MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
Recently two friends came to visit Israel from abroad. One asked a question, and the other may have answered it in part. One visitor is a student from California is comparing the role of dialuge in the conflict in Northern Ireland with that in Israel. In Ireland, dialogue between politicians, and between communities seems to have succeeded. Between Israelis and Palestinians it has not.
Differences of language and culture between Jews and Arab Palestinians are much greater than those between factions in Northern Ireland, but instinct tells us that something else is wrong. Something is not working in these dialogue efforts, because we have not been able to get ordinary people, who represent their societies, involved. Instead, "dialogue" seems to have become a pursuit of a self-selected few.
Ratna Palle visited from Holland and met members of the Family Forum (or Parents Circle) group. Her impressions provide, in part an answer to why dialogue is not working between Israelis and Palestinians, and within Israeli society.
Many years ago, Boake Carter (a conservative British columnist) wrote that "in time of war, truth is the first casualty." Truth and honesty are too often the first casualty of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue too. People anxious to please say things they don't mean, and sometimes believe things they know are not true, they 'make allowances' for the other side, and they hide some ugly truths. It produces the dialogue of couscous and falafel, which a Palestinian friend once called "fluffy bunny dialogue." It can't produce real understanding or progress toward peace. The purpose of dialogue is for each side to understand the truth of the other, and to accept the other as an equal human being. If you have to "make allowances" for unacceptable beliefs and actions, attributed to the occupation, or to the Holocaust or to whatever reason, you aren't accepting the other as an equal, and you aren't judging them by your standards.
Dialogue is only serious when real opponents are willing to engage in dialogue and to air their differences frankly. In Israeli-Palestinian society and within Israeli society, we do not have real dialogue. We have some Israelis and Palestinians who are committed to peace because of ideology. They have developed some mythical illusions about the conflict and about possible solutions. Most of the "dialogue people" on both sides, but especially the Israeli side, are divorced from most of their society. We can't get a settler from Izhar in a room with a Hamas person and get them each to recognize the humanity of the other. Settlers do not talk to "regular Israelis" much, and "regular Israelis" in turn do not talk to "peace people." Middle Eastern societies are not pluralistic. They are segmented. Israeli and Palestinian societies are not exceptions.
Perhaps dialogue is a model that can only work in the West, or perhaps it can work here, but only if we take the hard route of telling the truth, of bringing together people who represent the mainstream of Israeli and Arab society, and of looking for the penny where we dropped it, not where the light happens to shine.
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Replies: 5 comments
Well said. I have experienced all these examples of an unwillingness to engage each other in honest and respectable dialogue, both by the extreme left, the moderate left, the Arabs and the settlers.
However, I think there is something more important than voicing narratives -- it is necessary that groups of Israelis among themselves (Arabs too) and Israelis, Palestinians and others who want peace, should listen to the concerns of each other and than work to find a constructive way to solve our problems. It is necessary that people realize that dialogue is not going to result in victory, in which onme side accepts the point of view of the other completely, but rather that by understanding the other's point of view, and having some respect for him or her, they wil work together to reach some kind of acceptable compromise, or if that is impossible, that they will at least have respect for each others' humanity, thus reducing the violence.
I find trhe settlers arguments absurd. But I could engage her in a respectful debate, point to our disagreements calmly, and show an understanding of her religious and personal concerns as a settler (although I am not religious myself).
Posted by Micha @ 09/29/2006 02:52 PM CST
Dialogue has always lacked in the Middle East. The Israelis and Palestinians never want to talk to each other. Jonathan Cook who lives in Nazareth wrote on antiwar.com an article on how he rarely sees Jews during a day in Nazareth. This segregation society leads to no dialogue between each group and in effect no dialogue between societies.
Nonetheless if this be the case then not talking to Hamas does no good. You need to talk to these type of people and see what their veiws in order to make compromise.
Posted by Butros Dahu @ 09/30/2006 05:51 AM CST
This is a very good article, but what is the solution - how can you get the real debaters to the table? I believe that the only solution can come at the hand of an unbiased arbitrator. Unfortunately, that arbitrator should be the United States, but under the current administration, that is impossible.
Here in the US, there is little to no objective discussion regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here, there is only the Israeli government point of view shown on corporate media stations. Here, Israel is always the victim and Palestinians are the "terrorists". According to our network news, Hezbollah launched unwarranted attacks while Israel just defended itself. One Palestinian deputy Prime minister, Nasser Shaer, is released, while 60 Hamas officials remain in prison, and there is not one story on USA news stations.
How can we in the US expect that a peace in Palestine can occur between neighbors who have fought since 1948 in their present political state and much longer before then, when our entire country is told the Israeli government is right. How can Americans visualize Mideast peace when Bush innaugurates his second term with "Israel's wars are our wars."? How can Americans even hold a decent objective conversation when Secretary of State Rice, when asked to intervene in the latest Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, says "But what would I say?" - embarassing.
My belabored point is that Mideast peace cannot occur between two fighters. Who, when in the middle of a fistfight, said "Wait, let's objectively look at each of our points of view and evaluate our options." There must be a referee and that referee should be the strongest kid on the block - the USA. However, the USA, the administration and most of the people, are not yet unbiased and therefor not yet qualified to hold that post. And, unfortunately, other than US Representative Kucinich or Ralph Nader, who could never be elected, no other current political leader could hold that post either.
Posted by Larry Basich @ 09/30/2006 06:32 AM CST
Your article Ami points at the intellectual laziness of religious people.
For example, the woman settler says "in which the settler woman argued that nothing happens unless God wants it to happen, and thought that Sharon had been laying in a coma for so long because the hereafter does not want to have him either. "This is our land. The Arabs are welcome to live here in their communities and are entitled to autonomy, and whoever is not satisfied with that can move to one of the 22 Arab states."
Any honest intellectual KNOWS that God did not tell this woman shhiit. Period. End of story. No need to prolong the debate. God did not give this land to the European woman. If he did, then she must present proof, maybe ask God at the meeting to tell the Palestinian woman, that "I God am giving this Netherlands woman the land". LOL. AHHHHh the fukenn stupidity.
Posted by John @ 10/02/2006 06:19 PM CST
That's very true. If God would just make it clear now who owns the land by speaking individually to all the protagonists, the problem would be solved.
If S/He chooses not to do that, we have to assume S/He wants us to sort it out by ourselves.
Posted by Spike @ 11/16/2006 03:37 PM CST
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