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1. Time for them to speak by Akiva Eldar

Commenting on a recent study of Palestinian refugees in the Jalazun Camp, Akiva Eldar notes the recommendation "that representatives of the refugees be included in all internal Palestinian discussions of their fate, as well as in efforts to find a solution to their problems."

(Source: Ha’aretz, June 9, 2006)

2. 2006 – Breakthroughs yes, but no peace by Daoud Kuttab

[Despite the setback in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process] Daoud Kuttab still expects "that some time in the next six months to one year, we will witness some major breakthroughs in the conflict" as a result of "different local and regional developments."

(Source: Arab Media Internet Network - AMIN.org, June 16, 2006)

3. Qassam Logic; Israel must take the lead by David Kellen

Pointing out that "drastic responses don’t work in our conflict" David Kellen calls on Israel "to avoid a third intifada…and renew the ceasefire. …the only effective solution against the Qassam rocket is diffusing it before it’s fired."

(Source: Ynet, June 14, 2006)

4. Behind the veils of Hamas by Khaled Duzdar

Khaled Duzdar calls on the new Hamas government to "reach a consensus on a realistic Palestinian strategy and policies for the future" that will advance "what most Palestinians want – the creation of an independent, sovereign, viable state that will live in peace with its neighbors."

(Source: Israeli Palestinian Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) News Service, June 1, 2006)

5. One bowl serves many by Rachel Shabi

Rachel Shabi writes about an Israeli/Palestinian art exhibition in Tel-Aviv that is spreading a message of peace, reconciliation and tolerance. As one visitor commented "it is so much the opposite of what is happening on a political level. I can’t tell you how much of a strong impact that has on me."

(Source: Al Jazeera.net, May 16, 2006)



Time for them to speak

Akiva Eldar *

Jerusalem - "To intensify the efforts to support and take care of the refugees, to protect their rights and to establish a popular council that will represent them ... [To establish] committees that will do their jobs, emphasize the right of return and turn to the international community so that UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which determined the right of return and compensation for refugees, will be implemented."

- from the national reconciliation document that is the basis for the ultimatum of Palestinian Authority Chair Mahmoud Abbas concerning a national referendum

M.A., a Palestinian friend who lives in the United States most of the time, relates that his mother, a refugee who fled to Jordan in 1948, did not take the key to her house in Haifa off the chain around her neck, and during all the years never stopped deceiving herself about the return to the homeland. M.A. decided that the time had come to make his mother face reality. One day he entered the house by storm, embraced the old woman and festively declared, "Mom, there's an agreement, the Jews are allowing us to return home. Go and pack."

After convincing his excited mother that the dream really was about to come true, M.A. added, "Mom, you know that Palestine is now called Israel, and in order to go shopping in the market in Haifa, you have to speak Hebrew." His mother's face fell. "Really? I didn't know that," she said. "At my age it's no so easy to learn a new language."

M.A. continued to attack. He told her that on her own her Nakba (meaning "catastrophe" - used by Arabs to describe the events of 1948 and commemorated on Israel's Independence Day), she would see blue-and-white flags around her, her ID card would bear the symbol of the Jewish state and so on. Since that day, there has been no further mention of the key.

Dr. Riad Malki, director of the Panorama Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development in Ramallah, is very familiar with the key syndrome. Everything is written in an impressive study that his staff conducted in the nearby Jalazun refugee camp, and in the Qalandiyah camp outside Jerusalem. In the end, due to various constraints, the project, funded by Canada's International Development Research Center (IDRC), focused on Jalazun.

For over a year - from summer 2004 to fall 2005 - the members of the Panaroma staff met with 163 residents of the camp, who were chosen randomly according to age group (15-21, 22-44, 45-65 and 65+), gender and education. The researchers conducted 65 individual interviews and worked with 13 focus groups, one of them composed of the political leaders of the camp.

The study, whose findings are being published here for the first time, reveals that most of the Palestinian refugees, like many Israelis, understand very little about the gap between the dream of returning and the UN's resolutions, on the one hand, and the situation on the ground and the correct interpretation of those resolutions, on the other. Generations of cynical politicians have exploited and are still exploiting the issue of the right of return in order to brainwash unfortunate refugees and to terrify anxious Israelis.

