that we have retreated to the pre-occupation period. Our situation and mental state wasn’t as bad as it is today. At the moment our people are living through a period of depression that is unprecedented. This bitter reality that we live in is a result of the occupation from one side, and the failure of our leadership in managing our interior and international affairs from the other side.

  • How do you think individuals can have a leading role in improving the situation?

    I am sorry to say that the people who are now leaders aren’t the people who have suffered. Those who view the situation from a distance are different from those who witness the situation first-hand and in a clearer way. We have a centralized leadership and a few individuals control everything. Even if some leaders who are concerned about our people and believe in our cause reach certain positions, they will not be the decision makers, and surely will never be the sole decision makers.

  • How can an individual reach a position from which they can be influential?

    The political parties have positions and decide who is most suitable. But the problems have spread from the leadership to the political parties. The mistakes and administrative corruption have become infectious and have spread from the top of the leadership to its base. This has caused serious problems.

  • If someone wants to become active in changing the current situation but doesn't know where to begin, whom do you advise them to approach?

    We aren’t a political organization that determines where we want to reach and with whom we want to talk, we are just part of this oppressed people who have suffered from corruption and abuse, the occupation and the silence of the other countries, therefore I can’t act as a guide. Someone who wants to work and struggle for their people, does so through the civil associations and the associations that support their people. People won’t reach a dialogue with Israeli officials through us.

  • What are your expectations for the next five or ten years?

    I say God have mercy on us because the situation isn’t promising. As a result of the great pessimism the people suffer from, they have begun speaking of natural catastrophes that are due to take place. There is no hope for a bright future for this nation among the people as long as the current Arab regimes, who are only concerned about maintaining their power and positions, remain in power. Israel has the right and a free reign to do whatever it wants in this land. The main blame isn’t on the occupation, because as long as the occupiers see that the world is silent it gives Israel a green light and it is only concerned about their internal and personal issues... I don’t feel sorry for such Arab nations with such leadership. We can only rely on God’s mercy during the following years.

  • What are the most important lessons you have learned through meeting and dealing with Israelis?

    First of all, I felt that our enemy is very smart. The Israelis are smart and play the chords of emotion that have won them the support of the world. They also work with the media in a smart way. I hope we learn how to do these things. Our problems and suffering from the occupation are greater than those of the Israelis. I wish we used this in a smart way and had conscious media that would present the issues in such a way as to have an effect on school children, officials, business men, investors and all sectors of the international audience. God willing we should have good media.

  • You said our "enemy." One may ask how come you work with Israelis and still call them your enemy. Who is your enemy?

    When, during a meeting of the Bereaved Families Forum, a woman says that the occupation is the reason for her suffering and the loss of her son, I respect her, talk to her and shake her hand, but Israel is the one who developed, taught and programmed these people. What I mean is that the enemy, who is the Israeli government, caused these people to reach the stage in which they express their views in a dramatic way that moves peoples' feelings. This is all a result of how the Israeli government dealt with this subject and educated the Israelis through their educational systems and kibbutzim and other ways that allowed the Israelis to intelligently and influentially relate their suffering to the world.

  • What is in your opinion the biggest misconception among the two peoples about each other?

    Despite the fact that we both live on the same land, we have many wrong ideas about each other; for example the issue of children. The Israeli children think the Palestinian children are carrying knives and want to kill them. During a summer camp that was held by the Bereaved Families Forum, an Israeli child expressed these beliefs. The lack of interaction between the Israelis and Palestinians creates a vacuum in which the Palestinians feel all the Israelis carry weapons and want to kill them, destroy their homes, take control over their land and cut down their trees. Simultaneously, the Israelis think all Palestinians are terrorists that are going to blow themselves up and stab them with knives at any moment. This is all a result of the lack of a culture of peace. The culture of peace should be spread throughout our society and we should learn what peace means for us, what our thoughts about peace are and how to reconcile the views of two peoples who hate each other and suffer from the occupation.

  • What is the biggest misconception about the nature of joint Israeli-Palestinian work?

