bassamBassam Aramin is a Palestinian peace activist and president of the Al Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue. [1] He was a former Fatah militant imprisoned for seven years for an attack on an Israeli Army jeep.  His 10-year-old daughter, Abir, was killed on January 16, 2007 by an Israeli soldier on her way home from school. However, Aramin did not want revenge; all he asked for was justice.  In an interview, Aramin narrated an encounter with the killer of his daughter, he said “When I met him in the court I said to him, you know, you are the victim, not me and I wish you a long life. I hope your conscience will wake up, and you need to know that you are not a hero.” Aramin further said “I called him victim, he was a teenager and he had no idea why he killed my daughter. And my daughter had no idea why she was shot.” Aramin forgave the killer of his daughter and maintained that “Forgiveness is in the first place for yourself and for your own healing.  It’s a way of life. It is a way to clean your heart and make peace with yourself. It is refusing to be a victim”.

Aramin is an exemplar of a forgiving prisoner; his transformation was borne out of his life experiences from his youth.  He got involved in the Palestinian struggle as a boy in the ancient city of Hebron, and he later joined the Fatah Freedom fighters. [2] He noted that at the age of 12, he was involved in a demonstration in which a boy was shot by an Israeli soldier; he watched as the boy died in front of him.  After that experience, he developed hatred and campaigned for revenge against the Israelis. This was his motivation for joining the Fatah freedom fighters, referred to as a terrorist group.   The modes of attack by Aramin’s group were throwing stones, empty bottles and hand grenades at Israeli jeeps.  However, in 1985, he was arrested and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment at the young age of 17.   Aramin noted that while they were in prison, they were stripped naked and beaten until they could hardly work.  He further said,What struck me was that all the soldiers wore smiles on their face. They were beating us without hatred, because for them this was just a training exercise and they saw us as objects”. [3]

Aramin added that while the beating was going on “I remembered a movie I’d seen a year before about the Holocaust. I found myself crying and feeling angry that the Jews who were being herded into gas chambers without fighting back. I tried to hide my tears from the other prisoners: they wouldn’t have understood why I was crying about the pain of my oppressors. It was the first time I felt empathy.”  Aramin was released from prison after 7 years through the “Oslo Agreement”. [4] He said, “When I was released in 1992 an atmosphere of hope had already become evident. I got married and my children were born. I always dream about a better life for my children. I want to protect them and explain everything to them, so that they don’t grow up like me, not knowing anything about peace”.

Tragically, in January 2007, Israeli soldiers shot and killed Abir Aramin, the 10-year-old daughter of Aramin. [5] It was a very sad moment for Aramin’s family,  but Aramin maintained that he was not going to exploit the blood of his child for political purposes. This was a human outcry. He said, “I’m not going to lose my common sense, my direction, only because I’ve lost my heart, my child. I will continue to fight in order to protect her siblings and her classmates, her girlfriends, both Palestinians and Israelis. They are all our children.” [6] Aramin co-founded the Combatants for Peace movement with Elik Elhanan, an Israeli. Both men had played active roles in the cycle of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, but decided to put down their arms and work together to promote a peaceful solution through dialogue and non-violent action. “[7] Elik Elhanan also lost his 14-year-old sister, Smadar Elhanan; she was killed in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in September 1997.  Aramin, Elik and Elik’s father, Rami Elhanan are also associated with Bereaved Families’ Circle, an association of families of Palestinians killed in Israeli military operations with those of Israeli victims of Palestinian militant attacks, including suicide bombings. [8]   The losses suffered by the Aramins and the Elhanans strengthen their motivation to continue to work for the non-violent settlement of the conflict between Isrealis and Palestinians.  Combatants for Peace received the Search for Common Grounds (SfCG) award in 2007 and the Courage of Conscience Award from the Peace Abbey in 2009. [9] Bassam Aramin is indeed an exemplar of a forgiving prisoner.

[1[ “Justice Eludes Activist, Father of Palestinian Child Killed by IDF | +972 Magazine,” accessed December 21, 2013, http://972mag.com/justice-eludes-palestinian-peace-activist-father-of-girl-killed-by-idf/24984/.

[2] “Personal Stories « Combatants For Peace,” accessed December 20, 2013, http://cfpeace.org/?cat=6&story_id=667.

[3] “Bassam Aramin (Palestine) – Forgiveness Project,” accessed December 21, 2013, http://theforgivenessproject.com/stories/bassam-aramin-palestine/.

[4] “Justice Eludes Activist, Father of Palestinian Child Killed by IDF | +972 Magazine,” accessed December 20, 2013, http://972mag.com/justice-eludes-palestinian-peace-activist-father-of-girl-killed-by-idf/24984/.

[5] “Personal Stories « Combatants For Peace.” accessed December 20, 2013, http://cfpeace.org/?cat=6&story_id=667

[6] “Bassam Aramin Mourns: ‘I’ve Lost My Heart, My Child’ Tikun-Olam Tikun Olam-תיקון עולם,” accessed December 21, 2013, http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2007/01/27/bassam-aramin-mourns-ive-lost-my-heart-my-child/.

[7] “‘Why Are Men so Angry That They Kill Children to Get What They Want?’ | Life and Style | The Guardian,” accessed December 20, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/aug/03/men-kill-children-middle-east-israel-palestine .

[8] “United by Loss, Israeli & Palestinian Dads Call for a Joint Nonviolent Intifada Against Occupation | Democracy Now!,” accessed December 20, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/2/26/united_by_loss_israeli_palestinian_dads.

[9] “Combatants for Peace – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia,” accessed December 21, 2013, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combatants_for_Peace.