Evangelische Akademie Loccum Conference

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From 17-19 October 2008, the Evangelische Akademie (Protestant Academy), Loccum, Germany, hosted a conference, “Demilitarizing Conflicts: Learning Lessons in Northern Ireland, Palestine and Israel”. It was organised by Academy Director, Corrina Hauswedell.

I made the following brief notes of the speaker’s presentations:

  Friday, 17 October 2008
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Sami Adwan. Adwan described the importance of accepting multiple narratives in society, giving the example of the USA.
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Avishai Ehrlich. Ehrlich gave an impassioned and purposely provocative essay on the significance of language and symbols used in conflict, what labels are applied to names, events, and actions. He argued that the past is reworked all the time for the needs of the present.
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Allam Jarar. Jarar argued that Israel is not yet ready for reconciliation, and that any resolution should be based on a code of ethics that are themselves based on universal values of human rights.
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John Loughran. Loughran highlighted the importance of the interdependent nature of parties in a conflict, giving the example of David Ervine’s (loyalist) reply to Gerry Kelly (republican): “I’m not going anywhere without you, and you’re not going anywhere without us.” Loughran said that there is no script for peace building, and noted the importance of leadership during a peace process. He said that inclusivity is vital, and that there had to be a common vision for a shared future. Finally, he said that you learn by doing (versus talking, planning).
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Duncan Morrow. Morrow argued that the British and Irish governments strategically decided to be rid of the Northern Ireland problem, and encouraged the role of Northern Ireland’s large civic society in the peace process. For Morrow, a lesson was that politicians and civil society have to have the same ethic, in order for peace to be achieved.
 

Comments made in the subsequent discussion included the importance of people-to-people contact; a leadership crisis within both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and that Palestinians should see Israelis in human faces, i.e. not only as soldiers and security personnel.

Regarding people-to-people contact, it was said that one couldn’t imagine any peace process without it, but not to overstate its role. Furthermore, one should be careful not to draw wrong comparisons between Northern Ireland and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where the actors appear to be far from getting to where Northern Ireland is today. For example, it has been 10 years since the positive role of civil society in Northern Ireland played in the achievement of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement; civil society is unrealised in Palestine.