    We can't make everyone understand and force them to be aware about this subject. People's views differ and some people think these meetings will result in our making more concessions. Some people think that when we host or meet Israelis we have given up Jerusalem and relinquished the right of return. This kind of view exists, but we are willing to answer anyone's questions about our goals and who we are. We are willing to present ourselves so that people understand that we aren't an authorized organization that makes decisions, but ordinary people who suffer from the occupation.

  • Did you ever face dangerous situations of harassments due to your work with Israelis?

    No, never.

  • What do you think are the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

    It is well known that people were forced off their lands and other people took over their land.1 Oppression is hard, and an oppressed person will never forget their suffering. As long as people have lost their rights there will be no mutual trust and respect. This can only happen if people regain their rights.

    • 1Sara is referring to the fact that 700,000 to 800,000 Palestinians were forced to flee from their land during the 1948 war.

  • What do you think the ideal situation would be?

    People who were forced off their land and homes, whose land was confiscated, trees cut down and children killed should regain their rights. All these are lost rights that should return to their owners. What was the crime committed by the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who are banned from 72 jobs?1 These people live in a refugee camp that is like a large prison and are denied the basic and most simple human rights. They are prevented from living respectfully and freely in this country and denied education, nutrition and health services. They are denied all these things, and the only reason for their suffering is that they are Palestinians whose land was taken away and they were forced to take refuge in this Arab country and live in this prison. The situation of the Palestinians in Syria and Jordan is the same. The suffering of our people is constantly growing. The new generations of Palestinian refugees don't forget, rather they remember that they have land that was taken from them and that they are living in temporarily conditions until they return to their land. When these issues are solved and people regain their rights, there will be nothing to fight about.

    • 1The Lebanese government has stubbornly resisted integrating Palestinian refugees, regarding the refugees as being temporary residents. This is borne out in Lebanese laws which ban Palestinians from over 70 categories of jobs, including medicine, law, and engineering.http://www.palestinemonitor.org/factsheet/poverty_palestinian_refugees.htm http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/192705.stm

  • One argument could be that Israelis claim that they have the right to return to this land that they were originally from. What is your answer to this claim?

    This issue is as clear as the sun. It is clear to everyone. It is clear who lived in this land, who owns it and who built and invested in it. This is different from the situation of the Russian immigrants whose homeland, schools, universities and institutions are in Russia. The situation is clear, just compare the differences between the plight of the Palestinian refugees who live in Lebanon and are denied the basic human rights with the plight of those who live in Russia, Poland or America. At the beginning of the Al-Aqsa intifada, many Israelis took their belongings and left Israel for their original homelands such as Russia or America. This indicates that their homeland is there and that they feel comfortable and their money, investments and children’s futures are there. They live on this land temporarily because this land is not theirs. The Israelis are deluded into thinking that their land is here and are convinced to come live here, and are surprised when they don’t find peace and security as they were promised. These things can’t be denied.

  • The argument says that the Jews were oppressed in Europe and the rest of the world and came here in order to flee the oppression.

    Minorities are oppressed throughout the world. The Armenians say they were oppressed by the Turks in the Ottoman Empire and the Shiites claim they are oppressed by the Sunnis because they are a minority. It is natural for a minority to feel oppressed. In Iran, which is an Islamic state, the Sunni minority feels it is oppressed and doesn’t enjoy the same rights that the Shiite majority does. It is natural for a minority to feel that there is a lack of equality in treatment between it and the ruling majority. The Egyptians are all part of one ethnic group and religion, but still there are Egyptians who feel oppressed. Some Egyptians demonstrate because they feel they are oppressed because they belong to the Islamic brotherhood or don’t belong to the ruling party. Within the PA we might feel that Fatah, which is the ruling party, oppresses other parties or people who don’t belong to political parties. This is a given and natural situation.

  • This logic implies that it is natural for a minority group to be or feel oppressed. Could the same now be said for Palestinians who are the minority vis-à-vis Israelis?

