Interview with Ali Abu Awwad

Tell us about yourself, where did you grow up and how have you become who you are today?

My name is Ali Abu Awwad. I live in the village of Beit Omar,1 near Hebron.2 I belong to a refugee family. My family originally lived in a village called al-Qubayba in the area of Bayt Jibrin,3 which is located between Gaza4 and Hebron. My family was forced off its land in 1948,5 and as a result most of my family lives in refugee camps in Jordan.6 The part of the family to which I belong settled in the village of Biet Omar. I grew up in a home that was saturated with politics. My mother became a member of Fatah7 in 1978. Because of the scenes I witnessed as a child of my mother being arrested, I became more connected to the conflict than any other normal Palestinian child. My mother was arrested many times. I was active in the first intifada.8 I participated in it and was arrested twice, the first time by chance. The army broke into our house and arrested me while I was studying for my secondary school exams.

What do you mean by arrested by chance?

It wasn't a targeted arrest. I wasn't wanted by the Israeli security service for a specific reason. The army broke in after a demonstration and arrested me while I was studying for an exam. I was given a choice either to pay a 1500 shekel fine,9 or to serve three months in prison. I didn't agree to pay the fine, because I believed in the principle of not helping the occupation10 in any way.

Under what charge were you imprisoned?

An Israeli helicopter pilot claimed he saw me throw stones. I used to throw stones, but on that particular day I didn't. I was studying for an exam. During my time in prison I began to discover more about Fatah. I regard my time in prison as an opportunity that was given to me to be with myself, and be a part of the organized system that the Palestinian prisoners have in Israeli jail.11 I exploited my time in order to read and discover more about the Fatah movement and its activities. My brother Yussif, who has become a martyr,12 was arrested shortly after my arrest, and was still held after I was released from prison in the Negev13 three months later.

Was your brother arrested for the same reason as you were arrested for?

No, he had a security background and was specifically wanted by the Israeli intelligence. They arrested him at night. When I was released from prison I felt strange, as if I were a hero. I don't really now how to explain the feeling, but when you are a person who resisted the occupation and suffered as a result, you are more highly regarded by the people. I remember that when my friends visited me after my release, and when I told them what I had learned about Fatah, they were very surprised and said that I wasn't the same Ali I used to be. I hadn’t had a deep understanding about the idea and ideology of the Fatah movement. At that age I was highly motivated, so I began to read more and become more engaged in politics. Despite my arrest, I continued my studies, and when I began my studies at university eight months later, I was arrested for the second time and sentenced to ten years, out of which I spent four years in jail. At that time, my mother was also in prison. She was arrested a few months prior to my arrest, and when I used to visit her, I couldn't embrace her because we were both prisoners separated by bars. Even the police officer that was present at the time couldn't hold back her tears.

I played a central role in prison. I was a member of the central committee that led the prisoners. I was released from prison with the signing of the Oslo agreement.14 After our release we were sent to Jericho.15 Because according the agreement Jericho and Gaza were the first two cities the PA16 gained control over, we weren't allowed to leave Jericho.17 I wasn't convinced of this peace. On one hand prisoners were released, but on the other hand I couldn't return home. What kind of freedom was that? I remember I used to secretly visit my home in Beit Omar near Hebron.

Were you imprisoned in Jericho?

No, we weren't imprisoned, but we weren't allowed to leave the city.

When you were sentenced to ten years, what were the charges against you?

There were many charges. I was charged with throwing Molotov cocktails, throwing stones, leading a group and being part of a military cell. We didn't have any weapons and we didn't shoot anybody, but I was charged with heading a military cell in the town. Nevertheless, the main reason I was imprisoned was because I refused to hand out any information regarding my mother, who was the main target of the investigation. Not being able to go home after I was released according to a peace agreement was a problem for me, but the greater problem was that this agreement didn't provide the Palestinian people with what it was supposed to. The agreement didn't ensure a Palestinian state and didn't stop the settlements.18 At the same time the Oslo agreement didn't ensure security for the Israelis and didn't stop the operations19 inside Israel, therefore it was a failure for both sides. The Oslo agreement was a result of the efforts of the politicians, not the people. The two peoples weren't prepared to pay the price-- to evacuate settlements and return land to the Palestinians and the Palestinians weren't ready to discuss the issue of the refugees. This led to the second intifada20 which was more violent. The attitude of the people on both sides was that we tried peace, and it didn't work, therefore peace with the other side is impossible. The anger involved in the second intifada was far deeper.

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During the recent intifada I became connected to the conflict in a different way. I was badly injured in my leg by an Israeli settler21 and my brother was killed by an Israeli soldier in a totally inhumane way and without any reason. The soldier shot my brother from a distance of two feet only because he was talking to him. This isn't human conduct at all. At the time, my brother Yussif didn't know that the Israelis had issued a new law. He didn't know that he was forbidden from opening his mouth; we were supposed to keep our mouths shut. My brother broke that law, and since then I decided not to shut my mouth. When my brother was martyred I was in Saudi Arabia. I was very shocked by the news. I was full of anger and hatred and didn't want to see or have any contact with the other side. I didn't want to return to the checkpoints22 and see the soldiers acting in their ugly way. I didn't want to return here and see the settlements and my people suffering. It was as if my life had ended and there wasn't any reason to live. But we can't live in that way. Our destiny is to live, but the way we live is determined by us, not fate.

One day I received a phone call from an Israeli organization called The Bereaved Families Forum.23 They said that they have lost loved ones, but nevertheless have decided to embrace the way of peace and reconciliation, not the way of revenge. They asked to visit us. I was greatly surprised because I didn't expect that there could be either a bereaved Israeli or a bereaved Palestinian parent who wants to meet with the enemy.

We invited them and we began to talk. The group included Yitzhak Frankenthal and Roni Hirshenzon, who lost two sons. When we talked, they began talking about Palestinian rights. I was greatly surprised. I said the way of non-violence can provide real results. We have been killing each other for sixty years with no gain. Whether we like it or not, there are about ten million people on both sides who share this piece of land. This is our fate. But our fate isn't to kill each other in this way. My mother was the first to join the Forum, and she was followed by me, my brother Khaled and other people.

Please tell us about the beginning of your involvement in the Forum.

The beginning was hard, but pleasant at the same time. It was hard because I got the sense that I was giving up something even though I wasn't. I mean we were accustomed to thinking that talking with the other, the occupier, is treason and normalizing.24 Every meeting was considered to be a normalization meeting. It isn't easy for a patriot to do such a thing. But I discovered that these weren't normalization meetings; normalization happens between countries. These meetings are about expressing your suffering and defending your rights in a different way. Even the extremists think that their way will lead to a solution. Through these activities you begin to realize that you are doing a great thing. You are dismantling the excuse for killing our people. Terror is the excuse for building the wall25 and all the other issues. I can't allow the cause of my people to be regarded as terrorism. My feelings swung between these fears and the positive side of the meetings. You discover a way of living with your pain.

