An unusual event took place Tuesday in the Anata neighborhood of east Jerusalem: dozens of Israelis who completed IDF service in combat units and dozens of Palestinians security prisoners jailed for attacks against Israeli soldiers met to launch a new joint political movement called “Fighters for Peace.”
“We carry a dual platform: No to the occupation, and no to all other violent activities,” explains Zohar Shapira, one of the founders of the movement, and one of the signees of the General Staff Commando Unit refusers letter. “We have heard for too long that there’s no partner on the other side. We, the fighters who paid a personal price in the conflict, are proving in action that this is a lie. There is someone to talk to – you only have to want to talk.”
The bi-national movement was founded after dozens of meetings between the two sides over the past year. During the meeting, the participants related stories about the violent activities they were involved in against the other side and spoke of their decision to no longer take part in the circle of violence.
Raed al-Hadaar, a Fatah activist from Ramallah who was in an Israeli prison for four years, described his change of heart. “Pretty much the only Israelis I had met before were my jailers, but now I’ve been able to meet Israelis as equals and share a common goal with them for peace and justice,” al-Hadaar said.
The movement's platform calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem and 1967 borders. Additionally, the sides declare their refusal to bear arms against each other. “Violence on both sides won’t bring about a solution,” Usama Abu Karesh says. “Neither will unilateral steps. We are here to prove that there is a partner for cooperation and peace.”
“If my mother were to be used as a human shield,” Noam Hayot says, “I would stand up and object. If I couldn’t travel to the next town to visit my girlfriend, I would stand and object. If my village had no drinking water, but the neighboring village had swimming pools and fountains, I would stand and object. I am saying this to clarify how much I value our Palestinian friends in the movement, who are choosing a non-violent method to struggle for co-existence in dignity and peace.”
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Basam Aramin, a Fatah member who spent seven years in Israeli prison, told Ynet he was consumed with the violent fight for the Palestinian cause for many years.
“I was armed, I fought against the occupation to attain freedom and I spent seven years in the darkness of a prison. My friends and I fought with guns, bottles, Molotov cocktails and stones. We fought with words, cameras, pens, songs and literature, and we still believe in our just cause: our right to land and an independent state with its capital in Jerusalem in the June 4, 1967 borders,” Aramin said.
“The occupation is the main source of the violence and armed resistance. The violent Palestinian reaction fuels Israel to continue its oppression and siege, and mislead the Israeli public with propaganda that Palestinians want to kill all of you and aren’t interested in peace. But sending suicide bombers to bomb Israeli busses fuels Israeli propaganda and damages the image of the Palestinian struggle – we can’t take the example of the occupation, which harms citizens and children. Our religion is tolerant and our message instructs us not to hurt innocents,” Aramin said.
The event in Anata, held at a local school, marked two occasions: the Jewish Passover holiday and the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. Yasser Abd-Rabu and Kadura Fares from the PA were expected to attend, as well as a delegation from the European Parliament and the Israeli singer David Broza.