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Living with Conflict
Life, even in the midst of war, has to go on. Food has to be acquired, people fall in love, and children like to play.

Through the submissions in this section, documenting such everyday routines, even in violent settings, allowed us to share with you some remarkable stories where you can learn more about how war affects the lives of people.

From Rachel Papo’s photographs of women serving in the Israeli army to Warisha Farasat’s account of the observance the International Day of the Disappeared in Kashmir, we journey through different landscapes and cultures, but see commonalities in their experiences.
Zena el-Khalil
MODERATOR
Lebanon
This past summer, I experienced war directly for the first time. It started over night and was a surprise for most of us in Lebanon. One day I was going about my daily business, the next day there was war. I was trying to build my life in Lebanon, having only moved back from New York two years ago. I was building a family as I recently got married. I was taking care of my best friend who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was building bridges between Beirut and New York, trying to start an artist exchange program between the two cities. I had just finished curating a big art exhibit that included 23 young Lebanese women artists. I was dreaming big for post-war Lebanon.

During the 34 day Israeli siege, I was tested in many ways. I experienced loss and pain. I experienced food, fuel and electricity shortages. No one went to art shows anymore. My best friend's hospital was a heartbeat away from shutting down. The list goes on... However, I learned how to cope. And then after some time, I also learned how to live.
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20 - 1 of 38 Latest | Previous
Wajdi Nassour
Germany
Posted on Friday, November 24, 2006 12:32 PM
I was watching yesterday on TV the funeral of the assassinated Minister Gymail in Beirut. The first thinks game to my head was, why does the tragic death of a single person brings in Beirut thousands of demonstrators to the streets while the destruction and the death of over 1000 persons during the war last summer left these streets empty?
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David Sokal
United States
Posted on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 10:20 PM
Dear Sesame Seed, I am glad you responded & I enjoyed reading your message. Racism is an intimate part of my life as it is for any conscious person. I grew up in Baltimore at a time when segregation still existed. My mother, a strong Zionist, was a member of CORE, a group of whites & blacks fighting to end segregation. She would drag me along to demonstrations at age five.
In elementary school, we were tracked by testing level, resulting in segregated classes. In 6th grade, they decided to end tracking & mixed the classes. It was a nightmare for me & other kids who weren’t street toughened. The tougher black kids would pick on us including threats of violence & actual physical abuse. My response: I became afraid of black kids that fit my stereotype of these "tormentors". At the same time there were other black kids that I got along fine with. This experience was not unique to me. White friends of mine had broken bones & other serious injuries after encounters with angry black kids. They did nothing to bring on these attacks other than be white, small & afraid. Were these attacks racist? I've heard the argument that victims of the broader, historical racism cannot behave in a racist manner themselves.
Baloney! This experience made it clear to me when I visited Israel many years later that anyone can behave in a racist way or have racist attitudes; even, & sometimes especially so, the victims of the most horrendous, genocidal racism ever experienced in human history.
Let me digress. I prefer the term “ethnocentric.” Why? Are Jews & Arabs a different race? Definitely not. Half of Israel’s Jews are of Arab descent & there is also a growing population of Jews of Ethiopian-African descent in Israel. Even more important the idea of “race” is itself a cultural construct. Is there really a “black race” & a “white race”? Modern genetics is not able to find a basis for these distinctions in our genetic structure. In your message, as you write you shift from the idea of “race” to the idea of “Western Culture” versus “indigenous” or “native people”, & then slip back to “non-whites”. Ultimately all these distinctions are questionable constructs of human culture more than of real differences in our nature. Jews, Romas, Poles, Slavs & Homosexuals were slaughtered by the Nazis, Were these “non-whites”?
Furthermore, dark-skinned people are not free of guilt when it comes to horrendous behavior. Long before Europeans had any influence in the Amazon region it was common practice for one group of village men to go into another village, kill all the older woman & all the children & take the younger woman as slave wives. Even our closest evolutionary cousins, the cute chimpanzees, have been caught in the act of brutal murder. To my mind this just makes them all the more human!
My perspective: humans all share the capacity for good & for evil. That is what makes us human.
As for apologies: I wish I could apologize for all the crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians, for all the crimes committed by Europeans against Native Americans, for all the crimes committed by Europeans against all the people they have committed crimes against. If apologies could make it as if these crimes never happened I would be happy to apologize for anybody, anywhere, anytime even those that wronged me or my ancestors. But the crimes have happened, are happening now & will happen again & again.
The question is not who has done what to whom or how to make up for past wrongs. The question is how to move on. How do those of us who recognize that fear of the “other” & the very idea of “otherness” is the root cause of all suffering, help others come to understand this as well.
My goal is to help Israelis & Jews overcome the fear that blinds them to the suffering that Palestinians are experiencing. At the same time I hope to reach out to Palestinians to let them know the “enemy” is not of one face.
David
www.peaceoil.biz
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Shubh Mathur
India
Posted on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 5:12 PM


