Examination of Witnesses (Questions 103-110)|
11 NOVEMBER 2003
Q103 Chris McCafferty: Can I say
it is nice to see you both again, and I am pleased that Dr Misk
was allowed out of Palestine to come and give evidence here today.
I know, because I have spoken with you before when we met in this
room, that you are a non-political organisation and you are also
one of the very few cross-community organisations that exist in
Israel and the occupied territories. So from where I am looking
you are a wonderful role model for other organisations, or other
Israelis and Palestinians who may want to work for peace and reconciliation
and for tolerance in the way that you do so well. I would like
to ask you why is it, in your view, there are so few organisations
like yours, so few cross-community organisations? Are there big
obstacles put in the path of having an organisation such as yours?
What can be done to help integrated civil society organisations
to flourish in Israel and the occupied territories?
Mrs Damelin: I think, to answer
your question about other organisations, if you look at the world
in generalin fact if you look at the parties in this very
House that we are sitting inthere are pro-Palestinian lobbies,
there are pro-Israel friend lobbies and that tends to be the way
that people behave in the world in general. I do not think the
Israelis or the Palestinians are very different. If you look at
the Parents' Circle it is a very unusual organisation. It is made
up of 500 families who have all lost a family member. I think
it is the basis of being able to forgive and to looking at the
future for other children, because parents who have lost children
are, really, probably the only people who can understand what
it means to send a child off to war. I think that the occupation
is not only killing the Palestinians, because Israelis do not
see the pain and suffering of the Palestinians, but we believe
as an organisation that the occupation is ruining the morale and
the morals of the Israelis. We must do whatever we can do to stop
this occupation and whatever you can do to stop this occupation,
if you are interested in Israel in surviving and if you are interested
in the Palestinians getting out of the terrible, terrible conditions
that they live in. We tend to talk about statistics, and I have
listened to everybody here today, but I see the human beings behind
the statistics: I see my son, who was a peace worker, I see Adel's
father who was killed by the occupiers; I do not see just the
statistic. Then when you begin to humanise things you will realise
that the Israelis need you more than you even could vaguely understand.
It is no good blaming because the Israelis are not going to disappear
in a puff of smoke and nor are the Palestinians. So what can you
really do except sit around and talk about statistics? It is to
try and influence the Israelis to get out of the occupied territories.
Our long-term goals are very much towards reconciliation, something
like South Africa. We want to have a truth and reconciliation
commission because we know that until the Palestinians and the
Israelis get together as nations there will never be peace. They
can talk about Oslo, they can talk about Geneva, they can do whatever
they like, until we all tell the truth and we admit to the crimes
from both sides. How can we ever forgive each other? So we work
with our telephone line, which is "Hello Peace/Hello Shalom",
which we have had over the past year. More than 500,000 people
have spoken to each other and we are opening the line from America
now because we feel that the media does not give the people enough
opportunity to really speak to each other and we hope that we
can do the same in Europe, depending on funds.
Dr Misk: Thank you again for giving
us this opportunity to talk to all of you about our unique experience.
We are not a political organisation, we are a unique organisation.
We have paid the high price in the conflict between Israelis and
Palestinians. As Robi said, and all of us agree, the main problem
for all of us is the occupation of the territory. When we start
to work together as Palestinians and Israelis we believe strongly
that we have the same blood and the same pain and the same future.
In the last year a group of Palestinians went to a medical centre
in the West of Jerusalem and donated blood to the Israeli parts
as a symbolic issue. On the same day an Israeli group of Parents'
Circle Forum Families went to Ramallah and donated blood to the
Palestinian hospitals in Ramallah and met General Arafat on the
same day. This example is to show to all of us that, Palestinian
or Israeli, we have the same blood and the same pain and the same
future for all of us. The peace issue and the security, what Israel
is looking for, I think is the same thing for the Palestinian
operation and for the Palestinian Authority. Since then we started
to have another programme, like education. We believe strongly
in education and to prepare the future generation, to prepare
the future leaders; we did not succeed to convince our leaders
to reach peace and to talk to each other. Robi and I, and tens
and hundreds of persons like us, are succeeding in talking about
our pain and about our suffering and about our future, but I am
so sorry now we did not succeed in convincing our leaders to talk
together and to sit down together to reach this peace. As we start
to convince and to work hard with the next generation, the children
and the teenagers, we start to do lectures in high schools, initially
in Israeli high schools and then later on in the Palestinian high
schools. We believe that young persons, between 16 and 17 years
old, will be the problem in the next day. We talk to Israeli teenagers,
16 and 17, who are going into military service the next day and
will be in contact with the Palestinian reality. We have made
more than 1,400 lectures in Israeli high schools, and start in
Palestinian high schools this year. During the last year we have
made another project to prepare the children of both sides. We
made it a summer camp between the Israeli and Palestinian children,
at the age of 9 to 14 years. We give the possibility to these
children, about 20 from both sides, to live together for more
than a week. We succeed and we show how it is so important to
prepare this generation for the future and for peace and reconciliation.
