Less than two years have passed since Sulhia Abu Rahma buried her son, Bassem, who was killed by an Israel Defense Forces gas grenade in a clash between protestors and soldiers in the West Bank village of Bilin. On Saturday evening she arrived at the cemetery once again, this time to bid farewell to her daughter, Jawaher, who was killed
in similar circumstances.
Sulhia's other son, Ashraf, was injured about two years ago when he was shot by an IDF soldier while being bound.
In the mourners' tent set up in her backyard, the grieving mother told Ynet that in spite of the double tragedy which struck her family, her strong belief in peace as the only solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained unchanged.
"I brought my children to the world with love and I educated them to believe in peace and not to act violently," she said.
"Out of six children, I have four left," she added. "I'm not complaining because it's not in our hands. God decides what will happen. I ask the people of Israel
to take a firm stand against the occupation. They must support our just struggle against the fence and for the liberation of the lands we were robbed of, because only together we'll be able to put an end to the tragedy of our two people."
Sulhia asked the Palestinian public to "remain united in its struggle against the occupation. Israel must remove the fence and withdraw from all the settlements in order for us to have peace. Like all human beings, we want to live and not to die. We want to live alongside Israel, but in dignity."
Jawaher Abu-Rahma's grave (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Although the IDF questioned the circumstances of her daughter's death, claiming that she arrived at the hospital in light condition, was released and died only later on, it is clear to the mother that like in the previous fatal incident, the death was preplanned and was not an unfortunate accident.
"I have no doubt that whoever did this, acted with the intention of killing," said Sulhia. "I myself have no desire for revenge. That is only done by God," she stressed.
Muhammad Abu-Nizad, deputy head of the Bilin village council, said after the funeral that the heavy price claimed by the struggle would not lead to its end.
"I believe in non-violent action against the fence and the occupation and in favor of peace," he said. "We will continue our struggle until the occupation leaves our lands and we establish our state and live in it in peace. We are waiting for the Israeli public to realize that apart from ending the occupation, there is no other way to achieve a life of peace and security."
'Revenge only done by God.' Protestor's mother (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Abu-Nizad called on the Israelis to replace their leadership with people who could advance peace.
"Your public must elect a different government, which will support the negotiations with the Palestinians. We are waiting for the Israeli people in Ramat Gan, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and any other place to rise up against this government, call it racist and terrorist, and declare that it should be replaced with those who want peace."
Bashir Tamimi, head of the nearby village of Nabi Salih, attended the funeral as well. "We will only expand our protest and demonstrate anywhere we can. We want peace, and that's why we arrive at the protests empty handed. The occupation forces fire rubber bullet and gas at us, carry out arrests and take every step possible to make our life miserable," he said.
Tamimi was skeptical about the possibility of the Israeli people working to change the situation. "Peace is the only promise for both people, but unfortunately, at the moment most of the Israeli people and their government don't believe in it. I hope it will change, and perhaps in a few years there will be a window for peace, as well as for an end to the protests."
Next generation of struggle. Inevitable victims? (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The fatal incident in Bilin, Tamimi believes, will not be the last of its kind. "Apart from Jawaher, we will pay another heavy price in the future with additional victims. There is no choice, as the protests are our only way to pressure Israel to leave the West Bank and to recognize our right for self-definition. The Israeli army is well trained to fight in wars, but not to deal with women and children. It gives your generals a headache."
In spite of the claims in Bilin, IDF sources stressed that the nature of the protest in which Jawaher was killed was different from what had been described. "It was a violent protest in which Molotov cocktails and stones were hurled at IDF forces and the soldiers' lives were put in danger," one of the sources said.
The IDF Spokesperson's Office said in an official statement that "during a violent and illegal disturbance held near the village of Bilin, a Palestinian woman was reportedly hurt after inhaling gas. She was evacuated by the Red Crescent to a hospital in Ramallah. According to initial reports received from the Palestinians, she was later discharged to her home, where she died."
The army added that "the Palestinians later changed their version, claiming that she died at the hospital. Our request from the Palestinians to let us review the medical report has yet to be answered, and the circumstances of the Palestinian woman's death are still being looked into."