    What I meant to say is that Palestinians have the right to return to their homes because they were kicked out of lands that belonged to them in the first place. They became strangers and oppressed in the countries they fled to, like the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Those are denied work in seventy professions for example. Even living in castles in paradise does not substitute one's homeland. As for the Palestinians inside Israel, they are oppressed because they do not enjoy full rights. Israel claims to be a democratic country but still treats Palestinian citizens as second-class citizens.

  • What do you think is the solution to the conflict?

    As long as the global leadership remains silent and the Palestinian leadership doesn’t lead us in the right direction, I don’t think there will be a solution during the next ten or fifteen years. I may be a little pessimistic, but this is reality. I ask God for salvation and a swift solution because the numbers of oppressed people in this land and throughout the world have grown. There are people throughout the world who are oppressed, hungry and denied their rights, therefore I hope this oppression will end, God willing. I doubt change will result from the will of the unaware people and these leaders. I think change will only come as a result of a great divine will.

  • Don't you have any hope and trust in the ability of the people?

    I believe in the abilities of people, but we are people with worn out tools, as they say. We are a depressed people who suffer from economic problems, unemployment, health and environmental problems that have had a negative effect on the moral struggle and the ambitions of the people. Nevertheless people sometimes take on more than their situation seems to allow and still aspire to “answer the call for struggle.”

  • What role does religion play in the conflict?

    Religion has a role in the conflict, but it isn’t the main role. If we divide the roles in the conflict, the role of religion may be larger than the other roles, but religion isn’t the only element in the conflict.

  • What is the main element in the conflict?

    There are Jews who believe that the occupation of Palestinian land is wrongful and that the Palestinians should regain their rights. Religion isn't the main factor. During the confiscation of land in the north of Palestine in order to build the racist wall, I was surprised to see an NGO made up of Jewish rabbis who defended human rights.1 This is an indication that it isn't a matter of religion. The Jewish rabbis tied themselves with chains, not in order to defend Islam or Judaism, but in order to defend human rights in this land.They asked why people's lands should be taken by force and why olive trees that have been growing here for over 200 years should be cut down in order to build a preposterous wall that deludes Israelis into thinking they will live in security and stop the Palestinian fighters from carrying out operations. The Israeli government understands and is aware that it is impossible for the wall to stop a person who is determined to carry out an operation inside Israel. The Israeli government is sure of this, but has demonic views and thoughts. It also gathered huge amounts of money to build this wall. The Arabs themselves may have contributed money for the building of the wall.

    • 1Rabbis for Human Rights is active in the Olive Tree Campaign an interfaith project of international and Israeli volunteers that works to protect Palestinian rights of access and ownership to their olive groves. See http://rhr.israel.net/projects/index.shtml

  • Are you saying the Arabs themselves paid for the Separation Barrier?

    This is possible. The Arabs pay the Americans and the Europeans who are situated in Iraq with the pretext of defending the Arab Gulf and Iraq from terrorists. Who finances them? It is known that the Arab oil-producing regimes pay them money. How does America pay its soldiers in Iraq and spend I don't know how much money every day? It is impossible for the American government to sustain its finance of the soldiers in Iraq who cost them food, defense, weapons and ammunition. Look at how long they are there. How much does a soldier cost daily? Therefore it is impossible that the American government is the one financing the soldiers in Iraq. The Arab governments, using oil, are the ones who finance these soldiers, indirectly of course.

  • For people who aren't involved and know nothing about the conflict and want learn more, where can they begin and with whom can they speak?

