Lives in: Beit Ummar Was born in: Halhoul, Hebron Year of birth: 1972 Identity: Muslim, Palestinian, West Bank/Gaza/E. Jerusalem Type of work: Coexistence/Dialogue/Reconciliation Nonviolent Direct Action Website: Bereaved Families Forum Works at Bereaved Families Forum, Al Tareek (The Way) Interviewer Joline Makhlouf Date of Interview 2005

Ali Abu Awwad grew up in a politically active family and was active in resisting the Israeli occupation during the first intifada. He was arrested for his resistance activities, which included throwing stones, participating in demonstrations and being a member of a political party, Fatah. He was sentenced to ten years in Israeli prison, however he was released after four years after the signing of the Oslo accords. During the second intifada, Ali was shot in the leg by an Israeli settler and went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. While there, he received the news that his brother had been shot and killed by an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint at the entrance to their village. Ali and other members of his family later joined the Bereaved Families Forum where they are active in spreading a message of reconciliation and non-violence to Palestinians and Israelis. Ali Abu Awwad is featured in Just Vision's documentary film, Encounter Point; to view one of his scenes click here.

Online articles

No More Taking Sides, Audio interview with Ali Abu Awwad and Robi Damelin, on PRI's Speaking of Faith. February 14, 2008

She's Israeli, he's an Arab. War has made them like mother and son, by Sarfraz Manzoor, The Guardian, May 10, 2009

Ali Abu Awwad, Palestine, Creating social change through non-violent practice, Synergos

Ali Abu Awwad and Robi Damelin Speak at Pangea Day, August 15, 2008

Video of Ali Abu Awwad Preparing for the Sulha, Peace TV1

A War with No Weapons (Translated from the Hebrew), Nahum Barnea, Yediot Aharonot

Ali Abu Awwad
Activist and founder of Al Tareek (The Way)
"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 being 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."
At that age I was highly motivated, so I began to read more and become more attached to 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 for 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.
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. At the same time the Oslo agreement didn't ensure security for the Israelis and didn't stop the operations 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[…] This led to the second intifada 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.
[…] We were accustomed to thinking that talking with the other occupier is treason and normalizing. 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.
Suicide Bombing    
Why do the extremists carry out explosions? They carry out explosions 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. Our work presents a greater danger to the Israeli state. An Israeli general said that nonviolence is the most dangerous weapon possessed by the Palestinians, because it undermines all the excuses for the occupation and the legitimacy they claim to have when destroying a house or assassinating someone.
As you know, education is a major factor in any conflict. We try to explain our message to pupils and students. We are usually accepted. There are occasionally difficult things to hear, but eventually you begin to understand and attempt to analyze why a certain student talks with such hatred. The student wasn't born with this hatred, so why is he like this now? […] children on both sides grow up according to different perspectives. The creation of the Zionist state among the Zionists or Israelis is the creation of the Zionist or Jewish state in 1948, but for us, it is the Nakba. 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.
There is an alternative language to violence. You can convince humans 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 your feelings, but I do understand that you are human. This language is very effective. A Palestinian woman once said that I am a traitor of my people who aims to stop them from fighting. I answered her in her own language and told her that if you feel that the Palestinian airplanes and tanks are locked away in a warehouse and I am holding the keys, then you can kill me. I told her that I am not stopping you from fighting. She was confused.[…] 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 wasn't heard previously. 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 any Israeli; I heard this from Israelis who lost sons and daughters. This made me believe that there is an alternative language.
    Conception of Peace
Maybe what I am saying is confusing and hard to understand, but what I am trying to say is two things: first, usually people seek peace for themselves. We should seek peace for others. The first step is for an Israeli to stand up in Tel Aviv and say that he wants peace for the Palestinians before saying he wants 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 Israeli with good intentions can influence others who in turn can create a good 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.
Suicide Bombing    
The reason for the failure of the previous peace attempts is that they weren't implemented on the ground, 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 a stage in which their lives are of no value. I think this is because there is no peace. If there were peace life would have a value. There would be games for the children, employment and opportunities. While there is no peace, there will be no life.
   Civil Society 
We should have a good and respectful relationship between two countries, not between a people and their occupier. The creation of two countries is the solution. This is the final solution. The current solution is that both people sit down and decide that we have had enough killing and occupation. The people should decide upon this, not the governments. The governments can't force upon 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 before getting married; they can't marry when they are enemies.
   International Involvement 
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. [...] 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 the 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.
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, which hampers the efforts of building the 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], are afraid that they might convince us, and are afraid of not being able to face them or being undermined by them. Fear is no simple issue.