In Grief, A Growing Partnership: Parents Span Israeli-Palestinian Divide Several people have died and dozens more been injured as violence has wracked Israel. Two parents — one Israeli, one Palestinian — who have lost children to earlier bloodshed seek a new way forward.
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In Grief, A Growing Partnership: Parents Span Israeli-Palestinian Divide

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In Grief, A Growing Partnership: Parents Span Israeli-Palestinian Divide

In Grief, A Growing Partnership: Parents Span Israeli-Palestinian Divide

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/449510489/449510490" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to begin the program today with a story of the escalating violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Just today, we learned of five more attempted knife attacks which led to three Israelis injured and four Palestinians dead. That means the death toll over the past five weeks is now eight Israelis and at least 40 Palestinians.

Now, violence in the area is certainly nothing new, but one of the things that's striking about the current situation is that both assailants and their targets have been as young as 13 years old. That's a key reason we were interested in talking to the Parents Circle today. That's a group that includes both Palestinian and Israeli families who have lost children to past violence in the Middle East. Tonight that group set up what they call a peace tent in the city of Jaffa. It was a place for Israelis and Palestinians to talk with each other and not about each other.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

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MARTIN: That's one speaker at the gathering suggesting that this conflict does not need to be managed by leaders. But to be solved, he says, this is not something you can manage. This is our lives we're talking about here. Earlier today, we spoke with two members of Parents Circle - Robi Damelin. She is an Israeli. Her son, David, was killed by a Palestinian sniper in 2002. And Bassam Aramin - his daughter, Abir, was killed in 2007 by Israeli border police. And I asked Robi Damelin what her reaction is to the most recent incidents.

ROBI DAMELIN: Look, you know, I just was thinking this morning that I would very much like to write an article to all the young people in Israel and Palestine to really think about what they're doing to stop the violence because what is happening is they have no idea what the consequence in the long term will be to this violence. How many families are going to be destroyed? How many mothers will never sleep again quietly because they've lost their children?

I understand the frustration of these kids. You mustn't forget that they haven't had a chance, actually, to ever be exposed to Israeli kids their age. They've never met anybody that isn't a segna (ph) or a soldier. So why would they think that something good is happening because nothing is happening that they can see in their lives that is improving it? And, of course, the media - you'll excuse me - does not help. They're just fanning the flames to get it worse and worse. And when I listen to the broadcasts from both sides, my heart just wants to break.

MARTIN: Bassam, what about you? How are you reacting to the current situation?

BASSAM ARAMIN: Yeah. Unfortunately, it's another wave of blood - another wave of violence. We know the result in advance. But when I see what the Israelis show in their media and their TV - Palestinian violence, Palestinian terrorists, stabbing, knives, throwing stones for nothing and they don't understand what's happening there. On the other side, what the Palestinians see - they see racism, brutality. We see checkpoints, and there's no news - Palestinians murdered for nothing. There's no human rights, no respect, no freedom for worship to go to the mosque. And this is how we invest in more blood and more violence without - as Robi said, they have no hope, they have no process - peaceful process to let the people understand that in the end we need to find a solution.

MARTIN: Why this and why now?

ARAMIN: No. In fact, it's every day. It's not in this intensive - let me say - wave, but it's always like this. Unfortunately, I understand the frustration on the Palestinian side - that we're not going to be slaves forever to the occupation. For the Israelis, they don't see what we see on our streets. So I believe why in this time - I can't say it's because of the - what we see in the checkpoints. Everywhere, this is a military occupation and the Israelis don't see that. So it's another wave of blood.

MARTIN: Robi, what about you? Why do you think this is happening and why now?

DAMELIN: Well, it's been brewing for a very long time. You can't keep kids, even if they're 13 or 14, with no hope, and they don't see the humanity in the other because there's no meeting point, as I've told you, between Israelis and Palestinians. The only meeting point is exactly what Bassam said or at a checkpoint or, perhaps, in a sacrament, where there is constant fighting between the two. It is very clear that Israel will have to get out of the occupied territories and something has to happen, as to move to stop the violence.