Before I became a member of the Forum, I didn't know what to do with the pain that was imposed upon me. I didn't know what to do with the pain and there wasn't an outlet for the grief. The Forum is a means of helping yourself in addition to a means of resistance. It is a different kind of revolution for my people. This is how I view it. You are eventually drawn into this and begin to believe in the principles of what you do. I now feel that I have the capacity to face anybody in any discussion, regardless of his rhetorical abilities. I now believe this is the way to establish our rights. In the beginning it was the search for a new path, and for healing, that brought me to the Forum; today it is my mind, not only my feelings, that drives me to continue.

How can your work at the Forum be the means for a revolution or resolving the conflict?

In the Forum we talk about our suffering, the checkpoints, the occupation, the settlements, the martyrs and the injured. We talk as Palestinians. Is the message of our suffering and its presentation throughout the world a revolution? I think it is. Why do the extremists carry out operations? They carry out operations because they want to convey that they are suffering, to an extent that life and death have the same value. We talk in order to exploit the suffering in a more efficient way and our work presents a greater danger to the Israeli state. An Israeli general once said that non-violence is the most dangerous weapon the Palestinians possess, because it undermines all the excuses for the occupation and the legitimacy they claim to have when destroying a house26 or assassinating someone.27

The Israelis claim they install checkpoints in order to capture wanted militants, but what if there weren't any wanted militants? They would have no excuse. Modern wars are controlled by the media. The Soviet Union didn't fall as a result of an American nuclear attack; it collapsed because of economic reasons. Conflicts never end through wars, all wars end through negotiations. We are totally convinced of this. We understand our leadership's lack of ability to influence the situation through negotiations because the situation on the ground is very complex. Abu Mazen28 can't evacuate settlements or remove checkpoints, but we can at least try to influence the other side to see us as people who have rights. I don't see how blowing up a bus full of children or even ordinary people helps us internationally or in terms of our image in the media, on the contrary, it harms us.

Please tell me about your work in the Forum.

We try to survive. Our activities concern education. As you now, education is a major factor in any conflict. We try to explain our message to pupils and students. We are usually accepted. Occaisionally there are difficult things to hear, but eventually you begin to understand and attempt to analyze why a certain student talks with such hatred. A student wasn't born with this hatred, so why are they like this now? You begin to understand this issue and find yourself being an advocate of humane feelings among people. In addition, children on both sides grow up according to different perspectives. Among Zionists29 or Israelis, 1948 marks the creation of the Zionist or Jewish state, but for us, it is the Nakba.30 Both sides should realize the source of this hatred. Through our lectures, we try to explain the reasons for the hatred and misunderstanding and convey that the people on the other side aren't animals, they are human.

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In addition, the issue of the media is very important. We perform media-related activities such as interviews for TV and newspapers, as well as meetings through which we try to convey that there are still people here who want to live in peace. The opposing media, which is deeply influenced by the Israeli government, presents the situation as a war in which the majority takes part, but the fact is that the ones who actually fight are a small minority, and the majority are people who suffer. Both sides are suffering. After the lectures, we also organize meetings between the pupils. The point of these meetings is for the pupils to explain their messages to each other in order for both sides to accept each other. During the meetings, the Palestinians try to explain to the Israelis that they [the Palstinians] aren't strangers in this land and why they are demanding a Palestinian state. In addition, the Palestinians try to explain to the Israelis why they reject the settlers and view them as settlers on Palestinian land, even though the settlers consider this their land. The Palestinians try to explain to Israelis that as long as the settlers consider all of Palestine theirs there will always be a conflict; for the Israeli settlers to be advocates of the Israeli state, cause and people they need to relinquish their belief that all of Palestine is only theirs. This leads to a situation in which both peoples are more willing to negotiate with each other, to understand the other side and to pay the price for peace. This is our message in general.

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In addition, we organize family meetings. The Forum consists of about 500 families. We organize meetings between the families in order for them to maintain contact, because consistent relationships are of utmost importance in order to deliver our message of reconciliation. We discuss the facts and conclusions and try to reach a common understanding for the future. Despite the distance and the isolation, we challenge the situation and try to meet continuously and recruit new members to the Forum and introduce them to the other side. We also perform lectures abroad, and are willing to go wherever we are invited. We present our message as The Bereaved Families Forum, a message that contradicts that of the politicians who claim that there is no one to talk to on the other side. We say that if we, as bereaved families, are able to sit together and try to reach a better future, then everybody can. We try to explain this message to the world. We have begun lecturing even in European schools. After the political leaders returned from Camp David31 and declared that the other side didn't want peace, we tried to prove the contrary. We set up a phone service, through which you could speak to someone from the other side by dialing *6364. Since February 2002 we have had 750,000 calls between the two sides and over 1.4 million minutes of conversation.

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We are a non-political organization that doesn't belong to any political party. We don't even have a political message; our message is a humanitarian one. We contact politicians and important people from both sides in order to convince them that despite all that is happening, the issue of negotiations shouldn't be neglected. Through all programs, we try to enable people to live with their pain. From the pain we extract the good, and this is a very hard thing to do. It is even harder for the Palestinians than it is for the Israelis because it is harder to believe in peace and reconciliation while you are living under occupation.

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Peace for the Israelis is the continuation of life in a safer or better fashion because they have their state, economy, education and everything. For the Palestinians, peace will mark the beginning of life. The question of how to address the two sides with the same language is difficult and complex but when you realize that this is the only way, you invent a language that appeals to all people. This Forum, as I always say, is a means of invention. With every new event, there is a new humanitarian invention. I wish politicians could invent solutions for complex problems in the same way we have through the Forum.

Do you feel that your activities produce results?

Everything produces results, even evil. What determines the answer to this question is the degree of our self-confidence. We stopped believing in ourselves and in our ability to create change and acheive peace as a result of the suffering and despair. We began to think that no matter what we do, our work won't help. Despite the desperate situation, we should bear in mind one fact: if we don't engage in this kind of work, the situation will get even worse. The Forum may not solve the conflict between the two peoples, but it can at least save the life of a single person or change someone's behavior.

Because of the Forum, when I wake in the morning I feel that there is something I can do. The majority of the people on both sides are left suspended in the middle: they don't know what to do and aren't part of the cycle of violence. The situation needs a solution and people need a reason to live for. I think our work has an effect on the political level. When people elect a person like Abu Mazen, they are actually saying that violence isn't the solution. The Palestinian people have elected a candidate who says that violence isn't the solution. This is a major historical event. It is the first time the Palestinians call for non-violence. It isn't that we don't have the right to resist and revolt; the question is about the essence of this revolution. The revolution should be non-violent. I try to convince the Israelis and Palestinians to believe in this.

Another issue is that the Israelis also suffer because of the situation. I ask why the Israelis don't do what I do. Why don't the Israelis have their own revolution for peace like we do? Israeli society suffers greatly due to the conflict; when their sons return home they commit suicide or leave the country or become domestically violent. They are facing real problems. As a result of its behavior and its support of the occupation Israel as a nation suffers internationally and is considered a rogue state. The Israeli evacuation of settlements from the West Bank and Gaza wasn't unprecedented.32 There was a cause for it. Therefore I conclude that our work is effective. The stage is set, but the question is - are we ready to work? We should work.

