Tag Archives: Peace

Can Heavy Metal Save the World?

My latest on the way in which Orphaned Land, Israel’s biggest heavy metal band, is transforming relations between Muslims and Jews in the MENA.

Sometimes change happens in the most unlikely ways, fostered by the most unlikely of people. In the last few years, while Israel’s relationship with the Arab and Muslim world has drastically deteriorated, an Israeli heavy metal band has been uniting thousands of Jews and Muslims across the Middle East.

Originally published in Common Ground News, a longer version of this piece also appears in The Jerusalem Post.

Awakening to Women: The Nobel Effect

Do women make peace in a different voice? Peter Coleman and I explore some essential peacebuilding lessons culled from the work of recent Noble Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee. As always, if the spirit moves you, please share with your virtual community and leave a comment (criticism welcomed) in the talkback section of the article.

Also, if there was a song that captures the essence of our article it’s this:

Turning a Vehicle of War Into an Instrument of Peace

From The Observers.

In the Hebrew Bible it is said that a time of universal peace will see swords turned into plowshares. One Israeli reserve solider, Dror Gomel (36), has decided to reverse the biblical sequence by turning his army vehicle, known as a Nagmash (body of a Centurion tank), into a melodic percussion instrument and a message of peace.

Gomel, a professional percussionist and special education teacher, can be seen in the video, which was shot in southern Israel, playing the front end of his armored car to the delight of his infantry. The words he recites: “No more war, no more bloodshed”, were famously uttered by the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the 1978 signing of the peace accords with Egypt.

Gomel posted the video on his facebook page with the comment: “Last week I was on reserve duty. There I met the cream of Israeli society: all kinds, types and colours. People who are willing to give their time to their society. We have a strong and excellent army. And our hand is extended towards peace all the time. I dedicate this video to all my reservist friends wherever they may be.”


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Johanna Fakhry: A Dance of Moral Courage.

Johanna Fakhry, the talented and courageous Lebanese dancer who joined Orphaned Land on stage, has penned a response to her inspiring and controversial artistic collaboration with the Israeli band.

* I have slightly edited the letter for grammar and flow (where meaning was unclear, I left untouched).

Facing the amount of mails concerning the deed we’ve done on stage at the Hellfest Festival with Orphaned Land – that is to say raising and uniting on stage both Lebanese and Israeli flag – your worldwide reactions as bad or positive, as hateful or supportive as they can be, led us (Kobi and I) to write a statement explaining and not justifying our behaviour. Continue reading

Conflict Resolution Commandos: A Response to the Flotilla.

* The following article was co-written with Andrea Bartoli and published in issue 4 of Unrest Magazine. It’s also published at the Huffington Post.

This month a new flotilla is scheduled to set sail to Gaza. As will be recalled, in May 2010 a violent confrontation at sea between Israeli naval forces and pro-Palestinian activists led to the death of nine people and many more injured; before a Turkish vessel aiming at breaking the Israeli blockade of Gaza was escorted to a port. As a consequence, relations between Israel and Turkey dramatically soured and Israel’s standing in the international community further eroded. Judging by the rhetoric of the parties involved today another collision seems imminent, with more flotillas forthcoming in the future.

As scholars of conflict resolution, we believe that such situations call for constructive adaptation on the part of those involved. To that end we propose the IDF take initiative and create the first ever Conflict Resolution Commando unit. Continue reading

Israeli Healthcare Provides A Palestinian A Vision of Coexistence.

Over at the Jerusalem Post, Aziz Abu Sarah writes about his heart-opening experience of being treated for cancer by Jewish and Arab doctors in Israel.

There many reasons to be pessimistic and at times to despair about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet even when things look hopeless, hope has a way of appearing, offering a vision of what can be rather than what is. Recently, I caught a glimpse of this hope in an unlikely place – the Israeli health care system.

To read more, click here.

Conflict Resolution, One Book At A Time.

Can reading literature help counteract the problem of dehumanization? My latest from Common Ground. Also published in Middle East Online, Global Arab Network, The Daily News, Bikya Masr and Palestine Note.

A basic fact of conflict is that people’s perceptions of each other matter. Viewing someone as subhuman or demonic, for example, reduces people’s inhibitions towards using violence against them. Likewise, negative images of the other escalate conflict through engendering fear, misunderstandings, blame and zero-sum thinking.

Research conducted by psychologist Albert Bandura has demonstrated that individuals inflict much harsher punishments on people whom they view negatively, as opposed to people whom they perceive in neutral or sympathetic terms. Importantly, his experiment also showed that subjects invested with positive qualities were least likely to be harmed.