In order to get a grasp of the socioeconomic situation of the survey's respondents, project director Juliette Abu-Ayoun visited the windowless house of one of them. Abu-Ayoun was surprised, she later wrote, to see the refrigerator door locked there. The mistress of the house, a woman in her forties whose husband is imprisoned in Israel, explained with a smile that that was the only way to ensure that the members of the household, most of them children, received their ration of food. She said that 16 people "live" on NIS 1,000 a month in her house. Abu-Ayoun was reminded of this courageous woman when she decided to call her project "The Time Has Come for Them to Speak and for Us to Listen."

One of the questions asked in the interviews and focus groups was: "If the members of the Palestinian negotiating team were to ask you what positions they should adopt in final status talks on the subject of the refugees, what would you tell them?" Some of the replies: "No negotiation is possible on the subject of the right of return"; "Any solution that does not guarantee the return to our homes should be categorically rejected"; "We have to take care of the rights of the refugees in the diaspora before taking care of the refugees in the territories"; and "The right of return and the right to compensation are interconnected." There were also some who said that if asked, they would tell their representatives that the improvement of conditions in the camps is more urgent than the search for strategic solutions.

The vast majority of the participants, especially those in the youngest age group, revealed little expertise when it came to international law and to the UN resolutions regarding the Palestinian refugees. Older people and those who are educated knew a little more than the women who were questioned and than those lacking an education. Only those aged 70-80, from the first generation of refugees, were familiar with the facts and were even able to analyze the relevant UN resolutions - Nos. 181 and 194 - and almost all those involved in the research expressed lack of confidence in the ability of the UN to implement them.

Nor did the PA, headed by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), receive a high grade (the study began a short time after the death of previous PA chair Yasser Arafat). Typical replies were: "The PA is impotent"; "The PA has no choice, but to obey the dictates of the United States"; and "No official Palestinian leader will ever dare to give up the right of return." Many participants complained about how refugees are kept away from the decision-making process concerning their problems. They were afraid that the balance of power and American support, which tend to favor Israel, are making a solution of the refugee problem through negotiation unrealistic. Many of them anticipated that in the final analysis, the PA will accept a final status solution that will allow only a minuscule number of refugees to return to their homeland.

Expectations that salvation will come from Israel are even lower. "When it comes to the subject of the refugees, all the Israelis think the same way," said one participant. Another remarked that "if it were up to them, the Israelis would kick us out of Jalazun, too." A third believed that "the Israelis consider the right of return a recipe for their destruction, and therefore they will never agree to accept it." Several people questioned mentioned that as a result of the demonstrations against the separation fence, in which Israeli activists have stood alongside Palestinian demonstrators, they felt they have to learn more about their neighbors' views.

After an initial examination of their views, participants took part in a series of educational sessions about the legal and political aspects of the Palestinian refugee problem. At the end of the course, the researchers once again examined their viewpoints regarding the same issues. They didn't find any significant changes regarding the main topics. Only the young people showed an interest in compromises such as the Geneva Initiative, and that was only on condition that the right of return would not be undermined. The directors of the project recommend that representatives of the refugees be included in all internal Palestinian discussions of their fate, as well as in efforts to find a solution to their problems. The researchers also suggest creating educational and information programs for the refugees about the legal significance of the UN resolutions regarding the return, and about the fact that Palestine is not what they think.

It's a shame that only a handful of courageous Palestinian leaders dare to tell Grandma from the Jalazun refugee camp that on the street sign in Haifa where she once lived, the name is written in Hebrew, that all the neighborhood residents live in a Jewish state and that in their pockets, next to the house key, they have Israeli ID cards.

# # #

* Akiva Eldar is an Israeli journalist and a leading columnist for the Ha’aretz newspaper. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

Source: Ha'aretz June 9, 2006.

Visit Haaretz Online: www.haaretz.com.

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service.

Copyright permission has been obtained for publication.



Breakthroughs yes, but no peace
Daoud Kuttab *

Jerusalem. - At the close of last year, I was commissioned by an international NGO called Search for Common Ground to write about my expectations of the new year. United Press International ran my piece under the title "2006, year of hope".

My piece began with this quote: "Political changes in Palestine and Israel, as well as changes in attitudes in both societies and in the international community, provide a rare glimmer of hope that important changes on the ground are a serious possibility."

