Sunday, May 4, 2008

Can the conflict in Israel/Palestine really be transformed?

Today started at 9am with a discussion of the Israeli/Palestinian situation led by our friend, Rachel, who is just back from a two week visit to the area as part of an Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation.

This is not an easy way to begin the day. It’s not just that The Wall is such a reminder of Berlin and of our own Mexican paranoia. It’s that the situation looks so hopeless.

According to our news media and the implications of the Israeli wall, there appear to be two countries at war — Israel and Palestine. But, when you look at a map showing Palestinian and Israeli settlements, you are confronted by a mammoth intermixing of communities that defies boundaries — Israeli enclaves have been constructed seemingly everywhere. The Wall looks more like a resource protector than an actual political boundary — more like a dam preventing Columbia River water from ever being shared with Mexico.

I’m sure there are many explanations for how this disaster came to be. But, just this brief look, that Rachel provided us, into how people are actually living, was enough to break the heart. “What hope can there possibly be for transforming this conflict that is not just a bloodbath?”

I have been reading, rather naively, John Lederach’s The Little Book of Conflict Transformation, hoping to expand my own theories of conflict transformation based on experience dealing with what turnout to be comparatively petty church conflicts. Vicious as church politics can become we ain’t no Somalia or Ireland or South Africa. I am not a little humbled just meditating for a Sunday hour on the quest for peace in Israel/Palestine.

The fact that, even with his international experiences, Lederach can continue to hope and argue for the possibility of transformation — not merely resolution or management — of conflict like this lifts me a little out of the feeling of hopelessness I carried away from Rachel’s descriptions of life on the ground in Palestine.

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