You said that you approach Israelis and Palestinians differently and that you are inventing a new common language. Could you give an example?

I once presented a lecture in what is called “pre-army preparation”. Settlers, religious people and extremists attended this lecture, and I had the feeling that all types of violence in the world had representatives there. My partner Nir introduced himself as a member of the Forum, who like me wanted to talk about peace. A student stood up and said, “What? You are a Palestinian and you want to talk about peace? Get out; we don't want to hear you. We should have deported you long ago and saved ourselves a great deal of suffering." I laughed, because he was really pathetic. I told him,“When you present your people as being unfamiliar with the language of peace and unprepared to listen to it, I am proud of being a Palestinian. However I know that you don't represent the Israeli people, this is why I am laughing.” I told him that if he didn't want to listen to us, then he should leave because I was sure there were others who wanted to hear what we had to say. The student was surprised and confused because he never encountered such a response. He sat down, and after four hours of lecture he approached me and said, “According to the peace you propose, as a settler I would be forced to leave my home." I said: “Unfortunately that is true. Why can't you leave your home? I had to leave mine long ago!" He was convinced and said that he wanted to visit me with his friends.

There is an alternative language to violence. You can convince people when you talk to them logically. I said that I understood their feelings. I don't accept their feelings and don't accept living under occupation as the price for their feelings, but I do understand that they are human. This language is very effective. A Palestinian woman once said that I am a traitor to my people and that I am trying to prevent them from fighting. I answered her in her own language and told her, “If you feel that the Palestinian airplanes and tanks are locked away in a warehouse and I am holding the keys to prevent you from using them, then you can kill me.” I told her that I am not stopping her from fighting. She was confused. I am not stopping the Palestinians from using their airplanes or their tanks, nor am I asking the Palestinians to stop shelling Tel Aviv!33 I wouldn't have answered her in such a way if I wasn't involved in this work. The Ali I was a year ago would have answered her differently. Our belief in what we do increases as a result of our work, and we are really inventing a new language that hasn't been heard here. I never before heard an Israeli say that the occupation is unacceptable and that the Israelis are the ones who should resist it. I didn't hear this from just any Israeli, I heard this from Israelis who lost loved ones. This made me believe that there is an alternative language.

People may think Palestinians such as yourself conduct non-violent activities only as a last resort because you can't compete with the Israeli military.

People may find this hard to understand but I wish a war would break out and the conflict would end in one week. I am also not sure that even if we did have airplanes and tanks we could end the conflict. I don't practice non-violence because I am not capable of carrying a weapon. I can get a weapon and kill someone, but when answering someone you should use their language. If I answered the women who accused me of treason and said that we should be humane and moral, this answer wouldn't appeal or interest her. I have to suit my answer to the person I am talking to. If the reason for that woman's support of my way is the Israeli military supremacy, I don't care. Her reason for supporting my view is of no importance, what is important is that she accepts it. After accepting my view, she will be ready to support my way. It is a gradual process.

What was your friends' reaction to you when you changed from being a prisoner fighting the occupation to a peace activist?

First of all I still resist the occupation. I am still active in Fatah, and some of my friends refrain from raising this issue. We discuss all issues, but refrain from raising this subject. In the past people used to ask me why I worked in this field despite me being a fighter in the past. Today they don't ask me such questions. The reason for this may be their respect for me; they feel they can trust me. In addition, people don't raise the subject because they feel it is unimportant, therefore I am forced to raise it myself. I once raised the subject with a group of youths who were throwing stones. I told them that there are Israelis who refuse army service.34 They said they had heard about this, but they didn't know much about the issue. I suggested they meet. We organized a meeting in Beit Omar and invited three Israelis who refused army service. The Palestinians were shocked. They said that they had heard of Israelis who refuse to be soldiers, but they never knew the reasons why. The Palestinians said they thought the Israeli refusers were afraid of being killed by the Palestinians; they didn't know their refusal was ideological and due to their refusal of being part of the occupation. The Palestinians who participated in the meeting discovered a new reality. We realized that most people from both sides hear about the situation, but don't really know. There is a difference between hearing about something and understanding it. This is the reason we sentence peace to death before giving it a chance to exist. We hear about peace and determine that it won't help, but we do this without knowing what peace really is.

What does the word peace mean for you?

I have a confused conception of this term. For me, peace means a revolution. The struggle between the different and sometimes juxtaposing conceptions of the word peace give birth to a good thing. I define the concept of revolution as being a twin concept of the word peace rather than a contrasting concept. Ideally peace would mean living in freedom and security but given our struggle here the meaning is very different in practice.

How is the meaning of peace different in this context?

It is different because peace has become a complicated concept due to the complexity of the conflict. Our conflict is very complicated. Our situation isn't that of a country occupying another country. The Palestinians don't have an army that is fighting the Israeli army. Our conflict is of utmost complexity and is probably unique. As a result, peace has to be equally complex in order to be effective otherwise this conflict can't be solved through negotiations. We tried an agreement and it failed; it failed because it didn't address a complicated conflict. The agreement was a result of an effort to solve a conflict between two sides. We aren't two sides; we are sometimes ten sides and sometimes just one. For example, if Saddam35 had launched a chemical missile at Tel Aviv, it would have wiped us out along with the Israelis. Our conflict is very complex, therefore we should seek a complex peace.

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Maybe what I am saying is confusing and hard to understand, but I am trying to say two things: first, usually people seek peace for themselves. We should seek peace for others. The first step is for Israelis to stand up in Tel Aviv and say they want peace for the Palestinians before saying they want peace for the Israelis. The Palestinians should do the same. The reason for this is that all the armies in the world can't stop a suicide bomber, and all the militant operations in the world won't necessarily lead to a liberated Palestinian state, but a single well-intentioned Israeli has the power to influence others who in turn can create a well-intentioned leadership. The same is true for the Palestinians; but not every Palestinian can do this, he should be a Palestinian who fought and sacrificed, a Palestinian who realizes the meaning of peace.

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The second issue is what is happening on the ground. What is happening on the ground, such as the wall and the settlements complicate the situation. Even people’s mentality have complicated the situation. We are required to achieve a peace that isn't clear on the ground, can you imagine?! All the peace agreements between countries were implemented on the ground and this is what convinced the people. What can I tell the Palestinians? Can I promise them that tomorrow there will be no checkpoints? I can't. The Palestinians should be convinced of peace and adopt it as a mission in order for it to be implemented on the ground. This is a complication and not a simple issue. I can't promise the Israelis that there will be no suicide bombings tomorrow but if that does happen, I want the Israelis to hold a protest against the Israeli government first, not celebrate each time a Palestinian is killed. When the Israelis are recruited to the army and are forced to kill Palestinians they should be the first to protest. This is why peace is an extremely complicated issue. We are used to blaming the politicians for not achieving peace, but to some extent I understand the complexity of the problem.

Why did previous peace processes fail?

