Trump Cuts Funding for Israeli-Palestinian Reconciliation. Fear and Hatred Will Take Its Place

As bereaved families, Israeli and Palestinian, working together to build reconciliation, we urge the White House: Reconsider a cruel, harsh measure that can't possibly contribute to any future peace process

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A participant in the summer camp on Kibbutz Beit Alfa of the Parents Circle, an organization for families who have lost family members in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
A participant in the summer camp on Kibbutz Beit Alfa of the Parents Circle, an organization for families who have lost family members in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Credit: JINI
Robi Damelin
Robi Damelin

I heard the news that the Trump administration has cut the 10 million dollars allocated to support co-existence groups working in Israel and Palestine with great sadness and frustration. The Parents Circle - Families Forum has benefited from the generosity of USAID funding for many years.   

>> The Saddest – and Most Optimistic – Peace Organization

There are very few other examples of a group of bereaved families, from both sides of a conflict,  working to create reconciliation while the war is still going on. 

The achievements of our unique parallel narrative program, with over 1,000 alumni, cannot just be brushed off, nor should its future be considered acceptable collateral damage for an unrelated political fight.

The very fact that we - bereaved Palestinians and Israelis - stand on any platform together, and speak in the same voice for reconciliation, breaks taboos and barriers that threaten coexistence here. If this is not an example to others, I ask myself, then what is? 

We all recognize that any future political peace agreement must also include a framework for a reconciliation process. Standing on the White House lawn and signing political agreements without a reconciliation process can, at best, achieve a temporary ceasefire. Until the next time.

Participants in the alternative Memorial Day ceremony held by the Parents Circle - Families Forum. Tel Aviv, April 2018Credit: Ofer Vaknin

I invite the doubters to come into a classroom when a Palestinian and Israeli from our group comes to tell their story. Watch the emotional breakthrough that occurs when these 17 year-old students, who have probably never met anyone from the "other side," listen to their stories of loss, and of transformation - in recognizing the humanity in the other.  

Come and visit our summer camp, to recognize the ripple effects of our work. Experience the work of the women’s group. Imagine going into a Palestinian village and meeting a group of women who have never met an Israeli who is not a settler or in army uniform. Watch our Young Ambassadors who have brought our message into their villages and towns.

I wish that Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt would take time out of their busy schedules to come and meet the thousands of Israelis and Palestinians who have gone through our programs and have experienced a new sense of empathy and understanding.  

We have met with many U.S. Congressmen and Senators and political leaders from both sides of the political spectrum. They invited us to share with their constituents a message they have probably never heard before. We recently launched a project in Congress, and members from both sides attended.

Meeting in Tel Aviv of the Parents Circle - Families Forum. The sticker reads: 'It won't end until we talk.'Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

We peacemakers ask you to reconsider what is a cruel and harsh measure that cannot possibly contribute to any future peace process. 

We ask you to reconsider its ramifications, to rethink a step that appears to lack the basic understanding that people should be treated with dignity and respect.

It makes no sense to alienate those who wish to meet from both sides. Cutting off contact creates fear and hatred. To create peace, the people must be at peace with themselves.

We who have lost our beloved children, parents, brothers and sisters in this  conflict, which should have ended long ago, understand the consequence of violence better than anyone. No matter how difficult and dark it gets, we will not give up our desire for reconciliation, nonviolence and (dare I say it) peace.

We have no choice. After all, it is our children, Israeli and Palestinian, who cry out from their graves: "Stop!"

Robi Damelin, whose son David was killed by a Palestinian sniper in 2002, is an active member of and spokesperson for The Parents Circle - Families Forum.

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