<< I would be careful in defining the religion of the security forces in Kashmir or for that matter that of Kashmiris .>>
It would be even more dangerous to deny the rise to power of a violent Hindu nationalist movement in India since 1989, which has influenced policies towards minorities, particularly in border areas like Kashmir and the northeast. The rightward shift in Indian politics and society, manifested as the rise of Hindu nationalism and through spiralling violence against religious minorities - Sikh, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist - is also accompanied by militarization to the point where some 23% of national government spending goes to the military. This is the largest military budget in Asia, larger than China's in absolute terms. This huge military is deployed against the "nation's enemies", primarily those it claims as its own citizens- ethnic and religious minorities living in border areas (for parallels to the Indian army's abuses in Kashmir, take a look at www.manipurfreedom.org), peasant insurgents -
What is perhaps most disturbing to me as an Indian is the fact that such horrendous abuses are carried out with complete impunity and that the trappings of democracy - free press, independent judiciary, civil society - not only do not prevent such abuses but actually condone them.
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sesame seed
Palestine
Posted on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 10:11 AM
I wrote a comment yesterday morning, but for some reason it did not post…so, here it is AGAIN, David, in shorter version:
Israel was founded on racist principles (look at the basic principles of Zionism). It is also the only so-called "democracy" in the modern world built on and continues to promote racial and religious discrimination…the same principles that the US was built on, mind you.
Unless Israel, the US, and western culture as a whole do not change that deep-seated racist ideal, accept responsibility for their past actions, and take the big step: atone for what they have done to the natives they displaced, killed in cold blood, and till this day discriminate against, I don’t think there will EVER be peace.
Look at the present time, the situation in Iraq is a great example of how that racism is rampant in western culture. Most people are more concerned with the number of American soldiers killed, but not many seem to care or mention the 50,000 plus Iraqi CIVILANS killed; most care about and report the number of “Israelis” killed, but not the number of innocent Palestinian civilians murdered EACH DAY. Are American lives more important than Iraqis? Are “Israeli” lives more important than Palestinian lives? It seems so to most westerners.
Here’s something that might bring my point home: native Americans have not yet been apologized to or compensated for what was done to them, as a matter of fact, they are still persecuted, discriminated against and treated like second class citizens. No reparations to the native Americans for the land and lives stolen from them. No Palestinian has received an apology let alone reparations for the suffering and pain that was inflicted on them. Yet, everyday you hear of some western jewish person who has received reparations or some sort of compensation for what WESTERN civilization did to them. Why is that? Are westerners more important than Palestinians or native Americans?
From the native Americans, aboriginals in Australia, Africans…etc. to Palestinians, the problem is that westerners think they know better, and have some divine mission to advance and promote their so-called ideals to the rest of the world (mainly non-whites)… with cluster bombs, and outright savagery. Humanity, David, is when you see everyone as equals…and THAT has not changed in western culture…While you cannot change the past, you can change how you interpret it, what you learn from it, and how you work on changing the realities on the ground for the future. Being part of all humanity is not a carte blanche, but something you have to work on and live up to.
Sesame Seed...
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David Sokal
United States
Posted on Tuesday, November 21, 2006 2:56 AM
In response to Sesame Seed's statements about Israel, the US and all Western Culture (of which I am a part as much as I am of all humanity -- including your humanity, Sesame Seed): You describe "us" as if all the suffering of Palestine, Lebanon and the Arab people would end if these sources of pain, death and destruction (which they certainly have been) would stop being who and what they are. But we cannot do that anymore than you can stop being who you are. We cannot erase our history and our fears anymore than you can erase yours.
