Sami is a Palestinian Christian and Executive Director of the Holy Land Trust (HLT). I had the good fortune to meet him on a recent trip to Israel-Palestine organised by the HLT’s UK partner the Amos Trust.
The HLT is a Palestinian nonprofit organisation which Sami founded in 1998 in Bethlehem. The Trust works with the Palestinian community at both the grassroots and leadership levels in developing nonviolent approaches that aim to end the Israeli occupation and build a future founded on the principles of nonviolence, equality, justice, and peaceful coexistence.
Along with my fellow Amos Trust friends, we sat beneath the shade of tree in the village of Walajah near Bethlehem where the HLT, along with volunteers from Amos, have been re-building a home deemed illegal by the Israeli authorities and demolished.
Here’s some of what Sami Awad had to say to us. Below you can see a video of Sami speaking on the Globaloneness project website.
On the work at Walajah:
In a way we are trying to implement UN resolution 194 as best we can, one family at a time. We want to take families out of despair. This is about using non-violent resistance to meet basic needs.Human Rights:
This is not about good Palestinians and bad Israelis. This is about standing up for human rightsDialogue with ordinary Israelis:
So many of the opportunities have been lost. We have many physical restrictions on our movement, far more than before the Oslo peace process began. Before we had more contact with Israelis. Now it is difficult for each of us to learn to understand the other. The [Separation] Wall is not only a physical barrier, it is a barrier between minds as well. When I was a child I often visited Jerusalem. The only Jews my 9 year old knows are soldiers and settlers.Remembering Auschwitz:
I have travelled to Auschwitz-Birkenau twice. I have been on retreat there because I wanted to get some sense of what it meant to be in the death camps for the Jewish people. But what shocked me more than the camp itself were the young Israelis who visited the camp and how their group leaders spoke to them. The youth leaders would say to these teenagers, and I saw this time and time again: “Look what happened to us here, look at this tragedy. We must never let this happen to us again. Given the opportunity, the Arabs will do this to us again.” For these kids, about to enter the IDF, Auschwitz was not just their history, it was being presented as their present and their future too. This is about perpetuating a psychological trauma. This is an abuse of the Holocaust.On Hamas:
Yes, Hamas say they want to destroy Israel. But they mean Israel as a political entity – not destroy the Jewish people. The Jewish people can live on the land. The Israelis, the US, and Europe demand a form of words that says: we recognise the right of a Jewish State to exist. It was the same demand made of Yasser Arafat and Fatah in 1993. But Israel will not recognise the right of a truly viable Palestinian state to exist with clear borders. The words have to be part of the negotiations not the up front payment for dialogue.What the future holds:
We are in a pivotal time now. We must develop a non-violent strategy. We must connect with like-minded Israeli organisations. For my generation it has been a political struggle about Palestinian recognition, about two states and so on. For my children’s generation it will be about having equal rights to the Israelis in this land. Without equal rights there will not be any peace or justice. Declaring a Palestinian State in September will make little practical difference to the people living here. A civil resistance movement is what is needed and the Palestinian leadership need to understand this.
Watch Sami Awad on the Globaloneness project speaking on how religion can play its part in peacemaking.