Lecture Series with Prof. Paula Garb: Appreciating Narratives – Learning about Israeli Palestinian Conflict with UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative
Professor Paula Garb of UCI’s Department of Anthropology and Faculty Advisor to the UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative. As part of her latter duties she participated in the inaugural Olive Tree Initiative Trip to Israel/Palestine.
At her lecture at Pacifica Institute, Irvine, Prof. Garb spoke about her role in the organization of dialog between South Ossetians and Georgians. Prof. Garb explained that for this kind of dialog work Istanbul, Turkey was the perfect place. Whereas most European countries do not grant visas to the dialog participants, Turkey was cooperative.
Prof. Garb then began talking about the Olive Tree Initiative. The Initiative, she explained, was inspired by the One Voice movement which is indigenous to the Palestinian and Israeli territories. One Voice visited Irvine in 2006/2007 and the local UCI students were exposed to their commitment to the two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One Voice is an organization that has chapters run by Palestinians and Israelis and participants on both ends of the spectrum are committed to a two state solution. Prof, Garb spoke about her respect for such a commitment in the face of such hatred. Prof. Garb noted that the pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli elements on the UCI campus were involved in a conflict of their own on campus. To Prof. Garb One Voice showed that if individuals involved so personally in the conflict could make a commitment to peace and dialog so could the conflicting elements on the UCI campus.
Prof. Garb told the audience that one of the first programs that the Olive Tree Initiative wanted to undertake was a dialog trip to Israel/Palestine. This trip wold enable the students to better understand each other’s perspectives. After overcoming some initial hurdles the UCI Olive Tree Initiative was able to raise enough funds to organize a private venture trip to Israel/Palestine. Prof. Garb took part in this trip and explained to the audience how a trip like this showed the best in the conflicting student bodies. On the trip the pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students of the trip were helping each other out and giving each other a much needed sense of security.
Prof. Garb acknowledged that these dialog trips were incomplete without access to Gaza. The Olive Tree initiative has tried to get permission to travel to Gaza numerous times but was denied on every occasion. Nonetheless, Prof. Garb noted that the initiative was making progress as on this upcoming dialog trip the participants will be able to stay and spend valuable time in both the Israeli and Palestinian territories.
After Prof. Garb Nahian Taha, a previous participant of the Olive Tree Initiative trip noted that the enduring commitment to dialog on both sides of this conflict make such initiatives not only possible but also a success.
The lecture came to an end with the Q&A session.