by Bogdan Pammer
Shelley Hermon the director of the moving and personal documentary Within the Eye of the Storm just finished a UPF sponsored 3-day tour with 5 screenings and one peace education workshop for students. I had the great pleasure to accompany Shelley in that period, which also turned out to be also a personal journey for myself, that helped me to understand…
What is the starting point for a peace process? As the documentary shows the starting point for his peace activism and becoming a co-founder of combatants for peace was to recognize and feel the other sides suffering. There is a truth in that, which cannot be seen when analyzing a conflict situation through rational glasses of power games and interests.
Bassam (the Palestinian character), who works in the Palestinian National Archive came to the understanding, that for justice, reconciliation and peace to come about Palestinians need to recognize the sufferings of the Jewish People in the Shoa. At the same time Israelis need to know and feel the history of the Palestinian People. In his work with the national archive Bassam is committed to document the Nakhba and the occupation for that very purpose. “It is difficult to not want to seek revenge. It is an inner battle.”
Overcoming the victim mentality
“We need to overcome the victim mentality” is a statement brought forward several times by Bassam, as well as Rami (the Israeli character). To overcome is very much a choice, an internal battle. It requires strength. Bassam and Rami took this strength (from what I could see) out of their parental love for their daughters. They managed to expand that parental heart to the children of ‘the other side’
Talking to the Devil
One of the key scenes that stirred great in the audiences was Rami and Bassam’s visit in Jenin and meeting with leaders from the Al-Aqusa Brigade. Shelley filmed the meeting and reflected at our stop in Linz on that special encounter remarkably: “Rami always says we need to speak with our enemies not our friends. I am ready talk with the devil himself. I realized during our meeting in Jenin with ‘the Terrorists’, that when you recognize, respect and talk to people, they will mirror that respect and dialogue becomes possible.“
Certain Principles are Universal
Getting deeply involved in this movie helped me to understand and feel UPFs principles of peace and the Ambassador For Peace ethos better. It was fascinating to find those very principles discovered and applied by a Palestinian Muslim family and a liberal Israeli family, play out also in the momentous life and global works of the Korea born founder of UPF.
Although sometimes losing hope seems to be the only option. Within The Eye of the Storm reminded me that it is possible to find common ground despite the odds. It might (very probably) not be possible to put these universal principles we are seeking (at UPF, with UNESCO’s culture of peace and non-violence initiative or the project World Ethos) into one (perfect?) language, but they can be experienced in the encounters a lived life brings. In such encounters as the friendship of Rami and Bassam.