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Talking about Israel/Palestine: Moving to empowerment

 
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Maggie Herzig



Joined: 03 Jul 2004
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2004 4:27 pm    Post subject: Talking about Israel/Palestine: Moving to empowerment Reply with quote

Hello fellow dialogue and deliberation practitioners.

I'd like to hear from people who have worked with dialogue/deliberation groups on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to learn about what those groups have done - after they've shared their stories, learned together and discovered some shared values - to feel less depressed and frustrated and more empowered as change agents.

In the groups I've worked with through the Public Conversations Project, and those I've read about, I've seen many approaches, e.g., doing public education events together (e.g., speaking on panels), sponsoring events with inspiring and non-polemical speakers, lobbying for more constructive engagement by the US government (my work is in the US), visibly doing social action work together, spreading the dialogue movement in the spirit of citizen diplomacy, offering arts-oriented events to the public, e.g. poetry readings, films. In my experience, just learning side-by-side can feel pretty empowering to people who have become more curious and humbled as, through dialogue, they have personally experienced the gulf between different "historical narratives," one of which they may have previously seen as more or less "the whole story."

One group I've been working with is reading Mark Tessler's book "The History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" which Herb Kelman (Social Psychologist at Harvard) recommended to me as fairly even-handed, and it's turned out to be a great stimulus for side-by-side learning. They also watched and discussed David Shipler's PBS documentary "Arab and Jew." (I know the Peace Cafe folks in DC have used Shipler's book as well.) But again, there's the question of how and where to act after you've become more sensitized and more educated.

I am interested not only in Arab-Jewish dialogue, but also in dialogue within communities that experience either obvious division or silence in the face of difference, e.g. dialogues within synagogues, mosques and churches.

Finally, I know that some of the most powerful “actions” that come out of dialogue are in the new ways in which participants speak and act in their every day lives, e.g., speaking up in conversations with friends when stereotyping and misinformation is being promulgated. I’d love to hear specific examples of that. I’ll offer one. A Jewish participant in an Arab-Jewish dialogue regularly received group emails from her rabbi pointing out the most egregious actions of Palestinians without ever mentioning positive actions and endeavors and without acknowledging the larger systemic dynamics at work in the conflict. Before the dialogue, she’d just roll her eyes at the one-sidedness of his communications; after the dialogue she gave him feedback, very respectfully, and spoke about her own commitment to resist being caught up in the polarization and to instead learn about multiple perspectives on the issues through Jewish-Arab dialogue.

Thanks in advance for your ideas and stories.
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Maggie Herzig
Senior Associate
Public Conversations Project
Watertown, MA
www.publicconversations.org
home office: 781-862-4795
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minoakhtar



Joined: 04 Oct 2004
Posts: 3
Location: NY metro area

PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 3:54 pm    Post subject: The Dialogue Project experiences Reply with quote

Hi Maggie,

I am very intrigued by your question, since that is a question we facilitators always ask ourselves as well. I am a Muslim facilitator with the Dialogue Project in New York City. Marcia Kannry is the founder of this project (www.thedialogueproject.org). I have been facilitating circles for a year and a half.

We have done all of the things you mentioned, and I do not know if our dialoguers leave more satisfied over time or not. It is hard to say.

However, one of our most powerful moments was when two members of the Bereaved Parents Circle addressed a meeting of several of our circles together, in a mosque in New York City. The Israeli woman, Robi, had lost her soldier son, and the Palestinian woman, Niwad, had lost her sister. Their sharing was so transformational to many of us, for here we saw in action people transcending their natural human inclination to hate more, to destroy more and rather chose the way of peace and non-violence. I think it had a great impact on the dialoguers for they could see up close the pain and the transformation. Robi challenged the group to find 50,000 American Jews and 50,000 American Muslims to walk to the Capitol and demand an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. That was the activist end to a very powerful conversation, and again it is something like that that I think could energize our dialoguers. Some action, versus no action, does eat away at the energy of the dialogues, I must admit.

Well, this is just one story that is vivid in my mind as a facilitator, but I would love to explore and brainstorm with you further. Are you coming in on Friday evening? Please look me up for dinner perhaps...

Shalom, Salam, Peace
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Maggie Herzig



Joined: 03 Jul 2004
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2004 8:38 pm    Post subject: reply to minoakhtar Reply with quote

Thanks so much for your message. The signature didn't come through so I don't know your name, only your screen name. Will you please email me at [email protected] so we can see about getting together at NCDD? I'm coming on Friday but having dinner with my niece. I'm sure we'll find a time and I'd love to meet you. Maggie Herzig
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Maggie Herzig
Senior Associate
Public Conversations Project
Watertown, MA
www.publicconversations.org
home office: 781-862-4795
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