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Sami Awad - Complete Interview

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global oneness project Sami Awad: Complete Interview When I talk about non-violence and when I discuss non-violence with people, the first word that comes to mind, related to non-violence is the word empowerment. Sami Awad Bethlehem, Palestine Founder and Director, The Holy Land Trust This for me is what non-violence is all about. It is to empower individuls, empower families, empower communities and nations to deal with issues of injustice and oppression that they face in their lives on a daily basis. It is both a strategy of resistence and also a strategy for moral and ethical growth within society. As a Palestinian, for example, living in this land, mon-violence becomes a core value for me because it is how we as Palestinians need to deal with the oppression and resisting an injustice that we are facing. To be empowered, not to be vicitims of the circumstances and not to give in to the circumstances but to deal with them in direct and effective ways. The power of non-violence for me also creates a situation where barriers are broken down between nations and between peoples, and even again within the individual themselves and the pains that they go through in their own personal lives. Non-violence does not threaten the other, does not threaten the existence of the other. It threatens the structures of injustice that are created, that prevent that relationship from developing between you and those who are doing the injustice to you. The result of engaging in non-violece is not in the fact that it stands on resistence alone. Non-violence is powerful because it goes beyond resistence. It goes to creating the future that you seek with the other. Non-violence really creates that foundation, that premise where you can build a relationship of mutual trust and respect with those who have treated you unjustly that is founded on equality between you and them. I think what's very important is that people, when talking about ethnic and religious and national identity, they start creating sort of a negative interpretation of that as if its the other, if its something against me and so on. The challenge for us is not to put these identities into sort of a negative sphere, but how can we take these identities and respect them, honor them, understand them, learn from them, because they created what we are today and we need to respect that in us. But, to allow these identities to remain in their place. And when we talk about the future, to build a futute that again respects that identity, respects me as being a Palestinian, respects me as being an Arab, respects a person who is being a Jew, respects a person who is being a Buddhist, but create a future that has a sense of independency from that ethnic past. That's where the challenge becomes in creating this new global identity. It is an identity that encompasses everyone and has no value in it of being against anything else or anyone else. To create a world view like this I believe you have to start locally, and at the most basic local level, which goes to the individual themselves. It is creating this awareness and this possibility for transformation to take place within individuals where they begin to understand the power to distinguish things that happen around them and how they interpret things from the realities that they see. So, for example, living in this land as a Palestinian in growing up, I have created and have been taught different assumptions different interpretations, different analysis of what an Israeli is and what an Israeli should be and what my reaction to an Israeli should be. These experiences have never even been taught to me, or this education has never been taught to me from personal experience. It is, just growing up as a Palestinian, you are taught to fear the Israeli, you are taught to move away if an Israeli soldier says anything, or to obey them if they order you to do anything. That rationale is I think what we have to address. Again it begins with this personal trasformation. So for me, it is the ability to distinguish what is happening now from what my interpretations of what is happening now. So an Israeli, for example, stops me at a checkpoint, immediately I begin to put all of these interpretations from my past, from his past, into what is happening at this moment when an Israeli stops me at a checkpoint. But the reality is that what happened, happened. He just stopped me at a checkpoint. And I have to deal with that situation based on what the facts are for me at this particular moment. As we develop this learning, to create the distinction within individuals, to distinguish how there own presence is affected by their narrative, by their history, how my own present identity as a Palestinian is affected by everything I have experienced in the past as a Palestinian and how to put the past in its place and put the present in its place and look for that future. That for me is a challenge, as you said it is a big challenge because it is very protective to remain in the narrative. It is very safe not to challenge that cover around you of again, as a Palestinian, which is being a victim and getting the sympathy and pitty of the world for what is happening to me and how the world is supposed to come and help me and the world is responsible for the agony I am in. It is much easier to be the victim than to be a pro-active individual or community ready to address and challenge the issues that make you be a victim. But it starts, as I said, at that very basic level, and when we engage with individuals now, we're engaging at that personal level of creating that personal transformation within the Palestinian community of individuals that are truly able to see the future of their community, of their family, of their nation, of their region and eventually of the world with new eyes to create that story that we all dream of and all aspire for and to be leaders. To be leaders to enspire hundreds of thousands of people to follow that story and to see that we all want to be part of it. It is in a sense of taking individuals and having them stand on groundless ground of nothing. That's what the future is about. To recognize and to realize that our future as humans is completely void and empty. There is no future that can be predictable, their is no future that can be set, that can be written. Our future is void and empty. As leaders of this global movement, it is our responsibility to write