Turning Pain To Productivity

It has been difficult over the last few years to really explain the fragmented thoughts and emotions that I have been feeling, mostly because I was confused and did not understand them and even I am not sure why one person can make me feel so low, as though I were in mourning.

Imagine that someone threatens you, frightens you, invades your privacy, plays mind-games with you and lies to you, tricks you and then slanders you to others, and you, being confused and scared by the stress respond emotionally and with anger to protect yourself only to be told by that very person “aha! look, it is you that has the problem” despite you only reacting to their initial hostility, thus shifting the blame back to you. This heartache that I am experiencing is because who I really am was silenced and I was made out to be someone that I am not. He made it appear like I deserved to be mistreated and that hurts so much, so damn much that I was never given a chance to be heard, to be seen for who I really am. It now makes sense why I was so desperate to hear an apology and to re-conciliate as friends, because I wanted that hostility to end, for people to see me for who I really was. It hurts even more because I cared for the person who did this to me, that I was undeserving of such hatred, and the worst part about it was that the very person who did this lacked any remorse or guilt, no apology was given that made me feel tremendously worthless.

The Palestinians are threatened everyday, frightened by the hostility of the Israeli army that invade their privacy, sending troops into people’ homes and acting with minacious intent particularly against children and the Palestinians respond to the stress of the attacks emotionally and with anger to protect themselves only to be told, “aha! look, this is proof that you have the problem” and where the Palestinians become the ‘terrorist’ and the Israelis justified for the attacks. What hurts the Palestinians is the fact that not only are the blamed for the mistreatment perpetrated by the Israeli army but their voice, they ability to talk and who they really are way taken away from them and replaced with the hostility of deserving punishment. They are desperate for an apology and reconciliation so that they can move on from the pain, but Israel lacks the remorse or any guilt, on the contrary continue to purport that occupation is justifiable.

How can I forgive a past where I was treated terribly, how can I show him that I am not what he thinks I am? How can I work through these difficult emotions, through his hostility and hatred of me, through the shifting blame and the lack of remorse and an apology in order to find my voice, find my way to telling him that I am a good person and his behaviour towards me was wrong?

How can Palestinians forgive a past where they were treated terribly, how can they show Israelis that they are not what the Israelis think they are? How can they work through those difficult emotions, through the hostility and hatred that they experience, the shifting blame and lack of remorse and find a voice, find a way of telling them and the world that they are in fact good people and do not deserve to mistreated under occupation?

Post-colonial societies that have experienced conflict show that forming stable governance is an incredible struggle, such stability required in order to achieve recognition internationally as a State. Without an apology and reconciliation, hostilities often remain dormant only to return at a later date and political apologies form a symbolic and necessary agreement that gestures a moral acknowledgement for peacemaking. Apologies provide that recognition to a political identity that enables the dignity and acceptability to configure a less hostile political landscape that in turn provides the framework for a more stable government and society.

Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.

~ Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

Judaism has an embedded ritual that appreciates the significance of collective apologies as since with Teshuvah and Yom Kippur. They have clearly outlined how making constructive efforts to seek atonement through repentance not only for the individual but for the entire community can transform and improve relations, so much so that the rituals themselves have designed the framework that contributes to ensuring this is continued in practice through the synagogue in a community environment, to gesture through a divine and symbolic means the importance of this as an action. Islam carries similar gestures of atonement and repentance, but verbal repentance while may expose regret of past evils is not enough and the gesture itself has further conditions and properties that convey authenticity in the apology, such as returning what was rightfully the property of the usurped or in this case to remove themselves from the occupied territories. Islam, more importantly, conveys the importance of forgiveness and the acceptance of repentance.

It is about two very different people learning to see their similarities rather than their differences and find the love and respect through that.

I have decided to take up PhD research in Peace Studies, focusing on the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. I was very lucky that while studying my Masters in Human Rights Law, my university offered me a scholarship to complete an internship with Tel Aviv University and it was my experience in Israel in 2016 and then the visit to Alrowwad Arts and Cultural Centre in Bethlehem that has compelled me to study political apologies and the effect it can have to reconciliation. Hurt can be exchanged for something productive, something positive. While everything is still raw, still new and I am still hurting, it is time that I tried to work through this emotional struggle or to find a way to live with the pain. Either way, I have a new life about to start and I hope I can do this successfully.