|From the Newsletter of the Israeli Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace https://www.theparentscircle.org/en/newsletter-join_eng/
What prompted you to take on the role of PCFF co-directors?
Yuval: I spent many years in the corporate and technological sectors and devoted my leisure time to volunteering at peace organizations and our Forum. I made a decision to invest all my energy and skills where my heart is. I decided to take a break from corporate life and bring my managerial and marketing experience here. As a Forum member in the past 10 years, a moderator of some of the programs, a member of the executive committee and other committees throughout the years, I am very familiar with the Forum and committed to procuring more achievements.
Osama: I have been a Forum member for over 17 years. I filled many positions until I reached project management. I studied a lot and have vast work experience, since the Forum is a huge peace project. I have the capacity to work under pressure, during times of crisis and under the ongoing conflict and Occupation.
What is your vision for the Forum?
Osama: My vision is that the Forum impact the people in Israel, Palestine and the world and promote the peace process. That it have vast influence when this conflict is over for which both nations are paying a very high price.
Yuval: The Forum plays a unique role in Israeli and Palestinian societies; we have the power to generate change in public opinion in both. On the Palestinian side, which lives under military occupation, the conflict is tangible on a daily basis. Israeli society is virtually indifferent to ending the conflict. The Israelis “have gotten used to it” and if they’re not suffering directly (like the residents of the Gaza Envelope are) the solution of the conflict is a non-issue. Our role in the organization is to ensure the people on both sides know that the continuing conflict will take a toll on more Israelis and Palestinians – innocent men, women and children. The next victims can be avoided if we wake up.
How do you see the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Osama: I believe that the conflict will be resolved peacefully. Wars have proven that the solution will only come through negotiations that include a recognition of the national rights of both peoples. The hope will beat in me when the Israeli people elect brave and strong leaders who can negotiate and make wise decisions in view of ending the conflict so that everyone will live in peace and security.
Yuval: Like other global conflicts, ours too will end one day, we just don’t know how and how much more bereavement we will have to suffer until then. When the conflict is over, we will all try to understand why we were fighting and why we paid with our loved ones lives all these years. Over a piece of land? For a false sense of control and security?
If you could address the people on the other side, what message would you to convey?
Yuval: The Palestinians witness and are familiar with the actions of the army and the settlers that make their lives difficult. To them, they are the Israelis, they are the State of Israel. Many are not aware of the activities of the Israeli peace organizations and the PCFF. So it’s no wonder many Palestinians are losing hope and boycott any connection or encounter with the Israelis. We will continue to insist on addressing the Palestinian side in any way we can, both privately and public, invite them to get to know the Forum’s activities that take place every year in Israel and Palestine and show that we and many others are endeavoring to end the conflict and the Occupation. Israeli society is unfamiliar with the Palestinian voice that wants peace and it is our job to convey it in the most direct way so that it be heard everywhere in Israel.
Osama: I’m telling you, we Forum members paid the highest price when we lost our loved ones and yet, we sat with the other side to discuss a brighter future with no more bloodshed. I’m telling you, if we did it, you all can, and it’s even easier because you don’t have to choose between revenge or peace. The power of the Forum is in its message and members. The Forum endeavors full force in many ways, the most important of which is solidarity and understanding the other sides need for peace.
What is the Forum’s strength and what is its weakness and how can that be resolved?
Yuval: The PCFF has two main strengths:
The transformation we all underwent from feelings of pain, rage and often the desire to avenge, which is natural for anyone who lost their loved one. The process was painful, complex, profound, but we all reached a place of reconciliation towards the enemy. This wondrous process is an “asset” that we must convey to the nation in which we live. We demonstrate in our daily activities how with the right conditions everyone can undergo this change. The second strength is the deep partnership between both sides. Though we come from the reality of occupier and occupied, we create a model for dialogue and reconciliation that exists even before the conflict has ended. It’s hard to find other examples in the world whereby citizens caught up in an ongoing, violent struggle meet to stop the cycle of bloodshed for which they paid the price. There is no other peace organization that can speak as loud and clear as we can.
The weakness stems from the increasing despair and loss of hope to ever resolve the conflict peacefully. The attention to messages of reconciliation and peace fades in time and we must work extremely hard to make our voice heard. We must strengthen the messages and develop new channels everywhere; in communities, in schools, in public and government institutions, in the media, in Israel and in the world.
Osama: The weaknesses stem from the daily activities of the Occupation vis a vis the manner in which the Forum impacts many Palestinians. The Palestinian participants leave every session totally convinced by the Forum’s message, but when they witness the Judaification and the annexation of lands, the uprooting of trees and the denial of the most basic rights, some change their minds and resume what they thought before the encounter with us. Therefore, the Forum decided to contact former members to keep them on the path to peace and reconciliation.
Finally, a personal question – What would the loved one you lost think of your activities in the Forum?
Osama: I think that my father and uncle are proud of me. My grandfather was a fighter who aspired for freedom and a life of peace, in his own way. I am now waging a peaceful battle without bloodshed, and that’s just as hard.
Yuval: My father devoted his life to the people and the homeland, as a youth in the Palmach, as a construction worker, as a farmer – he always considered how he can contribute. Even when he was called upon to defend the country and never returned. I know that he would be pleased to know that I am contributing to create a future whereby the next generations can live in peace and dignity with all our neighbors.
Photographer: Vardi Kahana | Photo Design: Anat Negev