Fernando Casanova is a Student Intern, and is working with us to develop proposals for future resource development initiatives. Below, Fernando reflects on his first day at the Mosaic Institute, which coincided with the launch of our Mosaic In Conversation initiative. Fernando reflects on his first day, and the Conversation, featuring Dr Mohammed Wattad, below:
I grew up believing all conflicts could be solved by some decisive occurrence, tales which culminated in a momentous victory over injustice. With time I learned that more often than not, it is not so simple. Lines of victimhood can become blurred amongst enemies. Peace accords and democratic elections can be futile where hate has transcended generations and history been usurped by the forces of division. These problems call for a type of innovation which challenges us and makes us feel uneasy. Beyond signatures, we need to transform how individuals perceive their own identity and the identities of their rival counterparts. More than empty peace promises we need the will of the people to transform a deeply historical, religiously rooted, and intrinsically wretched status quo.
“In Israel, when you talk to people about food, you will become friends, talk about politics and identity and they become enemies, immediately” commented Dr Mohammed Wattad, the Mosaic Institute’s first guest to “Mosaic in Conversation”, a new initiative providing an intimate forum for dialogue to provide insights and a deeper understanding to social issues faced at home and abroad.
This was my first day at the Institute, and the Conversation went beyond my expectations. Dr. Wattad provided a pragmatic and nuanced approach to an issue which, until recently, I had no idea of what a feasible solution might look like.
Growing up, I never thought peace could ever be redundant. Delving further into the history of Israel and Palestine, I was perplexed by its inherent and growing complexity. The failure of numerous peace-keeping and peace-making enterprises makes one consider that perhaps conventional means of conflict resolution are insufficient. That there is no universal peace making method. I believe the mistake does not fall in our inability to devise one. Our failure lies in the reluctance of most to admit this single truth, the same reluctance which limits the search for alternatives.
Dr. Wattad’s journey as he navigated between his Arab and Israeli identities as a legal scholar provides evidence to discern what this alternative peace process could look like. According to Dr. Wattad, this begins with the individual becoming educated on literature from both sides.
Education which challenges individual’s views and perception of identity, and changes the nature of discourse. It is an accessible concept of conflict resolution and is not exclusive to Dr. Wattad. I think the reason we do not listen to these alternatives is because our idea of what a solution is. Reluctance is exacerbated as a solution must appear to be palpable and decisive, making us comfortable in our expectations of results.
The failures from peace enterprises in the past emerges from this very conception. Seeing peace as a tangible, immediate outcome of some momentous event or resolution, driven by expectations on an implemented solution. If a resilient peace process is to commence between the Israelis and Palestinians, the concept of peace must be transformed.
Peace is not a product, it is a concept which emerges gradually through a due process. This is challenging to conceive because such processes are usually fuzzy at their core. There is no universal method to making sustainable and resilient peace. Dr. Wattad’s journey paints a depictive picture of this process, this is driven by the desire to approach a better solution.
It can be discomforting that at the heart of it, any solution remains fuzzy. It can be discouraging that the circumstances of the status quo will limit the effectiveness of any peace process. Not everyone in Israel and Palestine can have the same educational experience or legal background as Dr. Wattad. For too long, the conversation and decision making in Israel and Palestine has been dominated by short run, nationalistic perspectives. We ought not to be discouraged by the circumstances of the present time and look into the long run. This is the vision shared by Dr. Wattad, that “With time, success will come.”
There is an undeniable sense of justice within children, innocence which is stripped away unannounced by the inescapable reality of maturity. Growing up in the proximity of indiscriminate forces beyond our control, such as war and hate, can strip this innocence away too early and too soon. I think this is why at the Mosaic Institute we believe in working with youth. Because understanding that the world we are dealt can be absolutely unfair is the starting point to any action taken against this.