Izzat Ghazzawi

Sakharov Prize Laureate 2001
ghazzawi Izzat Ghazzawi (1952-2003) was Palestinian writer and professor whose writings focused on the troubles and sufferings brought about by the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and his own personal suffering. His life was marked by the killing of his 16-year-old son Ramy, by the Israeli Army in 1993. Ramy was killed in the courtyard of his school as he went to help a wounded friend. Despite this tragedy, Izzat Ghazzawi always continued to seek cultural and political dialogue with the Israeli people.

Born of refugee parents, into a large family that had fled to the west Bank in 1948, Izzat Ghazzawi wrote his first play at the age of 13. He gained an MA in American-British literature and worked as a professor at Birzeit University. He chaired the Union of Palestinian Writers, wrote novels and short stories, was a literary critic and organised and chaired the first International Writers' Conference in Palestine (1997).

He was also a member of the Executive Bureau of the Palestinian Council for Justice and Peace. He was imprisoned and punished on a number of occasions by the Israeli authorities for his political activities. The hardest to endure during these times was the separation from his family, particularly his six children, whom he could only see two at a time for 30 minutes a fortnight.

A meeting with Israeli writers in Jerusalem in 1992, which he was initially apprehensive about, proved to be a turning point for him. It was when he began to see his Israeli colleagues as partners for building the future, in which Palestinians and Israelis would be equals in all walks of life.

On presenting his Sakharov Prize award in 2001, then EP President Nicole Fontaine paid him homage for having 'untiringly promoted the cause of peace and dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Your ardour has never slackened, despite imprisonment and censorship and, worse than all else, the irreplaceable loss of your sixteen-year-old son Ramy'.

At the European Parliament, Ghazzawi called for the healing that we can achieve when we are 'able to understand each other's needs'.

Shortly after his son's death, together with the Israeli writer Abraham B. Yehoshua and the photographer Oliviero Toscani, he published Enemies, a book on relations between Palestinians and Israelis which became hugely successful.

Izzat Ghazzawi died on 4 April 2003.