Response to a Public Letter From the Palestinian Sniper Who Killed David Damelin

by Robi Damelin

Ta'er, how ironic, the people who most wanted to protect me from the words in your letter were my Palestinian friends and other bereaved parents in our group. They of all people have the right to talk about my actions and who I am for we have worked together for more than 6 years to try to end this terrible conflict and to give both sides a chance to live with a sense of dignity free from the terrible fear which engulfs us and gives us all the excuse for violence. The tears I saw in the eyes of my Palestinian partners in the Parents Circle when they met me after you chose to publish the letter were tears of understanding and yes friendship and love.

You say that David went to the army to kill, this young man who spent most of his time helping to make a difference in educating towards democracy and who anguished about going to serve, said "if I go I will treat all with respect and so will all my soldiers" I think these are not the words of a violent man, I think these are the words of someone torn with a loyalty to his country, and the knowledge that we should not be in the occupied territories. I know from a Palestinian who I met some time after you killed David who told me how he spoke to David at the Checkpoint and how he was so sorry that he had been shot when he heard about it the next day. You see that is called the human side of the conflict.

You claim that you killed 10 soldiers and civilians in order to end the occupation, do you think that you made a difference, it is so easy for your friends and for well wishers to claim from their t.v. armchairs and computer screens that you are a holy hero and that you will certainly spend a wonderful time in the Garden of Eden in the next life. I happen to think that this life is just as important and also that the killing of any human being on both sides, just contributes to the cycle of violence and that it is time to stop and to find another way. I find it strange and difficult to believe that you only killed to end the occupation, I am well aware from your family, and have shared the story all over the world, of your uncle who was violently killed by Israeli soldiers in front of you when you were a small child, and of the uncle you lost in the second intifada. I think that there was a definite longing for revenge. I also think that you will find out with time that there is no revenge for a loved one.

The path I chose after losing my precious son, would have a much greater chance of getting Israelis to understand the needs of the Palestinian people and that we will never be free as a nation until the Palestinians are free. I have devoted my life to trying to make a difference and when we add up the total of what message if more effective, perhaps one day you will agree.

What possible motif could I have for writing the first letter, except to try and explore and understand both the situation and maybe to go on a path to try and see if it would not be possible for you to recognize that a non-violent solution is the only way that both our nations can try to live in safety and who knows in the future when your nation has its own independent viable state in peace.

How ironic that your letter was first published in Hebrew on a web-site which is not exactly known for its liberal views and that the feed-back found a wonderful partner in the feed-back from Maan web-site where you chose to publish the letter. How extraordinary that both sides spew out the hatred of what I am doing and that if you take a final analysis they all are afraid of something which might shake up their belief systems. If both extremes fear my actions, then maybe, just maybe I am doing something right?

I hope that you will take the time you are spending in jail to read many books on uprisings all over the world and to discover that it is almost a law that the real differences and change for a better life were made through non-violent actions. I suggest that you start with the life of Badshah Khan who was a nonviolent soldier of Islam, and also the ally of Ghandi in a Revolution of human spirit.

I wonder if you know that I appeared on T.V. when I heard that you were on the list to be freed and said that you should be freed if it would bring back Gilad Shalit and also that I believe that it is part of the negotiating process to free prisoners as it was in Ireland and South Africa.

The wisest reaction I had to the words of your letter came from my wonderful son Eran, who I thought would be terribly angry, well he said, listen mum, perhaps this is the beginning of a dialog.

-Robi

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Awwad is a Palestinian who lives in the West Bank. He is a spokesman and project manager for the Parents Circle - Families Forum.

Damelin is an Israeli who lives in Tel Aviv. She speaks with community groups about her experiences as part of the Parents Circle - Families Forum.