Mother of terror victim: Without prisoner release, peace process cannot occur

Robi Damelin of The Parents Circle – Families Forum tells 'Post' for peace "we are willing to give up anything."

August 11, 2013 20:52
2 minute read.
Robi Damelin.

Robi Damelin 370. (photo credit: The Parents Circle Families Forum)

Ahead of the planned prisoner release, one Israeli mother who lost her son 11 years ago to terrorism said that the release is nothing less than critical to the success of a future peace process.

“There’s no justice in a peace movement as far as releasing prisoners is concerned,” Robi Damelin told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

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“We who have lost children are the ones who will be hurt in many ways, but for peace we are willing to give up anything.”

Damelin is the spokeswoman and international relations coordinator for The Parents Circle – Families Forum, a joint Israeli and Palestinian organization of approximately 600 families that have lost close family members as a result of the conflict. The other members of the organization share her views, and feel that the release of prisoners will prove to be just as important as a discussion over the status of east Jerusalem, or any piece of disputed land, she explained. It is extremely important to the Palestinians to receive “what they feel are their prisoners,” and no peace negotiations can be successful without such a release, Damelin added.

Damelin’s son David was shot by a sniper when he was 27 years old and serving in the army.

At one point during the prisoner exchange for tank gunner Gilad Schalit’s release from captivity, Damelin said she saw reports on television that this very sniper was supposed to be part of the exchange. While this turned out to be untrue, Damelin said she still maintained her opinions about the need to free the prisoners – even when she thought her son’s killer was about to be released.

“All of us understand that without releasing there’s no advance in the peace negotiation – it's just talking,” Damelin said. “There has to be a long-term reconciliation process in any long-term peace agreement.”

Most prisoners released in South Africa and in Ireland for the purpose of peace have no less blood on their hands, and many grew to be great proponents of peace, Damelin argued. Nothing significant in the Irish peace process was able to occur until government representatives spoke with the Protestant prisoners in Belfast and convinced officials to continue negotiations, she added.

“After three months they signed the Good Friday agreement and released the prisoners,” she said.

Repeat crimes of the recently released Palestinian prisoners have not yet involved any killings, Damelin stressed, noting that there are stringent behavioral restrictions for the discharged men and women. She did not, however, feel that the prisoners experience any rehabilitation in Israeli jails, as she says the prisons do not practice sufficient restorative justice.

Ultimately, she acknowledged that the upcoming prisoner release is “a very difficult thing,” but she emphasized that without this move, there can only be a ceasefire and not full-fledged peace.

“Peace processes are not really about justice,” she said. “Of all people who should say ‘keep him in jail’ – it’s us.”

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