Wednesday, October 26, 2011
At this juncture it is not yet possible to know the results of the recent prisoner exchanges in Israel/Palestine.
More deals with Hamas? Renewed negotiations with the Palestinian Authority? Massive attempts to capture more Israeli soldiers followed by reprisals in Gaza? For now, three aspects of this amazing human drama seem worthy of note.
(1) The idea that any country would release 1,027 prisoners, some of whom had murdered their compatriots to get back one of its children (Gilad Shalit was 19, when he was taken prisoner over five years ago), is an act of love so startling that it should stop us in our tracks. For me, it recalled these lines from Chris Hedges' sobering and illuminating book, "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" -- "Love may not always triumph, but it keeps us human. It offers the only chance to escape from the contagion of war. Perhaps it is the only antidote. And there are times when remaining human is the only victory possible."
(2) The comments made by Shalit himself, who, when asked if he wanted the thousands of Palestinian prisoners still held in Israeli jails to be liberated, replied: "I will be happy for them to be released, if they don't return to fight us. I very much hope that this deal will advance peace."
(3) Finally, and perhaps most important of all, are the words of Robi Damelin, whose 27-year-old son, David, was killed by one of the prisoners to be released: "This was really a test for me, you know, to see if I mean what I say."
Damelin is one of the founders of "Parents' Circle," a forum for Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost loved ones in this struggle. "I'm more convinced now than ever," she maintains, "that if we don't release prisoners there can be no end to this conflict. If you look at Ireland or South Africa, some of the most violent murderers, who had blood on their hands exactly like many here, are today the greatest peace workers. The definition of forgiveness is giving up your right to revenge."