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Taking sides—and the road to peace
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I'm reading
Taking sides—and the road to peace
Pass it on
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I'm reading
Taking sides—and the road to peace
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
20 January 2014

Taking sides—and the road to peace

“We must learn to lead with our hearts, not our fists.”

Written by Danny Almagor

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

It all started with a conversation I had on the last night of a conference on social enterprise. Having been born in Israel and with half my family still living there, I am deeply connected to the place and passionate about its future. I got into a very deep discussion about peace with a filmmaker, who had just completed a film on the Israel/Palestine conflict that he hoped would help bring peace to the region.

He showed me and some fellow conference delegates a snippet of the film, which seemed to me to be quite one-sided. I challenged him and said that it made me uncomfortable, and I couldn’t see how outsiders taking sides could really bring the two sides any closer. He responded with his view that, ‘There was one side who was more to blame.” The discussion got quite heated and in the end, we had to part ways disagreeing, but it helped me distill a very significant idea, one that I have been pursuing ever since: what is our role in building peace and can peace be built by taking sides?

Elie Wiesel famously said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Wiesel is a survivor of the Holocaust, along with much of my own family and he is right. We must choose between right and wrong and stop atrocities and injustices whenever we can.

But although some conflicts appear to be black and white, most are grey. And the more I learn about conflict, the more grey there seems to be. It is also remarkable how quickly you lose credibility with one side when you take the side of their enemy. I am yet to see someone mediate a peaceful resolution to a conflict by taking sides.

But not taking sides doesn’t have to equal neutrality. It doesn’t mean fence-sitting. What if the third side is actually peace? Right now, there are organisations and people around the world who have decided that hating the enemy is not the answer; it is not going to advance any form of reconciliation. But these groups don’t get the attention they deserve. The media—and film makers like the one who instigated this journey for me—like to focus on the conflict. They like to tell the story of the oppressed and the oppressor. Sadly, conflict sells.

What if we invested our energy into supporting the people and organisations that are actively working toward peace through partnership, rather than blame? To those pursuing forgiveness and reconciliation, over punishment and war? For this, we must start with empathy and a genuine attempt to understand the narrative of the other side, and accept that it is their truth, even while our narrative is true for us. We must start by imagining walking in ‘the others’ shoes. We must see them as people, not objects.

Gandhi’s response to a Hindu man who killed a Muslim and made an orphan of his child was profound—he told the man to raise the child as his own, but also, as a Muslim. We must start by learning the story of ‘the other’, using compassion, not judgment. We must learn to lead with our hearts, not our fists.

Danny Almagor

Danny Almagor is the founder and CEO of Small Giants, an impact investment company that supports and nurtures businesses dedicated to making the world a more just and sustainable place.

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