Tonight I attended an event at a gathering place for college students here in Seattle. A number of groups performed dance, martial arts, music and drama. In the last performance a young woman walks on stage in her underwear. In the background Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, is playing. She puts on a military outfit and picks up a rifle. Suddenly we see that her right hand is bleeding. She wipes her bloody hand on the Israeli flag.
From there we hear a torrent of voices representing the histories and fears of Palestinians, Israelis, Arabs, Americans and others. In conclusion they make a plea for listening, for understanding, for honest appraisal of oneself and ones nation, for recognizing our own fear in the fear of our enemy.
The group doing this performance was Jewish Voices for Peace. The gathering place was Hillel House an organization for Jews and others in college. Hillel is about as "mainstream" as any Jewish organization in America.
I and many other American and Israeli Jews know what is happening in Gaza right now as I type. We know of the injustices, humiliation, injury and death that Palestinians are facing every day. And we are working to end the injustice and killing and destruction of homes and farms and lives. But we will not give up who we are and what we dream of for ourselves in the process. Even so, many of us have come to see that our dreams for self-realization must be part of the greater dream of all people for peace and justice.
No doubt, living here in the safety and security of Seattle makes it all too easy for me to preach without fear of retribution. The risks I have taken are petty compared to those of Palestinians and Israelis who join arm and arm to face Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank in attempts at non-violent protest that are inevitably answered by tear-gas and bullets.
Nonetheless, I am still proud of these petty risks. I could ignore what is happening as most Israelis, Americans and others are doing. But I cannot.
Instead I work with those in Palestine Israel that are willing to look past their fears and anger and forward to their hopes and dreams. I work with Avi Levi of Green Action Israel who goes to the West Bank to help a Palesinian olive farmer export his olive oil to Seattle, where it is bottled and sold.
Yes, my risks are petty. If the business fails and I cannot continue to support this cooperative venture I will have lost some hard earned savings, many hours of sleep and much time that I could have been relaxing and enjoying the "good life". But I will still have hope for a future. I will still have my home. And G-d willing, my sons will live long after me to continue to do good on this earth.
In hopes that this will lead to dialog, best regards to you and your family and all your people Sesame Seed.
David Sokal
www.peaceoil.biz
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Warisha Farasat
India
Posted on Sunday, November 19, 2006 4:20 AM
I was trying to get to the videos on Kashmir before responding to the discussions but couldn’t seem to open them.
I think that Shubh has made some extremely important points: the problems with balancing the discourse on human rights, the immense courage of Aasia and others working in Kashmir, the much ignored landmines question and so on. May I say that I agree with her on all of those. I want to make a slightly different point. The discourse on Kashmir has been limited by the focus on the manifestations of the physical forms of violence by the state and non state actors. Thus the emphasis on killings, torture, disappearances, landmines etc ignores the other impacts that the conflict has had in the region. Though physical forms of violations are most visible and pressing, we need to move beyond that discourse to even start understanding the situation. My humble experience of a year in a region where I don’t speak the main local language makes it difficult to speak with any authority. Its something to think about not only in the context of Kashmir but even in other situations where killings make the BBC headlines, but the drop out rates of women in the colleges goes unnoticed. I would be careful in defining the religion of the security forces in Kashmir or for that matter that of Kashmiris . For Kashmiris, the military represents India, and as much of the Hindu as the Muslim in India. Its probably a dangerous trap to go down that road. Also, Shabnam Ara, a young Kashmiri filmmakers movie, The Waiting is a very good resource for those trying to understand Kashmir.
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Zena el-khalil
Lebanon
Posted on Sunday, November 12, 2006 2:09 PM
I believe it is a given that we all agree that cluster bombs and landmines are not a way to solve things. There may be some good news in the future, just read an article on the BBC that there are talks of creating a law to hold countries accountable for dropping these bombs by having them pay for the clean up. hmmmm... wish we could just ban the bombs once and for all. here is a link to the article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6140530.stm