In the article I argued that radical ideologies are being sidelined in favour of those representing the political centre. I gave the example of the creation of Kadima and Sharon’s breakaway from the hardline Likud, the rise of Marwan Barghouthi’s pragmatism and the weakening of the neoconservatives in the US. I even reflected on some moderating hints coming from Hamas in the run up to the elections.

My piece was concluded with the following quote: "With radical ideologies being discarded in return for pragmatic policies, one hopes that 2006 will not only witness a considerable reduction in violence but will also see some genuine political breakthroughs that can put the region on the right track after years of turmoil and failed attempts at a historic reconciliation, peace and tranquility."

The Palestinian political collapse during the past three months since the parliamentary victory of Hamas, the internal fighting between Hamas and Fateh and the recent violent escalation in the Gaza Strip make what I wrote six months ago seem completely unrealistic.

While I might be willing to agree I was mistaken in predicting the future, I am not yet willing to completely throw in the towel about the future. I still think that some time in the next six months to one year, we will witness some major breakthroughs in the conflict.

My expectations of a breakthrough stem from different local and regional developments. Internationally, the push for some kind of resolution has never been greater. US President George W. Bush, in his second term, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in his last year, would love nothing better than to clean their Iraqi record with some kind of accomplishment in the Palestine-Israel conflict. Regionally, the Arab League, and neighbouring Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan (and to a lesser degree Lebanon) are also pushing to see a breakthrough.

Locally, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s so-called convergence plan seems to be collecting steam even though Bush and Blair have not given him total support. The Olmert plan is putting major pressure on the nationalist Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who understands the importance of time.

Olmert has made it clear that Israel will not wait forever. On the other hand, Hamas is clearly not worried about time. Several Islamic officials have stated publicly that unlike Fateh, which is interested in a quick end to the occupation, the Islamists are not so keen. This statement is based on the Islamists’ understanding that at present, the balance of force is not in favour of the Palestinians and therefore any solution now will not be the best one for Palestinians.

Of course, this talk is being overshadowed by the sudden escalation of the internal Palestinian fighting and the potential of a civil war of varied intensities. Abbas’ brilliant referendum proposal is aimed at forcing Hamas to take a decision one way or another. One way might be the acceptance of the three international conditions, the other might be dissolving the Haniyeh government and creating some kind of emergency government. The more the pressure mounts for either the more escalation of the internal fighting there will be, as well as attempts at diverting attention by attacks against the Israelis. The escalation of the internal and external fighting could lead to a breakthrough.

But a political breakthrough this year doesn’t necessarily translate into peace. While acceptance by Hamas of the existence of Israel could help Abbas negotiate with the Israelis rather than allow the Israelis to act unilaterally, it is unlikely to lead to a comprehensive solution.

The weakness of the Palestinian strategic position in the balance of force with Israel is unlikely to help Abbas reach an equitable solution. On the other hand, a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank will provide some short-term relief by having the checkpoints removed for internal travel, but unless it is done in direct cooperation with the Palestinians and with the possibility of free travel to Jordan, it will not produce any long-term relief.

2006 might be bloody at present and a breakthrough is still a possibility, but it is hard to predict any peaceful outcome within the coming six months.


* Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian columnist, and the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

Source: Amin.org, June 16, 2006

Visit AMIN Online: http://www.amin.org/

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service.

Copyright permission has been obtained for publication.



Qassam Logic; Israel must take the lead
David Kellen *

Jerusalem - The Qassam rocket has never been more powerful than it is at this exact moment. It’s no more accurate or explosive than in the past, but with Israel’s hands tied as we investigate the accidental obliteration of almost an entire family, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are able to fire the rockets unfettered on the poor citizens of Sderot. The situation has many Israelis seething for a response. One of them is MK Avigdor Lieberman.

In an interview on Reshet Bet radio Monday morning, Lieberman called for a dramatic response to the Qassam launchers in Gaza such that the price of each Qassam becomes so high that firing them is no longer "worthwhile." Lieberman’s logic is essentially economic: increase the price, and the demand will go down. The only trouble with it is that terrorism isn’t motivated by the laws of the free market.

