The power of face-to-face encounters between Israelis and Palestinians

Yonatan Gur, Common Ground News Service, Jul.5,

One of the most significant events of my life took place in March 2005 in Anata, a Palestinian village north of Jerusalem. It was the first time I participated in a meeting organised by Combatants for Peace, a movement of Israelis and Palestinians leading a non-violent struggle against the Occupation.

What was so significant to me about that meeting was the fact that it was the first time I had experienced a face-to-face encounter with Palestinians who today are my friends and comrades in a cause.

Since then I have felt a need to make it possible for other Israelis and Palestinians to experience such encounters. The face-to-face experience between equals is, I deeply believe, the foundation for peace and reconciliation between our peoples.

Since the Arab Spring there has been lots of talk about the opportunities offered by new technologies as a means to encourage the forging of relationships across boundaries – the kind that will transcend a culture of incitement of hatred. But does the Internet really enable such encounters?

One of the explanations for road rage is that drivers cannot see the face of the driver next to them, and there are no means for communicating, verbally or otherwise. The Internet carries a similar risk.  The Internet encourages short, simple and, at times, aggressive exchanges, as evidenced in the harsh and verbally violent sphere of “talkbacks”.

I don’t mean to be discouraging. I am anything but reactionary and I believe that the Internet and social networks are nothing less than wonderful.  But, as we witnessed in each and every one of the mass events that have been taking place in the recent months – from Manama to Madrid – what really matters is what happens beyond Facebook – on the street.

Read the complete article here.