Peace Exists Now by Karen Hamdon

An excerpt from a speech given at the Small World Social Forum in Victoria, November 2002.

photograph © 2003 Lottermoser

Tonight, in order to honour the theme of this forum – creating another possible world – I want to speak to you about the world that already exists in Palestine and Israel, that holds great promise – one that we rarely see or hear about. This is a world of Palestinians and Israelis who work independently and often together to bring about peace and social justice to their broken part of the world.

I believe that what we give our attention to expands and what we focus on, we create more of, and in a sense, our thoughts create our reality.

…..the universe may be a giant thought, not a machine; we see around us thought manifested into form. If we only focus continually on what is not working in areas of conflict, what are our chances of creating real peace?

Tonight, I want us to create some space, to think about and focus on what is working. There are over 1200 non-government organizations in Jerusalem alone, working on peace and justice. Whole communities have come together to ensure that conflict does not take over their reality.

Two years ago when I lived in the West Bank, I witnessed a tremendous amount of cooperation, information sharing in science, medicine etc. Now with travel restrictions, that grass root connection is on hold or slowly dying.

It now takes 3-6 hours to go from Ramallah to Jerusalem, it used to take 20 minutes. Curfew means over half a million people are living under shutdown or lockdown. I have seen the devastation, the hopelessness and the despair; I have also witnessed miracles.

12% of the population of Israel is Palestinian and they have been living there in peace for fifty years. There are NGOs, including Palestinian ones, who have been working consistently over the last two years, using means of non-violence, with international support, to resist the very violent occupation by the Israelis. Foreign nationals are posted in Palestinian homes, protecting people from the Israeli military – these people have become heroes in the eyes and hearts of the Palestinians. They bear witness to the struggles of liberation; their presence is seen as an offering of hope that maybe, the Palestinians have not been abandoned or forgotten by the international community. There are Israeli organizations that also work to ease the suffering of the Palestinians under the occupation. We don’t hear about them in the news – this is not what we are allowed to see or give our energy to.

…A few stories, that for me were like miracles that I experienced this last July. They give voice to hundreds and thousands of Israelis and Palestinians caught in the current tragedy.

The first story is about an Israel couple who have always been active in the peace movement – they recently lost their only son in a suicide bombing. It was difficult to meet them, but I found they had both reconfirmed their commitment to the peace movement. They said, “Look what this is doing to us, we have to work even harder to ensure this occupation ends.”

The other story is about a young Palestinian working as paramedic with the Red Crescent Society. The only thing that moves during curfew are emergency vehicles including ambulances. As Bobby mentioned the Israeli military contravenes international law and Geneva conventions and does shoot at these vehicles. The Red Crescent has lost a doctor and three paramedics in the last eight months. This young man was out on a call when he was shot and illegally detained. He and the driver were held for weeks and were tortured. He returned to his posting and continues to serve with the Red Crescent in the field. He went out on a call to help Israeli settlers who were in a car accident. I asked him how he found it in him to minister to the people who had shot and tortured him. He looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language and said, “You know, the day will come when we will live in peace together, and I cannot afford to let my heart harden, I need to be ready every minute -because it will happen like that. (Snap of fingers)” To me that was a miracle.

And to me that was a lot of what I heard on both sides. These Palestinians and Israelis know that the wheel will turn, that peace will come and they are committed to working toward that reconciliation. Everything we are hearing, every thing we are fed as a steady diet prevents us from having a vision of transformation. So I want to go back to that idea that if we give our attention to what is working, if we hold those places of light in the seemingly unending darkness, then we see that peace is not only possible, it exists right now, here and there within the violence and the fear. Hoping for peace is to discount the pockets of peace that exist this very moment and robs them of their right and possibility to thrive and grow.

I understand my part – the responsibility to hold consciousness of a greater truth of what is and what can be.

If we focus our attention on strengthening and supporting the efforts of the hundreds and thousands who understand that both nations’ security is wrapped up in one another’s; if we use our energy to fan the flame of peace, it is completely possible for the light to overtake the darkness.”

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