This kind of logic ignores two basics facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First, there is a large number of Palestinians willing to give their lives for the continuation of the violence. Not just to risk their lives, but knowingly give them. Any logic that imagines that a bigger price tag on the use of violence will decrease its demand is ridiculous. The Palestinians are willing to pay whatever it takes.

Second, drastic responses don’t work in our conflict. The second intifada saw several massive military incursions into the Gaza Strip and West Bank (Defensive Shield, Days of Awe, Colorful Journey, etc.) that failed to produce long-term reductions in violence. We may have temporarily crippled the terror groups, but all of them invariably grew back stronger than ever. Drastic force is nothing new and has never worked against the Palestinians. And at this moment, when Hamas has cancelled the temporary calm and is calling for renewed suicide bombings, the last thing we need is a headlong dive into escalation that we know is only temporarily effective at best.

MK Lieberman doesn’t understand this, most likely because he doesn’t understand why the Qassams are being fired in the first place. The Palestinians believe they are fighting against oppression and occupation; that they are fighting for their rights. That kind of commitment can’t be snuffed out by turning northern Gaza into a buffer zone and tightening our grip over the Palestinians’ daily lives. Those kinds of tactics will only reinforce the perception of oppression and motivate continued violence.

Yes, the Palestinians are engaging in terrorism and yes, we have the right to defend ourselves. But defending ourselves from Qassam rockets shouldn’t come at the price of creating suicide bombers. Different solutions are called for, solutions that reward the Palestinians for choosing peaceful means.

At this moment Ehud Olmert should do his utmost to bring us back from the brink of renewed violence. That includes issuing a personal apology to the Ralia family, making a direct appeal to PA President Abbas to bring calm and safeguard impending negotiations, and the cessation of all targeted assassinations (except for ticking bombs). It may not be our turn for concessions, but we can expect neither restraint nor compromise if we fail to show either.

If Israel wants to avoid a third intifada, then we’re going to have to take the lead and renew the ceasefire, this time bilaterally. Renewed violence is not in Hamas’ interest either, and with the help of a third party’s good offices (e.g. Turkey or Russia), a ceasefire could be reached. Not because we are weak and not because we are scared, but because it is in our best interests; the only effective solution against the Qassam rocket is diffusing it before it’s fired.


* David Kellen is a graduate student in Conflict Analysis, Management and Resolution and researches peacekeeping operations at the Truman Institute. David Kellen is also an intern at IPCRI - The Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

Source: Ynet, June 14, 2006

Visit Ynet Online: www.ynet.co.il

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service.

Copyright permission has been obtained for publication.



Behind the Veils of Hamas
Khaled Duzdar *

Jerusalem - Once again, the domestic Palestinian Internal chaos and anarchy has hit the headlines and the hearts of the Palestinian public. The possibility of the coming Palestinian civil war has become the focal concern and worry of all analysts and the Palestinian public. This internal confrontation and challenges to authorities and powers in Gaza might eventually lead the Palestinians to the worst future they ever envisaged.

The Palestinian public’s stand should be taken seriously in any dialogue between the confronting parties, particularly when all public sectors have taken the initiative and presented their vision for a unified Palestinian position. All of these initiatives followed the same framework: rejecting the deterioration of the situation and calling all parties to adopt a joint political agenda that will achieve a viable, secure, and sustainable Palestinian state, thus averting civil war.

Various Palestinian individuals, factions and organizations claim that the two states solution is the only possible acceptable solution and that the Palestinian National Declaration of Independence from November 1988 is the best basis for any government. These initiatives are a clear call to the Hamas government to adopt this Palestinian National vision and nothing else.

President Abbas was very right in stressing the need to go back to public with a referendum regarding this issue in this sensitive and crucial stage. The referendum might be the right and only possible tool to alleviate the internal Palestinian dispute and the conflict between Hamas and Fateh. The National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners has received wide public support for presenting a united Palestinian stand, but it lacks vision. It would be much more significant if the referendum would present a new joint Palestinian strategic vision, or "a new Palestinian platform," outlining Palestinian interests that could be used to promote a Palestinian platform globally.

Public opinion polls indicate the preferences of the public’s needs and insights. The ultimate support of the public was the pedestal behind the President's statement to the national dialogue opening meeting. The need now is to reach a consensus on a realistic Palestinian strategy and policies for the future.

