To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

A Message of Peace from Tulkarm

Walla.co.il (online service) original link here (Hebrew)
by Nur a-Din Shehade (Guest Columnist)
translated by Israel News Today,

 -- A few weeks after Israeli Independence Day, and just days after June 5, that symbolic date on which the Six-Day War erupted 45 years ago, I am sitting on my own in the alleyways of the Tulkarm refugee camp to write this column. I am writing to you from this refugee camp, in which I grew up and became a warrior against the occupation, I am now writing to you in the spirit of liberty, peace and tolerance.

   I was born in the refugee camp and have lived in it my entire life. In the course of the years in which I was growing up, I witnessed killing, arrests and raids that were carried out by the occupation army. This made me hate Israel and want to grow up quickly so that I could personally fight the occupation. I joined Fatah at a young age, which was my way of fighting the occupation because I was absolutely convinced that I would never be able to enjoy liberty unless the occupation was ended and we got rid of Israel. I was very active during the first Intifada, and I was made responsible for Fatah in the area I lived in. It was clear to me beyond any doubt that it was my duty to use violence, and that Israel understood no language other than the language of violence. During that period I was arrested and was kept in an Israeli prison for five years.

   After I left prison I went to work for the Palestinian Authority. In the wake of the failure of the Camp David  talks and the Palestinians' sense of disappointment with the peace process and Israel's disavowal from the commitments required for peace, the second Intifada erupted. That Intifada was an armed and violent Intifada. After my brother sustained serious injuries, I felt personally just how hard it was to lose someone close to you, and for the first time I realized that it was just as difficult for an Israeli as it was for me. I realized that this path would never lead us to any result, and certainly not a solution. I decided to turn to non-violence as a method of fighting the occupation. I began to work despite the attacks by the Israeli army because I realized that there was no way other than this way, and I decided to persevere and not to listen to other people's advice.

   I began to work in the Combatants for Peace Movement because I realized that it was only by combining Palestinian and Israeli forces would we be able to end the occupation and achieve peace between the two peoples. As a teenager I thought that all the Israelis were evil and were only interested in oppressing my people. But in the course of my years of activity in Combatants for Peace and the more my relations with Israelis became closer, I realized that there are angels among them just like there are devils. I saw for the first time something that is hard to see from the alleyways of the Tulkarm refugee camp--that the Israelis are human beings just like we are.

   Today, as a combatant for peace, I believe that given the unbearably high price in blood that the two sides have paid over the course of the years of the conflict, peace is a golden opportunity that we can't afford to miss. A genuine peace will be achieved between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and in the entire region as well on the basis of dialogue and shared existence, while ending the Israeli Palestinian and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

   Israel is celebrating this year its 64th Independence Day, and we Palestinians are marking the 45th year of the Israeli occupation. Israel--and not only the Palestinians--will not be truly independent as long as this occupation lasts.

   From the heart of the Tulkarm refugee camp I am sending you a message of peace, which is the only way out from the catastrophe of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and is the best guarantee for the futures of both people. To live with neighborly relations, in security, welfare and peace, and the choice of the language of dialogue are the best ways of achieving that solution.