So after sitting outside and eating a great lunch with far too much food being served, (the first restaurant I have been to in the West Bank) we were introduced to Eid and Feraz, two former prisoners in Israeli jails. We knew nothing about either of them and neither spoke much/any English, so Ahmed translated for us.
Eid spent 6 years in prison during the first intifada. He was given a life sentence but as a part of the Oslo agreement he was released early. When we asked why he was arrested and got a life sentence, he told us that it was because he was very involved in the first intifada. As we dug deeper because this didn’t make sense, we learned that the reason he got a life sentence and was in prison was because he murdered an Israeli spy. Again, there was no remorse about the murder. He was angry that Israel had leveled his home as part of his conviction and his family had consequences because of his actions. He was angry that they are prohibited from rebuilding on that land. The freedom fighter troupe returned as justification. He gave us some insight into what prison was like in the late 80’s and early 90’s but there was no insight, no remorse, and no change. From what I heard from my Palestinian hosts at dinner the last two nights, I was expecting to learn that he had a high-level position with the PA.
Then it was Feraz’s turn to share his story with us. Feraz was recently released from prison after serving 14 years and 2 months (he was very specific). He told us that he was a part of the Al Aqsa Brigade and was arrested for being a ‘freedom fighter’. The reason he got such a long sentence was because of how involved he was with the Al Aqsa Brigade and because Israel classified him as a member of a terrorist military organization. He considered himself a soldier, not a criminal. Further conversation allowed us to understand that he was part of the group that was firing on Israeli soldiers when there were skirmishes in Jericho and that’s why he was arrested.
Eid, Feraz, and Ahmed all consider themselves political prisoners. There was no responsibility for their actions. No remorse. Neither Eid nor Ferez had any change in attitude or belief about what they had done or about Israel or Jews. While I’m glad that I had the interaction with them to gain a better understanding of the complex groups of Palestinians and their varying beliefs, I hope that I never see Eid or Feraz again. Once again, this is the Jewish fear. This is the reason we don’t have peace. And these won’t be the peacemakers but they could be the peacebreakers.
So, after lunch, a member of Hamas, a murderer, and a member of the Al Aqsa Brigade walk into a room of Jews…….. It sounds like a joke but it certainly wasn’t funny.