Share this article

The Choice

Tuesday, Radio 4, 9am

Heart and Soul

Today, BBC World Service, 10:30am

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO FIND the courage and integrity to embark on a course of action your conscience tells you is right, but which you know could result in you being despised and rejected by your peers? In the first of a new series of The Choice, former US soldier Joe Darby tells Michael Buerk about his decision to hand to his superiors graphic photographic evidence of the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad.

In his first British interview, Darby recounts how he was all too conscious of informing on soldiers whom he had served alongside for years, and how, following the arrests of those involved in the abuse, he took to sleeping with a gun under his pillow. After US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld named him on US television he had to be taken into hiding by the US Army and he found himself branded a traitor in his home town. Death threats were made against Darby and his family, who have since made new lives for themselves in another town.

Out of hatred and tragedy, just occasionally, something positive can emerge. Ahmed Khatib was a 12-year-old Palestinian boy shot dead by Israeli soldiers while brandishing a toy gun. On the other side of the Arab-Jewish divide, Yoni Jesner, a 19-year-old Jewish religious student, was killed in the bombing of a bus in Tel-Aviv. Heartbreaking par for the course in a bitterly divided Middle East, you might conclude: yet Khatib's organs were donated by his father, Ismail, and ultimately helped heal several Israelis, while Jesner's organs helped save the life of a Palestinian girl from East Jerusalem.

"My son was dead, but six Israelis now have a part of a Palestinian in them," Ismail Khatib tells Vera Frankl in Heart and Soul, who visits both families to investigate this transcendence of decency over appalling circumstances.

Back to the top of the page