I will present you with my personal view. Every peace agreement not implemented on the ground is destined to fail. This agreement [Oslo] wasn't implemented on the ground. The agreement stated that a Palestinian state would be established in the 1967 territories36 yet no Palestinian state has been created. The agreement was supposed to ensure the Palestinian’s political and administrative existence in practice. This didn't happen, there is no such Palestinian existence. No one can claim today that we have a state or even a government. We have a Palestinian Authority. This is different from a government because a government represents a country, while an authority represents a nation. We weren't entitled to a country even in terms of having a name, so no wonder the agreement failed. The agreement didn't create borders. I don't see any borders. A peace agreement is supposed to be implemented on the ground. I think the strong side is responsible for the implementation of the peace agreement on the ground. Abu Mazen can't determine the Palestinian borders. Even if he were to set borders and draw those on the map a thousand times, that wouldn't mean a thing. I think the Israeli government should work seriously towards a just agreement that would convince the Palestinians that there is peace. The reason for the failure of the previous peace processes is that they weren’t ever implemented and not because the Palestinians don't want peace. All the Palestinians want peace, even those who carry out suicide bombings. I am sure they want peace, but they have reached the stage where their lives are worthless. I think this is because there is no peace. If there were peace, life would have value and people wouldn't be willing to give their lives so easily. There would be games for the children, employment and other opportunities. While there is no peace there will be no life.

What would an ideal solution be?

To divorce. The two peoples are married, but this marriage isn't very successful. We aren't able to live together in one home and have a peaceful relationship. We should separate, live in separte homes, calm down and avoid contact with each other. But we would later have to re-marry because we share land, an economy and life. We can never close our eyes and separate completely forever. When the time comes, we should re-marry as two free and independent sides. We should have a good and respectful relationship between two countries, not between one people and their occupier. The creation of two countries is the solution. This is the solution. The current solution is that both peoples sit down and decide that we have had enough killing and occupation. The people should decide on this, not the governments. The governments can't force on us something we don't want. We should convince each other of each others case. This is how people get married. They love each other and convince each other before getting married; they can't marry when they are enemies.

What are the main difficulties or challenges you face?

The main issue is my being a Palestinian under occupation. I am forced to ask for permits37 for my activities and held at a checkpoint for hours while being checked by the soldiers. Even when I wanted to travel to Jenin38 to visit the family that donated the organs of one of its children, I had to travel for seven hours, even though it should take only an hour and a half. Despite all this I still try to believe that there is hope. Extremism is a problem, but I don't view it as an obstacle on my path. When you want to move a rock from the road, it is very unwise to try to push it aside when there is no place for it to go. Extremism is like a rock that is blocking the road. I think we should dig a hole in the road to hold the rock and only then bury the rock in it, step over it and continue our journey. No conflict is ever resolved through violence. The occupation, which attempts to oppress and control the Palestinian people, won't succeed. The Palestinians aren't a class of children who will sit quietly when shouted at by the teacher. Another difficulty is the unwise reactions. We as Palestinians have a just cause but some of us are very bad lawyers. The violent attitude of some Palestinians may cost us the cause, this is a problem. The third problem is education on the Israeli side. The Israelis are far from understanding the situation. It is like an illusion for them. They say, “You are a good Palestinian, but that there aren't many Palestinians like you”. I don't want to be a “good Palestinian” if you condemn my people to death. If you say that my people are barbaric and greet me with flowers, I will refuse your flowers. I would rather be a bad Palestinian if the good and evil are personalized or generalized. I am a part of this people, and the existence of many like me within my people proves this: I am a product of my society. How can the Israelis expect there to be many others like me when my people live under occupation? The Israelis are living comfortable lives, so it is no surprise that there are many good Israelis who want peace, but how can the Palestinians produce people like me? Although there are many people who are like me, the Israelis don't know about them. Ignorance is a major problem facing both sides. We believe we should know each other in order to know how the other side thinks and in order to be able to convince each other. Other problems are related to the situation in general. The situation is very hard, even more so for the Palestinians. These are the main problems we face.

You said that you try to convey your message to the international community. Why?

The conflict is delivered to the world through the media or through politicians. Neither the media nor Israeli politicians can present me to the international community in the right way. I seek to present myself to the world and tell them the truth about what is actually happening. In addition, I don't want the American president to proclaim that God visited him in his sleep and told him to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to protect the world and give the Palestinians a state.39 He said this about a month ago. He didn't present us in the right way even in his vision of a solution. He is calling upon Bin Laden for another cycle of violence. He said that God called upon him in his dream to go to war in Iraq. I am sure Bush isn't the right person to represent the Christian faith and even if he was surely God wouldn't choose to visit him. I am also sure that the Christians don’t view Bush as their prophet. In addition, as a Palestinian, I refuse to accept that the solution to my issue came to Bush in a dream; I still wish he would really solve the conflict even as a result of his dream... The world treats us either in a violent way or disregards us. They support Israel in terms of a supply of arms, confining the conflict to the Jews and Muslims, or to he Israelis and Palestinians. I want the whole world to announce that there are two peoples who have the right to live honorably, freely in their owns states. The Forum’s message to the world is that if we can sit together and talk, so can everybody else, including politicians. We urgently need funding and we need the world to support us. We don't get paid for our work in the Forum, but I can't perform activities beyond my personal contribution.

What do you gain from your work in the Forum?

I gain many things. I have no financial gain. The greatest gain from my work in the Forum is the opportunity to help my people; this is what drives my work there. I am helping the Palestinians before the Israelis, because my primary concern is my own people. I believe that I am leading a revolution. I am sure many Israelis hate me for doing so because they want to maintain their claim that the Palestinians are terrorists, and present them to the world as such. I don't want the Palestinians to be presented to the world as terrorists.

What are the most important lessons you have learned from your work in the Forum, and what would you have done differently if you could?

Although I hate politics, maybe I should have politicized our activities linking the Forum more to what is happening on the ground. I don't want the Forum to be linked to a certain political party, but rather to be more politically oriented. I would like to organize a reconciliation-oriented meeting at a checkpoint because checkpoints have a major effect on the Palestinians and even on the soldiers that serve there. If the politicians aren't capable of changing the reality on the ground, I hope humanitarian and peace organizations attempt to create this change themselves. We are changing the reality in the minds of the people, but the reality on the ground also needs changing. We should have a political stand and take political action against the wall and even the suicide bombings—it is not wrong to take political action against the suicide bombings—but it should be coming from both sides; I don't want to sound selfish. There should be greater politicization of our activities. I understand the current position of the Forum and am sure that it is against the wall and the occupation, but I think the Forum should be more connected to the reality on the ground. In addition, I hope we integrate the issue of reconciliation in education. I want every Palestinian or Israeli member to have a strong message when confronting people. I hope to create education that fosters reconciliation. This is obviously depends on our capabilities. If time could be turned back, I would like those who lost their lives to be with us today because in the end this is the most important thing.

What do you think the biggest misconception about Israeli-Palestinian joint work is?

Normalization and the belief that we are surrendering and raising white flags in front of the enemy. This is true for the Israelis also. We were once accused by an organization in New York of being part of the PLO40 and were boycotted by extremist Jews.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the conflict in general?

