«We try to work on human relations, as peace on paper does not mean anything», - Dr Shlomo Fischer

2021-11-22 09:00

The webinar, held on November 11, was the segment about the experience of Israel. The idea of organizing such seminars is to look at the conflict in Ukraine through the lenses of similar conflicts in other countries, that we could stand away from our situation and take a look at how other nations solved these situations. The project is launched by the Institute of Ecumenical Studies in partnership with the Kharkiv office of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Ukraine and international research partners.

The Oslo Accords failed

The speaker Dr Shlomo Fischer, sociologist and senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem (JPPI), initially he presented the background situation with peacebuilding in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. “In 1993 we had negotiations, the Oslo Accords – it was the initiative of the Israeli side, but it failed. Later we had another attempt in September 2000. Actually, we had a major initiative, that people have been hoped for since 1970s – and that came to a fail in 2000s. Although there are people who support peace, but there are no secular initiatives in play at this point. That is in part because of the government which are in power for twelve years. But more of that this is also because of the loss of confidence on behalf of the Israeli population and Palestinian public. So, we have now a sort of co-existence.”

What were the principles of the Oslo Accords? The intrinsic part of the Oslo process, this secular peacebuilding process, was that you make an agreement between the states. The peace agreement means that a state is a permanent piece of thing. As there exists a Palestinian state, then inevitable there will be a division.

The peace treaty means that a state is a stable entity. As there exists a Palestinian state, there will inevitably be a division.

On the discourse of peace between Israel and Palestine – Dr Shlomo Fischer

• The idea is that what we want to do is to somehow live together with the Palestinians. The fundamental metaphor – is a metaphor of a marriage: we are together in this situation, neither of us is going away, we both belong here, and hence we have to make it work, to launch a dialogue. This approach is very practical, non-messianic. We try to work on human relations, as peace on paper does not mean anything.

• Simultaneous truth of both conflicting narratives – Jewish religious and Palestinian. These both narratives contradict each other, at the same time two narratives are true. Because God is paradoxical, life is paradoxical, in God all things are possible, we are reaching a miraculous way of living together. The relativity of truth and paradox of simultaneous truth of two contradicting things.

• The dialogue with the Other and the antitriumphalism. In the Israeli conflict the antitriumphalistic theology says that the Israeli state – is not return or redemption. As divine ideals are not fulfilled. God in his power and infinity can not be accomplished into one religion. We have to engage in dialogue with other religions, to open the other sides of truth for us. This is part for the basis of the dialogue with Islam, Muslim figures.

• The idea of one territory for two states. This contradicts everything in European history. Since 1648 we cannot have two states on one territory. This contradicts the idea of state formation. But everything is based on the thought that we can have two conflicting narratives, which are true at the same time.

• Religiously inspired peace is miraculous and paradoxical. This imposes an anathema on the secular understanding of peace. On the other hand, people “on the ground”, are actually engaged in dialogue, they share meals, they share hospitality with local Muslims, the representatives of the Muslim people. It means that all this miraculous staff is true.

• Peace is a process, there is no end of the dialogue. The treaty is important, but it is really more important to live together and to view it as a process. You can have problems, fails, nothing is perfect. But we work toward it, and we work in faith that eventually the miraculous aspect will present itself. We have a sort of dichotomy within this. The sociological paradox is that people who seem to be ideologists and theologians, are always the people who are closely connected with the Palestinian population.

• As the mainstream process failed, people began asking: what possibilities do we have? Then we said that we had a religious peacecamp. As nobody else is doing something since the failure of the Oslo Accords a couple of decades ago.

What to think about in Ukraine?

Dr Shlomo Fischer described the secular and religious approaches to peacebuilding. It is interesting how can we work in this direction, but on the other perspective. Besides, we can doubt strong and weak sides of the secular and religious approaches.

«Today we are talking about Israel. What struck me a lot in Dr Shlomo Fischer speech? Modernistic-critical approach: there co-exist two nations within one country, once you are a minority in a country, you don’t know how to deal with this system. The question here for us is whether we can escape to a certain extent this trap, that borders equal nation. The second thing – is the idea about the theology’s contribution to peacebuilding and this idea of two narratives that can be both contradictory and true, because God is paradoxical. How religions can play the pluralistic game of this is what we can reflect upon more detailed», - Dr Pavlo Smytsnyuk, the seminar moderator, the director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies UCU, stated.

«The narrative, presented by Dr Shlomo Fischer, opens this perspective of the future shared co-existence of both parties.»

The respondent during the seminar was Roman Nazarenko, Scholar of Religion, author of publications and lectures on interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, a PhD student at the Theology Department of the Tilburg Catholic University.

«Working in the sphere of interreligious dialogue and mentioning this Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I always come to a conclusion that religion plays a very significant role. It somehow ricocheted me how Dr. Fischer presented the interreligious dialogue. When we talk about the Israeli situation, it is significant also to mention the Palestinian side. When we speak about different political conflicts, where on some human level there are some misunderstandings, it is not difficult, we always can find a solution. But when we have a religious factor in play, when the major stumbling block is religion, the conflict resolution becomes more difficult. When we are talking about the Israeli context, there are not so many voices that would be so progressive, open and frank in speaking in such way that Dr Fischer has just spoken.

The Sacred Land is sacred for various religions. If we would be talking only about political elements or the human relations’ element, that would be much simplier. But when the religion is in play, sometimes we face speculations even on the religious level. We see politization of religion or religization of politics. Different parties play on the religious factor for their own interests. The narrative, presented by Dr Shlomo Fischer, opens this perspective of future shared co-existence of both. These are very practical dimensions of this dialogue. Understanding that these two religions can co-exist can be a healing factor for future reconciliation, which will come around at the territory of Israel”, - summarized Roman Nazarenko.

The next seminar of the project “Ecumenism and Peacbuilding: International Lessons for Ukraine” will be held on November 17, at 17:00. We will discuss the experience of Lebanon.