Building Peace With Younger Generations

Eran Nissan: Building Peace With Younger Generations

*This story was collected in partnership with New Story Leadership.

Eran Nissan lives in Jaffa. Eran holds a bachelor degree in Political science & Philosophy and currently works for Peace Now as their special projects manager. Eran previously ran the Advocacy and Education department at Peace Now. At Peace Now, Eran headed the creation of Hazon Vision Center, where he recruited and trained young Israelis to act as agents for change in the Israeli society. The Center’s alumni deliver lectures and perform advocacy activities with various population segments, with an emphasis on pre-military youth groups. Young Israelis being influenced by young Israelis serves as a one of a kind generational call to action on a nationwide scale. During NSL, Eran worked in the Congressional office of Congressman Jamie Raskin. 

For the past three years, I’ve been working for an Israeli NGO, called Peace Now, advocating for the two-state revolution. This has been my passion for the past four and a half years. I served in the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, for four years, I was a combat soldier in the special forces, in the K9 forces. My military service changed me in many ways, but politically is one of them. When I left the army, I decided that I want to do something about the conflict.

I joined Peace Now as a volunteer. What Peace Now does is working inside the Israeli society, trying to promote public support for the two-state solution, trying to promote public support for the two-state solution trying to educate the Israeli public about the prices that we pay because of this conflict and the opportunities that we have of solving it. The two-state solution being the most viable, accurate, feasible and preferred solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

The Israeli society, much like the American society, is very polarized, specifically around the Israeli-Palestinan conflict. In other parts of the world, being left-wing, or right-wing, is defined by your social-economic positions. Left-wing means your a social democrat, socialist, communist, Marxist; and right-wing is capitalist and libertarian. In Israel, left and right means only one thing, its the set of positions you have towards the conflict. In Peace Now, and at work, I have close friends who are right-wing, and of course, I empathize, and I understand. I agree with a lot of things and disagree with many others. However, part of what we are doing is reaching over. We are not going anywhere, they are not going anywhere (they being people we disagree with), the only question is how to move forward.

So, my focus is on my generation and the next generation (people who are now in high school) and politicizing them. I gave up on my parents’ generation, but I am open to conversations. However, I’m much more interested in speaking with young people. I think that both of our societies need to take part in this conversation, I think that we are disconnected. To go back to the generation thing, our parents used to meet much more then we do, they would drive into Palestinan cities, they would shop in Palestinan markets, but since the second intifada, and the separation laws in the early 2000s, we don’t meet Palestinians, we don’t see Palestinians, and when you don’t meet Palestinians, you don’t meet the other side. Young Palestinians, the only Israelis they meet are soldiers and settlers, these are not circumstances for understanding, empathy, and trust. So, when you don’t meet the other side, especially the same age as you, you start drawing horns and tails, dehumanizing, demonizing. I think that the Israeli society, and the Palestinian society, is going through this phase of being desensitized, that we become indifferent to the other side’s suffering.

Our job is to re-sensitize, we need to connect to the other side’s fear, hurt and pain. It’s about empathy, it’s about this conversation, so other people need to ask the question, not only Israelis, and Palestinians, but the international community as well. They need to take part to initiate this conversation, to understand that this is a complicated reality, this is not only about Israelis and Palestinians, but it is mostly about them.

One of the problems in [Washington D.C.], or when we talk about the conflict, is that people are talking about us, without us. This is one of the main challenges that we face here, and this is why New Story Leadership brings us to D.C., that our stories could be heard in the corridors of power. I gave a lecture to a very right-wing audience, about 200 teenagers, and people my age, in a settlement called Elie, in one of the main pre-military academies, that is the most right-wing. I was there because they wanted to meet the leftie.

In Israel, unfortunately in the past decade being a leftie is synonymous as being a traitor, everyone who mentions the words “occupation” or “peace” which puts a tag on you that you are against Israel. When I went into this kind of work, I did it for myself, and my generation and I didn’t consider the Palestinian side. I said, “I don’t care if there are people on the other side talking about Palestine”.

In Israel, when we talk about sides, we talk about left-wing and right-wing. There is a whole part of this discussion that is totally excluded from the conversation. The conflict in Israel is perceived as if its a domestic issue, but the Palestinians are a part of the conversation. As being both left-wing, Zionist and a proud Jew, (even though I am atheist and secular) but this is a part of my heritage, and this is what I want to do. I would say to the younger generation to learn how to shut up and listen, more than you talk.

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