– I was brainwashed for 47 years

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They look like two good, old friends, standing outside the Nobel Peace Center. Palestinian Bassam Aramin takes a smoke in the cold winter air, while chatting and laughing with Israeli Rami Elhanan.

The two could well have been bitter enemies. Israeli Rami Elhanan is a seventh-generation Jew from Jerusalem, and fought as a soldier in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. In 1997, his daughter, Smadar (14), was killed by Hamas in a suicide attack, when she was out in Jerusalem to buy a book.

– The following year I reluctantly met a parent group that consisted of Israelis and Palestinians. The meeting changed my life, says Rami Elhanan to Dagbladet.

TWO KILLED DAUGHTERS: Here are pictures of the killed daughters of Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan: Abir was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier when she was ten years old, while Smadar (th) was killed by a suicide bomber when she was 14 years old. Photo: Nina Hansen / Dagbladet
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– Know your enemy

Palestinian Bassam Aramin grew up in Hebron in the West Bank. Already as a 17-year-old, he was arrested – and spent seven years in Israeli captivity. He hated the Israeli occupying power.

In 2007, his ten-year-old daughter Abir was shot and killed on her way home from school by Israeli border police. The alleged perpetrator was never punished.

– In prison I heard about the holocaust and was supposed to see a film where Jews were tortured. But I started to cry when I saw the film, and started to study the holocaust and history, to know my enemy, says Aramin.

STOP THE OCCUPATION: One people cannot control another. As long as Israel continues to “humiliate and dominate the Palestinians, the conflict will kill even more people,” says Bassam Aramin. Photo: Nina Hansen / Dagbladet
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But seeing the Jews suffer was surprisingly painful for Aramin.

– I realized that this is not a conflict between me and the Israeli state, but against the Israeli occupation, the humiliation and degradation of our people, says Aramin.

He eventually joined the organization Parents Circle, where Palestinian and Israeli parents who have lost their children in the conflict work together for peace.

FRIENDS FOR PEACE: Rami Alhanan and Bassam Aramin travel the world in the hope of achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This week they are in Oslo. Photo: Nina Hansen / Dagbladet

FRIENDS FOR PEACE: Rami Alhanan and Bassam Aramin travel the world in the hope of achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This week they are in Oslo. Photo: Nina Hansen / Dagbladet
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Spielberg movie

In the Israeli-Palestinian parent group, Elhanan and Aramin eventually become close friends, who have since then together fought for peace. A book has also been written about the two, “Apeirogon”, which has been translated into 17 languages ​​and is a New York Times bestseller.

– We refer to and see each other as brothers, says Elhanan.

The story of the two is so special that American star director Steven Spielberg has bought the rights to make a film about their story.

– Until our daughter, Smadar, was killed, we lived in a bubble, disconnected from the reality that Israel’s brutal occupation inflicted on the Palestinians. It doesn’t help that we keep killing each other. We have to talk together, says Elhanan.

He is a trained graphic designer, and managed a company of 16 in Jerusalem. But the murder of the daughter meant that “the magic of the work disappeared”. Since then, he has worked to bring about a peaceful solution between Israel and Palestine.

– I was brainwashed just like all other Israelis. But I am ashamed that I was 47 years old before I realized for the first time that Palestinians were normal people, like me. With the same pain, anger – and the color of the blood, says Elhanan.

– Witch hunt

For 25 years, the two have “went from high school to high school. From interview to workshop’ to tell Israelis and Palestinians that they are equal people who must live together in peace.

But the 7 October attack and the ongoing war in Gaza have brought the work they have been doing for over 20 years “back to square one”.

– After October 7, my wife wrote a message on a WhatsApp group to her colleagues at the Hebrew University, referring to a quote by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre that you cannot put two million people in a box, because then to close the lid. She was suspended and eventually quit her job, says Elhanan and continues:

– There is a witch hunt in Israel now. But today’s traitors become tomorrow’s heroes. We cannot give up, says Elhanan, before looking at his good friend Bassam Aramin and referring to him as “my hero”.

West Bank: – Everyone is holding their breath

– Don’t pick a side

The two friends have lost their daughters. A grief they “carry with them and which wears on them every single day. Every minute. Every second”.

– This is not a football match where you cheer for one and oppose the other. We always say: Don’t be pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. Be for peace and against injustice, says Elhanan.

– What is happening today is an inhuman bloodbath. It is humiliation and occupation. Injustice in its worst form, says Aramin.

Elhanan points out that the Hamas fighters who attacked southern Israel – and killed several of his friends on October 7 last year – did not do so without reason.

– The Hamas killers were 10 to 12-year-old boys in 2014, during the previous, great Gaza war. What then in ten years, when all the young Palestinians experiencing the war are now the same age? He asks, before his friend Aramin takes over:

– As long as Israel occupies Palestinian land and people, the conflict will continue. Now we just have to hope that someone emerges from the ongoing carnage. Genocide, he says.

On Friday, shortly after 1 p.m., the decision of the International Court of Human Rights in The Hague (ICJ) on Israel’s warfare against the Palestinians in Gaza was handed down.
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Must have respect

Elhanan and Aramin are strong in their faith, even if right now it looks bleak: In Israel, it is the hatred and revenge against the Palestinians that tops the news. In Gaza, desperation and the number of dead and injured are increasing.

– Fortunately, I know that after the night comes the morning – and the light. I know, believe me, says Elhanan.

Every single day they work to open people’s eyes. For people to understand that no human being is worth more than others. This month, the book about the two was also translated into Hebrew. Last week, the book was launched in Israel.

– I am pleasantly surprised by the many positive feedbacks that I also received in connection with the launch. It gives hope, says Elhanan.

TRANSLATED INTO HEBREW: Last week, the book about Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan was launched in Hebrew. - The reception gives me hope for peace, says Elhanan. Photo: Private

TRANSLATED INTO HEBREW: Last week, the book about Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan was launched in Hebrew. – The reception gives me hope for peace, says Elhanan. Photo: Private
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But before there is peace between Israelis and Palestinians, there is one thing that needs to happen, Aramin and Elhanan agree:

– We can have one or two states. We can have a thousand states, but that’s a technical thing that can be easily solved. This is basically about respect. You must respect the person by your side as you want them to respect you. When that is done, we will have peace, says Elhanan.

STOP THE HUMILIATION: As long as the Israeli army continues to occupy Palestinian territories and humiliate Palestinians, the conflict will continue, is the clear message from Israeli Rami Elhanan. Photo: Nina Hansen / Dagbladet

STOP THE HUMILIATION: As long as the Israeli army continues to occupy Palestinian territories and humiliate Palestinians, the conflict will continue, is the clear message from Israeli Rami Elhanan. Photo: Nina Hansen / Dagbladet
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The article is in Norwegian

Tags: brainwashed years

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