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Source: United States of America
14 June 2005



Television Documentary Brings Israelis, Palestinians Together
Leaders on both sides of the conflict discuss concerns, hopes

By Brittany Sterrett
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- A new documentary television series is bringing together prominent community and cultural leaders from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hope of promoting greater understanding and cultivating a broader constituency for peace.

The series, entitled The Shape of the Future, will air on Israeli and Palestinian television in July, and each episode will be followed by interactive town meetings broadcast from Ramallah, in the Palestinian Territories; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Cairo, Egypt.

John Marks, the president of Search for Common Ground (SFCG), produced and wrote the series.  SFCG, whose motto is “Understand the differences, act on the commonalities,” sponsors programs to work on cooperative resolutions to conflict in the world. 

Neither scenes of violence nor historical footage appear in the series.  Co-executive producer Susan Collin Marks said, “This is not about the past; this is about the future.”

Palestinian singer Wissam Murad, from the musical group Sabreen, and Israeli pop star David Broza collaborated to perform the featured song in the films.  Both sing the same message of peace and humanity -- in Arabic and Hebrew, respectively.

The first film in the series focuses on security and Jerusalem.  It features the families of a Jewish and a Palestinian community leader, both living in the city.  Each family expresses its fear – fear of the military for the Palestinians and fear of bombings for the Jews.  Expressing similar concerns and desires, they both hope for a future in which they and their children can live a “normal life,” one without fear.

The documentary next turns to Yacov Perry, former director of the Israeli Security Service Shin Bet.  His interview is set in parallel with that of former director of the Palestinian Preventive Security Agency, Zuhaer Manasra.

Perry states, “There’s no doubt that there is a chicken and egg syndrome.”  Both men maintain that the behavior of each nation lead to the reactions of the other in a vicious circle. 

Manasra expresses his desire to see the two sides become partners in order to break the pattern and deal with security issues.  Both claim that the creation of a Palestinian state in some form is the only solution.

Israeli journalist Ze’ev Sohiff and Palestinian journalist Nabil Khatib are also featured in the film.  Sohiff says that he would “prefer to see Jerusalem unified,” while Khatib says that the city is “impossible to divide.”

Both journalists embrace the idea of having the city united administratively, but serving as two capitals.  They agree that both sides should decrease their focus on sovereignty and increase their attention to practical and religious concerns.

Elinoar Barzacchi, Jerusalem’s city engineer, says, “Sewage does not have a flag.”  Many of the interviewees agree that city functions, such as waste removal and preservation of holy sites, should be performed jointly, with neither Israel nor a Palestinian state claiming sole ownership of Jerusalem.  Many express the hope that both sides will work in the mutual interests of each other.

The film closes with words from Palestinian cleric Sheikh Talal Sidh and Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron.  Sidh speaks of extremism on both sides, calling it “a fire under our feet,” and saying that both sides must work together to put out the fire.

Doron says, “We should erase the word sovereignty.”  He goes on to say that the city does not belong to Jews, Muslims or Christians.  Instead he says, “It belongs to God.”

Sidh adds, “A solution does exist that is acceptable to 80 percent of Israelis and Palestinians.”  All those in the film express the hope that such a solution will soon be realized.

Susan Collin Marks stated SFCG’s mission with the series:  presenting different ways to achieve peace and “saying judge for yourself.”  She said they chose the interviewees in order to establish the widest possible credibility in both communities and described them as “people who hang onto their humanity in the face of the inhumane.”

She said that SFCG chose to “target the middle and help to expand it” in order to inspire thought and action on the issue.

John Bell, director of SFCG in the Middle East, said, “[The documentary] will remind people that there are answers.”

Created: 14 Jun 2005 Updated: 14 Jun 2005



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