I’ve written two posts about the heartbreaking death (or was it murder or negligent homicide?) of 11 year old Abir Aramin, a Palestinian schoolgirl shot dead by Israeli Border Police recently. But Gideon Levy has published a full profile of Bassam Aramin, her father and co-founder of Combatants for Peace (or as Haaretz more aptly translates, “Fighters for Peace”). In the profile, Levy offers Aramin’s own account of his daughter’s death in the fullest statement I’ve read anywhere in the media.
I’m choosing to quote a large portion of the concluding section because it is so poignant, so tragic and so damn powerful. Read it and weep, as they say. It begins below with Aramin recounting his release from an Israeli prison in which he had been held for his activities as a young Palestinian militant:
“When I was released in 1992 an atmosphere of hope had already become evident. I got married and started to have children. I would always dream about them, that they wouldn’t live the bad life my generation lived. I wanted to protect them. To explain everything to them so that they wouldn’t grow up like me, not knowing anything. That they would know what Palestinians are and what Israelis are … that they would fight against the occupation and help develop a good economy, that they would play, create and study like all the children. All the children want to be doctors; actually Abir wanted to be an engineer. That’s the way I wanted to raise my children.
“I found myself in Fighters for Peace and after the first meeting we knew that we were going to be together for a long time, and that we had a great responsibility to fight for life, for freedom, to explain the value of human life, because we are the instruments of war on both sides. To explain to the Israelis who don’t know what occupation is that their sons are becoming cruel murderers who think that they are protecting security and are doing the opposite, endangering security.
“Once a female student approached me after a lecture in Hatzor Haglilit – I was told that it was a very difficult place that had been the target of many Katyushas – and she said to me: You’re the first Palestinian I’ve met. She embraced me and said to me: ‘Now I’ve made peace with the Palestinians. I will no longer believe the news, or the government, or all the lies. I’ve simply understood.’ That greatly encouraged me, because here there was someone on the other side who understood and accepted you.”
“Last Tuesday I was still sleeping when Abir went to school. She had a math test. At 9:30 I went off toward Ramallah to work. Abir had told me a day before that she wanted to go to a girlfriend’s house to study, and I said to her: Oh no, you won’t. I’ll help you study.
“I was riding in a taxi, looking out for my daughters who were coming out of school. On the left I saw a Border Police jeep. I looked at them and thought: Why are they coming now? To abuse our children? Inshallah, nothing will happen. My daughters will only inhale gas. When I arrived at the Al-Ram intersection a teacher from the school called me and told me that Abir had fallen, and asked that her mother come to school to pick her up. I called home to tell her mother, and Arin, my older daughter, who is 12, was crying. I didn’t understand a thing. A neighbor took the phone and told me: The soldiers fired at your daughter’s head and she’s been wounded.
“I called the school and they told me they had taken her to Makassed Hospital [in East Jerusalem]. I immediately drove to Makassed, on the way I saw the Border Police jeep next to the local council building, but I thought that there was no time for speeches now. When I arrived at Makassed they told me that her condition was very critical. They told me she needed an operation. I was afraid and I told them that she had an Israeli ID and I wanted to take her to Hadassah Hospital. In order [to] speed things up I contacted the Peres Center for Peace, whose staff really helped me and sent a Magen David Adom ambulance and took her to Hadassah. There they decided that no operation was necessary. Thank God, I said to myself.
“At 7 P.M. her condition deteriorated; suddenly she needed an operation. We have to hope for a miracle, the doctors told me. I understood that my daughter needed a miracle and there are no miracles these days. I told myself that I didn’t want to take revenge. The revenge is that this ‘hero,’ whom my daughter endangered and shot at, be put on trial. Afterward she was officially declared dead.
“From what I was told I understood that the children threw stones and the Border Police threw a grenade at Abir’s head, from behind, from a distance of four meters. At first they said she had been wounded by a stone. I’m familiar with that game, but I didn’t believe that they would sink to such a despicable level – sorry for using that word – when they said on Channel 2 that Abir had been playing with something that exploded on her head. Her fingers were whole and her head exploded? They’re contemptible, I said. Liars. They send a boy of 18 with an M16 and tell him that our children are his enemies, and he knows that nobody will stand trial and therefore he shoots in cold blood and turns into a murderer.
“I’m not going to exploit the blood of my child for political purposes. This is a human outcry. I’m not going to lose my common sense, my direction, only because I’ve lost my heart, my child. I will continue to fight in order to protect her siblings and her classmates, her girlfriends, both Palestinians and Israelis. They are all our children.”
Combatants for Peace leaders (though not Bassam) will speak here in Seattle in early February:
Thursday, February 8th, 7 pm, Seattle University, Schafer Auditorium, Lemieux Library, (Columbia & Broadway)
Friday, February 9th, 8:00 am, Temple De Hirsch Sinai, 1511 East Pike
If you live here, attend and help Abir’s death have some meaning beyond the pointless tragedy that it is.