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Perspectives Weekly - Can forgiveness go too far?

May 4, 2012
Could you forgive someone who killed your child? I suspect most of you would say yes, you would at least try, if only because the alternative would be a lifetime of anger. But would you ever be able to accept that this murderer could avoid punishment, so long as he confessed to his crime? And what if he received his freedom regardless of whether he felt any remorse?
You might protest that forgiveness is distinct from punishment. Society needs to be protected from violent offenders and imprisonment is an effective deterrent for future crimes. Yet we use the language of forgiveness when we speak of prisoners being ‘pardoned’ by the State.
While the scenario seems hypothetical, in South Africa, many parents have been forced to confront these questions. In the wake of Apartheid, the country held a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where those responsible for the deaths of others could evade prosecution if they testified. While some victims felt that the TRC robbed them of justice, the commission was largely embraced by South Africans as the country’s only hope to move forward.
A new documentary asks whether the concept of the TRC could help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “One Day After Peace” premiered at the Hot Docs international documentary festival in Toronto this past Sunday. The film airs once more on Saturday, May 5 at the ROM Theatre at 4:00pm.
In the film, an Israeli grandmother named Robi Damelin travels to South Africa to meet with both victims and perpetrators of crimes under Apartheid. Damelin could relate: her son David was killed by a Palestinian sniper while serving in the Israeli military. Like the parents she meets in South Africa, Robi faces the possibility that her son's killer could be liberated, in this case, as part of a prison-exchange swap between the Israeli government and the Hamas-ruled government in the Gaza Strip.
This week on Perspectives, host Kris Dmytrenko meets Robi Damelin, along with Erez and Miri Laufer, the co-directors of One Day After Peace. Perspectives: The Weekly Edition airs tonight at 7:00 and 11:00 pm ET / 8:00 pm PT.
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