Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Price of Reconciliation, by Robi Damelin

Since when does the loss of a child to the conflict make anyone an expert on military maneuvers, or signify expertise on terrorism and its causes?

How long must the Shalit family beg for the life of their son? How many hours must they spend chasing Knesset members who cannot commit to saving a fellow human being? How many people need to march to Jerusalem and how many concerts will be held until they understand? Would these politicians be so determined and hard-nosed, pontificating about Israel's security, if it were their own child's life at stake?

How many more broadcasts will be aired of bereaved families, showering us with their pearls of wisdom about the security of the state and its dire future if we release the Palestinian prisoners? Somewhere, deep down in their commitment to securing a safe future for the citizens of Israel, is there not also an element of one of our most natural, human traits - revenge? It would be so much more honest if this aspect were actually expressed, instead of being couched in expertise and terms of security. Since when does the loss of a child to the conflict make anyone an expert on military maneuvers, or signify expertise on terrorism and its causes?

Learning from history does not suit the local agenda; it seems that our present leaders have the answers to everything. We know for sure that the prisoners, once freed, will immediately don their armor and rush off to murder the nearest innocent civilian. Apparently we have not learned that some of the most dedicated peace proponents in Northern Ireland sprang from the ranks of the Catholic and Protestant prisoners whose hands were covered in a thick layer of blood.

These political prisoners were released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement - and the world did not come to an end. On the contrary, Northern Ireland has since forged ahead on a path toward a solution. It may not represent the entire answer to the problem, but releasing prisoners was certainly a step in the right direction. "Healing of Memories" is but one of the courses offered by an ex-prisoner who spent 13 years in jail for murdering a Catholic during that conflict. With or without Gilad Shalit, to push the peace process forward the powers that be will have to negotiate the release of the Palestinian prisoners.

Thinking about the children, grandchildren and spouses of the Palestinian prisoners could certainly lead one to the conclusion that they might join the cycle of violence to take revenge in the name of their incarcerated family members. Perhaps this should be taken into account, as opposed to the rhetoric of doom spewing from the mouths of so many of our leaders and members of the public. If we cannot create some hope in the hearts of these families for an eventual release of the prisoners, are we certain that they would just sit back and do nothing?

Almost all the current male Palestinian members of the Parents Circle-Families Forum have served years in jail - and although they are all bereaved, they have chosen to take a stand and wish for reconciliation. Perhaps those individuals and organizations opposed to the release of prisoners should search their hearts and souls to see if an element of revenge is not part of the equation.

The man who killed my son is apparently on the list to be released, and I can only say that if this would return Gilad to his family and ease all of this impossible pain, nothing would be more worthwhile. As an aside, it is clear that there is no revenge for a lost child.

In the final analysis, peace doesn't only mean agreeing on who gets to control what piece of land, or how many are entitled to the right of return; it also means that those who have suffered most - the families of the dead - will not see the killers of their loved ones brought to justice. The price of reconciliation is high, but we owe it to the future of the children, who are our responsibility.

This article was originally published in Haaretz on July 11, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. It chokes me up to think that a child's life is at stake. Even in American women face these kinds of issues in Domestic Violence situations. Women are oppressed throughout the world. I know that women working against can contribute this the oppression of women; somehow this has to change. What are our options?


Flash Points: Edit Schlaffer presents SAVE on CBS