Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum
19 June 2012
On the 18th June the Woolf Institute hosted a second visit of the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum. Palestinian Seham Abu Awwad and Israeli Robi Damelin told their stories about the loss of their loved ones in the Middle East conflict and their continued belief in working together for peace and reconciliation. Robi Damelin is a South African born Israeli, Seham Abu Awwad is a Palestinian born on the West Bank- both have lost close relatives as a consequence of the conflict. Seham’s brother Yussef was shot and killed during an argument with Israeli soldiers after trying to stop children from throwing stones. Robi’s son, David, was an officer in the reserves when he was killed by a Palestinian sniper at a checkpoint. Both women spoke movingly of their experiences and their belief that retaliation is not a useful response to violence.
Made up of a group of more than 500 Palestinian and Israeli bereaved families, the Forum regularly organises speaker events, and has previously addressed audiences as divergent as groups of Israeli settlers and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin. Taking their message of peace and reconciliation, whilst showing the human costs of intercommunal violence, these women hope to to spare others what they have suffered. Speaking to the UK context the speakers had their own particular message and challenge, as Robi Damelin stated: “we must convince people not to import our conflict into their countries. Help us, listen to us. But don’t take sides”. As both speakers suggested, discussion of the conflict in the Middle East can too easily become abstracted into the realm of geopolitics and polemic: “enough of that” Seham stated “it should be about people”.