By Peter Tormey
SPOKANE, Wash. – Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated author of “I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity,” delivered a stirring keynote address April 7 at the 2nd International Conference on Hate Studies hosted by the Gonzaga University Institute for Hate Studies.
A respected Palestinian obstetrician/gynecologist and the Michael and Amira Dan Professor in Public Health at the University of Toronto, Abuelaish has overcome poverty and tragedy to emerge as one of the most influential voices on peace in the Middle East.
His message of nonviolence and hope for peace endures despite losing three daughters in 2009 when Israeli tanks shelled his home. Abuelaish said being born and raised in refugee camps denied him his childhood. But the shame and suffering he endured as a child pales compared to the pain he feels that so many children still suffer as he did.
“And my suffering and other children’s suffering, it’s not from God. It’s man-made,” Abuelaish said. Since the suffering is human-caused and born from hate, there is hope for humanity and education is the key, Abuelaish said.
“Through my experience, I have learned our enemy is not someone, a human brother or sister or a friend. Our enemy is our ignorance of each other,” he said. “We must fight against our ignorance by knowing and learning about others.”
Children are a rich source of wisdom if parents would listen more to them. He said one of his sons admonished him to be happy, even after his three daughters (his son’s sisters) were killed.
“He said, ‘You must be happy, my sisters are happy, they are with their mother. She asked for them,’ ” Abuelaish said. “It’s a time for us to understand that the most holy thing in the universe is the human being and freedom. Saving one, you save the world. Killing one, you kill the world.”