I was watching a documentary in school yesterday, called something like Women of Peace. It was about war and making peace, but I’m not writing specifically about the movie, just one quote. There was a scene where they were discussing the Israel/Palestine situation (the movie was made in ’03-’04, so they weren’t talking about the latest flare-up, rather the situation in general.) While discussing specifically the Israeli settlements, she said something along the lines of “we have to look at how the Palestinians experienced the settling of their land. We have to understand that they experienced embarrassment and felt less human.” She did not place the blame on Israel for settling land, nor on Palestine for firing rockets or whatever else they do- she simply asked that we try to understand the way the Palestinians experienced it, putting aside for a moment who we think is right and who we think is wrong. If we could also look at the way the Israelis feel about the rocket fire or about someone getting up and saying, “the Holocaust never happened” or “death to Israel”, just think of the paths we could make towards peace. If each Israeli could put her or himself in the shoes of a Palestinian of the same age and gender and each Palestinian could do the same with their Israeli counter-part, it would be hard for the war to continue. Once we see someone as a human being, it is very hard to kill that person, or even to make their life as hard as the people in this conflict’s lives are.
The class I’m taking is called “Dialogue and the Art of Peacemaking”; it is an amazing class, but it is pretty pathetic. Have we always needed to take classes or have a specialty in order to know how to communicate with other human beings? A story we read in the class as well, took place during the Cuban Missile Crisis- the Russians had put missiles in Cuba with absolutely no camouflage. The USians took this as an insult and assumed the Russians were arrogantly taunting their plans to destroy the United States, and the crisis escalated. Thirty years later, the Russian general in charge of overseeing the placing of the missiles and some unspecified USian had a dialogue. The USian asked why the Russians would be so bold as to blatantly display their missiles, just 90 miles off the cost of the US. The Russian, taken aback, replied that up to that point the Russian army had only installed missiles in Russia, where there was no need to camouflage anything. When they got the orders to install missiles, they did it the way they always did, without even thinking about it. The world was a press of a button away from starting WWIII, which would probably have ended in the complete annihilation of human kind, all because people do not know how to talk to each other.
Let’s talk to the resistance movements in Iraq and Afghanistan, let’s talk to the Taliban, let’s talk to Al Qaeda, Let’s talk to Hezbollah, let’s talk to Hamas, and let’s try to understand the way all of these people are experiencing what is going on in the world. Let’s also try to explain to them the way we are experiencing things- who knows what would happen. I’m not saying that, by having a conversation with some dude from Hamas and the Israeli government, the Middle East would see peace, but I think it would be a much larger step in that direction than killing a third of their population.