mepeace.org

After reading this article, it made me feel worthless; a punch in the face to all people that are working towards peace and reconciliation, making it sounds as if it is/was a joke!

I found this article to be offensive, making it sound like dialogue is counter productive. I personally feel that dialogue will bring people together (maybe not necessarilly their governments), and dispell the stereotypes, racism, hate that they had been taught, and come to see the other side as human beings, rather than "terrorists" or "Occupierers" that their media outlets want them to believe.

Reading this article brought tears to my eyes, and I have been very depressed for the last few days-- and I can't admit to feeling THIS SAD in a while.

This article made me feel like I had to give up all of my dreams, and that what I will do will not be productive-- unless I adhere to the author's view point.

How about the peacemakers that have worked hard to create venues where Israelies and Palestinians can come together, in hopes to persuade their leaders to end the violence? How about Sulha? My friends, Gabi + Scott and their Israeli and Palestinian colleagues have worked tooth and nail to make sure that this magnificent event happens each year (and note-- they are not sponsored by huge cooporations-- it was made and down by the people, and they currently need donations to have another Sulha peace festival happen again).

How about my good friend, Aziz Abu Sarah, a Palestianian peace activist that had lost a relative due to the violence, but learned peace, love and reconciliation in order to build bridges and bring about peace with Israelies. He lectures all through out the US, and I know that he has worked hard. He needs to be respected and admired for his peace and dialogue contributions.
I initially met my friend Aziz when I was in high school, and he toured with the Parents Circle at a local college. I was inspired by what he had to say, but being that I was 16 years old, I wondered why he was not anti-Israel and full of revolutionary, anti-establishment, anarchism, smashing the system (again, I was 16 years old, and had a lot of animosity towards Israel-- based on the way people acted treated me; the Palestinians-- I then wanted to eradicate Israel -- the government and the people's attitudes, and was in shock that he did not think the same way I had).

As a 22 year old adult, I met up with him again (he spoke with Marc Gopin at a local synagogue while on tour), I thanked him very much for all of the good work that he had done, and for being a good role model towards me. Seeing him again taught me to follow my dreams, and remain true to myself, no matter what the complications of the situation are.





http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10722.shtml

Can we talk? The Middle East "peace industry"
Faris Giacaman, The Electronic Intifada, 20 August 2009



Upon finding out that I am Palestinian, many people I meet at college in the United States are eager to inform me of various activities that they have participated in that promote "coexistence" and "dialogue" between both sides of the "conflict," no doubt expecting me to give a nod of approval. However, these efforts are harmful and undermine the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel -- the only way of pressuring Israel to cease its violations of Palestinians' rights.

When I was a high school student in Ramallah, one of the better known "people-to-people" initiatives, Seeds of Peace, often visited my school, asking students to join their program. Almost every year, they would send a few of my classmates to a summer camp in the US with a similar group of Israeli students. According to the Seeds of Peace website, at the camp they are taught "to develop empathy, respect, and confidence as well as leadership, communication and negotiation skills -- all critical components that will facilitate peaceful coexistence for the next generation." They paint quite a rosy picture, and most people in college are very surprised to hear that I think such activities are misguided at best, and immoral, at worst. Why on earth would I be against "coexistence," they invariably ask?

During the last few years, there have been growing calls to bring to an end Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people through an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). One of the commonly-held objections to the boycott is that it is counter-productive, and that "dialogue" and "fostering coexistence" is much more constructive than boycotts.

With the beginning of the Oslo accords in 1993, there has been an entire industry that works toward bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in these "dialogue" groups. The stated purpose of such groups is the creating of understanding between "both sides of the conflict," in order to "build bridges" and "overcome barriers." However, the assumption that such activities will help facilitate peace is not only incorrect, but is actually morally lacking.

The presumption that dialogue is needed in order to achieve peace completely ignores the historical context of the situation in Palestine. It assumes that both sides have committed, more or less, an equal amount of atrocities against one another, and are equally culpable for the wrongs that have been done. It is assumed that not one side is either completely right or completely wrong, but that both sides have legitimate claims that should be addressed, and certain blind spots that must be overcome. Therefore, both sides must listen to the "other" point of view, in order to foster understanding and communication, which would presumably lead to "coexistence" or "reconciliation."