that future. To write that dream that will be so inspiring to millions of people that they will say that they want to be part of that future. I think the power of what we are talking about is the ability and the desire to create transformation. And transformation has to take place from one setting into another setting. And that setting is that core identity that people are born in, and this is the reality. I was born a Palestinian, I have an identity card that says I am a Palestinian. If I personally claim to be a human being, part of the human family, the first airport or checkpoint or border crossing immediately throws me back into this one identity which the world has placed upon me and recognized me. The challenge is, and this is where the power to distinguish becomes very important for me, and I always say that distinction alone has the power of transformation. It is to be able to distinguish your identity and what makes your identity from the interpretations that have caused you to create animosity and conflict and tension with other identities as well. I think the world will be a very boring, dull world if we are just one identity claiming to be one people living in this world. I think there is creativity, there is art, their is culture, their is talent, there is philosophy that is presented. By combining all of these different identities, recognizing them, respecting them, engaging in discussion of equality amongst identities. Not that there is one ethnic identity better than the other, one religion better than the other, one society better than the other, That we are all equal and equality at the premise, as I said, is what will create the opportunity for this new global identity to be developed. And what we are doing here I would say for example in Palestine. It has reached the situation now where local small identity circles have completely taken over the national identity, so you talk to groups now, or individuals and ask them what they are, and instead of even saying Palestinian they will probably tell you "I am Hamas, I am Fette, I am Christian, I am Muslim I am from this refugee camp, I am from this clan, from this family, from this political party. And then maybe that third identity will be the national identity. And then talking about a human identity, not even be on their list. So the challenge for us is how to prioritize the identities within an individual, where they recognize that the first identity level that they are in, not that they should be in, because that's how they are, is that human level of identity, that before anything we are all humans, and before anything, we are all equal. And then from there, go to the second identity, as a human, I am also proud to be a Christian, or I'm proud to be a Muslim. I have certain spiritual connections that connect me with the entity that I worship, and I want to worship in this way. But I aslo respect you as a fellow human, as an equal human to respect in your way of worship as well. And then from their go to a different identity, national identity, ethnic identity, and so on. So it is again through distinguishing. Distinguishing alone has the power of transformation. To distinguish how you are now, how you are related to the rest of the world, and creating that vision for the future, where it is non-threatening, it is non-challenging to your identity but it encompasses you and builds your identity with other identities as well. It is not an issue of balancing one or the other. It is creating this real transformation between two aspects and building and creating something new. One thing that we are working on and have been involved in several sessions and worshops now is the core values of what we call the Abrahamic Principles. Father Abraham is non-Jew, non-Christian, and non-Muslim, but all of them claim Father Abraham to be their father and they all denounce their brothers who are also the sons of Father Abraham. And the challenge is how to create this common thread of values where Jews, Christians, and Muslims begin to see that what is common between them, out-weighs tremendously, what makes them different from each other. And again in this power to create distinction, to be able as a religious individual to distinguish your faith, your spiritual practice, your spiritual beliefs from the political narratives and political stories that have also been taught to you as part of this religious faith as well. And its not easy. Its very difficult because now you begin to address ideologies. You begin to address religious teachings that have become in their own right even now a core value within each religion, but it is through distinction how to take individuals back to the core essence of their faith and their religion. In that core essence, in that core value, we're all ones and we're all common and we come from the same father, and we worship the same god, and these basic values that are taught in every religion are a part of the Abrahamic religions as well. We have to challenge the schools and the ideologies that take advantage of religion to achieve political and ideological desires that are destructive, that create racism, create descrimination, create inequalities in society... and that, as I said, is not easy, but it becomes very important because, as you said, religion is very important in this land and we cannot take religion out of this equation. We have to see how religion can become a player for peace building than a tool for creating animosity and enemies between people. The transformation for Israeli society and community, and to engage in healing with them, in my opinion, has to be the responsibilities of Palestinians, and it starts with Palestinians. Any act of resistance and defiance to the occupation has to be linked in parallel to be an act in healing as much as it is an act of resistence. Non-violence, when used, should not be used just for the sake of saying we're engaging in resistence, so we could have demonstrations against the wall, we could have demonstations against illegal settlements, but the end goal in engaging in non-violence has to focus on that core trauma and fear that lies within Israeli society. I say if we are not able to heal Israeli society from the trauma and fear that they have faced for hundreds of centuries, there will not be peace in this Holy Land at all. We have to take Israeli society through a transformation. Its a very painful and very difficult process that has to go through Israeli society, like any addict that has to go through a healing process in any addiction that