The outcome of the National dialogue has apparently not yet brought the Palestinians anything more than a modest sign of good will between the different factions. It seems that it did not achieve a consensus on the basic conflict issues, and it does not look like it will present substantial and sustainable solutions for the crisis.

At the same time, the new Hamas government and its Minister of Interior are more determined to bring the situation to a bloody confrontation between the two heads of the Palestinian Authority. For both Abbas and Haniyeh it is a matter of "to be or not to be," a chance they should make the best use of. The Minister of Interior is revisiting his previous wrong decision on redeploying the so-called "support unit" in the streets of Gaza.

The mistaken decision of using unofficial forces to maintain security in Gaza is wrong and it will not bring security for the Palestinian public. This hasty decision came only as a challenge to Fateh and its affiliated members. The message is that "Hamas and only Hamas are in power and control the Authority." This has created the worst kind of situation that the Palestinian public needs these days. The unasked and unanswered questions remain, why do we need all of these armed militias in Gaza and who exactly is the enemy there?

Governing the people doesn’t mean deploying armed guerillas in the streets under the name of "creating security". The enforcement of law and order has to be carried out by an official, legitimate, constitutionally-recognized authority, not by those who are themselves considered outlaws.

The deployment of these well-armed guerillas has proven that Hamas has worked intensively on their army. They have made great efforts to prepare this army for defending Hamas and its existence. They used the period of calm with Israel to do all their preparation in training and equipping it with personnel and arms necessary for ruling the Palestinians. This army was not prepared to fight the occupation; they were only prepared to fight the Palestinian leadership and to take over from Fateh, the Palestinian Authority, and the PLO.

President Abbas should be aware that the Palestinians do not need a new army or "new Presidential force," which will only bring additional and unnecessary financial burdens. The solution lies not in hiring more fighters, certainly not while the Palestinian leadership is unable to pay the salaries of former forces and incapable of integrating the militias into existing forces.

The new Hamas government should concentrate more on bringing substantial solutions for daily public concerns, which is the internal security in its broadest meaning - not guns in the streets. The Hamas-led government would be much better off focusing their attention and energies on the financial and economic solutions for the devastating economic situation. The Hamas-led government should start thinking of effective, realistic steps to end the Palestinian crisis. The Palestinian people and their existence should be on top of their agenda. Sacrifices are needed and the Government should start by adopting the right policies, not by sacrificing the lives of the people.

Hamas must consider changing its dogmatic stands. First they could concentrate on how to unify the Palestinian people, and if that isn’t possible, they should think more on how to prevent a civil war, even if that requires the government to resign and to call for new elections. This is not the time to challenge ourselves with dangerous internal wars. The collective interests of the Palestinian public should always be above the particular interests of any one group or faction.

Further enhancing the chaos, it seems that Hamas itself isn't unified under one leadership and one agenda. There seems to be real contradictions between the positions of the internal Hamas leadership and the external leadership in Damascus. It is becoming more apparent that there is a growing crisis inside Hamas. Moreover, it is now obvious that PM Haniyeh has not won with the full support of the Hamas leadership.

The external leadership of Hamas that controls Hamas’s militia (Al-Qasam brigades) seems to remains a higher authority than the local leadership. The local hardliners and the external leadership are working together on a different agenda which is incompatible with the National Dialogue and that will lead very soon to serious divisions inside Hamas.

Hamas’s external leadership, which is hosted by the Syrian government, is playing into the hands of Syria and Iran to serve their regional interests. This policy will exacerbate the Palestinian position and cause, and once again, the Palestinian cause will be utilized by outsiders to serve their own strategic and regional interests.

If the attempts of reaching national consensus fail, the Palestinian President should think seriously about dissolving the government and calling for an emergency government. This is not to counter Hamas and its strategy, but rather for saving the Palestinians from total destruction and an endless internal conflict. The Palestinian public is patient enough to give Hamas a limited carte blanche to prove that they are capable, but as long Hamas is not making progress, they should not forget that they are accountable to the public and the public will not wait forever while the entire society is deteriorating. They would be wise to make decisions in the best interests of securing peace and security for Palestinians and in advancing what most Palestinians want – the creation of an independent, sovereign and viable state that will live in peace with its neighbors.


