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Peace Activists Call for End to Mideast Violence - 2002-07-01

A group of Israeli and Palestinian peace activists are appealing to world leaders to do more to bring an end to what they call the insane violence in the Middle East. The activists are visiting several European nations in a month-long tour sponsored by the human rights group Amnesty International.

The activists are meeting with foreign ministry officials, members of parliament, and the news media in their stops in several west European countries. They say they want to tell their personal stories to show how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is destroying the lives of ordinary people.

One of the Israeli members of the team is Nira Lavi, whose son was killed by Palestinians in 1995. She says her son's death has left a big hole in her life. But, she says she cannot live with a heart full of hate and vengeance.

"Of course, I am very angry with the Arabs, those Arabs who killed my son," he said. "But, for the sake of peace, I am ready to forgive and work together with them to find peace."

Ms. Lavi's daughter Noa, who is traveling with her mother, says she hates the people who killed her brother. But she says she understands that this is a war between two nations and casualties are inevitable.

"I prefer to see my brother as a price for the peace. He did not die for nothing. Maybe he will be one of the last who will die," she said. "I see every time there is a bomb and people killed, I am crying for them that another family has lost their sons and do not want it to continue. I can forgive in order that it will stop for both sides."

The activists say they have met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. They say the current prime minister, Ariel Sharon, refused to meet with them.

Ibrahim Bushnak is a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship. His nephew was one of 13 Palestinian youths killed by Israeli soldiers in October 2000 soon after the second Intifada erupted. He says more pressure is needed from world leaders to end, what he calls, this cycle of madness.

"First of all, we need to stop this killing because if we continue in this situation, we continue to kill each other," he said. "And, I hope that not only the American administration, I hope that the European leaders and the American leaders can press the both sides to sit together and to start negotiating."

Mr. Bushnak says something must be done quickly to end the violence. He says the only road to peace is through negotiations.