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Cartooning in Conflict
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29/07/2008

MUTUAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT

PCFF israeli G.M. in a pilot project engaging Palestinian, Israeli and international mental health professionals. May 2008.

Nir Oren, the Israeli General Manager of the PCFF who is a social worker in his profession, joined a five-day seminar in Aqaba during May 2008. The seminar was set up by Eyad El Sarraj, M.D. from Gaza and Jessica Benjamin, Ph.D. from New York City. During the process several more people joined them (such as Judith Thompson). The assumption which guided the workshop creators was that mental health professionals can lead a change.

The first workshop wad dedicated to mutual acknowledgment which was proved to be an important and an integral part of the Reconciliation Process. Mutuality is extremely important to the whole process. In this part each and every participant listens to the pain of the other and brings to the acknowledgment of his own pain.

It was decided that the participants will be; Israeli Jews, Israeli Palestinians, West Bank Palestinian, Gaza Palestinians, Palestinians who left in 1948 and internationals who aren't part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was hard for the organizers to find a place for the workshop because there aren't many places which will  issue permits to Palestinians from Gaza. That is why Aqaba was chosen. Unfortunately the group from Gaza was stopped at Erez checkpoint and wasn't let in despite their permits.  Among the group from Gaza was also Eyad El Sarraj one of the seminar's creators. The group from Gaza participated over the phone in one of the sessions.

For the opening session the participants were asked to bring an object they cherish. People chose to bring things from the History, their life, childhood, Narrative. Among them was a photo of parents which were killed in the Holocaust, a teddy bear, a photo of a child which was killed in the Irish British conflict et cetera.

The illustration Nir Oren brought with him.

Every day started with a meeting in the general assembly, then the participants were divided into their own national groups, and after that the meetings continued in mixed groups and finally everyone went back to the general assembly. With time, the issues became more and more difficult and loaded. A Palestinian from East Jerusalem claimed that Palestinians have the right to resist violently. A small group of Israelis brought up some questions; does the right to resist includes the right for violence? Does the right for violence includes suicide bombing? The East Jerusalem participant claimed that violence helps the Palestinians and according to the international law an occupied nation has the right to resist violently. After long discussions she added that she isn't pro violence but pro the right to act violently. Her answer raises the question, if by being pro the right to act violently, she isn't giving approval to people to act violently. Many more questions stayed unanswered and the seminar participants keep up a vivid correspondence between them, trying to maintain the important dialogue they started.

Parallel to the difficult discussions and arguments, mutual acknowledgment grew and the atmosphere was pleasant. Some participants who weren't Peace activist before the seminar decided to be more active from now on and the group decided to meet again.

On the way back to the 'plane from Eilat to Tel-Aviv, three of the Israeli Palestinian participants were abused in the airport, they got held up as suspects,  were interrogated for three hours, were humiliated and missed because of all that their 'plane to Tel-Aviv. The group decided to submit a complaint - an unpleasant ending for an important step on the way to Reconciliation.        

 







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