Published by malloryh under Israel, Palestine, Palestinians, citizen diplomacy, narrative, peace process
By Mallory Huggins
A few weeks ago, The Jewish Voice & Herald (which serves New England and Southeastern Massachusetts) spolighted our own Aziz Abu Sarah’s work as an activist in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The article, titled “Palestinian activist: From angry young man to a proponent of peace,” discusses Aziz’s very personal connection to the conflict and how he came to be such a vocal supporter of peace. At an event that was part of a speaking tour entitled “Two Peoples, Two Stories: Finding the Turning Point for Israeli-Palestinian Peace,” Scott Cooper, managing director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution (CRDC), and Aziz spoke about the goals of CRDC and how Aziz came to choose a career as a peacemaker:
Abu Sarah’s qualifications are his life experiences, explained Cooper. When he was 10-years-old, Abu Sarah’s brother was arrested by Israeli police (he was suspected of throwing rocks) and beaten so severely, Abu Sarah said, that he died soon after being released from custody. This left Abu Sarah, the younger of the boys, consumed by anger, by bitterness, by a lot of grief. Following the event, Abu Sarah refused to study in his Hebrew classes. Outside of school, he became the editor of an anti-Israel newsletter.
“Things were getting worse and worse,” Abu Sarah said, “getting me more and more angry.”
After high school, however, career considerations caused Abu Sarah to re-examine his language boycott. Ultimately, he enrolled in a Hebrew-language course in Jerusalem – a class that changed his life, he said.
“I was the only Palestinian in my class; it was mainly Jewish newcomers,” he said. “That was a life-changing experience because, growing up, the only people I met from the other side were the soldiers or the settlers.”
It was different in the classroom, Abu Sarah said. No politics, just people speaking and sharing their lives. There, he realized how a gun – and the absence of one – affects a conversation.
At George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Aziz has been able to put that realization to good use, serving as the Director of Middle East Projects and, of course, as a writer for marcgopin.com.