invented Laurie White of Zaitouna, the sustained Arab-Jewish women's
dialogue in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
First they met one a month, but there was too much to explore and talk about.
Now it's every two weeks for 2-3 hours.
And they do much more.
Last week the women gave a teach-in on Dialogue to the largest Jewish congregation in Ann Arbor.
"Refusing To Be Enemies : Personal connections promote understanding and support across the Arab-Israeli divide" was the front cover page headline about them July 11, 2003, in the Detroit Jewish News, with the full cover a color photo of Laurie and Huda, one of her Palestinian partners-in-Dialogue.
Laurie White gets e-mail at LonaWhite@aol.com .
You can see photos and the whole story at:
"Thinking Big about
Peace" was the banner headline in the new issue of PeaceWatch, published
by the United States Institute of Peace.
You'd think it was about prestigious heads of states or activities of powerful government forces.
Not at all.
It reported on 50 high school students who gathered in Washington, DC to question policymakers and simulate negotiations.
In the spirit of this, "The Citizens' Century, Congressman Ralph Regula told them:
"Think big. You can do anything you want.
And when you work to bring peace to the world, you are thinking big."
Between Communities in Conflict" (reported below) was
another Summer 2003 U.S.I.P. meeting in Washington, DC.
Reported below, it further clarified Dialogue itself -- what it does, how it succeeds and sometimes falls short.
Dialogue was described in this way:
"Sustained dialogue is an ongoing, interactive, and facilitated process of discussion between peoples and communities in conflict. The purpose is to transform conflict relationships by focusing on the factors that underlie conflict and prevent peace."
One key conclusion was this:
"...sustained dialogue programs were most successful when the participants worked on relationships first and on the problems between their communities second. A pattern of cooperation and respect can emerge after the establishment of a pattern of interactive relationships."
the Northern Ireland experience came the prescription to avoid having a
Dialogue that is "too elitist" and does "not reach down to the
The Palestinian-Jewish shared-living experience of the Neve Shalom~Wahat al-Salam (Oasis of Peace) Middle East village finds Sustained Dialogue to "help break down barriers and asymmetries between the two communities."
The "playing field" becomes level, as participants come into the room as equals representing only themselves and their human experiences -- parking at the door their degrees, positions, and attachments to institutions and organizations.
"The Kettering Foundation's Harold Saunders ( HSaunders@kettering.org ) described how relationships between warring factions in Tajikistan were transformed when they were brought together over a long period of time. Ultimately, seven of the people in the sustained dialogue became part of the (successful) official process of reconciliation in Tajikistan."
bridging between the "public peace process" and government in a
vibrant, cooperative process is just beginning to flower.
A recent example of a Dialogue group's communication with government is on the Web at:
The letter references three citizen initiatives that are involving the public more and more, and providing the creativity, cooperation, and confidence governments need to build a Middle East and world beyond war that benefits all.
From PeaceWatch -- August/October 2003
Published by the United States Institute of Peace, in harcopy and online at:
Building Strong Bridges through Dialogue
Although its effects are hard to quantify,
sustained dialogue can help transform relationships in communities in conflict.
What is the role of sustained
dialogue in peacebuilding, and how do you evaluate its effectiveness and
contributions to peace? Those questions and more were explored at a symposium,
"Building Bridges Between Communities in Conflict," held at the
Institute on June 23.
American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam -- a village in Israel established jointly by Jews and Palestinian Arabs of Israeli citizenship and engaged in educational work for peace, equality, and understanding between the two peoples -- and the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland co-sponsored the symposium with the Institute's Education Program.
Sustained dialogue is an ongoing, interactive, and facilitated process of discussion between peoples and communities in conflict. The purpose is to transform conflict relationships by focusing on the factors that underlie conflict and prevent peace.
The symposium centered around three unique approaches to sustained dialogue in areas of conflict-in Israel, Northern Ireland, and Tajikistan.
Two founding members of Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam ("Oasis of Peace" in Hebrew and Arabic), Abdessalam Najjar and Nava Sonnenschein ( Nava_So@yahoo.com ), discussed how their experience as a community of Jews and Arabs enables them to work with diverse groups in mainstream schools, with youth, and with women's groups. They seek to help others develop a sense of empowerment and to facilitate dialogues that help break down barriers and asymmetries between the two communities.
Paul Arthur, director of the University of Ulster's Peace and Conflict Studies Program, spoke about the contributions of the sustained track-two dialogue between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland to the formal peace process, particularly as the dialogue included some individuals who would play a role when peace emerged. He noted, however, that one criticism of the Northern Ireland dialogues was that they were too elitist and did not reach down to the grassroots.
The Kettering Foundation's Harold Saunders described how relationships between warring factions in Tajikistan were transformed when they were brought together over a long period of time. Ultimately, seven of the people in the sustained dialogue became part of the official process of reconciliation in Tajikistan.
Symposium attendees agreed that it was essential to assess the impact of dialogue projects on participants in the dialogue-in particular, whether exposure to people from a different community helped modify their positions or simply reinforced existing views of each other. Most attendees agreed that up until now such evaluations were lacking, other than a few evaluation projects -- such as those presented by Israeli scholar Ifat Maoz and UNICEF evaluations of peace education projects in Central Asia and Indonesia by Carolyne Ashton that were presented at the meeting.
The symposium also included Samuel Lewis, former Institute president and former ambassador to Israel, Shibley Telhami, holder of the Anwar Sadat Chair of Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, and Richard Murphy, of the Council on Foreign Relations. These experienced foreign policy minds each chaired sessions of the symposium.
The group concluded that sustained dialogue programs were most successful when the participants worked on relationships first and on the problems between their communities second. A pattern of cooperation and respect can emerge after the establishment of a pattern of interactive relationships.
One major challenge is figuring out how grassroots dialogue can impact a formal diplomatic relationship and peace process. But, in addition to whatever role they play in building peace, track-two dialogues can serve usefully as holding actions when political processes break down.