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The gift of life

November 10, 2005

THE NAME OF AHMED KHATIB won't go into the history books alongside that of Yitzhak Rabin or Yasser Arafat, but it deserves at least a mention. Ahmed, 12, was holding a plastic rifle that looked for all the world like a real one to Israeli soldiers conducting a raid last week at a Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin, a city in the occupied West Bank notorious for its anti-Israeli extremism.

The soldiers said they mistook Ahmed for an armed militant and fired at him from more than 100 yards away. When they reached the badly injured boy, they realized the mistake.

Similar killings in the past have been enough to transform youths into martyrs and inflame a family's hatred. This time, Ahmed's family donated the boy's organs to Israelis waiting for transplants. He died Saturday, and Israeli doctors transplanted his kidneys, liver, lungs and heart to Jews, Arabs and a Druse, ranging from a 7-month-old baby to a 58-year-old woman.

Ahmed's father, Ismail, said he felt his son "has entered the heart of every Israeli." He reported receiving a phone call of thanks Sunday from Ehud Olmert, acting finance minister and a top aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Palestinian sources said that when the Israeli troops opened fire, they were being shot at by gunmen from Islamic Jihad, whose goal is the destruction of Israel, and Fatah, which is affiliated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Ismail Khatib managed to rise above the violence and said he hoped the organ donations would send a message of peace to Israelis and Palestinians.

It was a small gesture but meaningful and deserving of note, even if it will do nothing to stop the violence.

Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian on Tuesday while firing at a group they said was planning to plant explosives on a road outside the West Bank town of Nablus. Two weeks ago, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed six Israelis.

But the organ donation should resonate with the overwhelming majority of Israelis and Palestinians who tell pollsters that, more than five years after the renewal of the intifada, they want an end to violence.

Those benefiting from the Khatibs' action obviously will applaud it; so should others who are weary of the fighting.

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