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How to Make Peace - Learning from the Experience of Others

On Tuesday, 9th February 2010, a study-evening took place at the College of Management Academic Studies, entitled "How to Make Peace - Learning from the Experience of Others: with Brendan Duddy, one of the Foremost Architects of the Peace Agreement in Ireland".

duddy1.jpgThe evening was the initiative of OFEK, together with a number of additional organizations: the MBA Program in Business and Management Psychology and the Israeli Academic Research Institute for Conflict Resolution and Mediationboth part of the College of Management Academic Studies; and the Conflict Transformation and Management Center in Shatil.

The evening was attended by over 300 people, some of whom had to sit on the stairs of the hall. Many others expressed interest in the evening. Mr. Connor Long, the Deputy Ambassador of Ireland in Israel, honored the proceedings with his presence and expressed his appreciation to Mr. Brendan Duddy and the participants.

The evening started with greetings from the participating organizations: Professor Zeev Neuman, Dean of the College of Management Academic Studies; Ilana Litvin, Chairperson of OFEK; Brigadier General (Res) and former Member of Knesset (Israeli parliament) Amira Dotan, Chairperson of the Conflict Resolution and Mediation Center and Michael Sternberg, Director of The Conflict Transformation and Management Center in Shatil. The evening was opened by Daphna Bahat, who initiated the study-evening and organized it with the help of Dr. Yermi Harel, both members of the OFEK Board. Ms Bahat quoted from a book written by Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's special advisor, with regard to Brendon Duddy:

"Duddy was very much an Irish republican, but he was a pacifist and a firm believer in dialogue, which he worked single-mindedly to create...He has a claim to have been among the most persistent and effective of the unsung heroes of the peace process...Duddy worked selflessly and at great risk to himself over many years to bring about a peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland and credit for his achievements is long overdue...Neither the British government nor the IRA leaders felt able to take the next step and it was Duddy who pushed them into it...".

dafna.jpgIn an attempt to link the discussion to the thinking of OFEK, based on group relations theory, Daphna Bahat presented a short introduction to the basic concepts of the theory, using real-life examples - starting from the life of the individual, families, groups and organizations and reaching international and global relations.

audience.jpgThe highlight of the evening was the screening of the film "The Secret Peacemaker" produced by the BBC. The film presents the unique activities of Brendan Duddy in negotiating between the IRA and the British Government. Duddy, despite the life-threatening danger which he was exposed to, remained steadfastly dedicated to maintaining potential space which allowed the combatants to move towards dialogue. In this moving film one could see the faith of Duddy and the personal authority which he utilized without being actually authorized to fill any formal role.

While answering questions from the audience, Duddy stressed that in any situation one needs to maintain dialogue, even with terrorists, and that extreme statements do not further the interests of the different sides. The questions asked of Duddy touched immediately on the application of his work to the conflict in this region. It would seem that this attests to the intense desire to solve the conflict, but also to the absence of space for reflection on the experience of Duddy, attempting to understand it before rushing to apply it.

panel.jpgAfter a short break, there was a panel discussion led by Gaby Bonwitt, a member of OFEK and former OFEK Board member who initiated Duddy's visit to Israel by inviting him to participate as a staff member in OFEK's annual international group relations conference, which took place the week after the study evening. The panel members were Mr Ali Abu Awwad, Professor Yigal Ginath, Rabbi Menachem Forman, General (Res) Danny Rothschild and Mrs Aida Touma-Sliman.

Mr Ali Abu Awwad - one of the founders of the movement "Born to Change" which works with local Palestinian leaders, and the Palestinian spokesman for the Forum of Bereaved Families - has been imprisoned in Israel, injured, and has lost his brother in the conflict. Abu Awwad described the process of setting up a non-violent Palestinian resistance movement. He stressed the importance of those who side with peace on the Palestinian side to feel that setting down arms will indeed change their lives.

Professor Yigal Ginath - director of the psychotherapy program in Ben-Gurion University in the South, one of the founders of OFEK, former Board member and Chairperson of OFEK, stressed the psychological processes that lead to demonization and paranoia between the two sides.

fruman.jpgRabbi Menachem Forman - Rabbi of Tekoa, head of the organization "Yerushalom: Settlers for Peace" - meets and has dialogues with Muslim religious leaders in an attempt to achieve peace on the basis of religion. Rabbi Forman read a poem he wrote about King David, through which he taught that King David's difficulties in his old age stemmed from the wars which he waged. The Rabbi added that it is for the fighters on each side, those involved in violent acts, to be those who make peace.

General (Res) Danny Rothschild, head of The Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, director of the Herzliya Conference, president of the Council for Peace and Security, served in the IDF for over 30 years in various command roles, including the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, head of the research department of the Military Intelligence Directorate, head of the Communications unit in Lebanon and Aide to the Chief of Staff. General Rothschild claimed that it is easier to negotiate with representatives who have been hurt directly by the conflict, because those who have paid the price have "bought the right" to move over to a more compromising stance. He further added that although agreements are signed by politicians, peace organizations are of great importance as those who exert pressure on statesmen and politicians to make change.

aida.jpgAida Touma-Sliman, Executive Director and founder of "Women against Violence", first woman on the Working Group on Status of Palestinian Women in Israel, Member and Founder of The International Women's Commission for a Just and Sustainable Peace between Israel and Palestine - spoke about the role of women in bringing peace, as those responsible for care as opposed to fighting. She gave examples of psychological processes such as projection, how in groups of women from both sides, Israeli women accuse Palestinian women as not being good mothers as they send their children to kill. Touma-Sliman showed how this is a projection, as the Israeli mothers in fact educate their children to army service from birth. Touma Sliman also objected to the word "conflict" and claimed that it is actually "conquest".

A feeling of absence of brave leadership on both sides of the conflict was a constantly felt theme with the various speakers. Gabi Bonwitt's question as head of the panel, as to what has to happen, what are the conditions (local, global or between the two sides) which need to develop in order to make progress toward change, was left without an answer. However, it would appear that the evening left the group with a feeling that although the situation seems hopeless and without possibility for change, it is still possible to learn from others, who despite hundreds of years of conflict, made a change even though the full agreement has not been completed. Brendan Duddy himself, who has met with both Israelis and Palestinians, concluded and said that he believed that it is possible to see the beginning of hope in our region.

Photographs of the event at