Saturday, March 17, 2007

Conflict resolution

Sitting across from each other in my daughter's living room in Beersheva are reminders of a different conflict.
On one side, on top of her bookcase, is a transparent box containing a set of Japanese house gods, that are worshipped in Japanese homes, consisting of dolls of a man and a woman dressed in traditional Japanese costume. These were given to us by my former Japanese post-doc who worked for me for 5 years in the US, and they were a sincere measure of his and his wife's gratitude when they returned to Japan.
On the top of the window ledge opposite is a delicate Chinese carving of two beautiful white storks, male and female, sitting in typical pine trees made of cork, encased in a transparent oval laquered case. This was given to her as a wedding present by a Chinese man who worked for my wife as the caretaker of the shool where she worked as Executive Director. He had escaped from Vietnam where there was an anti-Chinese pogrom, had been a "boat person" in a camp in Malaysia and had been allowed to enter the US. However, with poor English at his age of 50s it was almost impossible for him to get a job. He found a haven in the shool and he was very grateful.
The traditional dislike/hatred between the Chinese and Japanese occasionally manifests itself in poor relations between the two countries, but also between individuals. Many years ago when the Japanese fellow was working for me, a Chinese student joined my group. They were both living in the same neighborhood, and since the Chinese did not yet have a car I suggested that they drive to work together. The Chinese guy refused and he quoted the massacres of Chinese by the Japanese during WWII as the reason. I talked to both of them and managed to persuade them to drive together. Within a year or so they became good friends, and when the Japanese fellow left the Chinese fellow bought his car.
The new Palestine Authority Unity Government was installed today amidst great celebrations. Notably the President Mahmud Abbas in his speech stated that "The Palestinian people reject the use of violence in all its forms," but the Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh stated the exact opposite and "affirms that resistance in all its means, including the popular resistance against occupation" is a Palestinian right. There can be no resolution of the conflict until Hamas and the PA Government change their intransigent course. The resolution of the Chinese-Japanese conflict gives us hope that conflict resolution can take place even in the most extreme cases. But, we have to grapple with the fact that the Palestinians generally do not support Abbas, but by a large majority support Haniyeh. That is the unfortunate reality.


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