What we talk about when we talk about Israel/Palestine
Since the creation of Israel in 1948, the region has been the scene of fierce power struggles, injustice and tragic events. Throughout the past 65 years, both sides have been at odds over a resolution to their long-running conflict, and many outside parties – the United Nations, the Arab League, various US Presidents – have proposed a variety of answers, the most common of which is a two-state solution.
If Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are to be divided into two distinct and separate states, how can it be done? Where will the lines be drawn? And how would such a dramatic conclusion to the issue affect the region?
Melbourne prides itself on being an intellectually curious, open city where the discussion of ideas is a local pastime. But some topics, it appears, are forever headed to the too-hard-basket.
How do we hold a productive discussion around the issues and solutions when key players and thinkers struggle to even agree on terms of engagement? How can we give voice to political disagreement in a way that is meaningful rather than just retreading old conflicts? Is boycott an appropriate response to those with whom we disagree? And if we can’t come together to discuss these issues openly, with representatives from across the community, then what hope is there for constructive debate?
The Wheeler Centre presents a distinguished panel of thinkers, exploring the issues around public conversation and the peace process. Moderated by journalism academic and Radio National alumnus Peter Clarke, over 90 minutes at Melbourne Town Hall, our range of passionate, mutually-respectful, informed speakers talk about talk: about how we conduct ourselves in exploring the history and ideas around such an entrenched and long running debate, and about how those holding passionately divergent views can hear one another – without local discussion becoming a microcosm of the big picture peace process that can’t even agree on an agenda, let alone a solution.
All participants' views are their own and not those of the organisations with which they are affiliated.
Samah Sabawi is an Australian Canadian poet, playwright and essayist, originally from Palestine, now residing in Australia. She has written and produced the plays Cries From the Land (2003) and Three Wishes (2008) both staged successfully in Canada. Sabawi's third play Tales of a City by the Sea enjoyed a sold-out world premiere run last year at Melbourne's La Mama Theatre, and is set to be staged in three Australian cities in 2016. The play was selected for the Victorian Certificate of Education drama and theatre studies’ 2016 playlist and will is published by Currency Press. Samah Sabawi is co-editor of Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas for the Playwrights Canada Press. She is also co-author of I Remember My Name, an anthology of poems by three poets from Gaza (Samah Sabawi, Ramzy Baroud and Jehan Bseisou) edited by Vacy Vlazna and published by Novum Publishing. Samah Sabawi is currently developing her most recent play Them, a play about the lives of five people before a boat sailed from their war tone shores heading to Europe.
Peter Beinart is associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York. He is also a contributor to the Atlantic and National Journal, a senior columnist at Haaretz, a CNN political commentator, and a senior fellow at The New America Foundation.
Dahlia Scheindlin is an international political and strategic consultant whose expertise is public opinion research; she recently completed a PhD at Tel Aviv University in comparative politics.
Scheindlin is based in Tel Aviv, where she moved from New York City in 1997; she has developed research-based strategy for electoral, social, and corporate campaigns in more than a dozen countries.
Mark Baker is director of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation and an associate professor at Monash University.
Maher Mughrabi is Foreign Editor of the Age and Sydney Morning Herald. He has previously worked at the Independent, the Scotsman, the Daily Mail and the Khaleej Times. In 2015, Arena Journal published his essay on the 'Arab Spring' and its aftermath, entitled 'Hunting Leviathan in the Middle East'.
Or Avi-Guy is a policy analyst at Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, and a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, researching post-ethnic conflict political reconciliation.
Peter Clarke is a Melbourne-based writer, webcaster, educator and moderator.