Bereaved Arab father on UK peace mission

By Candice Krieger, May 16, 2008

A Palestinian peace activist, whose daughter was killed last year during a clash between Arab youths and the Israeli police, has urged UK politicians to help end the violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Bassam Aramin has devoted his time to campaigning for peace after his 10-year-old daughter, Abir, was shot dead as she was walking home from school.

This week, during a 12-day trip to the UK to raise awareness of Combatants for Peace, a group of former Palestinian militants and former Israeli soldiers who have teamed up to promote reconciliation, he said: “Politicians need to tell people not to be pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli but to be human beings.”

During the visit, Mr Aramin addressed more than 500 people and met Louise Ellman MP, vice-chair of the Labour Friends of Israel.

“The message is simple. We need to show people that enemies can be partners through dialogue. The same people who used to kill each other are now working together,” he said.

According to Mr Aramin, who lives in Anata, East Jerusalem with his five other children, a peaceful resolution to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict is very close. “It could happen in a month, two months or a year. We need to put pressure on politicians to reach an agreement. Now is an important time to get this message across. At difficult times, we need our voice to be louder than violence,” he said.

By his own admission, Mr Aramin has been on a long journey. He spent seven years in Israeli prisons, from 1986 to 1993, the first time, when he was 13 years old, for raising a Palestinian flag.

While in prison, his views gradually changed and in 2005 he co-founded Combatants for Peace. But when his daughter was killed last January, by a bullet allegedly fired by Israeli border police, Mr Aramin decided to increase his campaigning efforts.

“I decided to be different,” he told the JC. “I would replace by daughter’s blood with the attempt to build a new bridge of reconciliation. Normally we use our pain for revenge but we [Combatants for Peace] want to show that revenge doesn’t work.”

Mr Aramin — who last year received the Bremen Peace Award for reconciliation work in the Middle East — encouraged all Britons travelling to Israel to visit Abir’s Garden, a playground created by Combatant for Peace members in his daughter’s memory.

Last updated: 12:11pm, May 16 2008