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