Last week in Palestine, I watched in horror as George Floyd was murdered by police.
As I heard him utter his last words, “I can’t breathe,” I felt deep sadness and pain. My heart goes out to his family as they grieve his memory, which has inspired oppressed people from around the world to reach for dignity and justice.
House of Hope unequivocally stands in solidarity with the Black community in Minneapolis and other cities throughout the USA, as well as with all the families who have had loved ones murdered because of ignorance and hate.
Our young Palestinian children at House of Hope grow up in a world of violence and oppression. Days after George Floyd was murdered, Iyad el-Hallak, an unarmed 32 year-old Palestinian man with autism, was shot dead in the Old City of Jerusalem by Israeli police.
Despite the ongoing injustice of Occupation, we at House of Hope teach our children that loving themselves and their neighbor is the path to freedom. We commit to nonviolence for ourselves and others, no matter what and without exception.
As a Palestinian man living in the occupied West Bank, I encourage my American brothers and sisters to heed these words: in order for healing and justice to come, we must live and act with a conscious commitment to nonviolence.
Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is also the path to healing and freedom. Anytime violence breaks out — whether by police, outside agitators or misguided youth — it shifts the focus away from the oppressed.
I have spent my entire life in Jerusalem and the West Bank. I grew up with curfews, gas bombs, rubber bullets, live bullets, tanks everywhere, and soldiers in our neighborhoods, schools, and universities. When I was young, I wondered if armed struggle could solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. After 36 years of living in Occupation, I am convinced that violence is not the solution and have devoted my life to nonviolence.
Nonviolence is more difficult than the violent path. It requires perseverance, hope, and training to control feelings of anger, hate, revenge and antagonism. History has definitively shown that nonviolence has the power to achieve freedom, end dictatorships and dismantle systems of racism and brutality.
Violence brings violence, period. Nonviolence freezes the system of oppression and wins public opinion locally and internationally.
Martin Luther King Jr wrote: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
What America needs today after the police murder of George Floyd is the strength and courage to love.
No matter where in the world you are, there is work to be done. By teaching ourselves and our children the way of nonviolence, we will win. Be the image of God on earth, and you will create a free land for all.
With you in the struggle for justice and dignity,
President, Vision Association for Culture and Arts and its House of Hope Vision School