That the conflict is between two countries and two armies. This is, of course a misunderstanding. Another misunderstanding is that there is no solution. The Jews are convinced that this is their promised land and the Palestinians are convinced that this is their land and the Jews are strangers here. Regardless of this, what is the solution? There are 11 million people here. How are they going to live together? I am not talking about the beliefs of each side; I am talking about a reasonable solution because if we act according to our beliefs we will never reach a solution. We should change our beliefs whether we like it or not.

What are the roots of this conflict?

The main root is the land. The conflict isn't religious or ideological; the root of the conflict is land. This is why I propose a divorce in which each side receives their own share of land and accept the division, despite the belief that the rest of the land is theirs.

How do you propose to divide the land?

The land is already divided according to international resolutions such as 242,41 19442 and 338.43 There is the Green Line44 and the option of territorial exchange. There are many options for a solution if the people are willing. Unfortunately, people are not willing enough to carry out even the smallest part of the solution and this is what makes the problem even more difficult. I don't want to be over optimistic, but I think the two sides are now more prepared for a solution. Sharon45 promised that he would wipe out the intifada in 100 days. We are now in its sixth year. Palestinian military operations didn't achieve anything for the Palestinians; on the contrary, they brought upon us the wall and an increase in settlements. Both sides have realized that they will achieve nothing by force but there is no one to show them the way.

Do you think fear plays a role in the conflict?

Of course it does—in daily life as well as in politics the fear of tomorrow destroys today. If we are confident today, we will build a good tomorrow. Because we are afraid of the future we are destroying the present and hampering the efforts of building a future. The past also has a major role. Our bloody past in which we paid a high price is what causes us to be fearful today. We are even afraid of meeting others; we are afraid of being accused [of treason], afraid that "they" might convince us, afraid of not being able to face "them" or of being undermined by "them". Fear is no simple issue.

Do you have to suffer in order to be able to say you believe in a different path?

No, not at all. If you look at the political parties on both sides that support peace you will notice that most of them aren't made up of bereaved people but rather of people who haven't suffered that way. There are many people who establish peace organizations without being from bereaved families. We are just one out of hundreds of organizations. Though I can clearly say that all the Palestinians want peace there isn't even one single Palestinian who really lives in peace. We aren't living in peace, therefore there is no peace.

Do you think religion plays a role in the conflict?

I think religion plays a role, but the problem isn't religion itself, it is how it is used. Islam calls for avoiding killing women, children and the elderly. Our religion is basically good.


We have done our best to provide accurate, fair yet succinct footnotes to help you navigate the interviews. Our research team comprises more than 6 individuals, including Palestinians, Israelis and North Americans. Still, we recognize that these notes cannot capture the full complexity of this contested conflict. Therefore, we encourage you to seek additional sources of information, we welcome your feedback and appreciate your openness.

1. A village located in the West Bank north of Hebron. Est. population 12,000. ^

2. Hebron. A Palestinian city in the West Bank, located 30 kilometers south of Jerusalem. Al-Khalil ("Friend of God") in Arabic and Khevron in Hebrew, its population is approximately 160,000, the majority of whom are Palestinian Muslims, with approximately 400 Jewish settlers living in the center of the city and an Israeli military presence. The city is home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the supposed burial site of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs. See 1929 Riots and Baruch Goldstein/Hebron Massacre. ^

3. A Palestinian village (located northwest of Hebron) whose residents where displaced during the 1948 War. Not to be confused with the Beyt Jibrin Refugee Camp, established in 1950 next to the West Bank city of Bethlehem. ^

4. Gaza Strip. Geographical territory located on the Mediterranean Coast and bordering the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and Israel, with a total land mass of 360 sq km. Population: 1,376,289. The Palestinian populated territory was under Israeli administrative and military control from 1967 to 1994, when an agreement pursuant to the Declaration of Principles (DOP) gave the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) limited self-government for an interim five-year period, although Israel retained responsibility for external and internal security and for public order of settlements. Until August 2005, approximately 7000 Israeli settlers lived in the Strip. Negotiations aimed at determining final status of the West Bank and Gaza commenced in 1999, but were derailed by the second intifada in September 2000. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw all troops and dismantle all settlements in the Gaza Strip and return the territory to PNA control was completed in August 2005, although Israel maintains control over air space and borders. ^

5. 1948. The year 1948 is often referenced on account of a series of historical events that have impacted both Palestinians and Israelis. Notably, the war between Israel and Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan (known as Transjordan at the time). 1948 is remembered in Israel as the year of independence and in the Arab world as Al-Nakba, the catastrophe. 1948 saw the establishment of the State of Israel and the continued flight and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians (most estimates fall between 700,000 and 800,000) from the territory previously known as the British mandate of Palestine. See also War of 1948, Al-Nakba, and Haatzmaut/Independence Day. ^

6. There are 10 official UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) refugee camps for Palestinian refugees located in Jordan. For information and profiles of the camps see ^

7. Fatah.

(Arabic for “conquest” and a reverse acronym for “Harakat al-Tahrir al-Watani al-Filistani” or “Palestine Liberation Movement”) The largest Palestinian political party, Fatah currently governs the West Bank and is the dominant faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Yasser Arafat, among other Palestinian leaders, founded Fatah in Kuwait in 1959 as a secular Palestinian national movement. It began paramilitary and political operations in 1964, and assumed the leadership of the PLO in 1968. During the Oslo Process, it became identified as the chief proponent of a negotiated, two-state solution. In 2006, the Hamas victory in the Palestinian legislative elections resulted in the end of Fatah’s political dominance. The events that followed resulted in a division between Fatah and Hamas, with Fatah assuming political leadership of the West Bank (see Palestinian Civil War); Fatah party members still reside in the Gaza Strip. Fatah signed a unity agreement with Hamas in April 2011, the results of which are yet to be seen. See Parsons, Nigel. The Politics of the Palestinian Authority: From Oslo to al-Aqsa. New York & London: Routledge, 2005; and Abu Khalil, As’ad. “Fatah.” Philip Mattar, ed. Encyclopedia of the Palestinians. New York: Facts on File, 2005.


8. First Intifada. Arabic for "shaking off." It is used also to refer to uprisings, especially during times of widespread Palestinian revolts against Israel. While some scholars consider the 1936-39 Palestinian uprising as the first intifada, the first intifada (1987-1993) usually refers to the popular uprising whereby Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza rose up against Israeli military rule through a coordinated movement involving multiple sectors of Palestinian society. Actions included mass rallies, general strikes, unarmed and stone-throwing confrontations, the use of Molotov cocktails and limited arms against the Israeli army, combined with self-administration of daily life and attempts at nonviolent civil disobedience. The Israeli military was unable to quash the rebellion, although they implemented a harsh "Force, Might and Beatings" policy under Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, involving widespread arrests, detention and torture. This intifada came to an end when Israel entered into negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization and co-launched the Oslo Peace Process. ^

9. Approximately $325 US dollars based on current (2006) exchange rates. ^

10. Occupation. The "Occupation" is used to refer to Israel's military control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. Some members of the Israeli government have referred to these territories as "disputed" rather than "occupied." See, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site; Also, "West Bank." Britannica Student Encyclopedia. 2004. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. 17 Dec. 2004; For a dictionary that uses the term "occupied" rather than "disputed": "West Bank" A Dictionary of Contemporary World History. Jan Palmowski. Oxford University Press, 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. CDL UC Berkeley. ^

