By Bassam Aramin
Honorable General Ehud Barak, you don’t know me personally. I am a seeker of peace, and I struggle with all my strength and ability for the realization of a just peace that will bring calm and prosperity to Palestinians and Israelis together. I have suffered personally from your criminal occupation and I have paid a heavy price. Firstly, I was imprisoned when I was 17 years old and wasted seven years of my life in your barbaric prisons. Secondly, have you perhaps read or heard about what happened to the young girl Abir Aramin? She was a ten-year-old whom your soldiers killed with a rubber bullet from a distance of 15 feet on January 16, 2007 in front of her eleven-year-old sister Areen. Despite this I, the father of Abir — may she rest in peace — believe in the right of the Israeli person, as in the right of all people, to exist and to live in peace and security. So why do you not believe in our right to enjoy these same things, sir?
Where was the democratic nature of your state when your heroic soldiers killed my daughter before the eyes of her friends at the entrance to her school in Anata? Where were your democratic ideals when you closed the investigation file into Abir’s murder for lack of sufficient evidence, this despite the fact that the crime is clear and was committed in front of more than ten witnesses? Was Abir really a threat to your soldiers, sir?
I carry in my possession the weapons with which Abir threatened those soldiers. I have in my hand her school backpack, reinforced and armored, of course — the mechanical pencil she had, laden with dangerous lead cartridges, and her math book in which class she had a test the same day, which of course included detailed instructions on how to prepare chemical weapons. In addition to all this, she had a sharp ruler, which could for sure be used as a weapon to stab someone. Lastly, I found in her possession two pieces of chocolate that perhaps contained a bit of enriched uranium that would have certainly brought devastation upon your state, if she hadn’t been tempted to take them in her hand for a taste seconds before she was shot.
Here I have to give your soldiers credit in their incredible ability to incapacitate and kill with such deadly accuracy. The bullet hit Abir exactly one centimeter from her hypothalamus—this caused her to immediately enter a coma and she died thereafter and went to dwell in the presence of God, sparing her the continuing pain and heartache herein expressed.
Thus, Abir Aramin can be added to the list of great successes and security accomplishments in the name of the state of Israel. But I request, Minister and General, in that I am the father of this young girl, at the very least an admission of responsibility for this murder, or its cause. It is your duty to bring the soldier who murdered Abir to court so he may be tried and judged a murderer and criminal.
I believe that there is no military solution to the conflict and when those cowards murdered my daughter, I announced that I did not want revenge, I wanted justice, even though revenge is much easier. The real fighter is one who chooses the harder path of the two for the sake of peace, and revenge is the path of the coward.
Sir, the Palestinian people cannot forever pay the price of the fear and suspicion of the Israeli people. Free my people from this abominable occupation so that your people may live in prosperity and be free from fear.
For sixty years, the Palestinian people have paid the price of the Israeli military occupation an occupation which, in celebration of the Israeli state’s inception, carries out acts of outright antagonism that spill the blood of Palestinian fighters, women, children and elders indiscriminately. It is the Palestinian general public that provides a target for your war machine that does not protect the small from the grown. Our people has faced the same murderer since Gaza in 1956 — and the never-ending series continues.
I will not remind you now of the massacres that your government committed against my people; you know them far better than I. I read about them, heard about them — but you took part in them.
The question I pose to you is this: in light of your rich military experience, and as someone who himself has seen sixty years of conflict go by, when will Israel have the strength to finish the conflict militarily and realize a complete victory over the Palestinian people? Do you continue to believe that what cannot be done by might may be done by more might? Does the occupation conceal in its bag of tricks additional methods of killing that the Palestinian people have not yet had the misfortune to know?
If this is the case, perhaps it is a good idea for the Israeli government to try and use those methods. And perhaps they will be able to accomplish that tantalizingly complete victory…in another 60 years.
Sir, when will you understand that the conflict between us cannot be ended with an army? For despite all the effort and conceit of the occupation, it could not stop the stones of our children from hitting your occupying soldiers. How will you be able to stop the Palestinian uprising? This is a dream that will never come true, even in another 1000 years. Why are you not telling this truth to the residents of Ashkelon and Sderot, that there is no solution that will stop the Qassam missiles flying at them from a destroyed and blockaded Gaza except if there would be an end to the occupation?
This is the truth you’ve been running from for a long time.
Believe me, sir, that you will gain nothing out of continuing to detain people. More than 750,000 Palestinians have been detained from 1967 until today. What result has been achieved except an increased determination on our part for confrontation and resistance?
The policy of occupation only creates more and more people who rise up to fight occupation and refuse to accept its burden. The Palestinian prisoners who sit in your jails are among the most learned and erudite of our people, those are the most sensitive and humanistic. They have become educated in the tradition of liberty and democracy—and for this reason they will never agree to accept the occupation and subjugation. It is these men and women who will fight for peace, and if you want to realize peace you have no option but to set free these soldiers of peace first and foremost.
