People Choosing Peace: Sulaiman al-Khatib (Palestine)

My name is Sulaiman Khatib. I was born and raised in the village of Hizme, northeast of Jerusalem; I now live in Ramallah, Palestine.

Growing up, my family was badly impacted by the ongoing conflict; there was so much suffering all around me. I was determined to make a difference, but there was no peaceful way to do this; the only option was to join the violent struggle – so I did.

In 1986, when I was just 14 years old, I informally joined the “Fatah” movement. I threw stones at soldiers, wrote graffiti on public buildings, prepared Molotov Cocktails and more. At the age of 14, a friend and I decided to steal weapons from Israeli soldiers. In our attempt to grab their guns, we stabbed the soldiers. I was lost in anger and revenge; and I didn’t see the soldiers as human beings. The soldiers were wounded, but thankfully, no one was killed. We were arrested and sentenced to 18 and 15 years in jail, respectively. During this time two of my brothers were also arrested and imprisoned; my mother’s heart broke.

In prison I participated in learning groups; I began to have new thoughts about the conflict and the means for resolving it. In an attempt to learn about the “enemy,” I studied the history of the Jewish people and taught myself both Hebrew and English. It was then that I realized there are multiple narratives to the conflict – for both our peoples.

One day I had the opportunity to watch Schindler’s List. I was deeply moved, and it changed my life forever. I realized that these “enemies” were actually human beings who were suffering profoundly. I reconstructed my worldview.

I realized for the first time that I had mistaken the enemy. I had thought it was the Israeli people, but I was wrong. Instead, we had a common enemy: hatred and fear. I knew that if we could somehow unite against these common foes, then together we could end this conflict.

In 1997, after 10 years and 5 months in jail, I was freed on account of good behavior. I joined with some friends, and we established the Abu Sukar Centre for Peace (later Alquds Centre for Democracy and Dialogue). A few years later, I helped to found Combatants for Peace. It is the combatants who fought in this war who must take responsibility for our part in perpetuating the violence. We are the ones with the power to end it. The change starts within us. There is no hero who will save us; it is ordinary people, it is you and me – together – who will end this war.

Together, we can bring peace, freedom and secure human rights for all.

- Text and Image Courtesy of Combatants for Peace

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