MOSAIC DISPATCH Harnessing Canada's Diversity for Peace at Home & Abroad
UofMosaic dialogue with the President of York University pg. 3
The Gatekeepers: A Catalyst for Dialogue With the aim of fostering dialogue between and among Jewish and Arab communities in Canada, the Mosaic Institute hosted retired Israeli Admiral Ami Ayalon in Toronto from Thursday February 28 to Friday, March 1 for a program centred around the thenimminent release of the Oscarnominated documentary, The Gatekeepers. Ayalon directed the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, from 1996 to 2000, and is prominently featured in the film, which consists of interviews with six former Shin Bet directors. The Gatekeepers is a manifesto for the implementation of the two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, and thus the film serves as a point of entry for dialogue between members of the Jewish and Arab diaspora here in Canada.
Following a screening of the film at the Royal Ontario Museum on the Thursday evening, Admiral Ayalon engaged in a thought-provoking conversation with the diverse 300person audience. Amit Breuer, a Canadian filmmaker of Israeli background, moderated the discussion. The next morning, the Mosaic Institute hosted a small breakfast roundtable for some key members of Toronto’s Arab and Jewish communities. These events provided Ayalon a platform to share his vision for peace and provided audience members with the opportunity to engage in dialogue with one another as Canadians, and to consider in particular how those of us from diaspora communities can contribute to peace overseas.
Ami Ayalon, former head of Israel’s Shin Bet in conversation with guests at the reception.
Peace is achievable, according to Ayalon, only if Israeli and Palestinian civil society members pressure their respective governments. He spoke of how the Shin Bet competed with the Israeli Defence Forces, the Mossad and other security institutions for the attention of the Israeli Prime M i n i s t e r. B e a u t i f u l l y c r a f t e d briefings with pictures and graphs were compiled on a daily basis, but despite such efforts, the Prime Minister never read any of them until after he or she had read the polls every morning. Once Ayalon recognized this fact, he understood the power-and thus the responsibility-of citizens to make their opinions known to those in the halls of power in order to guide their decisions and their policies. Additionally, Ayalon argues that Israelis and Palestinians also have a responsibility to engage those in their respective local communities who have the most to lose from the peace process. For example, he spoke of the need to engage with
The Gatekeepers A
screening of the film The
Gatekeepers was held at the Royal Ontario Museum on Feb 28, 2013 followed by a discussion with special guest Ami Ayalon, former head of Israel’s Shin Bet.(above, middle). UofMosaic York University campus chairs Brandon Crandall and Sara Zeitoun ,who introduced the film. (right)
Jewish settlers because, on the Israeli ‘side’, they have the most to lose from the two-state solution. He reiterated this point in a subsequent interview with Globe and Mail’s Patrick Martin, arguing that settlers must be recognized for the “contribution they have made to developing the state” and compensated for moving their homes inside the Green Line. In that way, settlers will not perceive a negotiated peace as a form of admonishment for their actions. Ayalon believes that the Arab and Jewish diasporas have the agency and right to contribute to the realization of a just and lasting peace because the actions of Israelis and Palestinians living in the Middle East can have direct and sometimes dire consequences for their kin living abroad. If we in the diaspora do not agree with the policies of Israeli and Palestinian governments, then we must also speak out and act alongside Israeli and Palestinian civil society to try and effect positive change.
values and ideas about peaceful coexistence and dialogue reiterated the need for continued commitment to a healthy learning environment on the university campus.” - UofMosaic@York co-president Brandon Crandall
UofMosaic@York: Campus Diversity With President Mamdouh Shoukri In January, UofMosaic@York held a special dialogue session with York University President Mamdouh Shoukri. The session brought together more than 30 students from communities connected to all sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict to engage in a candid discussion with their President about the impact that diversity and diaspora politics have on student life at York. York University, like many other Canadian universities, is a microcosm of the Canadian cultural mosaic. President Shoukri clearly relishes his school’s diversity. But the conclusion he has drawn from observing student life is that students may not be reaping the full benefit of attending a university whose population is drawn from more than 170 countries. He believes that York’s administration has a duty to foster more inter-cultural interaction and dialogue to help counter-balance this tendency. If students want to move past the acrimony that has often defined the relationship between Jewish/Israeli and Palestinian/ Arab groups on the York campus in particular, then they must learn to engage constructively with the “other” and come to appreciate narratives that are starkly different from their own.
Mamdouh Shoukri defends his record of dealing with tensions between Jewish and Arab students on campus with quiet confidence. Since assuming the role of President in 2007, he has tried to hold true to a few, basic principles when dealing with these and other sensitive issues: respect, openness, and a firm commitment to both dialogue and academic freedom. One student from the Jewish community on campus asked the President how York’s administration should deal with professors who “peddle their politics” in the classroom to the extent that they make it difficult for dissenting students to offer alternative viewpoints. Shoukri responded that, while he feels it is every professor’s right to argue a political position, that same professor also has a responsibility to create a “safe space” within which students will feel free to disagree publicly with their instructor and with one another. Check out our blog at www.mosaicinstitute.ca for more details from this event.
OPENING OUR HEARTS AND MINDS Through my own experiences I have come to appreciate the value and necessity of dialogue in resolving conflict and fostering friendship and peace. During a Buddhism retreat I attended a few years ago, an elderly Tibetan man, who had lived much of his life in Tibet, spoke about the lessons we could draw from his life experiences. He told us that he had witnessed firsthand the hardship and injustice that the Chinese government had inflicted on the Tibetan people; these memories had bred a deep hatred in his heart for anyone and anything Chinese. Many years after his exile from Tibet, this hatred still remained strong within him.
These words struck a deep chord with the old man; as he came to realize the truth in the message. He listened to this advice and opened his heart by Jigme to the people whom he had Duntak hated for so long. This Tibetan elder soon found that the Chinese people he met and spoke to were not the Chinese of his memories or expectations. He recognized their distinctiveness, the commonalities he shared with them, and the friendship and compassion they showed towards him. He declared to us that he now has come to call many Chinese people his close friends – and has even come to like Chinese food.
He recalled one incident where a close friend of his had invited him for lunch at a Chinese restaurant; he refused and angrily replied that it made him sick to even think about going to such a place. By opening his heart and engaging with the Chinese, he was able to Then one day the old man was realize the inaccuracies of his invited to meet and speak with the n e g a t i v e a s s u m p t i o n s a n d Dalai Lama. He told the Dalai Lama the injustice of his hatred. about his life in Tibet and about the memories that fed his hatred As Martin Luther King Jr. once towards the Chinese. The Dalai stated, “Men hate each other Lama listened and then replied that because they fear each other, and he must open his heart to free they fear each other because they himself from this hatred that only don’t know each other, and they made him a prisoner to his own don’t know each other because suffering. they are often separated from each other.”
Upcoming Event Film Screening: “A Chink In The Armor” Exploding stereotypes about Chinese in the diaspora. Date: March 26, 2013 at 6:30pm Location: Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Ave
I believe that dialogue is critical in resolving conflict. By engaging with those who are perceived or portrayed to be your enemies, you come to the realization that, on a basic level, we all share the same, common concerns and desires – and that the peaceful resolution of c o n fl i c t s i s a l w a y s p o s s i b l e through dialogue.. However, for dialogue to be successful, we must first have open hearts and open minds. If we are unresponsive or indifferent to the concerns of the other party, or if we express ourselves from a position of hatred or ignorance, then the dialogue will be in vain. Jigme Duntak is a member of the Steering Committee for “New Beginnings: Young Canadians’ Peace Dialogue on China & Tibet”.
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Published on Feb 1, 2013