Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Bereaved Mother and Her Son's Killer

In September, Haaretz published an article (available in English and in Hebrew) about Robi Damelin, a member of the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace organization. Her son David was killed by a Palestinian sniper seven years ago. The sniper, Ta'er Hamad, is now in an Israeli jail, and Damelin decided to publicly forgive him. She wrote him and his family the following letter:

"This for me is one of the most difficult letters I will ever have to write. My name is Robi Damelin, I am the mother of David who was killed by your son. I know he did not kill David because he was David, if he had known him he could never have done such a thing. David was 28 years old, he was a student at Tel Aviv University doing his masters in the philosophy of education. David was part of the peace movement and did not want to serve in the occupied territories. He had compassion for all people and understood the suffering of the Palestinians. He treated all around him with dignity. David was part of the movement of the officers who did not want to serve in the occupied territories, but nevertheless for many reasons he went to serve when he was called up for reserve duty.

What makes our children do what they do, they do not understand the pain they are causing your son by now having to be in jail for many years and mine who I will never be able to hold or see again or see him married, or have a grandchild from. I cannot describe to you the pain I feel since his death and the pain of his brother and girlfriend, and all who knew and loved him.

I understand that your son is considered a hero by many within the Palestinian people. He is considered to be a freedom fighter, fighting for justice and for an independent, viable Palestinian state, but I also feel that if he understood that taking the life of another is not the way and that if he understood the consequences of his act, he could see that a nonviolent solution is the only way for both nations to live together in peace... Our lives as two nations are so intertwined, each of us will have to give up on our dreams for the future of the children who are our responsibility... I do not know what your reaction will be, it is a risk for me, but I believe that you will understand, as it comes from the most honest place within me. I hope that you will show the letter to your son, and that maybe in the future we can meet."

Hamad recently responded to this letter in a very negative and militant manner, saying that violence is the only way to end the occupation and that he will continue on this path until Palestine is liberated. He refused to address Damelin directly, and of course, refused to meet her, because he "cannot meet our land's occupier on the same land". You can read the response in Hebrew here. The Ma'an News Agency probably has the original letter in Arabic. I couldn't find an English version.

Well, at least one good thing came out of all this: we now know Ta'er Hamad shouldn't be included in any prisoner swap deals, since he hasn't changed his mind about violence.

Friday, October 23, 2009

No Negotiations, No Solution

An American diplomat is quoted in today's Yediot Ahronot as saying that the difference between Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas is that the Israeli prime minister wants negotiations without a solution to the conflict, while the Palestinian president wants a solution without negotiations. Sounds like an accurate assessment to me.

Now we have the negative half of each one of the leaders' wishes: no negotiations and no solution. Isn't that just great? Both leaders are unwilling to copromise. Netanyahu wants talks that will lead nowhere and to no concessions on Israel's part. Abbas just wants the world community to adopt the Palestinians' favored solution (all of East Jerusalem, including the Wailing Wall, as Palestine's capital; return exactly to the 1967 borders; and the right of return for Palestinian refugees) and to impose it on Israel.

With leaders like these, things will go downhill very quickly.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Origins of Stupidity

After the jump is a YouTube video in response to a video starring Kirk Cameron of Growing Pains fame. Cameron's video was an ad for a special edition of The Origins of Species with a 50-page anti-evolution introduction.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nobel Committe Wrong, Obama Right

Yesterday, I wrote here that President Barack Obama should not have won the Nobel Peace Prize. I still think so, but I liked Obama's speech reacting to the award. He said himself that he did not feel deserving, since he has not yet achieved enough. He seemed genuinely uncomfortable. He was right to say that he would accept the prize for those who believe in a world of dialogue. He was also right that this is meant to encourage him to continue with his international policies, rather than to acknowledge his work till now.

So, Obama should not have been chosen by the Nobel Committee, but I don't hold it against him. I hold it against the committee.

Friday, October 09, 2009

An Israeli Wins a Nobel

A few days ago, an Israeli chemist, Prof. Ada E. Yonath of the Weitzman Institute, won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, together with two Americans. She is the first woman to win the chemistry prize in 40 years. I'm very happy whenever an Israeli wins, but this also reminds me of the fact that Israeli academia is seriously underfunded. Israel needs to give universities more resources in order for today's students and young researchers to one day be able to win another scientific Nobel Prize.

Obama Cult of Personality Reaches Oslo

I voted for Barack Obama, and I'm glad he's the president, rather than a Republican. I support many of his policies. Still, I see absolutely no reason why he is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize so early into his presidency, especially since he certainly never did anything significant before he was elected president. Though he has lofty goals, he has not achieved them yet. He is repairing the damage left by George W. Bush in the international arena, but he has a lot of work left. The world hasn't suddenly fallen in love with America because of Obama, at least not the third world. He has brought some change, but not a revolution.

Two previous sitting presidents won the Nobel Prize. Teddy Roosevelt was five years into his presidency when he was honored with the prize. Woodrow Wilson had been president for seven years. A third US president, Jimmy Carter, won decades after leaving office. And Obama? He was just 9 months into the job. I've heard a report that he was nominated just two weeks after taking the oath of office.

There are many who see Barack Obama as some kind of political messiah. All the political art he inspired during the campaign, and all the enthusiasm he generated among young Americans who are interested more in celebrities than politics, the zillion Time magazine covers (I'm sure they'll be happy for the excuse to put Obama on the cover again) - it looked quite a bit like a cult of personality. Now, the Nobel Committee has joined in.

Giving Obama the prize now is a mistake. The Norwegians should have waited a few years to see if he actually earns it. I have to say, though, that compared to the egregious mistakes of some of the previous years, this year's choice is just misguided, but not totally outrageous.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The "Tape for Prisoners" Deal

The Israeli government has agreed to release twenty female Palestinian prisoners, aged 15 to 42, in exchange for a recent one-minute video recording of Sgt. Gilad Shalit, proving he's alive and showing what his physical and mental health status is, more or less. Hopefully, this is the first stage before a deal with Hamas where Shalit himself is exchanged for prisoners, and not just a recording of him.

I have mixed feelings about releasing prisoners for a tape. On the one hand, I believe Palestinian prisoners should be exchanged for live Israeli prisoners, and not just for a sign of life. If these 20 prisoners are counted as a down payment for the release of Shalit, then this will be less of a negative precedent.

There is also a question of how dangerous these prisoners are. Remember, women can be as dangerous as men. What they have done to land them in prison worries me less than what they might still do. In fact, some of those who have only attempted to murder Israelis may want to try again more than those who have already killed people. Unfortunately, I am unable to make such assessments on my own.