11. Mr. Abu Awwad is referring to the networks of communication, political/military strategy, studying, and learning established by Palestinians while serving as prisoners in Israeli jails. See "Palestinian Captives Convert Israeli Jails to Bases of Education," The Palestinian Information Center, 7 Feb 2003, at ^

12. Shahid. Commonly translated into English as "martyr," shahid literally means "witness" in Arabic. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the word shahid or martyr is used to refer to Palestinians or supporters of the Palestinian cause who have been killed, died, or killed themselves in the conflict. The term shahid or martyr is applied by different individuals in various contexts to refer to such individuals as: a suicide bomber, a Palestinian fighter or a Palestinian civilian killed by an Israeli in the context of the conflict. ^

13. Negev. Desert comprising the southern one-third of Israel. ^

14. Oslo process. This process was unveiled with the signing of the Declaration of Principles ("DOP") by Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn in 1993, although it was preceded by an exchange of letters between Rabin and Arafat. In those letters, Israel recognized the PLO as the sole legitimate representative body of the Palestinian people and the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist in peace and security. The DOP called for a permanent settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on United Nation Resolutions 242 and 338. It also led to the creation of the Palestinian National Authority ("PA" or "PNA") as part of the 1995 Oslo Interim Agreement. Yasser Arafat became President of the PNA. A series of agreements between the Israeli government and the PNA followed. The agreements are known collectively as the Oslo Accords. The Oslo process took a serious blow with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, and by the failure of the Camp David Accords in 2000, but ended officially with the assumption of the second intifada in September 2000. For a text of the letters and the Declaration of Principles see: or The Israeli Ministry of Foregin Affairs ^

15. Jericho.

A Palestinian city in the central West Bank, located northeast of Jerusalem and close to the Jordanian border. Est. population in 2007: 18,346. Archaeologists consider it to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.


16. Palestinian Authority. Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Also known as the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA was created to serve as the governing body in charge of Palestinian self-rule in the Occupied Territories as part of the Oslo process. As leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which negotiated the Oslo accords as the recognized sole legitimate representative body of the Palestinian people, Yasser Arafat became the PA Chairman. Upon Arafat's death, Mahmoud Abbas was elected President of the PA. The PA has observer status in the United Nations. ^

17. In what became known as the "Gaza-Jericho First" plan embedded in the Oslo Accords, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho were the first territories to revert to Palestinian control in the "land for peace" negotiations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ^

18. Settlement. A settlement is a Jewish community usually existing outside the internationally accepted boundaries of the State of Israel, although those ideologically in support of them do not call them "settlements." The settler movement began following the war of 1967. Settlements are controversial when they are built within the Occupied Territories of the West Bank,East Jerusalem and Gaza, which some Israelis refer to as Judea and Samaria or as "disputed territories,"—often on land confiscated from Palestinians. Some settlers assert that it is a divine right, mandated by religious texts, and also an imperative stemming from Zionist tradition to settle the land. Others regard it as a security necessity for Israel. Opponents argue that such settlements are illegal under international law. By and large, settlements have received government funding, as well as military and infrastructural support. However, in 2005, the Likud government initiated the withdrawal of Israeli settlements from Gaza and from a handful of settlements in the West Bank. See "Troubled Lands" Now With Bill Moyers PBS 4/5/02 and James Reynolds. "Israeli Settlement Building Grows," BBC News, 2 Mar 2004, ^

19. Martyrdom Operation. A term used predominantly in the Arab and Islamic world referring to militant operations carried out by a person seeking martyrdom. Like the term martyr, the usage of "martyrdom operation" can vary depending on who is using the term and in what context. In most cases, the term is used to refer to militant operations during which the assailant deliberately sets out (and succeeds) in self-sacrificing himself/herself during the attack. While the Western media commonly refers to such acts as "suicide bombings" or "terrorist attacks," many Islamic organizations refer to such operations as "martyrdom operations," since the act of suicide is forbidden in Islam. According to such organizations, the person carrying out the operation did not commit suicide but rather died as martyr on behalf of a sacred cause. In the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, martyrdom operations are mostly carried out by Islamic militant groups. However, it is important to recognize that the term "martyrdom operation" may be used to refer to operations during which there was no deliberate self-sacrificial intent. For example, members of a non-Islamic Palestinian organization may die in a militant operation, without deliberately intending to do so, and the operation may nonetheless be referred to by some observers as a "martyrdom operation" since those who died are considered martyrs. Also, please see definition of martyr in glossary. ^

20. Second Intifada. Intifada is Arabic for "shaking off." This refers to the recent Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. The second intifada began in September 2000 following the breakdown of diplomatic efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is sometimes called the Al-Aqsa (Aksa or 'Aqsa) Intifada or the Armed Intifada. See also: Intifada. ^

21. Settler. Refers to a Jewish Israeli living in settlements - Jewish communities in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. The settlements, established following Israel's capture of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the war of 1967, are widely recognized as illegal under international law. By and large, they receive government funding as well as military and infrastructural support, although the Likud has initiated the withdrawal of settlers from Gaza in August 2005 and from a handful of settlements in the West Bank. Population statistics of the Jewish settler population vary according to different sources. There are approximately 240,00-250,000 settlers in the Palestinian Territories with approximately 7,000-8,000 living in the Gaza Strip and the rest residing in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem). According to B'Tselem, at the end of 2002 about 58% (or 394,000) of Jerusalem's 680,400 residents lived on land annexed in 1967. Of those 394,000, 45% were Jewish and 55% Palestinians (see There are approximately 17,000 settlers living in the Golan Heights. For information on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, see the B'Tselem report at For information on the settlement population in the Golan Heights see: David Rudge. "Campaign Uses Jobs to Entice Newcomers to Golan," The Jerusalem Post, 22 June 2005, pg. 5. ^

22. Checkpoints. Roadblock or military installation used by security forces to control and restrict pedestrian movement and vehicle traffic. The Israeli army makes widespread use of checkpoints in the Occupied Territories in order to control the movement of Palestinians between Palestinian cities and villages and between the Occupied Territories and Israel. They have been used on a few occasions to control some movement of Israeli settlers and Israeli citizens trying to enter Gaza and several West Bank settlements to protest Israeli disengagement from those territories. Checkpoints can be large and semi-permanent structures resembling simple basic border crossings (such as the Kalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem or the Hawara checkpoint between Nablus and Ramallah) or small, temporary impositions on roadways or outside towns or villages. The security forces at a checkpoint exercise total control over movement through the checkpoint. Depending upon the location of the checkpoint, soldiers may and often do check the identity papers of every vehicle passenger and/or pedestrian who wishes to pass through, and refuse passage to all who have not obtained permits from the Israeli military's Civil Administration in the Occupied Territories. Palestinians and Israeli observers cite frequent, if not routine, incidences of delay and harassment of Palestinian civilians at checkpoints, regardless of the status of their papers. There are currently checkpoints at the entry and exit points of every large Palestinian populated area in the West Bank, on every major road within the West Bank, and at every crossing point on the Green Line between Israel and the Occupied Territories, in addition to many smaller checkpoints within the West Bank. According to the IDF, a checkpoint is a "security mechanism to prevent the passage of terrorists from PA territory into Israel while maintaining both Israeli and Palestinian daily routine," used to "facilitate rapid passage of Palestinians while providing maximal security to Israeli citizens." For facts, figures, and maps on the web, see BBC , the Israeli NGO Machsom (checkpoint) Watch or The Palestinian Red Crescent ^

