we mean the capacity
to transform conflicts
a never-ending process.
– Johan Galtung
I interviewed Sulaiman Khatib and Chen Alon, co-founders of “Combatants For Peace”, nominated twice for the Nobel Peace prize in 2017 and in 2018. Both times, the nominations were on behalf of “Combatants For Peace”.
I want to highlight the following elements from the interview that most attracted my attention and that obviously anchored to my lived experience, to my premises, to my profession, and no less to my hopes.
- The dual and intertwined path of Combatants for Peace. Chen, in the interview, emphasized more than once that, along with the process of rehumanization, empathy training, and promotion of dialogue, there is the joint, non-violent, and creative struggle against the Israeli military occupation and the oppressive system of apartheid. I feel that without this strong affirmation, the promotion of dialogue between the two peoples could be tainted and accused of ‘normalization’ (tatbya in Arabic), meaning to normalize the relationship as if there is no oppressive and unjust system in place.
- Opening the mind and embracing different narratives. This seems to be a crucial part of Sulaiman’s perspective on breaking the cycle of violence and moving beyond personal-collective trauma. His curiosity about the history of Israelis seems to have played a key role in his personal transformation. And his comment about “living in different movies” is a really striking way to describe the vastly different ways that the ongoing conflict is portrayed in the Israeli and Palestinian media.
- Opening the heart. Holding space also for the pain of the other, of the “enemy”. Sulaiman talks about empathy for the suffering from the holocaust, Chen says that now, after 18 years of training the muscle of empathy, his heart breaks in the same way for Israeli and Palestinian children when they are killed, kidnapped, tortured. In fact, we are trained to feel empathy only for our loved ones, our neighbors, our most like us.“(I want to invite you to) give empathy and humanity a chance…” (Sulaiman).
- Open the will. Imagination as a fundamental ability in conflict transformation. Chen says: “one of the first manifestations of oppression is that people cannot imagine another reality.” Sulaiman says that the Joint Memorial Ceremony, in which Israelis and Palestinians mourn together, calling for an end to the violence, is somehow unimaginable. Having the ability to imagine the unimaginable truly opens the door to creative conflict resolution.
- The role of the international community. Go beyond polarization and hatred. In this moment of strong polarization, which fuels Islamophobia on the one hand and anti-Semitism on the other, Chen invites us to be spect-actors, but not to support one side or the other, but by asking ourselves “where is the stage where people are co-resisting, co-existing, struggling together, rehumanizing each other.” Sulaiman appreciates the awakening of the international community, but feels he needs to distance himself from slogans that bring hatred and he invites us to tune into the vibration of life.
You can listen to the podcast here
You can watch the interview here
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