A Vision for a Shared Future

Jews and Palestinians from Israel

by Alice Peck

M.S. Candidate, Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

The Center for Narrative and Conflict Resolution hosted the Joint Delegation of the Palestinian and Jewish Civil Society Leaders to discuss ‘A Vision for a Shared Future’. Speaking to a packed room at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, this visiting coalition of Palestinians and Israelis led a discussion on the hopes for peace and solidarity.

As each delegate introduced themselves, I was struck by the diverse groups and communities that each represented. Listening to them describe their backgrounds, experiences and challenges of living in Israel and Palestine, I began to see a more complicated story than that of one conflict between binary identities of Israelis and Palestinians. Busting this dominant narrative, of Israel versus Palestine, is a goal of the delegation. This coalition of individuals and groups from different backgrounds aims to re-anchor the discourse in new ways, through bringing marginalized voices to the fore.

Mr. Jafar Farah spoke first about the challenges of building peace. Director of the Mossawa Center, the Advocay Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, Jafar highlighted the real problem of a two-state solution. Of the population in Israel, twenty percent are Arab, and yet they are marginalized from peace talks. Jafar stressed how this exclusion of the Arab minority is shortsighted. Their familiarity with languages and cultures of both sides of the negotiating table gives them a unique position in creating dialogue and peace.

The sense of thickening the narrative of the parties to the conflict continued as each delegate spoke. Vardit Avidan, a top litigation practitioner in Tmura, described the double discrimination that she faced as a Mizrahi Jew and as a woman. Despite constituting sixty percent of Israel, Mizrahi remain a minority without power and confronted by constant discrimination. Dr. Yulia Zemlinskaya, originally from Russia, further demonstrated the excluded voices in the peace processes. She emphasized the need to include all groups and minorities in peace processes, to break the separatist discourse and so reach a peace that can be shared by all.

In listening to each delegate speak, I was moved to reflect on this coalition as demonstrating hope for peace. Despite diverse experiences and backgrounds, these individuals tell a holistic narrative. Breaking from a discourse of Palestine vs Israel, this is a narrative that is inclusive of all voices party to the conflict, marginalized or foregrounded alike, and thus enables a vision for the future that truly is shared by all. As Ihab Elbedour, from the Bedouin village of Laqiya, stated “we are all humans, and we all deserve to live, to breathe and to build a shared future together.”

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