Q104 Chris McCafferty: You have half-answered
my next question, which was: do you think that cross-community
education is effective? Well, clearly, you do because you would
not be doing it otherwise. I am sure everyone in this room would
agree with you that hatred is the cause or, certainly, exacerbated
Mrs Damelin: The opportunity that
an Israeli child gets when he meets a Palestinian bereaved parent,
he may never have met a Palestinian in his life. This cut-off
of both populations creates fear, and the fear is what creates
all this violence. I can tell you from a personal experience that
I was in Italy and I went to talk at a peace conference and they
did not want me to talk because I was an Israeli. Yes, it is quite
difficult to be an Israeli in Europe now. A very wonderful woman
from Ramallah got up and told them that they needed to let me
talk. So think of the absurdity that a Palestinian from Ramallah
has to tell the Europeans to let an Israeli talk. I am just giving
you this as an example of judging without knowing, and that is
what is happening in Israel and the Palestinian state.
Q105 Chris McCafferty: Can I ask
you what feedback you have had from the seminars that you have
instigated, particularly the work in the schools? I am interested
in the young people. What kind of feedback are you getting from
what you are telling them, what you are talking about? What is
the response to that education?
Dr Misk: Usually we adopt a system.
Initially we send an Israeli person to talk with the Israeli schools
and later on we commit to make a lecture and come in, Israeli
and Palestinian persons, to talk together, and to talk about ourselves,
to talk about our pain and to talk about our history. Initially
we have many reactions. Some of them refuse this kind of co-operation
between Israelis and Palestinians. It is unbelievable to see people
who have lost families, obviously hating each other, obviously
wanting to kill each other, to then see each other, and to go
together and talk in the same language about our pain and our
history; we have many, many positive reactions. Many of them ask
how they can help, how they can reach us, how they can work for
us even. This is the reaction that we have.
Q106 Chris McCafferty: So you feel
that by, particularly, working with young people you can help
create a better environment, better thinking and a better knowledge
of each other's position and, hopefully, to combat incitement
Mrs Damelin: It is really to create
a dialogue, and that is the telephone line. It is much more than
that because it has to be very long-term, and we are negotiating
working with the International Center for Transitional Justice,
Dr Alex Boraine, who created the truth and reconciliation commission
in South Africa. It is obviously not the same situation because
we are not talking about a government-backed organisation, but
we want to prepare a framework, and I think that no other group
could be more appropriate to spearhead something like this. We
do not have the academic qualifications but we certainly do have
the example to give. That is where we are heading.
Q107 Chris McCafferty: I know you
are non-politicos and my colleague has already asked our resident
politico this question, so I want to ask it of you from the non-political
perspective. We visited the wall, we have seen what it is doing,
we know it is reducing the occupied territories into, really,
several small homelands, if you like. Given that is the current
situation, I would like to know your view as non-political people.
What is your view of the two state solution? What is your perception
of current Israeli-Palestinian thinking on the two state solution?
The third point of that is, would the truth and reconciliation
procedure that you envisage be before or after a two state solution?
When do you see that happening?
Mrs Damelin: That is our dream.
Q108 Chris McCafferty: The two state
solution is a dream?
Mrs Damelin: No.
Q109 Chris McCafferty: The truth
Mrs Damelin: I think the two state
solution will happen soon, hopefully, because not Israel and not
Palestine can sustain the situation as is. The human suffering
of the Palestinians, I think, is very hard for anybody to conceive
of. The more I meet Palestinians the more I realise how dreadful
their daily life is. This gentlemen over here needs to get to
a hospital in Ramallah and it can take him three hours. I can
get from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 40 minutes. The difference in
the little boy who cannot see his father because he lives in the
West Bank and the father does not have permission to come to East
Jerusalem. Those are little things, but those are the people behind
the statistics. This cannot go on. The children of the settlers,
of the occupiers, in my opinion, are abused children, and if I
could do anything to help them get out of there I would so. Part
of our organisation now, we are 13 mothers and we are working
to have a dialogue with the mothers in the occupied territories
to try to get them out, because they are the cause of the death
of my children and many other children. My child did not die for
Israel, my child died to protect a cause that he did not believe
Q110 Chris McCafferty: That is very
Dr Misk: The two state solution
may be a dream but if you are looking at what is happening on
the ground, who is visiting the occupied territories and the continuity
of return to Palestinian, it gives the idea that it is so impossible
to create a Palestinian state on the ground. I believe that the
security and the development of the Israeli state is important,
but also the creation of a Palestinian state and the security
and the development, even for a Palestinian population who was
looking at fighting for many yearsI am so sorry that the
Palestinian Authority and Palestinians who were fighting and waiting
to create a Palestinian state were, suddenly in 2000, transformed
to terrorists. We do not like to be terrorists, this is a kind
of stigma for the Palestinian movement for liberation to transform
to a movement of terrorism. The Palestinian population, they are
looking to freedom and to create a Palestinian state behind the
Israeli state, and to live together. Later on we can make reconciliation
and talk about this kind of reconciliation between two states.
Chairman: Thank you very much for coming.