How much have you really benefited from your strategy of home demolitions, uprooting of trees, confiscating lands for questionable reasons and then establishing illegal settlements on those same lands? How much has it helped you to set up disgraceful checkpoints in every corner and every road of the West Bank and Gaza and at each intersection for the purpose of humiliating the residents of those areas, among them workers, students and political leaders. What is the expediency of all this, sir?
When will the bloodthirsty bullets of your soldiers be sated by the blood of our children? When will you be satisfied with our blood that you have already spilled and leave us? When will you leave our waters and our heavens? Do you not see the helmets upon which your soldiers write, "I was born to kill"? Do you not see your brave men killing children every day? How can you decide to prevent the people of Gaza from acquiring cooking gas and at the same time send them teargas and tanks and warplanes?
Only now do I understand the will of an Israeli woman in Italy — my colleague Eidan and I met her when we participated in a peace march from Perugia to Assisi as representatives of Combatants for Peace. When I asked her, "You aren’t planning to return to Israel?" She answered me: "I swore that if Ehud Barak won the election, I will leave Israel forever." She continues to live there because you act according to a policy that says there is no Palestinian partner.
I cannot begin to express in this short letter the enormity of the moral failures that have harmed Israeli society. The newspaper Yediot Ahronot said that 40 per cent of new recruits to the IDF have criminal records and this may go a long way in explaining the long list of acts against Palestinian civilians that they commit during their service. This is supposed to be the most distinguished, moral army in the entire world, no? Is this why we find that 25 per cent of the soldiers of the army of the occupation took part in instances of torture and punishment of innocent civilians or were witnesses to such acts?
Sir, I want to submit that I have read the shameful report that every person of conscience should be horrified by, that talks of the torture of children in Hebron. And this — the strangling of Palestinian children by soldiers to test how much time they can stand without breathing, incidents that were committed by captains in your army, the most moral army in the world, this is the crown of shame on the brow of the occupation.
Sir, how do you justify your soldier’s use of children aged 10 as personal shields that they tie to the front of your patrols when they search for wanted persons or break up a demonstration? Where does international law permit this? I am trying to understand if this use of children as human shields is in some way related to the science of modern warfare, for the accusation that I hear in all instances of the killing of children in particular and in the killing of Palestinian citizens in general is that the Palestinians fighters use citizens for human shields to hide behind. How can there be a legal justification and distinction even in the Israeli terminology, but not in the international terminology, between Israelis and Palestinians?
How can you justify the deaths of those innocents just trying to peacefully pass though the checkpoints that your soldiers put up at all entrances to villages, cities or camps that prevent pregnant women from walking to hospitals to deliver? Would you ever agree to let this happen to your wife? What would you do then?
There are, however, military men, Israeli soldiers that used to do battle with the Palestinian people who at the moment of truth found that they are no more than pawns in the hands of the occupation. They had the courage and the valor to announce unanimously that they refuse to be occupiers. They exposed the falsehoods of their leaders who claim that Israel is reaching out her hand for peace but she has no partner on the Palestinian side. They discovered that they had never met a real Palestinian fighter face-to-face in combat, and that instead their day-to-day work was chasing schoolchildren, enforcing closures, destroying houses and putting up checkpoints and roadblocks to stop children who aren’t even 13 years old. They took a moral and courageous stance and without any difficulty found themselves a Palestinian partner from within the heart of the Palestinian movement, people who wasted the spring of their youth in the prisons of your occupation. Together they founded the organization Combatants for Peace. The name itself exposes the false promises and the policy that says there is no partner for peace. This organization, united in courageousness and and morality, is made up of people from both sides who understand that there is only one shared enemy that conceals the path of realization of peace and life together as two nations. This enemy is the illegal and immoral Israeli occupation. I am a member of this organization, and I call upon all who are searching for a true peace to join us.
We tell our peoples the truth, only the truth. We are committed to nonviolent resistance to the occupation, and I call here, in this very missive, to the people of our Palestinian nation that have been inscribed in the pages of history as the epitome of resilience, that have had the humanity to withstand decades of abuse and occupation with the purest steadfastness. I call also upon the people in Israel to accept moral and historic responsibility for the establishment of these two states together, and for a national, humanistic, peaceful Intifada, a rising up against this unjust occupation that has transformed your children into war criminals and to abject murderers. You Israelis — stop sending your soldiers — your sons — to kill our children, because the blood of our children and the blood of all those Palestinian innocents will chase your soldiers and the generals of your army to judgment in international courts as the rest of the war criminals in the world. You must learn this lesson. The honorable general must surely be aware that the majority of captains and generals in the Israeli army are forbidden from entering any European state for they will be wanted persons there, to be arrested and taken to court as war criminals and for crimes against humanity?
One last word – the blood of Abir will remain as a black crown on the brow of every Israeli and every Jew in the world until her murderer is brought to justice and passes the remainder of his days in jail, among the murderers and the criminals.
-Bassam Aramin is co-founder of Combatants for Peace. Translation by Mimi Asnes.