One of the reasons we launched Boston Partners for Peace is to offer a new way to engage with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We believe meaningful discourse around the conflict should include a diverse range of people and perspectives. We aim to engage and inform the community so we can empower changemakers in Israel and develop new local leadership around the conflict right here in Boston. These conversations may be challenging and at times even painful.
As a proud supporter of Israel, I choose to share Israel’s founding story and celebrate its successes. At the same time, I know that Arab-Israeli and Palestinian communities are a part of its story. And while we may have different narratives, their voices shouldn’t be ignored. It is important that we explore the conflicting truths of Israelis and Palestinians living this reality every day. If we try to understand one another’s perspectives, we may find new ways to move forward.
Engaging with voices that we might not agree with encourages critical thinking and opens us to empathy and a better understanding of the needs of all parties. For example, last week Boston Partners for Peace hosted the NGO Roots for a community-wide program. Roots brings together Israeli settlers and West Bank Palestinians to share personal stories of transformation and cross-cultural partnership towards nonviolence and reconciliation. This was the first time many attendees had heard from a Palestinian. The Palestinian representative, Shadi Abu Awwad, explained that he wished for both sides to recognize each other’s humanity. He believes that Israelis and Palestinians should move from hating each other to joining together as a force against the conflict. He also shared a belief that you can’t measure suffering and that no one ‘wins’ in suffering.
It may often feel like we are discussing the conflict in an echo chamber with the same views and a less than complete understanding of the situation on the ground. After last week’s program, it became clear to me that we need more voices to have more nuanced dialogue. As Shadi eloquently stated, “We should open our eyes and our minds and admit everyone has the right to exist in this land.” Let’s attempt to use this as our own starting point.