Yousef Bashir is a Palestinian-American activist, speaker, and author of the memoir, The Words of My Father: Love and Pain in Palestine (Harper). In this moving, candid, and transformative memoir, Bashir shares the story of his adolescence in the Gaza Strip during the Second Intifada, and how he made a commitment to peace, even in the face of devastating brutality.
The son of a highly respected educator, Bashir shared his father’s love for their land. With fond memories of olive, guava, fig and date trees, honey hives, and green houses that covered their ten-acre farm, Bashir considered his childhood in Gaza to be paradise. This changed, however, when Bashir was eleven, with the start of the Second Intifada. First came the shooting, then the occupation. When Bashir’s father refused to leave the family home, Israeli soldiers moved in, seizing the top two floors as their command post. For five long years, three generations of Bashir’s family were prisoners in their own home. Even so, Bashir’s father treated the soldiers as honored guests, his commitment to peace unshakable.
Even as his family attracted international media attention, with letters of support pouring in from around the world, Bashir watched the destruction of his home, his neighborhood, and the happy life he had known with growing frustration and confusion. For the first time, he wondered if his father’s position was justified and whether, if tested, he could possibly follow his example.
When Bashir was fifteen, standing in his own front yard beside his father and three United Nations observers, he was shot in the spine by an Israeli soldier. In the wake of an injury that put him in a wheelchair for more than a year, paralyzed from the waist down, he had to reckon - finally - with the words of his father. As he recovered in a hospital in Tel-Aviv, Bashir found himself inspired and motivated by his father’s message of peace and co-existence.
Still suffering the effects of a near catastrophic injury, Bashir made his way to the United States where he earned a BA in International Affairs from Northeastern University and an MA in Co-existence and Conflict from Brandeis University. After moving to Washington, DC, Bashir was selected for a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship to work with the Partnership for a Secure America, a think-tank that advocates bipartisanship among Congressional staffers. Bashir served as a foreign affairs intern in the office of Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) before working full time as a foreign affairs fellow in the office of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). He then joined the Palestinian Diplomatic Mission to the United States Manager of Congressional Affairs. Currently, Bashir is a Seeds of Peace GATHER Fellow.
Bashir has spoken to countless audiences across the United States including universities, non-profits, fundraising events and religious organizations on the urgency of peaceful coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis. Bashir is an accomplished author, a vigorous advocate of Israeli-Palestinian peace, and much sought-after public speaker.
Praise for The Words of My Father...
“At one of the darkest times in the elusive effort to end the conflict in the Middle East…[comes a] remarkable new memoir...full of youthful exuberance, unlikely adventures, and raw discovery. Captivating.”
--Robin Wright, The New Yorker
“Bashir delivers an urgent, impassioned call for peace between Palestine and Israel… In this eloquent and affecting memoir he adopts another remark of his father’s as his own: ‘What happened to me makes me believe even more in peace.’ An inspiration to peace activists in all theaters of war and struggle and a book that deserves a wide audience."
“Bashir’s childhood in Gaza and his life under occupation meld in this retelling, and his charming earnestness shines through. This moving tribute to Bashir’s remarkable father is also a compelling argument for peace.”
“A fascinating look at growing up in extreme circumstances…A unique perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“A work of profound spiritual beauty, one of the great memoirs to emerge from this terrible conflict. For Israelis like myself, reading Bashir’s story is a deeply wrenching experience. And yet, while I strongly disagree with some of his premises, I found myself feeling grateful to Bashir for his open heart and mind. The Words of My Father offers all of us hope that this seemingly intractable conflict can find a solution that is just to both sides.”
--Yossi Klein Halevi, author of the New York Times bestseller Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor
“To experience love and humanity on many levels, read this story. Beautifully told by a young man whose voice deserves to be heard — even if the world is not yet ready to listen.”
-- Diana Darke, author of My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis
“In a year that has seen a relentless focus on life and death in the Gaza Strip, Yousef Bashir’s memoir is a moving reminder of the normality of Palestinian aspirations in what has been an abnormal situation for far too long. This book is a remarkable testimony to overcoming hatred and fear.”
-- Ian Black, author of Enemies and Neighbours: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017
“The Words of my Father is a book about loss—the loss of land and dignity for Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, the increasing loss of humanity among many of the occupiers, and the loss of the author’s beloved father who spent most of his life preaching peace, but tragically died in the midst of increasing polarization between Palestinians and Israelis. By making us feel the plight of the Palestinians from the inside, this poignant and beautifully written book should inspire us all to raise our voices for change.”
--Robert Greene, New York Times bestselling author of The Laws of Human Nature and The 48 Laws of Power