Bottom - Up
Creating Peace from the Bottom - Up
Gershon Baskin, Ph.D.
people ask me “How do you get up every morning and go to work at
IPCRI?” The situation is terrible and not improving.
The violence is debilitating and optimism belongs to another era.
Yes, I do get frustrated. But we will continue our struggle.
following piece is a first effort at looking what can be done from
“bottom-up”. This is far
from exhaustive; in fact, it is only a first attempt. I invite your comments and suggestions.
New Year to All!
current leaders of Israel and Palestine are not going to bring peace.
According to public opinion surveys in Israel and Palestine, large numbers
of Israelis and Palestinians are still in favor of a peaceful solution to
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Once
in a clear majority, today these people feel a lack of efficacy and their
sense of powerlessness has created a feeling of despair and a significant
loss of hop
e. It is time to recreate
hope. It is time to begin the
process of building peace from the bottom – up.
suffering from what can be called Psychosocial trauma as inhumanisation.
(Ambrogio Manenti, Sarajevo, May 1999)
is the Impoverishment
of the human capabilities such as capability to think brightly, to
communicate truth, sensibility for suffering of the others, are very
common. Behaviour changes in favour to ideological rigidity, evasive
scepticism, paranoiac defence, hatred and desire for revenge. Insecurity
facing one’s own destiny, lack of sense in making things and a strong
need to belong to a group are spread feelings. Psychological
characteristics caused by fear such as feelings of vulnerability and
weakness, excessive "state of alert", and feeling of a loss of
control over one’s own life, alteration of reality sense are quiet
violence of the past 15 months has rendered us to a state of psychosocial
trauma as described above. Many
people, perhaps most, on both sides have lost their belief that peace is
possible. Each side accuses the other of being responsible for the
violence and the breakdown of the peace process. New national myth
building around the peace process and the failed Camp David Summit have
reached new heights in public indoctrination. A steady, progressive and
dangerous process of mutual de-legitimisation has been rooted and
fertilized on both sides. The first victims of this process have been the
elected leaders, but it has not stopped at the level of leaderships.
The de-legitimisation has brought about a mutual demonization of
both peoples and societies such that while many people on both sides may
still desire peace they no longer believe that there are people on the
other side who want what they want. But from my experience on both sides
of the green line this is not true. Israelis and Palestinians alike want
to return to the negotiating table rather than face each other on the
front of violence.
is true that the violence of the past 15 months has destroyed what little
trust remained between the sides, both at governmental levels and at
people-to-people levels. This trust needs to be rebuilt and today the job
of rebuilding has to be done by people, not by governments. The cry for
peace has to replace the cry for revenge. The pressure for peace has to
come from the bottom up. It is time for taking responsibility and not for
“passing the buck”. Those
of us who want peace must make a decision to make peace happen. Each of us
must say “It is time for me to do something constructive to create peace
in this land!”
of us feel frustrated by the lack of activities and peace-oriented
organizations. The lack of institutional infrastructure for peacemaking must
be faced head-on. We must create it.
peace building and creating efforts must be both uni-national – within
our own societies and cross-boundary – building new Israeli-Palestinian
partnerships. The Hague Appeal for Peace in 21st Century put some
ideas down in its charter for what must be accomplished:
the Initiative in Peace-Making
is time for people to assert their commitment to peace and - if necessary
- to wrest peace-making away from the exclusive control of politicians and
military establishments. Too often, peace initiatives are proposed as a
last resort, with negotiations restricted to the warmongers, and imposed
on those most affected, particularly women and children. Those who have
suffered the most must have a place at the table when peace agreements are
drawn up, with equal representation for women. If necessary, civil society
should also convene peace initiatives before crises get out of control and
lives are lost. This can help to turn early warning from a slogan into a
for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy
order to combat the culture of violence that pervades our society, the
coming generation deserves a radically different education - one that does
not glorify war but educates for peace and nonviolence and international
cooperation. The Hague Appeal for Peace seeks to launch a world-wide
campaign to empower people at all levels with the peacemaking skills of
mediation, conflict transformation, consensus-building and non-violent
social change. This campaign will:
Insist that peace education be made compulsory at all
levels of the education system.
Demand that education ministries systematically implement
peace education initiatives at a local and national level.
