Where ‘Dialogue’ Doesn’t Work, and Does

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 5 Comments

Real journalism. Matt Kalman of the San Francisco Chronicle has done a piece on dialogue programs between Israelis and Palestinians, like Seeds of Peace, and concluded that nothing happens. The NGOs that set up these meetings, in faraway lands, are seen as corrupt and trading with the enemy by Palestinian communities; the (privileged) kids never see each other again; and yes it's great to hang out in Switzerland, but they're still cutting down my olive trees… Reminds me of what Zach Wales, activist, once told me of dialogue at Columbia U.: that it was an opportunity for Jewish kids to "atone" without doing anything really. I'm all for dialogue. But it's interesting to consider that many funders of the dialogue (like Robert Kraft, Columbia '63, whose name is on the Kraft Fund for intercultural dialogue and whose wife has said she wishes her sons could fight for Israel) basically don't see any injustice in the underlying situation. Let's everybody make nice.

Meantime, Richard Witty has sent along the following link from a synagogue in western Massachusetts announcing a "year-long dialogue" on Middle East issues. The first speakers, last night, were Israeli peace activists:

Ms. [Efat] Cohen explains, ''Our most important message is that the Israeli
occupation in Judea and Samaria is bad for Israel and should end as
fast as possible. It is not about not building settlements, but about
evacuation from all the occupied territories, including all the Jewish
settlements that were built in the middle of Palestinian lands, and
giving up the idea of a bigger Israel for the sake of smaller Israel
with high standards and better Jewish morals. …"

A great thing that the synagogue is talking about the damage to Jewish morals. This is huge, a reflection of the grass roots change I'm writing about. I wonder whether that synagogue will invite people like Anna Baltzer in to talk. Dialogue within the Jewish community is important, I'd say, to wake Jews up. This speaks to the larger issue: it is more important that Israel change than that the Palestinians do. Palestinians know all about the occupation; American Jews are steeped in nescience. Wounded by the Holocaust, we are unable to see the true victims of this situation. So it's really about Jewish awareness…

5 Responses

  1. Richard Witty
    October 20, 2008, 9:51 am

    The change is not new.

    And, is still frustrating. The development or relationships of mutual acceptance is the only way to achieve peace.

    If the specific relationships of Seeds of Peace didn't bear the kind of fruit that you would have sought, the question is NOT to dismiss it, but to analyze and pursue what does work.

    I attended the presentation that Phil referred to last night. The individuals are Zionists, one with a full career military, who also participates in the protection of Arab olive harvesting. As a career IDF retired officer, both the settlers and the IDF that polices the area, MUST respect him.

    He also stated that he drives Palestinians through checkpoints to hospitals.

    Its a travesty that an IDF person is needed to do this, but better that he does it than noone.

    The individuals are definitively Zionist. They are committed to Israel being a Jewish state.

  2. anon
    October 20, 2008, 2:55 pm

    Nescience–what better describes the Plot AGAINST AMERICA that Phil Roth wasn't talking about?

  3. Michael R. V. W.
    October 20, 2008, 3:36 pm

    Wow Phil. I never knew someone could make a negative conclusion of inter-group meetings and dialogue. Would you rather have them kill each other, or talk and reach mutual understanding?

  4. roGER
    October 21, 2008, 5:10 am

    The late Great Edward Said summoned up this kind of 'shared experience' dialogue:

    "Through the period from 1969 to 1991, I and many other Palestinians had had private, even secret, meetings and peace discussions with Israelis, American Jews, and others who were concerned about the issue.

    By the period of the intifadah I had lost interest in the encounter groups principally because they were often manipulated by professional "conflict resolution" technicians, and also because they were now being used by the PLO not to argue the Palestinian case but, in my opinion, to try to prove to Israelis how many concessions the PLO was prepared to make.

    I also found that most members of the Israeli Left (including Peace Now) were focused on asking for more Palestinian concessions (recognize us, give up on the National Charter, etc.) without offering anything in return. In other words, these private attempts at reconciliation – with some notable exceptions – reflected the exact balance of power between us, a very weak partner and a very strong one, some of whose advocates shamelessly kept asking the victims of military occupation and dispossession for various moral acknowledgements from their victims."

    Harry Clark wrote a powerful and eye-opening critique of this kind of action called "Refusing to be Effective" which appeared in CounterPunch in late March this year. I urge everyone to read it.

    link to counterpunch.org

  5. anon
    October 26, 2008, 12:19 pm

    It's pretty simple, young American Jews have to take a bus ride and sit in on counters and use toilets as if they were really separate but equal, that is, ignored the signs on both doors. All the while, they should burn the old banner of apartheid S Africa and call for economic sanctions, including the divestment of American foreign aid to the sequel apartheid state.

    While gathering the courage to do so absent any new Jewish M L King, and while waiting for the signing on of the children of tomorrow, it might not hurt to review objective history wherein,
    for most of the masses, the Jews were at least as much oppressors (in the service of whatever current Gentile elite) as helpers–and that's pulling punches.

    Jewish history by Jews has largely ignored the part they played in oppression of the Gentile masses, hence their answer is always
    "anti-semitism" the deux ex machina of all times.

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