he has, and now there's an addiction on fear that exists within Israeli society. There is an addicition on security that exists within Israeli society. So every act of resistence that Palestinians engage in, has to be an act that addresses this issue. Acts of non-violence that enforce the fear and the trauma within Israeli society are similar and equal to acts of violence. If Israeli society interprets acts of non-violence to be a threat to Jewish existence, then these acts are not any better than acts of violence that take place to where hundreds of people are killed. That's why every single act of non-violence that has to take place has to go beyond just doing the act itself, and that's not easy. But I think that is how the transformation will take place in this part of the world. Leadership is very important and leadership that is fully committed to non-violence, committed to creating that transformation in society that is able to inspire thousands of people around becomes a key component for such movements to take place. As important as leadership is, it is also to have a very clear and very strong and very encompassing strategy of engaging in actions and activities as well. So you could have leaders that talk about the dream, you could have leaders that talk about the future, that are inspirational public speakers, but if they are not able to present a plan, an action of how to mobilize people and what steps people need to take, in order to move this thing forward, then these leaders will be as good as any individual else that lives in this world. This is why for me, when people ask me for example, where is the Gandhi of Palestine? I say this is important to talk about the Gandhi of Palestine, but as important, if not more important the question should be What is the salt in Palestine? What is that one act like Gandhi did in the salt march, what is that one act that once we set it and recognize it and build a strategy for it, can be so inspiring to hundreds and thousands of Palestinians to say we want to be part of this. We want to get out of this feeling of hopelessness, of resignation, and say this is what we want. And you need leaders of course to say that, but at the same time, you need that salt. You need that Montgomery bus that we still did not find here in Palestine that will be that inspiration for everyone else. The challenge is when we talk about standing on a groundless ground of nothing in that future and knowing that the future is void and empty. The challenge becomes what can we do that honors and respects every single individual that lives on this land. In their history, in their identity, in their own narratives , and at the same time, with this respect of their narratives and their identity, create a future that they will look at and they would say I don't just easily fit into this. I want to be part of this and my own personal identity and my own belief system will be even enhanced to greater extent by me buying into this new story and this new narrative. Leaders, thats what they are all about. They are tellers of fairy tales and we need to create a new fairy tale for the people of this land that will again be so inspiring that everyone will want to join in this. Of course, initially you will have many people who will challenge you, many people that will mock you, they will ridicule you, they will ignore you, they will fight you, and then you win. And I think the great thing about the statement that Gandhi said is that at the end you win. He could have said that they ridicule you, or they ignore you, they fight you and then they lose because that would have made sense about them, them, them, them but then at the end, he said you win. And there are no losers in creating this new narrative. For me, it is really going back to the essence of this land. We all call this the Holy Land. We all feel spiritually and religiously connected to this land, and you cannot deny anyone's connectedness to this land. You cannot say that Jerusalem is mentioned only a few times in the Koran, and more times in the Tora, that means we have more claim to this land than the other. In each identity there is this strong claim and connectedness to this land, and the premise of the narrative of the future is one where in my opinion, has to be based on the recognition of the equal rights of all those who live on this land. It is for Palestinians to recognize and to respect the equal rights of Jews to live on this land. It is for the Jewish community to recognize and respect the equal rights of Muslims and Christians to live on this land, and for me its really not about that political solution of a one state, two states, or ten states. Ultimately what I want to see is no borders between any states in this world we live in. But if it means to go through that two state process as a process to achieve that greater goal, where the two state process is a process that will only help in building mutual trust and respect between the people and not to divide and separate people from each other, then I am for that. If its the one state solution where again, there is equality, there is respect, there is dignity for all within a one state political system that will help transform us into greater global vision, then I am for that as well. Everything we need to be engaged in, everything to be moving on, even creating a narrative for this land, has to be part of that greater and bigger narrative, of that global narrative that we all seek. One thing that I think is very important and its again, a process of learning and developing, is to understand that as part of the human body, any act of violence that any part of that body suffers immediately is felt by the entire body as well. