After President Trump’s decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Ali Abu Awwad — a Palestinian non-violence activist and the founder of Taghyeer/Change, the Palestinian Nonviolence Movement — wrote a letter to the president calling for peace, understanding and bold diplomacy. Read his message below.
President Donald Trump,
My name is Ali Abu Awwad, a Palestinian non-violence activist and the founder of Taghyeer/Change, the Palestinian Nonviolence Movement, organizing communities throughout Palestine to embrace non-violence as an identity and an approach to state-building. I have also participated in grassroots initiatives that advance transformation of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians through mutual recognition and respect of both peoples’ deep connection with the land.
After decades of violence destroying both Palestinian and Israeli families, including my own, I realized a deep commitment to nonviolence and reconciliation was the only way to end the suffering. Non-violence allows us to stand for our rights not as victims but as survivors and leaders for change. A change that will put an end to the Israeli occupation, the violence and suffering of all people. A deep change that fosters reconciliation and allows both sides to heal and recognize each other’s needs.
I am writing to you hoping that my voice will be heard. This is a message from a leader to a leader, from a father to a father, but most importantly from a human being to another.
Today, after many years of working for solutions with both sides, we find ourselves facing what we always feared; the feeling of despair, anger and even hatred. This is the consequence of the daily suffering and the fear and failure of the peace process, but also, in this specific situation, it is the result of the unilateral action of a foreign power.
I would like to reemphasize the deep sensitivity of the Jerusalem issue in the conflict and the profound meaning of the city to us. I am not here to judge or to express anger or blame because I am actively standing with the people here and now non-violently preventing outside intervention that will exact painful prices on both sides. Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and excluding the Palestinian leadership from the decision is exactly that.
We want to move forward, not backwards!
I know that you want to support Israel with this act, but I also believe that the best way to support Israel is through mutual recognition and respect and not unilateral imposition by any side.
The historical and ideological rights of all people in Jerusalem should be embraced and celebrated, not fought over. All people have a right to practice their identity in the city in a spirit of respect and harmony. Jerusalem is a mother for all of us children of Abraham. This is a right that was guaranteed by God before it was guaranteed by politicians. Jerusalem needs a political reality that will serve all sides.
Mr. President, we invite you and the whole world to be pro-solution because neither Palestinians nor Israelis will disappear. We have nowhere else to go. We have nowhere else we want to go.
One of the things that keeps this conflict going is that both sides have failed to engage the outside world in the right way. We continue this competition of suffering and victimhood. We need to stop acting as victims. We need to put an end to despair and hate by creating the conditions that will allow everyone to be part of the solution, not to be part of the problem. Any international effort to mediate this conflict should be guided by a commitment to justice and a lasting peace.
Martin Luther King, an American personal hero, advocated the defeat of injustice, not the defeat of people. He also saw nonviolent transformation as an inspiration to accept the compromises peace often requires over the excruciating costs of war. By recognizing the deep commitments Palestinians and Israelis feel for Jerusalem and by living up to the lofty role of objective arbitrator the United States sometimes achieves, you would offer bold diplomacy that would close the divide between the two peoples.
As this year comes to an end, the hurting city Jerusalem still needs to coexist. Help us accept the high price of peace by rejecting the painful price of war.