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Panelists discuss restorative justice in Berlin

In an event held by the university, panelists discussed relations between Germans, Israelis and Palestinians in Berlin in what they referred to as The Moral Triangle. Authors of The Moral Triangle: Germans, Israelis, Palestinians, Katharina Galor and Sa’ed Atshan, brought these three communities into dialogue regarding different treatment of these groups and restorative justice measures being taken. “We discovered that the topic touched upon a huge taboo,” said Galor, referring to the Holocaust. 

Galor, a German-born Israeli woman talked about her first meeting with Atshan, a Palestinian-born man. They met years following the Gaza War, after a panel at Brown University gave birth to the discussion topic. Galor and Atshan both asked, “What moral responsibility does Germany have, the state and society, towards Israelis and Palestinians in its borders in the present?” 

Germany is currently undergoing a restorative justice period where Jews and Israelis are being awarded compensation both financially and emotionally, according to Galor. In the age of restorative justice, Germany is confronting its history and understanding moral responsibility. “Berlin provides the model for restorative justice,” Atshan explained. 

According to Galor, there are about 60 thousand Palestinians and 25 thousand Israelis residing in Berlin. Despite the Palestinian population doubling the size of its Israeli neighbors, it is “mostly the Israelis who dominate the public landscape and discourse,” according to Galor. Conversely,  the Palestinian population which is criminally represented in the media, according to Galor.

The Palestinian community is often recognized by the discrimination it faces while the Israeli community is discussed through its privilege, according to Galor. Fleeing Lebanon during the Civil War, Palestinians confronted German resistance in the 1970s. Over time, Germans changed their political policies and granted refuge to Palestinines, which allowed for them to build capital in Berlin, according to Galor. Around thirty years later, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Berlin welcomed a wave of Israeli migrants to the region. The Berlin Israeli population, according to Galor, is young and politically active while also being intellectually left. Their draw is “mostly defined by economic advantages and to some extent by educational and professional opportunities,” Galor explained. 

Atshan referenced Edward Said, a late Palestinian intellectual, who believed Palestinines were the “victims of the victims and the refugees of the refugees.” Atshan drew attention to the Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe, which he said is used to refer to the “seven decades of displacement, dispossession, and disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people which continues through the present.”

According to Atshan, Germans currently have an a heightened awareness of the Holocaust, however, there is a lack of acknowledgement of the Nakba. “This compassion extended towards Israelis…should be extended to Palestinians as well,” Atshan said.

The Holocaust and the Nakba are the two historical events which sit at the heart of The Moral Triangle, according to the speakers. “[The Nakba and the Holocaust] should be understood in conversation with one another given their historial links as well as their intersecting traumas” according to Atshan.

“This moral triangle in Berlin gives us hope for what the future of Israel/Palestine can look like,”according to Atshan. 

The event was sponsored by the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and the Center for German and European Studies and moderated by Professor Sabine von Mering (ENVS/WGS/GRALL) on Feb. 24. Galor is a Visiting Associate Professor of Judaic Studies and Urban Studies at Brown University and Atshan is an Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College.

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