ISRAEL and PALESTINE
Beyond Dialogue: Former Israeli and Palestinian Combatants Acting Together
Joint peacebuilding efforts among Palestinians and Israelis face extreme barriers: the separation wall, the decimated infrastructure of Gaza, severe travel restrictions, and the Palestinian anti-normalization boycott, which discourages Palestinians from participating in programs with Israelis until there is a peace settlement. The lack of contact reinforces dehumanizing stereotypes, which in turn lead to further separation and violence. In this context, to join a peacebuilding effort is to go against the grain of both societies, perhaps even to be seen as a traitor.
Combatants for Peace (CFP) is one of very few functioning bi-national NGOs in this context. We have been honored to accompany their growth since 2013. CFP is comprised of former members of either the Israeli army or the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom who have since renounced violence to work in partnership for peace. Their status as former combatants on either side gives their voices unique legitimacy and weight, creating a new entry point for a broader peace movement.
Karuna Center has led four-depth training workshops with CFP since 2013 with Dr. Paula Green serving as lead trainer. From the beginning of our work together, CFP coordinators told us that their skills in dialogue and conflict analysis were already strong. What they needed, they said, was help bringing the entire group together—Palestinians and Israelis—for facilitated strategic planning and coordinated nonviolent activism. They wanted help creating an effective, nonviolent channel for Palestinian grievances and to build a strong peace movement in Israeli society.
The first Karuna Center training brought together approximately 60 Israelis and Palestinians for a 3-day workshop in Beit Sahour to develop a strategic vision for the organization. At the workshop’s conclusion, CFP participants remarked that it had been their most effective workshop with outside facilitators. The next time, in Spring 2014, Karuna Center's training team met with 24 CFP participants to develop strategies for managing conflict, organizational development and action planning, and recruiting and retaining members. The third workshop in Fall 2014, called Moving Forward with Strength, took place with large open membership in Beit Sahour and engaged in strategic planning focused on solidifying new administrative structures, program review, and rebuilding trust in the aftermath of the Gaza War. We continued our support for their strategic planning in December 2015, when we facilitated the annual gathering of approximately 70 CfP members, who unanimously adopted the strategic plan. We also trained the former combatants in nonviolent practices. We are planning a more in-depth capacity-building retreat with CFP during 2016.
Karuna Center was invited by Ma’an Development Centre, a Palestinian development NGO that works on food security, women and youth initiatives and capacity building for community organizing, to lead seminars in 2005 and 2006 on the topics of conflict management, social change, youth leadership and organizational development. Ma’an staff and their partner NGOs participated in these programs.
Participants focused on what they can do to build a more vibrant, proactive, and transparent civil society in Palestine, knowing how important it is to create the conditions in which peace and democracy can succeed. Participants were also interested in the challenges of developing more collaborative and transparent styles of leadership in Palestinian society, using more horizontal forms of power, developing culturally appropriate methods for resolving organizational and community conflicts, managing social justice issues for women and the marginalized, and creating opportunities for youth engagement and leadership.
In 2005, we also held a workshop for peace activists at Neve Shalom, and intentional community of Jewish and Palestinian Israelis. The program focused in the interrelationship of inner and outer conflict transformation and the deep motivations that sustain the work of Jewish and Palestinian peace activists despite seemingly intractable obstacles.
ARTICLES AND RESOURCES
Shadows and Light: Encounters in the Holy Land - by Paula Green (2000)
Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation
Neve Shalom Workshop - 2005