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Palestinians and Israelis Call for Peace on Eve of Tragedy in Hebron, West Bank

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As negotiations began in Washington, a grave isolated act of violence took place on Route 60, near Hebron, and four Israeli settlers were killed. In response, several Palestinians and Israelis expressed their disappointment in this extremist act of violence and encouraged the each other to focus on peace building -- especially during times of war.

"This is the extremists, it's not the Palestinians," said Ayelet Shahek, from The Association for the Commemoration of Bat-Chen, an Israeli organization that was set up to commemorate Shahek's daughter who was killed in a terrorist attack nearly fifteen years ago. Since that painful event, her and her husband established a peace organization that holds many coexistence events. This weekend, they will be holding a series of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Mind of Peace, in Bethlehem. "We must invest in the peace negotiations, even though this event was meant to stop them."

Manal Tamimi, a Palestinian leader from Nabi Saleh -- one of the Palestinian villages with the strongest non-violent movements in Palestine -- remarked, "We [Palestinians] are against terrorism as a form of resistance. Settlers are human beings as well. They are not my enemies, Jews are not my enemies. Only the people who want to kill me are my enemies."

"Enemies don't make peace negotiations during peace time, peace negotiations happen during war and conflict," said Ali Abu Awwad, a non-violent Palestinian leader from Beit Ummar, outside of Hebron. "If people think that the negotiations will be easy, they are mistaken...This event tonight is embarrassing for both politicians and their nations. It is the result of the many lost opportunities for peace." He urged the Peace Camp to not make the mistakes of the past, and be led by fear and anger, but to "believe that peace is possible" and prevent future events like this by recognizing both people's rights for peace and security and providing people on the ground with the tools for peace.

"As a peacemaker, I don't feel that this event weakened me," said Awwad. During the Gaza War, while the Israeli army killed over a thousand Palestinians, he met with Israelis in peace dialogues. "I expect Israeli society to understand how hard it is for my side to keep going with the Occupation on the ground. I expect Jewish people to understand that violence is not the language of hatred -- violence is the language of anger and suffering. I expect them to overcome their fear by knowing and being affiliated with the reality that Palestinians live in."

Watching the news, he said, "If the media will turn this event into a Hollywood movie, they must know that sometimes they are the worst enemy of peace -- our blood and pain, on both sides, is not for sale."

Another Palestinian, Assam Bau, a member of the Bereaved Families Forumsaid, "This is not the work of the Palestinians, it is a few extremists. Palestinians are against violence, we don't want an Intifada, we want peace."

"Violent behavior comes from the Occupation and when there is not an Occupation, we will not have violence" said Adam Nerk, an Israeli peace activist and one of the founding members of Natural Peace Tours, a peace organization that brings Palestinians from the West Bank to spend a day with Israelis in Israel.

Living in both Israeli and Palestinian society, everyday he meets people who are working for and deeply committed to peace. "Even though there is a conflict between Hamas and Fatah and Israel and Palestine, a real conflict between people on the ground doesn't exist anymore. This is something that we must know and remember in this time."