Call on development assistance agencies to promote peace
education as a component of their teacher training and materials
the next century, we must aim to make "multi-track diplomacy"
the standard approach to preventing, resolving and transforming violent
conflict. Multi-Track Diplomacy involves the cooperation of numerous
sectors of society -
governments, non-governmental organizations, religious groups, the media,
business, private citizens, etc; in preventing conflict and building
peace. It is a multi-disciplinary view of peace building that assumes that
individuals and organizations are more effective working together than
separately and that conflict situations involve a large and intricate web
of parties and factors that requires a systems approach. Each
"track" in the system brings with it its own perspective,
approach and resources; all of which must be called upon in the peace
are initiated by irresponsible leaders, but it is young people who are
their most vulnerable victims, both as civilians and as conscripts. Their
experience, fresh perspectives and new ideas must be heard, integrated and
acted upon at all levels of society. There is ample evidence that young
people in conflict situations can find ways to overcome traditional
prejudices, to creatively resolve conflicts and to engage in meaningful
reconciliation and peace building processes. The opportunity for youth to
participate in peace building is essential for breaking the cycle of
violence, for reducing and avoiding conflict. Let us all share our vision,
open-mindedness, solidarity and willingness to learn in a truly
inter-generational exchange based on mutual respect, trust and
and war are gendered events. After reproduction, war is perhaps the arena
where the division of labor along gender lines is most obvious. Therefore,
women and men experience conflict and war differently and have different
access to power and decision-making. There is a need for (1) specific
initiatives aimed at understanding the interrelationships between gender
equality and peace building, (2) strengthening women's capacity to
participate in peace building initiatives and (3) equal participation of
women in conflict resolution at decision-making levels. To meet these
needs, governments must commit to including women representatives of civil
society in all peace negotiations; peace and security institutions must
incorporate gender-sensitive perspectives into their activities and
methods; and civil society must build and strengthen women's peace
networks across borders.
professionals and conflict resolution practioners” together with lay
people must interact together in order to plan a peacemaking strategy
aiming to build a coherent plan of action. Israelis and Palestinian peace
strategists can together confront some of the following:
of and systematic involvement of all potential organized local partners
for peace building efforts;
of technical discussions and exchanges between the parties to identify
areas of common interest in which decentralised co-operation could provide
a qualitative contribution to the development of peace;
promotion and constitution of local working groups which include representatives of local
authorities, public service institutions and civil society organisations
as the centrepiece of decentralized peacemaking;
methods for identifying needs, resources and priorities for project
of those activities that foster cross-boundary dialogue and cooperation,
respond to the needs of the most vulnerable groups, contribute to the
development of sustainable models for continued cross-boundary activities.
In order to
create a bottom-up peacemaking strategy we must have more public exposure.
The mass media in Israel and in Palestine ignores peacemaking actions and
activities; as such they have contributed to the continuation of violence
and the abandonment of peacemaking efforts. A working group of media
connected people from both sides should be formed, working uni-nationally
and cross-boundary in designing a strategic plan for breaking the mass
media boycott of peacemaking actions and activities. This is a very
difficult task, but not impossible. We have many allies in the media, they
need to be empowered vis-à-vis their editors.
problems confronted by Palestinian peace advocates will be different from
those confronted by their Israeli partners. The lack of democracy in
Palestine limits the free of action significantly. More often than not,
individuals and institutions wait for a “green light” from the Ra’is’s
office before doing anything. This is self-defeating and paralysing.
Israel, supporting peace is clearly not the trend.
The stream is flowing swiftly in the opposite direction and
organizations and individuals are often afraid to suffer the social and
political ramifications of swimming against the flow.
a strategy for building peace from the bottom-up by definition involves
taking risks. This
is unfortunately unavoidable. Not everyone is in the position to take
risks, but without risk taking in challenging the current political norms
and consensuses in Israel and Palestine little change is likely to take
old saying “Peace Begins at Home” can serve as a guide for individuals
who want to make a difference. Think about the things that you can do that
will make a small contribution towards a “bottom-up” peacemaking
strategy. These are all small
actions and by themselves won’t have a large impact, but we need to
begin from small steps and build up towards critical masses of people
taking action. Here are some ideas:
Learn to speak the other language – there is great resistance in
Israel towards learning Arabic and in Palestine towards learning Hebrew.
Make a decision that you will learn the other language.
Organize a small learning group for yourself and for your children.
Find a teacher and let your friends and neighbors know that you are
Place a handwritten sign on your house saying “I support peace”
and encourage your neighbors and friends to do the same.
Find someone on the other side to talk to. Contacts between
Israelis and Palestinians have all but disappeared over the past 15
months. Make a decision that you will not be part of the silence. There
are many differences between the positions of people on both sides, but
dialogues begin with two people – you can be one of them.
Join an organization that is working on your side for building
peace. Some organizations
still exist that are working for peace.
Find them, join one, and participate.
Search for other sources of information.
Our newspapers and media have become part of the conflict.
Often the “real” story is hidden from the reader or listener.
Don’t believe everything you hear or read – check its validity out
with other sources of information. With
the internet, this is becoming increasingly easier.
Tell your children’s teacher that you want them to learn about
the other side. Our schools don’t teach us about each other.
When they do relate to the other side it is usually in a negative
way. Regardless of what their
political position is, they have a responsibility to teach our children
about our neighbors.
Educate yourself about your neighbors.
Educate yourself about the issues.
The parameters of peace – or the “price” of peace is well
known. Learn about it. Test
your own willingness to “pay” the price. Challenge your neighbors and