Such an approach is deemed "balanced" or "moderate," as if that is a good thing. However, the reality on the ground is vastly different than the "moderate" view of this so-called "conflict." Even the word "conflict" is misleading, because it implies a dispute between two symmetric parties. The reality is not so; it is not a case of simple misunderstanding or mutual hatred which stands in the way of peace. The context of the situation in Israel/Palestine is that of colonialism, apartheid and racism, a situation in which there is an oppressor and an oppressed, a colonizer and a colonized.

In cases of colonialism and apartheid, history shows that colonial regimes do not relinquish power without popular struggle and resistance, or direct international pressure. It is a particularly naive view to assume that persuasion and "talking" will convince an oppressive system to give up its power.

The apartheid regime in South Africa, for instance, was ended after years of struggle with the vital aid of an international campaign of sanctions, divestments and boycotts. If one had suggested to the oppressed South Africans living in bantustans to try and understand the other point of view (i.e. the point of view of South African white supremacists), people would have laughed at such a ridiculous notion. Similarly, during the Indian struggle for emancipation from British colonial rule, Mahatma Gandhi would not have been venerated as a fighter for justice had he renounced satyagraha -- "holding firmly to the truth," his term for his nonviolent resistance movement -- and instead advocated for dialogue with the occupying British colonialists in order to understand their side of the story.

Now, it is true that some white South Africans stood in solidarity with the oppressed black South Africans, and participated in the struggle against apartheid. And there were, to be sure, some British dissenters to their government's colonial policies. But those supporters explicitly stood alongside the oppressed with the clear objective of ending oppression, of fighting the injustices perpetrated by their governments and representatives. Any joint gathering of both parties, therefore, can only be morally sound when the citizens of the oppressive state stand in solidarity with the members of the oppressed group, not under the banner of "dialogue" for the purpose of "understanding the other side of the story." Dialogue is only acceptable when done for the purpose of further understanding the plight of the oppressed, not under the framework of having "both sides heard."

It has been argued, however, by the Palestinian proponents of these dialogue groups, that such activities may be used as a tool -- not to promote so-called "understanding," -- but to actually win over Israelis to the Palestinian struggle for justice, by persuading them or "having them recognize our humanity."

However, this assumption is also naive. Unfortunately, most Israelis have fallen victim to the propaganda that the Zionist establishment and its many outlets feed them from a young age. Moreover, it will require a huge, concerted effort to counter this propaganda through persuasion. For example, most Israelis will not be convinced that their government has reached a level of criminality that warrants a call for boycott. Even if they are logically convinced of the brutalities of Israeli oppression, it will most likely not be enough to rouse them into any form of action against it. This has been proven to be true time and again, evident in the abject failure of such dialogue groups to form any comprehensive anti-occupation movement ever since their inception with the Oslo process. In reality, nothing short of sustained pressure -- not persuasion -- will make Israelis realize that Palestinian rights have to be rectified. That is the logic of the BDS movement, which is entirely opposed to the false logic of dialogue.

Based on an unpublished 2002 report by the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last October that "between 1993 and 2000 [alone], Western governments and foundations spent between $20 million and $25 million on the dialogue groups." A subsequent wide-scale survey of Palestinians who participated in the dialogue groups revealed that this great expenditure failed to produce "a single peace activist on either side." This affirms the belief among Palestinians that the entire enterprise is a waste of time and money.

The survey also revealed that the Palestinian participants were not fully representative of their society. Many participants tended to be "children or friends of high-ranking Palestinian officials or economic elites. Only seven percent of participants were refugee camp residents, even though they make up 16 percent of the Palestinian population." The survey also found that 91 percent of Palestinian participants no longer maintained ties with Israelis they met. In addition, 93 percent were not approached with follow-up camp activity, and only five percent agreed the whole ordeal helped "promote peace culture and dialogue between participants."

Despite the resounding failure of these dialogue projects, money continues to be invested in them. As Omar Barghouti, one of the founding members of the BDS movement in Palestine, explained in The Electronic Intifada, "there have been so many attempts at dialogue since 1993 ... it became an industry -- we call it the peace industry."