* Khaled Duzdar is the Co-Director of the Strategic Affairs Unit of IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information www.ipcri.org. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

Source: The IPCRI News Service, June 1, 2006.

Visit The IPCRI News Service Online: www.ipcri.org

Distributed by the Common Ground News Service.

Copyright permission has been obtained for publication.



One bowl serves many
Rachel Shabi *

Tel-Aviv - Israeli and Palestinian artists have joined forces to send a message of reconciliation. Their exhibition, which opened on Saturday, drew more than 2,500 people to at the Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan, in suburban Tel Aviv.

‘Offering Reconciliation’ showcases the work of more than 130 Israeli and Palestinian artists, who took part in the project for the Bereaved Families Forum for Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance. The group hopes to spread its message to a wider audience through art.

"To reach a different people, you need different mediums," says Aziz Abu Sarah, one of the forum directors. "Even people who disagree with our message were able to come to the exhibition and see what we are doing."

The exhibition features artists such as Menashe Kadishman, Dani Karavan and Mohammad Said Kalash alongside emerging talents.

Each artist was given an identical ceramic bowl from which to create their work.

"The bowl is connected with the basic gesture of feeding, or giving," says Dafna Zmora, one of the exhibition curators. "It is something that contains – a message or an idea." Some artists smashed the bowl and presented a work from its pieces. Others built sculptures with the bowl as a base or used the bowl as a canvas for paintings.

"They each took the commission in a personal direction, each with their own interpretation of the reconciliation narrative and the elements that derive from it – co-existence, pain and loss, fracture and unity," says Orna Tamir Shastovitz, who led the initiative.

"Each one of the artists is presenting a special bowl of reconciliation, a bowl of peace and hope, of art instead of animosity."

Aliza Olmert, wife of the Israeli prime minister, contributed to the show. Her plate is painted black, with the Hebrew words: "Jews do not evict Arabs do not evict Jews do not evict..." in a continuous loop covering the bowl.

Dalia Riesel, an Israeli artist, sculpted a pair of human hands emerging from coiled rope onto a blood-red bowl. The hands are trying to grasp olive leaves, the symbol of peace, which are scattered on the plate."The piece is a woman's womb, covered with rope, with the hands emerging and trying to reach the olive leaves," says Riesel. "The leaves are just out of reach, but hopefully the hands will get there one day."

Jalal Kamel depicts a Palestinian man chiseling the word "peace" in three languages on to a large stone. The stone is intended as a symbol of Palestine – representing its buildings and its famous export, Kamel says. "The message is very clear. The man is writing peace on the stone, a solid thing in the ground that nobody can take out – no force, no state can remove it," the Bethlehem artist says.

Kamel was one of the many Palestinian artists who could not attend the exhibition. He was not granted a permit to enter Israel. Abu Sarah says only about 20 Palestinians attended the opening."That's the sad part," he says. "The government claims to want a peaceful solution, and then fights the peaceful attempts of people such as ourselves."

The organisers plan to take the exhibition on tour, in Israel and Palestine and then overseas.

The original idea had been to auction the pieces to raise funds for the project – taking reconciliation workshops into Israeli and Palestinian schools. However, James Wolfensohn, who stepped down recently as the special envoy to the Quartet to the Middle East, donated money to the forum so the works could remain together.

The bereaved families forum started in 1994 and is made up of hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones in the conflict. The forum has organised study days and seminars for adults and dialogue meetings and summer camps for children.

Just after the start of the second intifada, the group took 1,200 fake coffins bearing Israeli and Palestinian flags to the UN office in New York. "We wanted to show that people dying is not just a number," says Abu Sarah.

At the opening of this latest show - which, according to the museum drew one of its largest attendance figures - visitors crowded to see the display of bowls, often lingering over a particular piece. "When I heard that there are people who were willing to sit and speak and work together, I had to come and see their exhibition," says Sarah Breitberg-Semel, a curator and lecturer from Tel Aviv. "It is so much the opposite of what is happening on a political level. I can't tell you how much of a strong impact that has on me."


* Rachel Shabi is the Tel-Aviv correspondent for Aljazeera. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

Source: Al Jazeera, May 16, 2006.

Visit Al Jazeera Online: http://english.aljazeera.net


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