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[BTvS - Chicago] Combatants for Peace: Hyde Park, Evanston, Lincoln Park, Burbank

See article about Combatants in January 23 NY Times below.*

Speakers: Sulaiman Al Hamri and Elik Elhanan, former combatants,
and the Palestinian and Israeli coordinators for Combatants for

University of Chicago
Location: Tea Room on the 2nd floor of the Social Sciences
Building (1126 E. 59th St)
Sponsor: Brit Tzedek V'Shalom: The Jewish Alliance for Justice
and Peace
Co-sponsors: The University of Chicago Human Rights Program, The
Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago,
The Center for International Studies at the University of
Chicago, Rockefeller Chapel, and The American Task Force on
Palestine. For more information, contact Gabriel Gaster at
gabrielitodecastero@gmail.com or call (312) 341-1205

At Beth Emet, 1224 Dempster, Evanston (corner of Dempster and
Sponsored by Chicago Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Co-sponsored by Beth Emet the Free Synagogue, Jewish
Reconstructionist Congregation (Evanston), Congregation Hakafa
(Glencoe), Lakeside Congregation (Highland Park) and North Shore
Coalition for Peace and Justice. For more information or to
volunteer to help, please contact Aliza@btvshalom.org or

FRIDAY, JANUARY 26, 1:15pm
DePaul University
Location: Student Center 220, 2250 N. Sheffield
Sponsored by: Chicago Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Co-sponsored by: DePaul University Peace, Conflict Resolution,
and Social Justice Studies and The American Task Force on
Palestine. For more information, contact Dr. Frida Kerner Furman
at ffurman@depaul.edu or call (773) 325-4275

At Beit Iksa Association Center (lower level), 6000 W. 79th
Street, Burbank, IL
Sponsored by: Chicago Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Co-sponsored by Palestinian American Women's Society, Beit Iksa
Association, Lifta Association, Mosque Foundation Bridgeview,
and National Arab American Journalists Association (NAAJA). For
more information contact Saffiya Shillo at smshillo@yahoo.com or
(312) 341-1205.

About the Speakers:

Elik Elhanan is the Israeli coordinator of Combatants for Peace.
From 1995 to 1998 he served as a soldier in an IDF combat unit.
In 1997, his sister was killed by a Palestinian suicide bombing
in Jerusalem. "I have seen the damage the violence can cause,"
he says, "and I decided not to take part in that cycle anymore."

Sulaiman Al Hamri is the Palestinian coordinator for Combatants
for Peace. He spent four and a half years in Israeli prisons for
his involvement in anti-occupation protests and demonstrations,
before deciding to pursue a non-violent approach to resolving
the conflict.

The "COMBATANTS FOR PEACE" movement was started by Palestinians
and Israelis who had taken part in the cycle of violence between
the two peoples. After brandishing weapons for so many years,
these former combatants decided to put down their guns and
instead fight for peace. For more information see
www.combatantsforpeace.org , Also, a very interesting/informative
8 minute video depicting the initial meeting of CFP on youtube
can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7slqdEB9Op


Father of Dead West Bank Girl Seeks Peace With Israelis
Published: January 23, 2007

ANATA, West Bank, Jan. 22 -- Even as Bassam Aramin mourns his
10-year-old daughter, killed last week during a clash between
stone-throwing Palestinian youths and the Israeli police, he
says he wants to talk to Israelis about making peace.

It has been a long journey for Mr. Aramin, 38, a former
Palestinian fighter. He spent seven years in Israeli jails, from
1986 to 1993, for weapons possession and for belonging to the
Fatah movement, which was banned at the time.

But his views gradually changed, and for the past two years he
has been an active member of Combatants for Peace, a group of
former Palestinian militants and former Israeli soldiers who
have teamed up to urge reconciliation to both sides.

With his Israeli partner, Zohar Shapira, a former member of an
elite commando unit, Mr. Aramin has been speaking to students
and community groups in Israel and the West Bank.

"Over time I became convinced that we couldn't solve our problem
with weapons and we had to talk to the other side," said Mr.
Aramin, who lives in Anata, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. "I
want to keep talking to Israelis so they can understand what
happened to my daughter."

