Friday, May 13, 2005

Understanding of conflicts grew

Here's an interesting article from today's Winnipeg Free Press.

Understanding of conflicts grew

Fri May 13 2005

By Shahina Siddiqui
AT a two-week Summer Institute program entitled Education and Democracy in a Global Context at the University of Manitoba last year, Palestinian educators from private and public schools came to share the challenges of teaching under occupation.

How, these educators were asked, can they teach peace when their students face violence and persecution every day? How do they foster hope and forgiveness in children who have known nothing but hopelessness?

They were also asked why the Palestinians were committing suicide attacks and what do they teach their students about this? Do they reject violence and how do they cha
mpion peace?

The 60-plus students who attended these sessions conducted by experts in conflict resolution, peace studies and education in conflict areas (who had come from Canada, United States, Israel and Palestine) benefited from this enriching experience and, I am sure, grew in their understanding of conflicts and occupation and the toll it takes on children and teachers alike.

Harold Buchwald's column of April 12, Intimidation finds a campus home portrayed the program in a negative light. The Summer Institute was a noble venture that was co-sponsored by the Arthur Mauro Centre For Peace and Justice. They must be commended for their moral integrity and encouraged to stay the course by bringing to Manitoba many more such programs dealing with conflict from around the world.

It is only by listening to people who live under conflict that we can begin to actualize peace and put a human face to their suffering.
I was blessed to have had the privilege of hosting a Palestinian delegate and could not help but notice how they wanted to walk everywhere no matter how far they had to go and so I asked why? And the response just broke my heart: "We have never walked so freely, there are no check points. We can go anywhere we want. This is amazing"

Contrary to Mr. Buchwald's indictment of the program, what I, and others witnessed at that forum was an emotionally charged attack on the Israeli professor for presenting her research into Israeli textbooks that she contends are racist towards Palestinians and Arabs. She provided evidence from these textbooks that supported her findings.

The fact that she is from a military family of Israeli intellectuals, and that she had lost her 14-year-old daughter to a suicide bomber made her presentation even more courageous and powerful. However, I could not help but hang my head in shame and disbelief at the insults and verbal abuse that were hurled her way.

She was accused of being a self-hating Jew, her ancestry was questioned and her right to speak attacked, all because she dared to critique Israel -- a country she obviously loves. This brave woman weathered it all with quiet dignity and conviction of faith.

There was no press coverage of this undignified and hateful attempt to silence an honest academic. The first rule of academic integrity is that we champion the truth even if it be against our kin.

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