And inspired the conference attendees were, by the talk of the Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian. I find it remarkable how varied Palestinians are, considering the small population ( about 4 million according to the World Bank). From skilled, but often uneducated, farmers to urbane academics; from powerful women protesters to those following more traditional roles, there is no ‘one size that fits all’.
Super articulate and upbeat, Ambassador Hassassian’s talk was peppered with good humour.
His key themes were
- The importance of the Twinning Initiative. Our world is a world of images. Twinning circumvents the stereotypes and enriches the bonding of people.
- Palestinians have their own sense of pluralism and democracy – universities are a shining example of what Palestinians can achieve.
- Education is the Palestinian ticket out of the ghetto. Palestine has great universities and this achievement illustrates what it can do.
- Israel is only interested in the West Bank to fulfil a messianic dream, it is not interested in occupying Gaza. It’s a democracy occupying another country: settlements are snaking their way over the West Bank.
- Israel is a genius in crisis management but not in conflict resolution, it is virtually the 51st state of the US. They only want occupied Palestine as a market – Palestine is the second highest consumer of Israeli goods, US is the first.
- The US has failed as an honest broker in the peace process; there is great disappointment in Obama
- He considers Islamic fundamentalism a challenge. Religion is a zero sum activity.
- There is no immediate solution to the situation – the next 5 years are going to be difficult
His resounding message:
“The process of history is made by people not governments”