23. Parents Circle-Bereaved Families Forum. Parents Circle-Bereaved Families Forum is a joint organization of more than 500 Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families working together for reconciliation and an end to violence. See   ^

24. Normalization. In this context it refers to the process of creating 'normal' relations between the State of Israel and its Arab neighbors. Egypt was the first to normalize relations in 1979, with Jordan following in 1994. Normalization prior to the creation of a Palestinian state is viewed by many Palestinians and their supporters as a betrayal of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. Normalization during the era of pan-Arabism was also regarded as a betrayal of a broader anti-colonial stance. The Saudi initiative was the most comprehensive offer of normalization by the Arab world, under the condition of Palestinian statehood. ^

25. Separation Barrier. A long structure of connected concrete walls and fences that separates Israel from parts of the West Bank. It runs both along the Green Line and within the West Bank. Critics and proponents disagree over the intent behind the structure, its route, and its name. References to it include the "wall, separation wall, security fence, Apartheid Wall, separation barrier, annexation wall." Begun in 2002, its construction is still in progress. For a map of the existing structure and proposed route, please visit the B'Tselem website. Israel claims security needs necessitate its construction. Israel has modified some of the routes in response to a High Court of Justice ruling as well as in response to international pressure. Palestinians point out that the wall was built unilaterally, seizing lands recognized as illegally occupied by Israel according to international law. They also maintain that the wall steals privately-owned land, and chokes off some cities almost completely. For a thorough report: "A safety measure or a land grab?", visit the Economist, October 9, 2003 A debate about its appropriateness sprung up after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion declaring it a breach of international law. ^

26. House Demolitions. According to ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) website, "Since 1967, 12,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem." Nearly half of those demolitions have taken place since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000. The Israeli army practice of demolishing Palestinians' houses is illegal under article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Israeli army and government claim that houses are demolished for two main reasons: military/security, and lack of building permits. The majority of houses (also factories and shops) destroyed in the West Bank the Israeli army claims are destroyed for military and security reasons, including structures the army deems could be used in attacks against Israelis, or as a punitive measure against families from which a member is suspected of planning or carrying out attacks. Most of the Palestinian homes destroyed in East Jerusalem, certain parts of the West Bank, and in Palestinian cities and towns within Israel are destroyed because they lack a building permit from the Israeli authorities. Building permits are extremely difficult and at times impossible for Palestinians to obtain. See Amnesty International) and ^

27. Targeted Assassinations.

The State of Israel increased its use of targeted assassinations of “wanted” men in the Occupied Palestinian Territories during the Second Intifada; 251 Palestinians were killed in this manner in the Occupied Palestinian Territories between 2000-2011, including an additional 174 Palestinians killed as a result of the targeted killing. Israeli security forces have employed the tactic since the 1970s. The most infamous series of Israel’s targeted assassinations abroad took place following the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. More recently and more locally, Israel has dropped bombs to kill leaders of Palestinian militant organizations, including Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin in 2004, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi in 2005 and Mohammed Nimnim of the Army of Islam in 2010. Palestinian militant groups have also used targeted assassinations, although far less frequently. The tactic is criticized both locally and internationally for the level of civilian casualties it can produce and also for the lack of due process in bringing the accused to justice. Proponents often argue that it is a tactic to prevent or deter further violence. For statistics of Palestinians killed as a result of an Israeli targeted assassination, see  “Statistics.” B’Tselem. 3 October 2011. For a perspective against Israel’s use of targeted assassinations, see Stein, Yael. “Position Paper: Israel’s Assassination Policy: Extra-judicial Executions." 9 November 20003. B’Tselem. 3 October 2011. For a supportive perspective, see Luft, Gal. “The Logic of Israel’s Targeted Killing.” Middle East Quarterly (Winter 2003), pp. 3-13.


28. Abbas, Mahmoud.

(1935- ) A Palestinian political figure.  He has been a leading figure in Fatah  and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) since the 1960s. Throughout his career, Abbas has been involved in negotiations between Palestinians and the Israeli government, most notably as the leading Palestinian negotiator of the Oslo Accords and as the PLO signatory of the Declaration of Principles in September 1993. Following the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, the PLO executive committee appointed Abbas as Chairman of the PLO. In January 2005, he was elected President of the Palestinian Authority (PA). He currently maintains both positions, though his four-year term as PA President would have ended in January 2009. However, PA presidential and legislative elections have been delayed. See Fischbach, Michael R. “Abbas, Mahmud.” Philip Mattar, ed. Encyclopedia of the Palestinians. New York: Facts on File, 2005; and “Profile: Mahmoud Abbas.” 5 November 2009. BBC. 13 June 2011. 


29. Zionism. The belief that the Jewish people should have a national homeland, and refuge from persecution, in Israel. Supporters of this idea are called Zionists. The Zionist Movement gained momentum in Europe in the late 1800s with the First Zionist Conference in Basel, Switzerland in 1897. The movement advocated the ideology of Zionism, a national liberation ideology of the Jewish people with several strands, foremost being the establishment of a Jewish state within the biblical Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael or Zion). See ^

30. Al Nakba. Arabic for "the catastrophe." It refers to the uprooting and displacement of hundreds of thousands Palestinians (most estimates fall between 700,000 and 800,000) following, and due largely to, the creation of the State of Israel on most of the lands of pre-1948 Palestine. The establishment of the Jewish State of Israel led to the creation of a large, displaced, impoverished Palestinian refugee population scattered throughout the world, especially in the Arab Middle East. The razing and appropriation of many Palestinian villages and properties by Israeli forces and the seizure of remaining territories by Jordanian and Egyptian forces in the war of 1948, all contributed to the coining of the term al-Nakba, in contrast to the Israeli celebration of Independence Day. It is commemorated annually on the 15th of May. See also, 1948, the War of 1948, and Independence Day. See and PRIME's "Learning Each Other's Historical Narrative," March 2003. ^

31. Camp David. An American presidential getaway in Maryland. In the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, two significant events took place at Camp David, often referred to as Camp David I and Camp David II. At Camp David I (September 1978), Egyptian President Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin reached a bilateral agreement, with assistance and pressure from American President Carter, in which Israel would return the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for recognition and peace with Egypt, thereby establishing a precedent for "land-for-peace" negotiations. The Agreement called for talks between Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Palestinian representatives to create a framework for negotiations regarding the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This goal was never met. Camp David II refers to the last Oslo Process-related meetings between Yasser Arafat, Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton in the summer of 2000 over "final status" issues such as the settlements, Jerusalem, Palestinian statehood, the rights and entitlements of Palestinian refugees and more. Negotiations broke down and no agreement was reached. The collapse of the process was followed shortly thereafter by the second intifada. ^

