Ex-PLO bomber visits Belfast to explain how he turned to peace
An ex-PLO terrorist turned peacemaker last night travelled to Belfast to reveal how he transformed his life of violence.
Walid Shoebat (47), who was brought up in Bethlehem as a Muslim, became a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as a teenager and was involved acts of terror and violence against Israel.
Walid, who yesterday visited a synagogue in north Belfast, said he was raised to hate Jews - but now is the founder of an organisation that seeks to combat anti-semitism and promote peace in the Middle East.
Following this change in ideology he has received death threats from his own family.
"I was very much anti-Israel growing up," he said.
"I never understood the plight of the Jewish people, never understood the Holocaust.
"When I grew up, every aspect of my life, the social, the religious, education, music and arts was very anti-semitic.
"So that in itself produces a terrorist."
During his youth he was involved in the attempted lynching of an Israeli soldier and was later imprisoned in the Russian Compound, Jerusalem's central prison after he was caught during a botched bombing attempt.
After his release, he continued his life of violence and rioting.
However the course of Walid's life changed when his parents sent him to the United States to get a better education.
"I've seen members of my family killed and I've seen blood on both sides.
"I decided in 1993 to put an end to it.
"My wife was a great influence as she sparked the things that I needed to think about when I tried to convert her to Islam - she was a Mexican American.
"She asked me to show her what the problems are in the Bible, because she asked me why should she leave her basic Christian heritage.
"I said I don't know what the problems are, I've never read the Bible.
"She asked me, 'Do you always criticise things before reading it?'"
"That sentence sparked the idea of me reading it and finding the problem.
"But by the time I finished reading it I found my problem.
" That was a revelation for myself."
However his decision to convert to Christianity led to Walid being disowned by his family.
" I got threats from my family," he said.
"My brother called my wife he told her, 'Tell your husband we know what you are doing against Islam and we know where you live'."
Despite the threats and loss of family Walid says he has not changed his beliefs.
" You'll never wash away the struggle that you go through, you can't put a closure to it, because my family are still living and I love them," he said.
"And I love the Palestinian people.
"A lot of people would think that if somebody changes the way they think they hate their own past. That's not true."
Walid added that he believes in order for peace to be achieved speaking the truth is vital.
"But I believe in the truth, and everything that I've said since '93."