WASHINGTON – When the Arab daughter of a martyr and a former Israeli military colonel got together here this week,their talk was about what might have seemed an unlikely subject – how to live in peace.
Miri Eisen,of Israel,and Nonie Darwish,an Egyptian native who has lived in Gaza and is now a U.S. citizen,met for the first time Tuesday,one day before their first speech.
Now they are united to pursue their most desired goal for the next generations of Israel and Palestine. They are working with the new campaign of the Israel Project,a non-for-profit organization,“Moms for Peace,” and will be traveling across the United States to give public speeches.
Both women have given speeches in Israel on the “culture of hate.” Each has three children. They decided one of the ways to reach their joint goal is to better educate Palestinian children.
Darwish,57,is a daughter of Lt. Col. Mustafa Hafaz,a “martyr” who led fedayeen guerilla operations in the 1950s in Gaza. He was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces in 1956. Today a square in Gaza bears his name,as he was proclaimed a national hero and a “symbol of resistance against Israel,” Darwish said.
But Darwish believes her father's fate is not a model for young Palestinians to follow. She said that children in schools not only learn that Israel is the “enemy of Islam” but also watch cartoons that encourage them to become suicide bombers.
“The severe indoctrination is devastating on children,” she said.
Eisen,43,who retired recently as an Israel Defense Forces colonel,said Palestinians see Israel as an “aggressive militaristic society waiting to destroy them.” Eisen believes that the only way to change this vision is through education.
“A very big hurdle,” she said.
According to Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi,president of the Israel Project,the new campaign is designed to “raise awareness” of human rights issues for children in Palestine and “to bring attention to the culture of hate” in their schools.
“We want to see them become doctors,farmers and teachers but not suicide bombers,” she said.
The primary goal of the Israel Project,according to its Web site,is to “educate the press and the public about Israel.”
Darwish said she “gets discouraged” when the mass media use the term “freedom fighters” for people she calls “Palestinian terrorists.”
“They are not ‘freedom fighters' but murderers and oppressors,” she said.
“Those who want peace are silenced,” she said,referring to Arabs in Palestine,adding that dictatorships don't tolerate thinking other than what's being promoted. “Freedom fighters are those who speak out.”
The women were also scheduled to speak in New York; River Edge,N. J.; Atlanta; San Jose,Calif.; and San Francisco. For more information and the complete speaking schedule,go to http://www.theisraelproject.org