On 27 December 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead which lasted for three weeks. Unlike medical operations, this operation used tank shells which resulted in the killing of three of my daughters Bessan 21, Mayar, 15, Aya 13 and my niece, Nour 17 and severely wounded other family members on the night of Friday, January 16th 2009. The next day, on 17 January Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a unilateral ceasefire to take place at midnight, a day too late for my daughters.
Only through my connections with Shlomi Eldar of Channel 10 did my “agonized cries for help in a mixture of Hebrew and Arabic were broadcast live throughout Israel bring reality of war on Gazans to Israeli consciousness and the world as the tragedy was broadcasted live in Israel and around the world.
The tragedy and the killing of my daughters and niece symbolized the war.
Olmert, in an interview with Frida, declared,
“When I saw the Palestinian doctor who lost his daughters I cried, who did not cry? How cannot you cry? You must explode at the moment, it’s impossible to forget something like this; it was just busting and breaking the heart”.
My answer to the tragedy was my book: I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s journey on the road to peace and human dignity. I said if I could know that my daughters were the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis then I would accept their loss. Though I received exceptional and meaningful support from people in Palestine, Israel and throughout the world the public support I received from people in Palestine, Israel and around the world was exceptional and meaningful, they were not the last. Hence I have continued to work tirelessly for peace, hope, justice and to spread a human message of wisdom, kind and courageous words and good deeds.
- For many I have become a symbol. President Carter: in this book Dr Abuelaish has expressed a remarkable commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation that describes the foundation for a permanent peace in the Holy Land.
- Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel: This story is a necessary lesson against hatred and revenge.
- President Obama in his speech: Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa (May 19, 2012): We see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. “I have the right to feel angry,” he said. “So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate. Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow.”
- David Grossman: I met Dr. Abuelaish just few days after the loss of his three daughters. We faced each other as we were about to shake hands. And then, without much thought, we held each other in a warm embrace. It’s so rare, I thought, in this debilitating and devastating area we inhabit, to meet a person like him, a man who despite his own losses, continues his belief in humanity and its potential for good, despite all.
- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the most recent Peace Prize winner ended his “Walk in Solidarity with Colombia” with a Palestinian doctor who lost his three daughters and nice in a bombing in Gaza by an Israeli tank. And he said the following; I quote him: Violence cannot be treated violently; revenge can be treated with vengeance. An alternative and positive approach is needed. And I ask Colombian to unite as brothers and sisters, working together because it takes a lot of courage to make peace. The kindness and forgiveness are not signs of weakness but of strength. It takes more courage to be nice than to be angry to want revenge. I understand the anger but in life there are priorities. And one of the priorities of life is not the past. The past is to learn from it. The priority in life is the present and the future. The future is the children and the young people of Colombia.
- I briefly met with the Israeli President Rivlin during a mission led by the Governor General of Canada David Johnston. President Rivlin said: you are our hero and our role model. Your tragedy is our tragedy.
Yet despite these words, nothing changed.
After the tragedy I was determined and accountable to my daughters and that their holy soles and noble blood was in vain. For two years, I tried to settle and reconcile this tragedy with the Israeli government with all possible peaceful means. Sadly and painfully; the answer I received was that my daughters and niece were collateral damage. At first in fact they said there were snipers at the roof of my house. Then there were militants and firing from inside and around my house. The last scenario when shrapnel’s from my niece’s would were examined and to find out its from Hamas rockets.
For me these words merely added salt to my deep would and killing my daughters over again. When I reached a locked way and I was left with no alternative; Two weeks before the deadline for filing, the statute of limitation of two years after my daughters killing, I filed the lawsuit on December 27, 2010.A year later I was required to pay a financial bond to the of NIS 20000 (about USD 6000 for each of my daughters and niece) because I am not Israeli citizen.
March 15 and 19, 2017; I will testify with my daughters Shatha and Raffah in front of the Israeli court and the conclusion is supposed to be April 19, 2017
In memory of my daughters I established Daughters for Life foundation which is dedicated for education of girls and young women from the Middle East without any discrimination; Palestinians, Israelis, Jordanian, Syrian, Lebanese or Egyptian., Muslims, Jewish, Christians or Druze allowing them to overcome social, economic and financial hardship.
The aim was to bring something good and invested for noble cause and give hope to a world which is endemic with despair, that with developing women’s role in society through education, we could help create a free, healthy, just and peaceful world. This tragedy and any monetary benefit from this lawsuit is meant to be invested to promote the mission and objectives of Daughters For Life.
I am asking you to join us and support my appeal to the Israeli government to acknowledge responsibility, to, and demonstrate that precious human life is a right that cannot be torn away capriciously. Issuing an apology is not without precedent. The Netanyahu government did this in June 2016 for the Mavi Marmara flotilla raid in 2010, more than a year after my daughters died. The Israeli government issued an apology and the Turkish families who were killed. The compensation will be used as seeds of money to establish Daughters for Life International Schools in Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Afghanistan, Iraq and one in Canada for the First Nation women.
March 15 and 19, 2017 I am asked to testify at the Israeli court with my daughters and family members. I appeal to you people with conscience women and men, elders and children, national and international leaders, politicians, academics to join our cause and bring my daughters justice and make the 2017 a year of hope peace and life.