Concerning the post by Sesame Seed on the Apartheid system in Israel, if there is anything I learned this summer, it is only one thing; that violence begets violence. The only people who really suffer from war and its brutalities are the civilians. Most people in our beautiful planet are peace loving creatures. We all want the same things. We all want love and security. How simple is that idea, yet why do we make it so hard on ourselves to obtain? In our wonderful age of progress and technology, we should be past the concept of boundaries and borders. We are all one people. We should be way past the practice of supression and racial discrimination. These are ideas of the past. We have now entered the global era of civilization. Should we not be thinking as "one"?

I wanted to share the url to my blog I kept this summer during the 34 day attack. http://beirutupdate.blogspot.com/

Like I said before, I was tried and tested so many times, but there was one thing that was always so clear... it was that I could not give up on love. On humanity. I could not lose my faith.

How can we learn to live together? How can we learn to respect our differences and still be able to love one another? A few months ago, I may have thought that this sentence to be a little superfluous.. that it's just another radio song... but, I survived a war and can say first hand that nothing is gained by war. Everyone comes out a loser.

And speaking of radio songs, I will now leave with a few lines of one of my favorites:

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters
Brothers
One life
But we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

peace all,
.z
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Shubh Mathur
India
Posted on Sunday, November 12, 2006 7:45 AM
Thank you Mona for your response. The issue of landmines and civilian casualties is not even addressed in discussions on Kashmir. Militants use IEDs (improvised explosive devices) but the Indian army has mined huge tracts of land, particularly along the Line of Control. This includes pastures, fields and migration tracks, so the victims of landmines are predominantly the nomads who migrate with their herds of sheep. They die or are disabled for life, in remote mountain areas far from help. It is because of the landmines along the Line of Control, which divides Indian-controlled Kashmir from Azad Kashmir (under Pakistani control) that the Indian government failed to meet its humanitarian responsibilities to send help to the victims of the October 2005 earthquake. Pakistan-administered Kashmir was the hardest hit by the quake (80,000 dead) and the UN and ICRC asked the Indian government to allow them to send relief across the Line of Control but despite promises by the Indian Prime Minister, it remained closed. Not surprisingly, India is one of the handful of countries that refuses to sign an international treaty banning landmines.
Indian (and Pakistani) control of discourses on Kashmir make this and all other kinds of daily violence invisible. Narratives of "balance", which try and equate "both sides" of the conflict cannot even begin to express the sense of suffocation under which Kashmiris live their daily lives. Since 1989, there have been anything from 500,000 to 800,000 Indian troops on the ground, fighting militants whose number has never been greater than 2-3,000. This huge military force - comprised amost completeley of Hindus - is deployed among a civilian population - 90-95% Muslim - that it regards as the enemy. The commonest metaphor visitors use is "prison"; an EU parliamentary delegation which visited Kashmir in 2004 called it "the most beautiful prison on earth". This is the context in which these abuses have to be understood.
Apart from the political violence, public debate is completely stifled - any Kashmiri critics of Indian policy and human rights abuses are regarded as "above-ground" supporters of the militants and risk being jailed and tortured. This makes the work of those who do take the risk of speaking out all the more admirable.
some further links:
www.kashmirretextured.com
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Chiragh/
www.justiceforafzalguru.org
www.greaterkashmir.com
www.kashmirtimes.com
http://www.nd.edu/~krocinst/polbriefs/pbrief8.shtml
http://geocities.com/kwipd2002/
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sesame seed
Palestine
Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 12:00 PM
Any South African women out there?

if so , can u share your experience w Apartheid w ur Lebanese + Palestinian friends. I think the parallel b/w the Israeli state and the Apartheid state in south africa is very revealing and can help us in "living with war".

Meanwhile....I do believe the war on Lebanon - and Palestine - is not a conflict, but an example of Western culture...I also believe that the war the Israeli state has waged against the Lebanese, the Palestinians, and all the arabs has not ended yet...Has anyone been following the news in Gaza lately? did anyone read or see the news about the un-armed Palestinian women who were killed by Israeli bullets...thanks to US tax payer money...