This may be partly attributed to two factors. The dominant factor is the useful role such projects play in public relations. For example, the Seeds of Peace website boosts its legitimacy by featuring an impressive array of endorsements by popular politicians and authorities, such as Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George Mitchell, Shimon Peres, George Bush, Colin Powell and Tony Blair, amongst others. The second factor is the need of certain Israeli "leftists" and "liberals" to feel as if they are doing something admirable to "question themselves," while in reality they take no substantive stand against the crimes that their government commits in their name. The politicians and Western governments continue to fund such projects, thereby bolstering their images as supporters of "coexistence," and the "liberal" Israeli participants can exonerate themselves of any guilt by participating in the noble act of "fostering peace." A symbiotic relationship, of sorts.

The lack of results from such initiatives is not surprising, as the stated objectives of dialogue and "coexistence" groups do not include convincing Israelis to help Palestinians gain the respect of their inalienable rights. The minimum requirement of recognizing Israel's inherently oppressive nature is absent in these dialogue groups. Rather, these organizations operate under the dubious assumption that the "conflict" is very complex and multifaceted, where there are "two sides to every story," and each narrative has certain valid claims as well as biases.

As the authoritative call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel makes plain, any joint Palestinian-Israeli activities -- whether they be film screenings or summer camps -- can only be acceptable when their stated objective is to end, protest, and/or raise awareness of the oppression of the Palestinians.

Any Israeli seeking to interact with Palestinians, with the clear objective of solidarity and helping them to end oppression, will be welcomed with open arms. Caution must be raised, however, when invitations are made to participate in a dialogue between "both sides" of the so-called "conflict." Any call for a "balanced" discourse on this issue -- where the motto "there are two sides to every story" is revered almost religiously -- is intellectually and morally dishonest, and ignores the fact that, when it comes to cases of colonialism, apartheid, and oppression, there is no such thing as "balance." The oppressor society, by and large, will not give up its privileges without pressure. This is why the BDS campaign is such an important instrument of change.

Faris Giacaman is a Palestinian student from the West Bank, attending his second year of college in the United States.

Views: 29

Comment

You need to be a member of mepeace.org to add comments!

Join mepeace.org

Comment by Stewart Mills on December 31, 2009 at 1:22am
Hi Stephanie, what I take away from Faris' article is dialogue alone is not enough to peace-making.

Yes, dialogue is an important and essential step, it is only an elementary one. Once basic trust is developed through dialogue then we need to move to action and cooperation. Eg the Gaza Freedom March is one such step:
http://www.mepeace.org/forum/topics/gaza-freedom-march?xg_source=ac...

One of my sadnesses with interfaith dialogue is that it becomes more of an anthropological exercise where different people share in quaint customs and rituals without addressing substantive issues of conflict eg how can we as people of religious traditions ensure fellow human beings are not killed because of our religious perspective?

My sense is Faris shares such a disappointment with initiatives like Seeds of Peace and other dialogue groups. In times of peace these groups give a sense of optimism and hope. However, during times of conflict (eg Lebannon 2006, Gaza 2008, 2009) sadly people often revert back to our narrow tribal thinking.

The lesson from Faris' piece is getting the right balance between necessary patient dialogue and meeting the immediate needs of the most vulnerable in society.

My sense is sometimes it is best to act in a loving and compassionate way and accept that you will make mistakes and hope that others will have the grace to forgive.

That would mean in the case of refugees take them in (dialogue is step 1, action is step 2). Act compassionately first and work out the details later. Who knows how many lives would have been saved if Jewish refugees fleeing persecution from pogroms in Russia, Eastern Europe or Western Europe or Middle Eastern or North African states had been given refuge in the last century. Think about the same for Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghani, Sri Lankan, Sudanese, Somali refugees.
Comment by Michael Lockhart on November 23, 2009 at 7:18am
Notice he faults the dialogue process for the fact that many Palestinians failed to show up or maintain ties with Israelis, when he's arguing that they *shouldn't* be involved!
Comment by Michael Lockhart on November 23, 2009 at 6:12am
Stephanie - Don't be discouraged by that article against dialogue. People who fear dialogue are really afraid of meeting the people they've judged so long in their hearts. They're afraid of YOU, because your heart is bigger than theirs. They're afraid of dialogue because it means their rhetoric is dying and they have to learn new words. They're afraid of coexistence because it means the end of their false identity built on conflict. You scare them, and you should have compassion for them because it's so ridiculous that they're afraid of you. And then be proud.
Comment by Stephanie Chase on August 25, 2009 at 11:49pm
However, to Faris' defense, I will say that he has attained these view points since he has lived under occupation all of his life, not me.
So many things were promised during his lifetime, that never happened.