    Regarding these people who know nothing and don't understand our cause, we should focus on the sentimental aspect. They should visit the people who were affected most by the occupation. They should visit the old city of Hebron and see how it had its own history and culture, but is now empty. The houses and shops in the old city are closed and the settlers have gained control over this area and threaten the security of the Palestinians, including the elderly, and women and children. They should witness this situation and suffering because it reflects the reality of the occupation. They should see how a shop that was once always full of customers is now empty. The market in the old city of Hebron has its own special character. Some people love walking through the old city. It makes them feel fresh while they walk through it and enjoy the scents of yogurt, za'atar [hyssop] and perfumes that blend with the scents of oriental sweets, such as knafa and katayef. This delights people, especially people who come from outside the town and look forward to walking in the old city of Hebron or Jerusalem. But these people encounter a bitter reality in which the settlers threaten the poor families that don't have a place to take refuge. Most of people left the old city of Hebron and businesses have been closed. This is the peak of the suffering. The Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron has been closed and they [the Israelis] dictate when people can pray and when not. The worshippers themselves are forced to endure being searched, so they think twice before carrying out their religious obligations there because they may be exposed to the harassments of the occupation. Only a tiny fraction of the people pray in the mosque. This is real suffering. Let them visit the old city of Hebron. There is something saddening about the old city of Jerusalem. The old city in Jerusalem is very dirty and untidy. This is unbelievable. An Israeli heads the local council of Jerusalem, which is why all the areas inside Israel are clean and full of gardens. The Israelis aren't concerned about the old city of Jerusalem; they are interested in destroying it. Look at how drugs spread between the houses in east Jerusalem; the people of east Jerusalem are surprised to find these drugs in the morning on their doorsteps. Their goal is to kill the values and the health of the people in many ways. The occupying power is clever and aware, but to my regret we are sleeping and aren't aware of this issue. When you walk through the old city you will find dirt and bad smells. Why aren't we rehabilitating these areas in order to conserve our culture and cleanliness? To my regret there are many obstacles, and the occupation is the main one. The people who want to learn about the situation should visit the lands in which olive trees are destroyed. When an olive tree is uprooted the women who owns the tree feels as if something has been uprooted from her heart. I never planted an olive tree and I am not interested much in live trees, but for the person who planted the olive tree and raised it as a son it is not easy to see the olive tree destroyed intentionally. I ask where are the human rights and human respect? These are the areas that should be visited. They should visit the destroyed houses. Why should the house of a person whose son resisted the occupation be destroyed while this house is a home for four families? In Hebron entire apartment buildings are destroyed along with the furniture and the belongings of their residents, who are ordinary people, only because someone who resisted the occupation, or a brother of someone who resisted the occupation, rented a flat in the building. Why should these houses be destroyed in such a way? This has a large influence on the people's mental state. When someone breaks a plate, it has a mental effect on them because people aren't made of iron, they have feelings. Imagine a house owner who invested in decoration, furniture and paint, and is pleased but in a moment's notice is ordered to evacuate because the house is about to be demolished.There is a house in Nablus that was destroyed the night before the Eid1 (the festival); the five year-old child still in kindergarten told his mother, "if only they would let us take the clothes for the Eid." They were ordered to evacuate the house, the house was destroyed and the family that lived there was forced out on the street. People who come from all over the world and want to witness the suffering, learn about the roots of the conflict and see who is right or wrong should meet these people who suffer because of the occupation on a daily basis. They should meet women who lost children while giving birth at checkpoints. Do you know how many women lost their children while giving birth at checkpoints or gave birth to children with birth defects? They should meet the woman who screamed for hours at the checkpoint while the soldiers told her to turn back or they would shoot her. They should meet the woman whose husband became a martyr when he sent her to hospital to have her baby delivered. This woman's husband was killed when they came under fire while going to the hospital traveling on a bypass road. Her husband was killed and she was taken to hospital where she gave birth without knowing that her husband was killed. They should meet these people.They should visit Rafah, where entire houses were destroyed without a reason, the excuse being that there was a tunnel there. What kind of excuse is this?2 Who do they intend to convince with such a sorry excuse? It's like a madman talking and a sane one listening to him. The Israelis claim a tunnel passes through an area so they destroy an entire street with 70 houses. At that moment the sole possessions of a Palestinian woman are her quilt and a mattress, which she carries through the streets. When that incident took place in Rafah, I was in a conference in Italy. It was irrational. They destroyed tens of houses in a moment and it was aired on the satellite channels—that the sole possessions of the Palestinian woman, who was forced out onto the street, were her pillows and mattresses that she carried.How can a woman raise her children? How can a generation emerge infused with awareness and belief in the philosophy of peace? How can there be a generation that cares for their homeland...? I always say that I want a clean, peaceful and healthy homeland. We aren't reaching for the moon, we don't want to fight neighboring nations. We are saying: give us security and let us live in a clean and civilized manner, as human beings, like all the other nations. The nuclear waste from the nuclear plant in Dimona is buried in the area of south Hebron.3 The result is that we have the highest rate of cancer cases in the Hebron area, specifically in south Hebron. About a month ago, there was an outcry in the media; international specialists visited the region and studied the subject with the local authorities.