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not isolated, is not any more special, is not unique, and is not in vacuum from any other conflict that takes place around the world, and if we want to be engaged in healing at this level, we have to recognize and understand that engaging in healing now, and achieving healing here will also achieve a healing process around the world as well. Any conflict, any occupation, any colonial system that ends, any oppression that ends, any racism that ends in any country in this global world we live in, as pain reflects throughout the world, healing also reflects throughout the world. If we begin to understand that we are all equal, we are all one as humans, and we begin to deal with these conflicts, not in their isolation, but in their inclusivity as part of the global violence and conflict that we see, and our global desire to heal this body that is really dying of all of the violence and pain that it is suffering, then we begin to look at that future with new eyes, and we begin to look at that future where we see this global vision where everyone and their identity is respected for who they are and is treated as equal and given equal opportunities like everyone else. I feel it is very possible and it is all in the commitment that you make to make this happen. It could start with a few hundred people. But it is at what level of commitment are these few hundred people committing their live to work for that global vision. There are many people who talk about it, many people who dream of it, millions of people who want to see it happen. Its a dream for many people, but it takes people moving from that dream to commitment to action, full commitment every day of your life 24 hours a day, to commit fully to a global vision, and that's when you will see changes happen that go even beyond people's dreams. My anger is reflected through my actions. My anger is my fuel for my commitment. If I look at my anger as what should be inspiring and give me hope, then that's what my anger does to me. It is how I use my anger in ways to create productive futures, to create new ways of dealing with oppression and injustice, to create new techniques of resistance. It is not using this anger to reflect violently towards the other or to reflect violently within my own self. What many times we ignore is that the violence that we see is the only violence that we see between militants, between the police and the army, the oppressors and the oppressed, the violent and the victims of violence, and we completely ignore how all of this violence also reflects within each of us as individuals, so this anger is there and I would tell you that if I did not have this anger, that I would not be human. This anger is very important to be the inspiration that will make me engage in the right action and activity to eliminate this anger from happening in the future. I do not lose hope at all. But I'm also not living in the clouds and away from the reality. The situation is very difficult, the oppression is very harsh, the occupation is not easy, the violence that families on both sides, Palestinians and Israelis have suffered is tremendous. The tears that a mother cries in Palestine are the same tears an Israeli mother cries when both of their children are killed and I get very angry from seeing this injustice continue. But I'm always hopeful and I'm always looking for individuals that have that same hope, no matter where they are in this world. That can see that the future will be the future that we all seek, that its not just a pipe dream we are talking about, and more and more we are seeing Palestinians and Israelis who are starting to see a new vision for this land. More and more we are seeing Palestinians come to us, not just requesting, but demanding for us to train them in nonviolence. A few years ago when we talked about nonviolence, we were almost shunned from society. It was the talk of the traitors, the collaborators the Moussad agents, the CIA agents, thats what we were accused of being. And now when we talk about nonviolence, its a fully accepted language. We are doing more trainings now in nonviolence then what we are able to meet. 40 trainers work with us and we are not able to meet the demand for training in nonviolence that we are getting. Its very basic, its very grass roots now, but it is there and its growing. This is where that power of humanity comes in play. When things almost reach this pit bottom of life, all of a sudden this light begins to shine in humans and they start looking at things with new eyes, and that's what we are seeing tremendously within the Palestinian community at this time. What we need to do is, when we talk about narratives of individuals and of communities, I compare it to that light within humanity that everyone has. The stories and the experiences and the interpretations that we have, as if they create layers of dust on that light, and as the years go on, as the stories intensify, as an individual grows in these narratives, from being a child, now he grows into these narratives and stories, these layers of dust and dirt begin to cover and cover and cover until almost that light stops shining and is completely sometimes covered by these layers of mud and dirt and dust, and I have seen Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, just by engaging with them in a very simple dialogue, its like just one blow, and that light shines in them in an incredible way. This transformation happens, four soldiers carrying guns, confronting us in these nonviolent actions, and just in 2 or 3 sentences they realize there is more to life than that. There is more to being a Jew than that, more to being Israeli than oppressing Palestinians. Now these other layers have been built so strong that its not going to take just a few of us blowing at them, we're going to need some heavy machinery to dig into them. But its about having this commitment and realization that every single individual human being born has this light in them. No matter how oppressive, no matter how unjust, no matter how cruel they might be, it is to understand what makes this light from not shining in their life and how to address that and how to heal that becomes the challenge for us. And to commit to putting every single effort to doing that is very powerful. This is when an incredible new movement will emerge. In my opinion, what will happen in this land is something that none has thought about. What I see happening is an incredible transformation, a movement to take place in Palestine and in Israel. Individuals fully committed to a real understanding of peace, of peaceful coexistence based on equality, respect, and mutual understanding creating this new reality, encompassing of all of these incredibly beautiful identities that we all share within ourselves and with each other. It goes for me even beyond a political solution. A political solution is not enough. Having cease fire is not enough. Having no hostilities and no violence is not enough. Having these lights shine in this Holy Land for me will create that big torch that we need to see spread throughout the world, and it can really start from this land.

Video Details

Duration: 34 minutes and 6 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 771
Posted by: global on Aug 20, 2008

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