His daughter, Abir, was in an upbeat mood last Tuesday after
completing a math exam at the Anata Girls School. She walked out
the front gate and crossed the dusty street, where she bought a
small gift for her mother, Salwa, who had helped her study.

As Abir emerged from the store, a clash was erupting between
stone-throwing Palestinian youths and the Israeli border police.
A moment later Abir was hit in the back of the head, a blow that
threw her headlong into the street, according to her sister,
Areen, 12, who was with her. After three days in Hadassah
University Hospital in Jerusalem, Abir died without ever
regaining consciousness.

Israel's separation barrier, a towering concrete wall here, is
just a few yards from the adjacent boys' and girls' schools, and
the area was the scene of frequent confrontations during its
construction. But work on the wall was finished several months
ago, and the area was calm until the border police began
patrolling neighborhoods on the West Bank side of the wall in
recent days. Youths threw stones at the Israeli jeeps on several
residents said.

Areen and other Palestinian witnesses say they have no doubt
that Abir was hit by Israeli fire. Michael Sfard, a prominent
Israeli lawyer representing the Aramin family, said he had
received a rubber-coated steel bullet that witnesses said they
had found at the scene, which he presented to the Israeli

A preliminary report of the autopsy conducted by an Israeli
government pathologist and one appointed by the Aramin family
found that Abir's head wounds were consistent with the impact of
a rubber-coated bullet, though other possibilities could not be
ruled out, Mr. Sfard said.

But the Israeli police say the autopsy did rule out the
possibility of a rubber-coated bullet. The police say an
investigation has found that police officers fired tear gas but
has not confirmed the use of such bullets. A police official,
speaking on condition of anonymity because the inquiry is
continuing, said the police suspected that Abir might have been
hit by a rock that one of the Palestinians had thrown toward the

The Aramin family adamantly rejects the police theory and is
quick to note the strong support they have received from
Israelis, particularly those from Mr. Aramin's group.

"They were at the hospital with me the entire time," said Mr.
Aramin, who works at the Palestinian National Archives in
Ramallah. "I received phone calls from tens of Israelis
expressing their sympathy for my family and condemning the
killing of my daughter."

In a conflict so long and bitter, killings more often prompt
calls for revenge rather than understanding. Mr. Aramin said his
own outlook had changed slowly, over many years.

Like many Palestinian prisoners, he learned to speak Hebrew
while in jail and began conversing with prison guards and
watching Israeli television. The peace negotiations of the 1990s
gave him hope, and despite the chronic fighting of the last
several years, his work with Combatants for Peace has helped
sustain him, he said.

The group has about 300 members, with about half from each side,
according to Avichay Sharon, 25, an Israeli who was one of the
founders and who spent time at the hospital alongside Mr.

"When I heard what happened I rushed to the hospital," Mr.
Sharon said. "All of us took it upon ourselves to do what we
could. Bassam knows there are a lot of people who love him and
care about him."

The Israeli members of Combatants for Peace have already served
their mandatory military service, though they may be called up
for reserve duty that can last for several weeks each year. As
an infantry soldier, Mr. Sharon fought in the West Bank and the
Gaza Strip from 2000 to 2003. He decided he would not do it
again as a reservist.

"I wouldn't point to any one incident," said Mr. Sharon, now a
student at Hebrew University in philosophy and Jewish studies.
"It was an accumulation of events that opened my eyes."

As a reservist he works in logistics and does not expect to be
sent into Palestinian areas. But other members of Combatants for
Peace have refused such orders, and served jail time as a

The group has held dozens of meetings in recent months, but
finding an audience remains a challenge.

"I wouldn't say it's simple," Mr. Sharon said. "Many Israelis
don't want a dialogue with someone they think is a terrorist.
Palestinians don't want to speak to people they see as

Israeli members wanted to pay condolences in Anata, where Mr.
Aramin lives with his wife and their five surviving children.
But the Aramin family advised against it, fearing that angry
neighbors might insult a visiting Israeli, or worse.

Mr. Aramin said he would soon be back at work with his Israeli

"I want my daughter to be the last victim," he said. "There are
partners on the other side who believe what I believe."

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