You know, I was in Paris - I just came back yesterday - and on Thursday, we had a meeting with President Hollande. And I said please, get all of those who are from the European Union to sign a letter to stop the violence and to bring it to an end and if, maybe, they could start to realize that there's no point in this violence because it's not bringing anything but just increasing the whole cycle. Tonight we have a tent which, actually, we started just before the Gaza War. And we will be in Jaffa tonight so that people can come and talk and dialogue. And I just hope that this can send a message and talk to parents to keep their children at home if they possibly can.

It's very difficult to keep a young kid at home today. So these kids, out of sheer frustration and out of believing that they are invincible, go out and the reaction is so violent that so many people are dying - for what? I keep asking - for what? - what is the purpose? This will not free Palestine, and it will not end Israel by becoming more and using more and more strength. That will not make us any safer.

MARTIN: Bassam, can we hear from you? It's interesting that both - leaders from both sides have criticized each other's leadership in this moment. And I'm interested in what your perception of what would be helpful right now - what would you like to see from leadership, and what do you feel your role is in a time like this?

ARAMIN: In this mad time, I expect, at the political level, that people need to care about our lives and especially from the international community. And unfortunately, many states - they are not helping us. For example, when the Palestinians - I don't know - when they're here in the media, like President Obama says, Israel has the right to defend herself while I'm losing my 10-year-old child. It creates more anger on the other side without explaining, for example. So we expect from the world, from the international community, to make pressure to try to bring the parties together, at least to give people hope - to get people to think that we're not going to continue forever to kill each other.

You have no idea what's the meaning of fear in the streets of Jerusalem. For the Palestinians, if you do anything wrong, if you try to put your hand in your pocket to answer your phone, maybe you'll get killed. And this is what we see. We don't see the fear in the other side, in Israel. It's amazing. It's unbelievable. I never witnessed such a fear in the streets. I don't know. In this madness, it's very difficult to talk to them. In spite of that, this is our responsibility.

MARTIN: How do you keep your own - your relationships strong at a time like this? How do you two keep your friendship from deteriorating at a time like this?

ARAMIN: It's not friendship. Please, it's not friendship. We are not friends. We are not brothers. We are not relatives. We are partners, and it's for our life. I care about Robi's life. She cares about my life because she wants to live in a normal place, and I want to live in peace and freedom and dignity in a normal place. So what we are doing - we approach our people on each side for them, for their benefit. When I talk to the Palestinians - that we need to use non-violent means. Means - and through this, civilized way, we can also bring Israelis to our side. But we will never bring Israelis while we are acting in violence, which we destroy ourselves. So each side work for his own side, and in the end, it's win-win. It's for both of us.

MARTIN: I take your point, and I thank you for that clarification. Though, Robi, final thought from you about - is anyone being constructive here? Is there - Bassam had some thoughts - I understand that Secretary of State John Kerry has called for meetings with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas next week. I know that the meeting with Mr. Netanyahu is set for Germany. I don't know where the meeting with Mr. Abbas is set for. What would you like to see happen?

DAMELIN: For me, what is so important is that the world stops taking sides. Let it not be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine because what the world is doing with that attitude is importing our conflict to their country and creating hatred between Jews and Muslims. And this I see all over Europe, and I see the beginnings of it in America. But I hope that both of these leaders will see sense and stop having to be right and try to look for a solution that will stop the killing and the violence.

MARTIN: Robi Damelin is a spokesperson for Parents Circle - Families Forum. She's with us from Tel Aviv. Bassam Aramin works with the Palestinian office of Parents Circle. He was with us from Bethlehem. I thank you both so much for speaking with us once again. We very much appreciate it.

ARAMIN: Thank you.

DAMELIN: Thank you. Thank you.

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