SHATIL Trained 'Conflict Transformation Practitioners' Instrumental in Preventing Arab-Jewish Violence in Umm el-Fahm

22 December 2008 By New Israel Fund

A group of participants in a workshop held jointly by SHATIL's Conflict Transformation and Management Center (CTMC) and Responding to Conflict (RTC) worked feverishly last week to prevent further deterioration of Jewish-Arab relations in the Wadi Ara area. The violence threatened to erupt due to a radical right-wing march scheduled to take place in Umm el-Fahm, Israel's largest Arab city, on Monday. The march was cancelled by the police on Sunday.

"This is a real relief," said Ali Haider, co-director of NIF grantee Sikkuy, who worked tirelessly to prevent the march from taking place. "We realized the [ultra-nationalist movement founded by Rabbi Meir] Kahane was trying to provoke a new cycle of violence and to cause further deterioration in Jewish Arab relations. We wanted to use the event as an opportunity to strengthen relations and prevent violence."

Haidar also realized that this crisis could be used as an opportunity in the workshop on conflict transformation held by CTMC and RTC.  RTC is an international organization based in Birmingham, UK, which specializes in training and assisting NGOs and other agencies to develop interventions in conflict situations. After a two and a half year program, which culminated in a five-day workshop two weeks ago, the participants were certified as “conflict transformation practitioners”, having learned such skills as conflict analysis, mediation, negotiation, and bringing conflict transformation into program planning.

Participants in the CTMC/RTC workshop

Haidar brought the case of the planned march to the group during the workshop to see what could be done to prevent violence. After the training, he and other group members set out to implement the ideas they developed together.

They met with the Umm el-Fahm municipality and several peace and human rights organizations, which were already aware of the potential danger. Sikkuy organized tours of solidarity with Umm el-Fahm residents last weekend. Visitors were welcomed by Umm el-Fahm mayor, Khaled Hamdan, who promised “Umm el-Fahm is opening its gates to all Jewish visitors, except for those who want to come and provoke us."  Around 600 visitors came to the town to show their solidarity.

“I believe the municipality acted responsibly, choosing to react in a nonviolent way to a violent threat,” Haidar said. With many dangers and pitfalls still ahead, there is a lot of work waiting for the conflict transformation practitioners, the new graduates of the SHATIL-RTC course.