I was privileged to listen to Zoughbi Zoughbi , the Founder and Director of WIAM, The Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center in Bethlehem, when he spoke to a group of students from the Hamline College program in conflict resolution which met in our ICCI Education Center last week. Zoughbi made a special effort to get a permit to come to Jerusalem to speak to this group, and we were honored to have him with us!
Despite the name of his center, Zoughbi Zoughbi emphasized that he works in CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION, rather than resolution, using non-violent philosophy and methods. We too in ICCI believe in transforming conflicts from ones of violence to a situation of peaceful coexistence.
He grew up as a Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem but studied abroad, receiving his M.A. in Peace Studies at Notre Dame University in the U.S.A., studying as a fellow at Brandeis University and at Eastern Mennonite University.
Zougbhi began his work in conflict resolution in Palestine in 1994, shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords. He believed in the importance of People-to-People programs which brought Palestinians and Israelis together to get to know one another. Unfortunately, he admits, this has largely stopped since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000. Moreover, in recent years, there has been a sharp rise in anti-normalization feelings in the Palestinian street, which has made his work (and ours) more frustrating and complicated.
Zoughbi made it clear that while he is against the Occupation, he is not against the existence of the State of Israel. On the contrary, he favors a two-state solution. In the absence of political progress, he continues his work in civic education in Palestine through conferences and workshops, using non-violent methods such as art therapy.
Zoughbi’s work remains positive, despite the ongoing conflict. In his words: “We do not demonize the other; we humanize the other. We still look forward to a future of peace, of living together.”
Zoughbi left us with 3 messages:
- A message of hope, in a period of hopelessness
- A message of transformation—personal, communal and international
- A shift from guilt and victimhood to collective responsibility. We all have to assume responsibility. As a Palestinian, Zoughbi is a witness for a just peace.
During the Q &A, Zoughbi reiterated some of his key points:
- “Rather than victimhood and demonizing the other, we need a culture of acceptance.”
- “We need to shift from wishful thinking to reality. It is time to share the land. We need to move from maximalist ideas to real ideas.”
- “We have only one option—for Palestinians and Israelis to live together.”
It was indeed refreshing and inspiring to listen to Zoughbi Zoughbi speak honestly and forthrightly, with a clear message of sanity and hope.
For more information about the Wiam Center, see their website: www.alaslah.org
Rabbi Dr.Ron Kronish