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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace


Group calls for Middle East peace
Forum seeks to unite Israeli, Palestinian leaders in ending conflict, loss of life
By Yvonne Lim (Daily Texan Staff)
October 22, 2002

A Hebrew proverb says, "Opinions founded on prejudice are always sustained with the greatest violence."

The Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Families' Forum for Peace visited Austin and the UT campus Monday to combat prejudice and to testify to the urgent need for peace in the Middle East.

The Bereaved Families' Forum is a part of the Parents Circle founded in 1994 by Yitzhak Frankenthal, an Israeli man whose son was killed by Hamas terrorists. The group is composed of about 200 Israelis and 40 Palestinians. An additional 150 Palestinian members from Gaza can no longer participate with the group due to the military blockade.

Mashka Litvak, a forum speaker and a member of the Parents Circle, spoke about the loss of her father before she was born and later the loss of her brother, both killed while on duty in the Israel Defense Forces. She said her brother's death caused her to look toward peace as an end to the tragedies.

Litvak said she hopes that Israeli and Palestinian leaders can take a cue from their organization's efforts.

"I'm not that political," Litvak said. "But I must say that if we can sit at the same table, maybe our leaders of our two nations can sit at the table and talk about this together."

Khaled Al-Kharouf, another forum speaker and Parents Circle member, lost his 20-year-old brother in the Six-Day War, as well as 13 extended family members. Through a translator, Al-Kharouf said that the conflict is an unbalanced one. He said Palestinians have not only lost people, but also their land and means of survival.

"The misconception is that it's a struggle between two armies," Al-Kharouf said. "The Israeli army owns the Apaches, the F-16s, the tanks, and the Palestinians are fighting with rifles and stones."

Both Al-Kharouf and Litvak say the loss of human life is the reason why peace is necessary.

"There is a river of blood between two nations," Litvak said. "We must stop this."

Litvak sees their work for peace as an act of patriotism. "I do these things because I'm an Israeli patriot. And also Kahled is a Palestinian patriot," Latvik said. "We want to live together like neighbors."

Al-Kharouf said he was surprised by the positive response from the American audience thus far.

"We weren't expecting such a good response from the people because there's always a cover up of the story, and the media does not give the whole story," Al-Kharouf said. "The media does not hear the peoples' story - it's always about politics."

The forum is touring 14 cities in the United States. Another project the Parents Circle is organizing is the "Hello, Salaam! Hello, Shalom!" (respectively, the Arabic and Hebrew words for peace) project which began as a wrong-number call from a Palestinian to an Israeli Jew. The call resulted in a 30-minute discussion and personal connection. The project has since had over 20,000 calls in which a Palestinian and an Israeli Jew are connected to one another for a one-on-one telephone conversation.

Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan attended the forum and said the human aspect is essential to understanding the conflict.

"When you see the human side, you stop arguing about the politics, and you just begin to be concerned about saving lives and creating a peaceful atmosphere for the next generation," Danan said.

Siham, an undeclared sophomore who did not wish to use her last name, complained that the the Palestinian perspective is underrepresented in the media and found the forum helpful in providing a voice from the people.

"The government is heard, but the people are not," Siham said.

While peace may seem elusive, some find the resolve to work even harder to obtain it.

"My religion commands me to be hopeful," Danan said. "From an objective point of view, things look grim, but that makes me feel all the more that we have to do whatever we can."

Litvak also hopes that her message will help open minds to peace.

"Maybe we change opinion and open opinion - a new opinion from the people we meet," Litvak said. "I don't know."

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