Here's an article i found very disturbing regarding life in Lebanon "after" the war...http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1861606,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1

Sesame Seed....
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Zena el-khalil
Lebanon
Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 9:33 AM
p.s.
on landmines:
The war this summer left the South of Lebanon blanketed with millions of bomblets dropped from Israeli cluster bombs. Most of them were dropped within the last three days of the war. Most of them are unexploded. There is a casualty almost every day now. The "war" is over, yet people are still dying. And who is it that suffers most? Children, farmers, shepherds, journalists...
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Zena el-khalil
Lebanon
Posted on Friday, November 10, 2006 9:23 AM
Dear Shubh,
Thank you so much for your post. I took a look at the website you recommended, thank you for passing it on. It is a valuable source. I am going to see if the book and/or film on Aasiya Jeelani is avaiable in Lebanon. I would love to learn more about her. She seemed to be an independent, strong and spirited woman.

Concerning stories by Kashmiri women, we have posted a story by Aasiya, as well as some more from Kashmiri perspective. I hope you will find them to be informative. You can access the stories by going into a featured story, on the right you will see a small section that says added stories. You can click on them to read more. You can find Aasiya's story in the featured story: The Invisible Kashmir - the Other Side of Jannat.

Thank you so much for sharing Aasiya with us.
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Shubh Mathur
India
Posted on Friday, November 03, 2006 7:30 AM
The title of the exhibit "Imagining Ourselves" should be modified for the pieces on Kashmir to "How outsiders see us". There are no Kashmiri voices here, apart from the ones being savaged on the video by two Indian journalists. If any are truly interested in Kashmiri women's experience of the conflict, I recommend Voices Unheard at the JKCCS (Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society) http://jkccs.org/side%20links/vuh.htm and in particular the writings of Aasiya Jeelani, a young Kashmiri journalist who was killed in a landmine explosion in 2004.
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Monina Cabanada
Philippines, the
Posted on Thursday, November 02, 2006 5:56 PM
The persons who are most affected by conflict are the ordinary people. In my small mountainside hometown,the periodic clash between the military and the insurgents have affected the lives of 2 generations of farmers and their families. They have to suffer periodic separations because of the danger to their lives. During these times a simple family dinner/conversation is an occassion to savor. During one early morning walk, I saw one such family preparing to leave their small children with relatives so they can go back to their farms. I felt my heart constrict when I saw the father give his daughter one last hug and kiss before they rode away.
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Paula Goldman, Director of Imagining Ourselves
United States
Posted on Wednesday, November 01, 2006 10:41 PM
Ami Vitale's pictures of Kashmir are stunning. I wonder if Ami can tell us the story behind some of these photos, like the one of the army officers in a boat.
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Sharareh Lotfi
Venezuela
Posted on Wednesday, November 01, 2006 10:15 AM
I can't even imagine what it must be like to live through something like that - to see your country destroyed and watch people being hurt. I admire that Zena's reaction was to be creative and look for peaceful solutions in the midst of adversity.
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Emily KI
Norway
Posted on Wednesday, November 01, 2006 10:06 AM
It's interesting how Zena says the small things in life become important when your country is in conflict. Just the ability to go out on the street, have a coffee at a sidewalk cafe or go grocery shopping. Is it possible that the best resistance to a conflict is to keep going with your everyday life?
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Victor Zaud
United States
Posted on Tuesday, October 31, 2006 7:32 PM
I see the images that seem like familiar streets and neighborhood playgrounds that are now war-zones and the people in disbelief - I can try to relate to the bewilderment that appears in everyone's eyes - and your words really come to life. I can see that the dilemma of making simple choices suddenly takes on a very different light. How challenging it must be to totally shift gears like that - I really can't imagine that extreme. The instability you describe seems to relate in me - my understanding of natural disasters and the total disintegration of structure that we feel exists in our lives normally. I think it's really astounding that you are able to gather yourself and make integral choices about rising above it all and thinking about what it means to live. Certainly a test to the character of some that go through such upheaval.
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Tom Parker
United States
Posted on Tuesday, October 31, 2006 6:55 PM
The photos of the Israeli teenage girls brandishing guns are sobering. I wonder how the required military service affects these young women in their later lives?
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Elin Lid
Norway
Posted on Tuesday, October 31, 2006 6:52 PM
Going through something like that really puts your life in perspective, this definetly makes me think of all the things we take for granted but really should cherish and appreciate every day.
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Joe Chang
United States
Posted on Tuesday, October 31, 2006 6:47 PM
Interesting to get an eyewitness to the events of last summer. It is amazing that simple choices one makes in life can result in either life or death.
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