Wednesday, July 20, 2011
A New Idea for the Gaza Flotilla
- by Yvette Nahmia-Messinas
I met poet, peace worker, Reiki master and Israeli resident Yvette Nahmia-Messinas at a conference a couple of years ago, and was inspired by her creative approaches to peace building in the Middle East. She authored the collection of poems entitled “They All Sound Like Love Songs, Women Healing Israeli-Palestinian Relations" and has contributed to this blog several times before. Last week activists from around the world set out on a flotilla in an attempt to break the blockade of the Gaza strip and deliver humanitarian supplies. Two boats were turned back. Last year similar confrontations between activist flotillas and the military in the Gaza sea resulted in violence and fatalities. In this article, Yvette describes her idea of what an affective flotilla would look like. This piece was originally published on www.peacexpeace.org, and is reposted with permission.
In the best scenario, the flotillas could serve as a place to let go of the old paradigm of the strong wins; of winners and losers. In that scenario, the flotillas could launch a new way of doing things, for internationals, Palestinians and Israelis. Ideally, I would like to see the flotillas as seminar spaces in the middle of the sea, where Israelis-Palestinians and internationals could negotiate their fate until they formed a consensus. In that scenario the flotillas would not reach Gaza unless all involved Israelis, Palestinians and internationals reached an agreement.
I am inspired to suggest this model after a day I spent in Beit Jala’s Everest hotel as a participant in a process-oriented psychology seminar co-led by Gary Reiss and Vassiliki Katrivanou. At the seminar of 20 participants, Gary and Vassiliki taught me that when you bring up your discomfort and honestly express and share your feelings, and allow for others to do the same, you can eventually reach understanding and agreement. The process takes time, but is indeed worth the effort.
In this ideal scenario, I would have many facilitators work in parallel with all three groups, the passengers on the boats, the Israelis in charge of controlling the entrance of the flotillas, and the Palestinians in Gaza.
I would keep the flotillas at sea, and have Israelis and Palestinians meet together in the flotillas, along with the internationals, in a safe space where they could each express their pain, anguish, fears, and whatever comes up for them. At some point when everyone’s concern would be addressed the group would agree on the next step. And step by step they would reach a solution agreed by all.
In the course of this process, people involved would realize the humanity of all, would come to understand each other’s fears and pains, would cry and tremble and sweat and blush, and eventually understand each other’s positions in a tangible manner. In the end all would agree on some basic values, or on a policy that all could live with, and come up with creative ideas as to which boats can enter Gaza, or what the precondition is for them to enter and so on.
The point I am making is that the issue is currently dealt with by politicians, army officers, activists, and citizens who despite their good intentions are not managing to find a solution based on consensus. To my mind, we need to call in experts in group process work, in group dynamics, in conflict resolution, in healing: those who already have experience in solving conflicts in organizations and communities. These people exist; they are out there doing amazing work from which we could all benefit.
I call on politicians, activists, and army officers to recognize their limitations and call forth help from the experts in the field. I am sure dozens of them are craving to put their knowledge into practice and contribute their understanding and experience to help reach consensus by reaching out to all involved parties. Each voice, they tell us, counts, and this is something that most of us have forgotten.