HOW DOES CHANGE HAPPEN?
Most people living here today were born into this conflict. They did not choose to be part of it and they cannot be held responsible for events that took place before they were born, but all of us should take responsibility for our future. A constructive equal dialogue is necessary for the achievement of a just and lasting peace: In order to build the capacity for this within both societies, it is essential to enable people to overcome their fears, hatred and prejudices, to see each other more realistically and develop mutual trust. Can this be done?
Acknowledgment of the past
Windows' work is based on the assumption that most people on both sides are tired of wars and are looking for peaceful daily life. Most accept, even if reluctantly, that both peoples are here to stay. Yet, as long as one ‘side’s basic needs for freedom, safety, equality and justice are not met, it will be ready to struggle for them. Thus, in order to facilitate a realistic solution, needs of both peoples must be taken into consideration, including acknowledgement of the past and correction of as much as possible of the wrongs that have been inflicted. In Windows we believe that creative solutions can be found to satisfy most people on both sides.
Overcome fear, courage to face the truth
For all that to happen, there is a need on both sides to overcome the common feelings of fear, anger, hatred and distrust. There is a need, among others, for a mutual recognition of eachother's feelings and the events that caused them. This may be a complex process that takes time and depends on readiness of people to change their perception of themselves, each other and the conflict, as they will have to deal with new information that might contradict what they have known and believed to be the truth. In some cases, especially on the Israeli side, it involves taking responsibility for past events on one hand, and the need to give up some privileges on the other hand. For Palestinians it may mean accepting that Jewish affiliation with the land is not baseless, and while this affiliation and the historical events that enhanced Jewish emigration to the region does not justify some of the consequences, it cannot be overlooked.
From victim-hood to empowerment
Such readiness is often a spiral process. When one side shows some recognition, it makes it easier for people on the other side to follow and show some recognition too. It is hard to be first – naturally, the occupied side may find it hard to show any empathy to those who belong to the controlling side or worry it may be seen as a sign of weakness. It may be expected of the occupying side to show strength through generosity and begin the process. In our reality, where both sides are traumatized by past and present events, and see themselves as victims and as the vulnerable ones, there is a need to deal with these traumas and self-perceptions before much progress can be made.
Leaders - religious, political and the civil society
Of course, there is a need to take into consideration religious beliefs on both sides that impact thoughts and feelings, and acknowledge the role of religious leaders in such a process to show their followers that changes of some perceptions and acceptance of some agreements should not necessarily be seen as compromise of religious beliefs.
Another element that must be taken into consideration is that while the public is mostly driven by emotions, political leaders are often driven by vested interests (although one should not underestimate the emotional baggage of leaders). Those could be personal interests as well as what leaders may see as interests of their people / state. In order to be elected and fulfill their personal or national interests, political leaders often manipulate people's feelings, especially their fears. This may be done through media, education systems and public appearances. In the case of our traumatized societies, such manipulation is very easy. It is left to civil society organizations to bring other voices into the general discourse.
Who gains from the continuation of the conflict?
In Windows, we acknowledge the political and financial global interests that have impacted the region since time immemorial until the present, all sharing in the creation of the situation as we now live it. We believe that developing a wide enough perspective of the local situation to include these interests helps develop a more realistic view of ourselves, each other and the conflict, an important step on the way to a just future.