The Families Forum / Parents Circle is an organisation consisting of several hundreds of bereaved families, half Palestinian and half Israeli. The Families Forum has played a crucial role since its inception in 1995, in spearheading a reconciliation process between Israelis and Palestinians. The Forum members have all lost immediate family members due to the violence in the region. They campaign - very effectively - for peace and reconciliation and to promote the cessation of acts of hostility and the achievement of a political agreement
In 2006, two members of this organisation (Robi Damelin and Abu Ali Awwad) undertook a speaking tour of the UK, including two talks in Nottingham. BFTF was lucky enough to attend, record (and later transcribe) one of these events.
This is the fourth of four related posts. The others can be accessed via the links below:
Families Forum : Part 1 - An Israeli Story (2006)
Families Forum : Part 2 - A Palestinian Story (2006)
Families Forum : Part 3 - The Project (2006)
If you only read two posts on this blog, please make it Parts 1 and 2 of this series.
More Information on the Families Forum - Parents Circle can be found here:
UK Friends of the Bereaved Families Forum
Main Families Forum - Parents Circle Website
Just one thing, I want to address the one state solution - not from a political point, as I told you, we would agree with anything that is agreed by both sides. What I do say about a one state solution is that in an ideal world that would be incredible. What you don't get is the Jewish psyche. What you don't get is that who will take the million Russian Jews and who will take the 200,000 Jews from Ethiopia and who will take the French Jews who are coming now and who will take the Argentinian Jews.
You see, if - in an ideal world- I could know for sure that England or, I don't know, France or Germany or Italy or any of these countries would immediately open their doors to refugees of Jewish background, nobody would be happier than me to have a one-state solution. Sorry, the Jews need a homeland - as sad as that is.
And I think, knowing what the Palestinians tell me, that at this point they also want an independant Palestinian state.
I wish it was an ideal world. If it was, was wouldn't be sitting here.
Question from the audience: Did you get a response to your letter?
Ali went along with someone to deliver the letter. Of course, they were very surprised. Ali told them about the families forum, told them about David, told them about me and then read the letter.
They were very moved and they said that if everyone could sign on that letter, there would be peace and they said that they were going to write me a letter, but it's going to take time. They have to go to their village, they have to talk to people, they have to be sure that their son want that and he has just finished his trial right now so I am hoping that it will happen. If it does it's the next step and its very painful.
This isn't something that jsut happens and you do it, its painful. The last time that Ali went to visit them my stomach was just going round the whole day. What happens if they don't want to? What happens if they do? How will I handle it? What will I do next?
I think that's your answer and I think that it works in a very rippling effect.
Ali Abu Awaad:
I'm showing (the letter) everywhere. I went to the Al-Aqsa Brigade and the military wings of Fatah because I know both of them very well - we have been in prison together. I went to them twice and I talked to them about Robi and the letter and the non-violence and so on.
People do not understand, not because of the hatred but because they cannot deal with their injustice. I cannot go to a Palestinian who is closed inside his village. . .sometimes I feel like I live in a Zoo, closed in - even for people who want to go to hospital.
These people want me to open the checkpoint tomorrow. I tell them that what I am doing is really to remove the checkpoint but can they promise me that the next day their will be no suicide bomber, for example?
And it is not the case that I am stopping you from defending yourself. You know, I'm Palestinian. I want my state, I'm against - absolutely 100% against - this occupation but the problem is that we have to live by the way that we react. So they need to see some understanding from the other side, otherwise don't ask the Palestinian who is living in this kind of life to understand your pain.
So this letter is allowing me - even today, Palestinian students came to Robi and to me and they told me "this is the first time we have heard an Israeli talking about our suffering under the occupation, and then she felt guilty because both sides have their reasons.
But I'm telling you, peace for Israelis is a continuation of life. Peace for Palestinians is to start living. We are not alive.
So this letter is allowing me to go to my people to show them that it could be effective. It works.
Through non-violence the hatred will not disappear, I cannot stop the anger, but we can use the anger for our humanity, not by killing each other. It's okay to be angry, you don't have to love the other side to make peace with them.
These are deep things that are very complicated, it is like lighting a candle in a dark tunnel. The candle will not make the darkness disappear, nor will it light up all our surroundings, but it CAN light your steps to get out of the tunnel.
It's not okay that the darkness will continue but until we can see our next step we cannot move from the darkness.
Until we understand what violence is doing for us as Palestinians, the occupation will not be ended.
Until Israelis undertand what it means to occupy another people, the violent behaviour will not stop.
So every side had its duty, not by saying a compliment, I'n not trying to be nice with the Israelis and I'm not asking the Israeli soldier to give me a flower because I know and I understand this deep feeling of being the son of a Holocaust survivor, or a Palestinian under occupation.