  Saturday, 18 October 2008
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Mahdi Abdul Hadi. Abdul Hadi acknowledged the lack of positive Palestinian leadership, while expressing his grievances against the policies of Israel.
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Asia Afaneh. Afaneh put forward arguments for the case of negotiating with Hamas.
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Amit Leshem. Leshem pointed out that Hamas (in contrast to Israel security) prevented a Palestinian delegate from travelling to this conference. Leshem discussed the dimension of Israel as part of the greater Middle East, not Europe (pointing out that many Israelis see themselves as European first and foremost). She argued that Irish nationalists used compromise to realise equality via engaging in politics, instead of maintaining that equality would be realised only after a united Ireland. For unionists, she argued that the compromise of maintaining the Union was the acceptance of power sharing. Leshem proposed a role for the Arab League: in exchange for Israel returning to the 1967 borders, all those in the Arab League would give Israel formal recognition (de jure?) and normalise relations with Israel. Drawing lessons from the Northern Ireland experience, Leshem argued that Israel is not taking seriously enough the role of political prisoners in a peace process. Politial prisoners contain the next generation of political leaders, she said.
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Sean Murray. Murray explained how republicans consciously decided to break the cycle of violence via alternative strategies.
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Dermot Nesbitt. Nesbitt emphasised the need to adhere to European and universal values, in efforts to reach a peace settlement.
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Dawn Purvis. Purvis said that there needs to be collective responsibility (ownership?) for any agreement. Here, she described how the process in Northern Ireland was designed so that no party or group could cherry-pick its favourite parts, but had to accept the proposal in whole. Purvis argued that you need strong partners, in implementing any agreement. She valued the role of external players, but said that they are not to be used for shuttle diplomacy.
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Andrew Sens. Sens described the role of the IICD. His initial fear was whether the politicians would deal with the IICD constructively. Once Sinn Fein did so, the work of the IICD progressed well.
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Sean Murray. Murray praised the work of the PSNI in dealing with the contentious 2005 Whiterock parade. (This was subsequently referenced by several speakers.) Murray also remarked on the achievement of maintaining a single policing service through the reforms.
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Joe Brosnan. Brosnan described the background and his role in the Independent Monitoring Commission.
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Mohammad Almasri. Almasri pointed out the conundrum of Hamas attacks on Israel being reprised by Israeli attacks on the Palestinian National Authority (officially responsible for Palestinian security). This has the peverse effect of weaking the PNA while emboldening Hamas. In regards to decommissioning, Almasri argued that you cannot collect arms in the absence of an accompaning political process.
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Anat Kurz. Kurz expressed a concern about the risk of achieving a positive outcome from the Annapolis Talks (i.e. agreement with Fatah), while excluding Hamas (with its electoral mandate in Palestine). Instead, Kurz proposed that Israel whould not interfere (take sides?) in Palestinian internal politics, but deal with all parties (including Hamas). Kurz also said that she “wants peace”, without being prescriptive on any outcome. She emphasised the role of inclusivity and dialogue.
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Bernd Kubbig. Kubbig outlined regional factors of the Israel-Palestine conflict: (1) Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons; (2) Lebanon; (3) relations between Egypt and Iran; and (4) relations between Israel and Palestine. Kubbig argued for regional security cooperation/collective security.
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Mark Hamilton. Hamilton made the case for how an independent Ombudsman is fundamental for a policing service.
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David Rose. Rose described the importance of establishing respect for policing, as figures of authority. This can be achieved by increasing trust, cooperation, and social inclusion.
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Al Hutchinson. Hutchinson argued that deals (agreements) must be implementable. To maintain the rule of law, one requires political will, the will of the people, and the will of the police and security forces to change (reform). Leadership is the common denominator.
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Anat Kurz. Kurz made the point that the positive role of foreign donors in areas of conflict is limited by the absence of a political framework (peace process).
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Mamoun Attili. Attili said that the question remains about ensuring the accountability, by Palestinians, of Palestinian security.
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Roland Friedrich. Friedrich said the Palestinian security is externally controlled. He argued that there needs to be a political solution, not just technical support. Also, policing and security needs to be part of a wider judicial and civil service reform process.
  Sunday, 19 October 2008
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Joe Brosnan. For Brosnan, a peace process has no fixed destination, but it is important to get on the road to peace, with others.
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Andrew Sens. Sens said that the unequal application of law is not constructive. Furthermore, acts of contrition are not realistic in a peace process.
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Chris Maccabe. Maccabe described how elections to multi-party talks were constructed to ensure the broadest political representation possible, underlining the appreciation of inclusivity. Maccabe also described his appreciation of the positive role of prisoners in the Northern Ireland peace process.
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Muriel Asseburg. Asseburg argued for concentrating efforts on the desired political settlement (in apparent contrast to Brosnan’s argument). She also argued that the EU should work with American policy, but not just to complement it.
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Andreas Gies. Gies described the role of development cooperation and peace processes. He agreed that development cooperation is ineffectual without a political settlement, but there is no alternative but to continue providing aid, lest there is a total humanitarian collapse.
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Avi Primor. Primor agreed with the need to remove road blocks, especially within Palestinian territory. He made the case for concentrating efforts on the “known politial solution” (i.e. two-state solution). Primor appreciated the Israeli perspective of the conflict as one of security and being in a constant state of war. He argued that the EU is the only actor that can provide security via an international army to impose (not merely observe) security, to replace the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the West Bank. He also argued for more cooperation with the Arab world (region). Primor also argued the case for the need to convince Israeli public opinion (referencing Anwar Sadat’s efforts), in order to exercise pressure to impose security and build up Palestinian security forces.
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Mahdi Abdul Hadi. Abdul Hadi described how Israel internally is a divided society: 20% Arab; 20% Russian; 10% Zionist; 30% European. He argued for a bi-national, single state solution.

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