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Turning Peace-movements into War Movements? – A Caution

An old friend phoned from overseas and in the course of the conversation he said he had read a book he thought I might like – something to do with “the ethnic cleansing of Palestine”. He proceeded to tell me a bit about it the subject … quite a lot of stuff about Israelis behaving very badly. I found it quite distressing.

I expect my friend would have felt comfortable raising this topic in this way because we have both been involved with the peace movement, and peace movement groups often take one side of a conflict against another. Lately, in New Zealand at least, there has been much strong peace-movement feeling against Israeli actions and policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I mumbled in response that I wanted New Zealand to remain neutral so it could be trusted by conflicting parties to support or help broker peace – when and as this could be done.  I tried to express my concern that if everyone joined in to condemn, there would be no one left to help provide and support avenues for discussion and finding solutions. I was relieved that my friend appeared to find this view acceptable.

Afterwards I still felt unsettled and wondered why. I then identified my feeling as having affinities with the way I felt when I was a child when my parents were having (sometimes quite strong) disagreements and each wanted me to be onside – on their side.  I could often feel myself to be in disagreement with one or the other parent, but I could also see that joining in with negative judgments about either parent or taking sides would only add to everyone’s anguish.

Of course, conflict in the Middle East is not the same as parents in conflict, but I do think there are parallels.

For instance:

In both, conflict doesn’t tend to be between two parties, it spills over (from the parents involved and from the nations involved) and generally there is encouragement for others to take sides.

In both, conflict often becomes what Steven Lukes and Nadia Urbinati refer to as a ‘war between absolutes‘ – between good and bad, right and wrong, win and lose.

In both, a global recession that heightens competition for recourses intensifies conflicts (domestic and international).

In both, disputes can find their way to the court or physical conflict arenas where increasingly intense imaginaries of right and wrong – where the wrong is to be punished, are played out.

In both, conflict and punishment are also distressing for the parties involved (parents and nations) and those they involve: the children of the parents and children of the world.

In such highly-charged atmospheres, I do not see that it is helpful to jump in and add to the heat. I would like to think that parties not directly caught up in such conflicts might be able to bring their energies, intelligence and other resources to bear on helping to illuminate how the parties locked into conflict might be brought to find solutions. I would particularly like to see this as more of the instinctive response of peace movements.

I would be interested in your thoughts

See  Brokering Solutions Based on Needs – Marshall Rosenberg

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