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January 24, 2008

Combatants For Peace

Combatants For Peace

Bassam Aramin is a Palestinian who grew up in the West Bank. By the time he was 13, he was throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. When he was 17, he was jailed for seven years for planning an attack on them.

Even though he was filled with hate, his life was transformed after learning about the Holocaust while in jail and talking with his guards. He came out of prison convinced that violence was not the answer.

Yonatan Shapira was proud to become an elite pilot in the Israeli Air Force. But after Israel approved the killing of civilians while targeting Palestinian militants, he began to question what he was doing. He finally went public in 2003 along with 26 other pilots, declaring the policy morally wrong and refusing to fly missions in the occupied territories.

In early 2005, Yonatan and Bassam began meeting secretly along with a handful of other fighters from both sides in an effort to find a better way. The organization became known as Combatants for Peace.

Less than a year after they held a press conference announcing their goals, Bassam's 10 year old daughter Abir was killed, he believes, by Israeli soldiers. But instead of hate, Bassam pledged continued non-violence while demanding justice for the death of his daughter.

Yonatan and Bassam talk with Dick Gordon about their stories and Combatants for Peace.

Listener Follow Up - Martin Luther King Day

Vic Comello heard Dick's interview with Gurdon Brewster on January 21. Gurdon, a white northerner, recalled spending the summer of 1961 with Dr. Martin Luther King's family as a preacher-in-training. Vic wrote to The Story with his own recollection of the civil rights era. In 1962, Vic was took a train to visit a friend in Clemson, SC. On the trip down, he inadvertently became something of a Freedom Rider through small gestures of politeness that would have been ok in Chicago, but not in the segregated South.

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