    • 1Arabic for "feast" and is used to refer to one of two major religious festivals in the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Fitr, the feast that breaks the month-long fast of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha, which celebrates Prophet Ibrahim's (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael for Allah.
    • 2House demolition is a common punitive practice of the Israel Defense Forces that is used to punish the families and communities of suicide bombers. It has also been used in Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip ostensibly as a security measure to halt the smuggling of arms across the Gaza-Egyptian border through underground tunnels, most notoriously during May 2004. The IDF's actions in Gaza have been heavily criticized by numerous Israeli and international organizations (such as B'Tselem, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UNRWA, and even the United States Government) as a disproportional response to Palestinian activities that violates international law. http://www.btselem.org/english/Razing/Rafah_Egyptian_Border.asp http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE150532004?open&of=ENG-ISR http://hrw.org/campaigns/gaza/ http://www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/pressrels/2004/pal1974.htmlhttp://www....
    • 3Israel's disposal of tons of nuclear waste in the Hebron mountains is often cited as an environmental disaster by Palestinian environmentalists, activists and politicians. See http://www.aljazeera.com/me.asp?service_ID=8224 http://www.xs4all.nl/~stgvisie/VISIE/dimona.html http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3860.shtml

  • What waste are you referring to?

    Nuclear waste buried in the southern Hebron area, specifically in the town of Yata.1 Villages in the area depend on water wells that were poisoned, because the groundwater is poisoned. As a result animals in the area died. The people in the area's main income source and assets are goats and sheep, which died as a result of the poisoned water. There were cases in which three or four members of one family developed cancer. Where are our human rights? We want to live healthily in a clean environment. Give our people security, self-confidence, dignity, the right to live and a clean environment to live in and they won't think about invading Israel or any other nation. They will live feeling secure and dignified, and women will raise their children the proper way, to be knowledgeable, self-confident and dignified. But to my regret, mothers are torn because of the fathers that are imprisoned, pursued, killed, unemployed or injured. All this affects the mothers. What is the current mental state of the women? Look at how tired the mothers look and how severe their mental state is. Look at the mental pressures children face. Observe how teachers at school face their pupils. All this is the effect of psychological pressure. Everyone takes their problems out on others. Look at how many negative effects there are.

  • If people from outside met only the people you said they should meet, they would only hear one side of the story.

    They have the right to seek out and listen to the Israeli side. They should visit wherever they see there is suffering. They should see our suffering as Palestinians in these areas, see the people, houses, see the families of prisoners and martyrs, the demolished houses and the land. But they have the right to hear the Israeli side. They should listen to the Israeli man who came from Russia or America, who says that there they lived in a clean environment and honorable home and there their children went to school, but that they were deluded into coming here and lost a daughter in an operation on a bus while she was on her way to a friend’s birthday. I heard this story. They should listen to them, and see who the oppressor is and who is the oppressed in this land.

  • Do you think one has to suffer in order to work to reach a solution?

    Not necessarily. Many people work in order to reach a solution, but their suffering isn’t necessarily firsthand. There is no rhyme or reason to suffering. Suffering is not only firsthand suffering, such as the loss of a brother, a son, a daughter or your home; it can be the loss of a neighbor, someone from your town or street or your relative.

  • Do you want to add anything?

    No. Thank you very much and I hope God makes you successful.