Nitsa Ford
Nitsa Ford

The wisdom of Georgetown University; reconciliation as a wise tactic toward peace, lesson learned.

This week Georgetown University in DC made history. This Jesuits academic institution apologized for its founders’ role in slavery which occurred, almost 200 years ago. In a dignified reconciliation ceremony the president of the university Mr. John Degioia said” we do not seek to move on from this apology but move forward with an open heart…” They renamed two buildings on campus in honor of people who were slaves in Maryland in 1838. We can’t heal alone, the hurt side said.

Reconciliation is a powerful act especially when it from the stronger partner of the conflict. According to the Cambridge dictionary, “reconciliation” is the process of making groups or people friendly again after they have argued or fought and kept apart. Moreover it’s the process of finding a way to make two different ideas or facts exist at the same time. Any therapist will tell you that the act of acknowledging someone else’s pain doesn’t mean you can take the pain back, but recognizing it would yield desired positive results.

Whenever the subject of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict arises we are conditioned to hear about failed talks or negotiations. In order for these talks to happen in the first place, both parties have to agree to certain preconditions such as, settlements freeze or public recognition of the other right to exist. But as history shows us time and again, these preconditions might be logical or just but bear no fruits or progress. And after 50 years since the Six Day War and 69 years after Israel’s establishment, we are still running around the same circles albeit with different players.  Discussing borders, security measures, etc. is essential but not the only part of a peace process. War begets shame, pain and grief ignoring these feelings does not make them disappear they only grow bigger and deeper.  What might be missing in this decades’ long conflict is a wise unilateral action like reconciliation where one side reaches out with a friendly gesture.

AL Nakba in Arabic means ‘the catastrophe’, and it refers to the expulsion of Palestinians during the 1948 war when Israel was established while fighting against the Arab attack, causing many Arabs to fleet their land and homes in fear. Of course many would say, and rightly so, that the Jews were not the attackers but refugees, who needed to defend themselves and that is definitely part of the story. But what is important for us to realize, that today Israel is no longer the victim but the victor of that war. Being on the side of victory makes it possible to reach out and make positive gestures. It does not mean Israel should not defend itself, nor does it mean Israel should show the other cheek to its enemy. Being the winner and being powerful allows a different dynamic to occur, when the upper hand can reach out to the opposite side that still feels weak and wounded. That friendly gesture might be the needed reconciliation act.

The establishment of Georgetown University, which offered reconciliation in such dignified way this week, is not shaken or needy. It is one of the most reputable, well-funded and desired academic institutions that is located in the prime real estate of Washington D.C. From this lofty place it reached out, two hundred years after the fact, to the people in its past and present who carry resentment or pain for its part of the slave trade. Feelings of resentment don’t go away unless you address them. Similarly, Israel’s acknowledgement of Al Nakba and the harm inflicted could finally address the grief that many Arabs still carry from that war. Furthermore dedicating few Palestinian distinguished buildings in Israel that were deserted in 1948, as museums for the Arabs past prior to Israel establishment, could be seen as noble gesture.  These simple reconciliation acts might melt this frozen relations, which is currently, only growing pain and more tragic events. Why wait hundred years more when we have the upper hand now.

About the Author
American-Israeli who lived in the US for the past 20 years. Nitsa is passionate about advancing democratic values, religious pluralism, and tolerance in Israel. Growing up amidst the Israeli-Palestinian struggle and four wars left profound mark on her life. Nitsa believes that women have to be an instrumental part of any peace process. She believes that a key to secure peace and prosperity in any country is having women leadership in civil societies. She has been instrumental in bringing Israeli public figures to enhance American understanding of the Israeli perspective.
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