While the rest of the world experiences a unique moment of simultaneous interconnectedness and separation, the feeling is familiar in the Arab world, where an artificial plague created and curated to divide and conquer has afflicted our countries for generations.
Arab Seeds from across the Middle East have never been given the opportunity to explore together the dynamics of their Arab identities, navigate their differences, and discuss how to build solidarity across lines of differences.
As Seeds, we felt something was missing—a disconnection that has continued to play out among Arab Seeds over the years. Now, as program managers of our respective countries, we aimed to fill that void.
This past spring, the Arab members of the Seeds of Peace programming team launched a dialogue series for Seeds to dive deeper into those conversations. In examining the “Deal of the Century” and proposed unilateral annexation plan and its impact on Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan, we realized we needed to take a step back and fully understand the relationships between Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan. Through this dialogue series, Arab Seeds were able to differentiate where to draw the line between governmental sentiments and populist voices on the street, which creates understanding and a basis for claiming collective responsibility towards collective action.
This series started with hosting Palestinian educator Mohammed Joudeh. The second session hosted Egyptian educator Dr. Hesham Shafick, a teaching associate at the Queen Mary University of London School of Politics and International Relations. The third session was hosted by Farah Bdour, Seeds of Peace Jordanian Program Manager. Each session gave Palestinian, Jordanian, and Egyptian Seeds an opportunity to better understand each country’s perspective and intricacies.
Joudeh gave Seeds a history of the different international initiatives to solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflicts and the reactions thereto on the Palestinian street. Shafick tackled the ever-changing Egyptian sentiment towards Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Bdour talked about the unique Jordanian position and which local and international factors have influenced it.
The conversations in each dialogue session were very rich and powerful. For the first time, Arab Seeds had the space to think critically together about their shared identities and positions.
They expressed the need to ask themselves and each other questions like: What are the most shocking but real cliches and stereotypes we hear about each other today? What are the roots of those stereotypes? How do we claim collective responsibility towards collective action? What can we do to stop the cycle of perpetuating the belief in those stereotypes? How do we differentiate or where do we draw the line between governmental sentiments and populist voices on the street?
Where do we stand?
They were tough conversations, much like a process of labor before the rebirth of a deeper and more honest understanding of each other and the conflict. Participants have shared that despite the tensions, this was one of the most meaningful dialogue experiences they have had.
“This is the safest I have ever felt in any dialogue session,” said Shams, a 2018 Egyptian Seed. “I learned so much by just being in this circle here today.”
Though each session tackled different issues and perspectives, there was a recurring sentiment among participants—the unanimous desire for more: more opportunities for where Arab Seeds can ask more questions, get more honest, and build meaningful solidarity.
“We need more Arab dialogue, even an Arab seminar to discuss the many many sentiments and issues we have,” said Adulrahman, a 2019 Palestinian Seed. “This is only the start of the most meaningful dialogue experience I have ever had, and I think we need more!”