32. Gaza Disengagement. Also referred to as "Disengagement," "the Pull Out," "the Withdrawal," "the Evacuation," "HaHitNatKut" in Hebrew. In the current conflict, this term refers to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli army and Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip in August of 2005, although Israel maintains control over air space and borders. ^

33. Tel Aviv Jaffa. (Sorry, there was an error; this glossary term was not found.) ^

34. Refusenik.

A term first applied to Jews who the Soviet Union barred from emigrating to Israel. In Israel today, “refusenik” applies to conscientious objectors - Israeli soldiers or reservists who refuse to serve in the Occupied Palestinian Territories or in the Israeli army altogether. For an Israeli to legally avoid military service based on the grounds of conscience or refusal, one must be granted Conscientious Objector (CO) status, which is difficult to obtain. The Refusenik movement gained popularity during the Second Intifada, after a group of Israeli reserve officers and combat soldiers drafted the Combatant's Letter in January 2002, outlining their justification for conscientious objection based on Israel’s “illegal and thus immoral” occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Since then, 627 Israelis have signed onto the letter and hundreds of Israelis have refused service in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel has court martialed hundreds for this decision and many refuseniks serve up to 35 days in jail. See also Shministim. See the Refusenik’s website at


35. Refers to former Iraqi President Sadaam Hussein. ^

36. Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Also known as the Territories, “East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza,” the Occupied Territories or “Judea, Samaria and Gaza.” The term generally refers to two non-contiguous territories captured by Israel following the War of 1967, but does not usually include the Golan Heights. East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are considered occupied by much of the international community and are treated as such by many international legal instruments. The Territories, or some part of, are slated to be the basis for an independent Palestine. Some members of the Israeli government refer to the Occupied Palestinian Territories as “disputed territory,” while certain factions in Israel consider the territory an integral part of biblical Israel and thus modern political Israel. See International Law, ‘Occupied’/ ‘Disputed’ Territory Debate” and War of 1967.


37. Travel Permits. Refers to Israeli-issued travel permits required primarily for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to travel into Israel, and at times throughout East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Israelis seeking to travel to Area A regions as delineated by the Oslo Accords, must also receive permits. For information on restrictions of movement for Palestinians, see: B'Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) ^

38. Jenin. Palestinian city in the northern West Bank in the Occupied Territories. Est. population 35,000. ^

39. In a BBC documentary, Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Shaath recounted that in a 2003 meeting with George W. Bush, the US President said that he was told by God to invade Iraq and Afghanistan as well as bring peace to the Middle East and establish a Palestinian state. The White House has denied the comment ever occurred and Shaath later said that he did not take the comments literally. See "Palestinian: Bush Said God Guided Him on War," MSNBC Online, 7 Oct 2005, at ^

40. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Founded in 1964, the PLO has long been the umbrella group for numerous Palestinian political, professional and trade groups, all dedicated to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. In 1969, Yasser Arafat, representing the Fatah movement, became chair of the organization, a position he held until his death in 2004. Some of the other groups within the PLO are the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), and the Syrian-backed Saeqa. From the early 1970s through the early 1990s, the PLO operated politically and militarily from bases in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia. The PLO first gained international legitimacy when Arafat addressed the United Nations General Assembly in November 1974 and the organization was granted observer status to the United Nations. In 1993, the PLO received recognition from Israel as the representative of the Palestinian people and recognized Israel’s right to exist through signing on to the Oslo Process; it has since seen its leadership absorbed into the Palestinian Authority. Some factions of the PLO still do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Per a unity agreement between Palestinian political parties in 2011, Hamas may join the PLO. See Bickerton, Ian J and Carla L. Klausner. A History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 5th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007; Hamid, Rashid. “What is the PLO?” Journal of Palestine Studies Vol. 4, No. 4. (Summer 1975), pp. 90-109; and “Palestine Liberation Organization.” Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations. 22 August 2011.


41. Resolution 242.

United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 242, passed on November 22, 1967, calls for both the withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the War of 1967, and respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and right to live in peace for all countries in the area (i.e. Arab states’ recognition of Israel’s right to exist). The text was made deliberately ambiguous in order to appease demands from conflicting parties within the UN. As such, differing interpretations of the text prevail, with disagreement on whether Resolution 242 calls for full Israeli withdrawal, or allows for minor or even considerable border adjustments. Despite these differences, the resolution has been the cornerstone of “land for peace” initiatives since 1967. For an introduction to and text of UN Resolution 242, see “MidEast Web Historical Documents: UNSC 242.” MidEast Web. 24 August 2011.


42. Resolution 194.

United Nations (UN) General Assembly Resolution 194 was adopted on December 11, 1948 in order to deal with the rapidly growing issue of Palestinian Arab refugees. The resolution states “that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.” Israel rejected the resolution from the outset. It is considered the legal basis for the Palestinian claim for the “Right of Return.” For an introduction to and text of UN Resolution 194, see “MidEast Web Historical Documents: UNGA 194.” MidEast Web. 24 August 2011.


43. Resolution 338.

United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 338, passed on October 22, 1973, calls for an immediate cease-fire and an end to all hostilities between Egypt, Syria and Israel, following the War of 1973. Resolution 338 also reaffirms the importance of UN Security Council Resolution 242, and calls for its implementation. For an introduction to and text of the resolution, see “MidEast Web Historical Documents: UNSC 338.” MidEast Web. 24 August 2011.


44. Green Line. Refers to the 1949 Armistice Line following the war of 1948. Demarcated unofficial boundaries for the cessation of hostilities between Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Following the 1967 war, it denotes, in most international opinion and UN resolutions, the boundary between territory recognized as part of the legitimate, sovereign State of Israel and the Occupied Territories. ^

45. Sharon, Ariel.

(1928- ) A Jewish Israeli political and military figure. From the year of the Israeli army’s founding in 1948 until 1973, Sharon served as a commander and officer. Upon his retirement from the army, he helped found the Likud party and went on to serve in many ministerial positions within the Israeli government. Israeli Minister of Defense during the Lebanon War from 1981-1983 (see War of 1982), Sharon resigned after a government commission found him indirectly responsible for the September 1982 massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Lebanese Christian Phalangist militias. He also held the position of Minister of Construction and Housing from 1990-1992, overseeing the most comprehensive expansion of Jewish Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories in 1967. Prime Minister of Israel from 2001-2006. Sharon initiated and oversaw the withdrawal of all Israeli settlers from Gaza in the summer of 2005 (see Gaza Disengagement). In November 2005, he quit the Likud party and formed Kadima, stating that the Likud party was no longer equipped to lead Israel nor oversee any future peace deals with the Palestinians. In early January 2006, Sharon suffered a massive stroke, underwent several operations, and is currently in a coma. Following Sharon’s admission to the hospital, powers of the Israeli Prime Minister were transferred to Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. See Hartley, Cathy, ed. A Survey of Arab-Israeli Relations, 2nd ed. London and New York: Europa Publications, 2004; and “Profile of Ariel Sharon.” 12 November 2010. BBC. 27 June 2011.