Last Tuesday's JustSpace (our weekly meeting about peace and justice at Desmond Tutu House) was one of those memorable evenings that affected everyone who came. Willimjn, a Dutch peace studies student, had encouraged us to invite a fellow MA student, Bassam, to speak to us. In Israel he has been involved in both 'Combatants for Peace', and 'The Parents Circle'.
'Combatants for Peace' is a remarkable organisation which consists of former soldiers from both sides of the long running conflict. Former Israeli soldiers who join this group are often labelled 'traitors', but they are some of the bravest people I have ever come across. They have witnessed first hand the horrors of this conflict and have turned their hands to peaceful solutions. Bassam had fought the Israelis and had spent many years in a prison for his efforts.
But it was the story of the 'Parents Circle' that moved us all. Bassam told the story of his daughter Abir. In 2007, his daughter was coming home from school. She was shot in the back of the head and killed. Abir was only 10 years old, and was not involved in any demonstrations or protest. She was killed, and the Israeli soldier who did it has never been prosecuted.
"What good would it be to kill the man who did this?" Says Bassam. "What good does it do to kill his child, and bring more suffering?" He refuses to be part of a violent response to this cruelty. He simply wants justice for his daughter.
His bereavement brought him into contact with the 'Parents Circle'; Jewish and Muslim parents of those who have died during the fighting. They have become a strong source of strength and hope for one another. I asked him how he felt about the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He said "I am not pro-Palestinian, I am not pro-Israeli - I am pro-peace."
Despite his loss, his committent not to return evil for evil and to do all he can for peace, is a message the world desperately needs to hear.