Because how we imagine others is consequential, it is essential for conflict resolution practitioners to find creative ways to mitigate the destructive influence of negative stereotypes. One approach to tackling this problem was developed by American psychologist Gordon Allport who argued that qualitative contact between conflicting groups is a meaningful way to reduce hostility and prejudice as well as cultivate more positive attitudes between group members.

By qualitative contact, Allport meant direct interpersonal relations between participants of equal status who pursue common goals with the help of institutional support. Some great examples of contact theory put into practice are organisations like Seeds of Peace and bilingual Jewish-Arab schools in Israel such as Hand in Hand.

While personal contact is key to transforming threatening images of the enemy, unfortunately, it is not always a possibility. This is because people, particularly during times of conflict, may not be able to meet face-to-face. Obstacles to contact can include restrictions on travelling, legal concerns or physical danger. Moreover, even if people are able to meet, the contact itself may feel too threatening or emotionally taxing.

In such circumstances, the problem of perception needs to be addressed through other means. One such approach is engagement with literature—a type of vicarious contact theory. Continue reading

My Exclusive Interview With Labor MK Yuli Tamir: A Portrait of Study and Deeds.

*Haaretz published a shortened version of my interview with Labor MK Yuli Tamir. Below is the full interview.

Yuli Tamir: A Portrait of Study and Deeds.

One of my favorite debates in the Talmud revolves around the question: “Which is greater—study or deeds?”

Rabbi Tarfon answered, ‘Deeds!’ Rabbi Akiva answered, ‘Study!’ The sages responded, ‘Study is greater since studying leads to deeds.’

The principle that intellect should not be divorced from practice would not be lost on Labor MK Yuli Tamir – Israel’s former Minister of Education (2006-2009) who began her professional career as a professor of political philosophy (protégée of Isaiah Berlin) and peace activist (one of the founders of Peace Now).

Dr. Tamir’s entry into politics took place in 1995, shortly after Yitzchak Rabin’s assassination. Feeling the urgency of the historic moment, Dr. Tamir joined the Labor party with the hopes of effecting change from within the political establishment.

In 1999, Dr. Tamir was appointed by Ehud Barak as Minister of Immigrant Absorption, and in 2003 and 2006 was elected to the Knesset serving as Minister of Education as well as acting Minister of Science, Culture and Sport. Today, as a consequence of what she sees as misguided leadership, Dr. Tamir sits in opposition within the Labor party.

Dr. Tamir was recently invited by J Street to speak at the organization’s first national conference in Washington DC. After the conference, we sat down to discuss her work as a scholar, her vocation as a peace activist and her career as a politician.

Q: Dr. Tamir, lets start with your family history in Israel. Where did they come from? What were they like? Did any family member have a particular strong influence on the trajectory of your career?

Tamir: Well, I come from a very Israeli family; both my parents and grandparents were born in Israel. So we are one of the few families that has no actual roots elsewhere. In one of my early conversations with Palestinian leaders, they complained about the fact that the Palestinian People bear the price of Anti-Semitism and Jewish persecution in Europe and that Jews should go back to where they came from and fight for their acceptance there. And I said, “that’s nonsense, but anyhow I have no place to return to, you are stuck with me, so let’s talk.”

My mother’s family is a very political family. They are part of the Israeli “Mayflower”, founders of the labor movement. My grandparents were cousins of Moshe Sharet, the second Prime Minister of Israel, who he had a long and very turbulent relationship with the Labor party. But if there was one message coming from their generation to my generation, it was never get involved in politics and especially to never get involved in the politics of the Labor party. I broke the family rule, and got my share of Labor politics. It is the kind of thing one is tempted to do when one thinks that a place that is your only home is in a process of self-destruction.

Q: Growing up, how was Judaism expressed in your home? How would you characterize your own Jewish identity?

Tamir: I grew up in a very secular home, ideologically secular. The Jewish holidays were celebrated in a very Zionist and secular way, and there was absolutely no room for any religious belief. It was only when I spent some time in the US that I was introduced to a more pluralistic version of Judaism and was very attracted to it. I still regard myself as a secular person, but I have a strong Jewish-secular identity as my Judaism determines much of what I do and how I do it. Of course my Judaism is pluralist and humanistic.
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Mazzi & Sneakas’ New Vid: “Most Hated.”

Jews and Muslims of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your hate. Check out the debut video from Mazzi & Sneakas. The name of the song is “Most Hated”, featuring legendary rapper MC Serch (of 3rd Bass).

Alan Dershowitz “Debates” Jeremy Ben-Ami.

Excerpts from a 92nd St Y “debate” between Alan Dershowitz and Jeremy Ben-Ami. Unfortunately, try as they might, they seem to pretty much agree about everything. From what is presented in this vid, this was not much of a debate.