There are no words to describe the horror Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish went through. In January 2009, during the tail end of the Gaza War, an Israeli tank attacked his home, killing his three daughters. He would never hear the laughter of Bessan, 21, Mayar, 15, and Aya, 13, ever again.
The cyclical nature of violence, death, anger, and retaliation is something residents of the Gaza Strip have endured for many decades. There are others who suffer as Dr. Abuelaish did, trapped in the coastal territory by the will of global actors playing with their fates.
But Dr. Abuelaish is different. He focuses his energies on nonviolence, so much so he won the respect of the international community several times over and established the Daughters for Life Foundation.
Nonviolence also happens to be the tactic OneVoice Palestine (OVP) preaches on a daily basis, which is why the doctor paid OVP-Gaza a visit on August 13 in coordination with the Adam Center in Gaza City.
During the meeting, Dr. Abuelaish focused on the lessons found in his book, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey. He spoke about the power of refusing – however difficult and unpopular – to hate one’s enemy, as well as the need for mutual understanding, and eventually coexistence after ending the occupation.
“Don’t let hate and anger kill you from the inside and make you lose your humanity,” Dr. Abuelaish told the nearly 40 people in attendance.
Some of the participants grappled with their own hardships living in Gaza and with what Dr. Abuelaish was saying. In this unequal conflict, they found it hard to imagine any positivity coming from the relationship between the oppressor, Israel, and the oppressed, themselves.
Dr. Abuelaish understood this feeling, but told the participants that the burning anger Palestinians have must be used constructively and peacefully, or else they’ve already lost.
“Your oppressor wants to see you angry and violent,” the doctor said, “so he can have a clear conscience and justification for his crimes. Through creative, nonviolent protest, we can have a great and positive influence on the society of the oppressor.”
That is: a partner, working in parallel, for peace.
There were a number of Palestinians present who felt inspired by Dr. Abuelaish's story and embraced his call for nonviolent resistance.
“It’s very important that the youth in Gaza read and understand this new line of thinking,” said Omar Mansour.
OVP-Gaza Director Ezzeldeen Masri agreed.
“Nonviolent resistance allows all segments of our people to participate effectively in the march toward liberation and independence,” Masri said.
It’s people like those at OVP, coupled with the memory of his daughters and what could have been, that keep the doctor going and his hope alive for a Palestinian state.
“Every Palestinian needs to be engaged in the struggle toward independence,” Dr. Abuelaish told the group before he parted. “Palestinians need to ask themselves, what is my role in the national struggle to end the occupation?”
We certainly know and welcome Dr. Abuelaish's role.
To learn more about the Daughters for Life Foundation, click here.