I haven't had the experience, and until I go to the occupied territories, will I be able to sympathize with him.
Comment by Stephanie Chase on August 25, 2009 at 6:56am
When Faris brings up how
"With the beginning of the Oslo accords in 1993, there has been an entire industry that works toward bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in these "dialogue" groups. The stated purpose of such groups is the creating of understanding between "both sides of the conflict," in order to "build bridges" and "overcome barriers." However, the assumption that such activities will help facilitate peace is not only incorrect, but is actually morally lacking.

The presumption that dialogue is needed in order to achieve peace completely ignores the historical context of the situation in Palestine. It assumes that both sides have committed, more or less, an equal amount of atrocities against one another, and are equally culpable for the wrongs that have been done. It is assumed that not one side is either completely right or completely wrong, but that both sides have legitimate claims that should be addressed, and certain blind spots that must be overcome. Therefore, both sides must listen to the "other" point of view, in order to foster understanding and communication, which would presumably lead to "coexistence" or "reconciliation.""

--> I disagree with him strongly.
First off, when the Oslo Peace Treaty was signed in 1993, many Israelies and Palestinians had high hopes of peace actually happening within the 1990s. Yitzhak Rabin had worked very hard with Yasser Arafat of establishing a Palestinian state. Had Rabin not been assasinated in 1995, I really do think that we would have seen a true, real, peace agreement, with a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state.

As for saying that the use of the word "conflict" implies symmatry, I beg to differ.
Does the China and Tibet conflict imply symmetry on both sides of the conflict? No. (Last time I checked, Tibetans living outside of occupied Tibet in the Tibetan diaspora have difficulty returning or visiting their homeland, much like the Palestinians.
Name one ethnic conflict where there was symmetry of treatment on both sides?!

I think that dialogue CAN change peoples view points (maybe not over night, but gradually through events, group participation, lectures, demonstration, seeing first hand what it means to be discriminated; empathizing and understanding the other's fears), and help them build a grassroots foundation to make change.

Having dialogue (in this conflict) wil allow Israelies to look past their own world in Israel and understand what it means to be Palestinian; how the Israeli army that just about every Israeli is destined to join greatly impacts and causes much harm and violence rather than security that they have been taught in school. Dialogue will teach them that there are people the same age as them on the other side that want peace, and together we can work towards it, and put pressure on our leaders to do so.
For Palestinians (and I don't wan to be harsh on them, since they have had to go through a lot), dialogue will help them understand why Israelies may have such fear and axiety, and the erratic nature that their government produces. Why some are afraid to ride buses. Why some may have certain political leanings.
Dialogue is seeing the other side as human, and working together to bring peace and justice

Translate mepeace.org

Latest Activity

Shefqet Avdush Emini updated their profile
Jan 14
jen brown posted a blog post
Nov 28, 2018
Greg shaw and Jameelah are now friends
Nov 21, 2018
Jameelah updated their profile
Nov 20, 2018
Jameelah is now friends with sara bechor and Oliver Haack
Nov 20, 2018
Profile IconMaria Grispou and jen brown joined mepeace.org
Nov 15, 2018
Mohammad Suhail Bhat joined a group
Thumbnail

Indo-Pak Peace Forum

This group will be a forum for Indians and Pakistanis as well as for those who support Indo-Pak…See More
Nov 7, 2018

Search mepeace.org

"Like" us on Facebook

Promote MEPEACE online

Badge

Loading…

© 2019   Created by Eyal Raviv. Supported by One Region, One Future.   ..

Feedback | Report an Issue  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service