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The Israel/Gaza War Tests a Mediator’s Impartiality

Mediators are trained to be impartial but they’re not trained to be neutral. 

When you’re neutral, the things at stake in a conflict don’t matter to you. When you’re impartial, you’re able to help all the parties in a dispute achieve successful outcomes. 

In the Israeli-Arab conflict, I myself am not neutral.  I sympathize more easily with one side.  But I can easily say I understand the other side and want them to achieve peace and happiness too.

I had to get clear on this again after October 7, 2023,  when I read things on a well-known American mediation website, Beyond Intractability  The article explained the brutal Israeli/Gaza war from an exclusively Israeli/Washington point of view. It was painful for me. I want mediators to adhere to their ideal of impartiality. The world has enough advocates and fighters. Peace is what we need.  

Israel is a mighty power, in spite of its tiny size, and has the unconditional military backing of the world’s supreme power, the United States. It doesn’t need American mediators to take its side. It does desperately need help from mediators–as mediators.  

For three generations now the war for Palestine, if you will, has been in the range of awareness of all Americans who watch the news.  

It has its remote beginnings in 1881, when the first “Zionists”, Jews fleeing oppression mostly in Russia and Eastern Europe, steamed into the Palestinian port of Haifa and had to be carried to the wharf on the backs of Arab porters. That’s how long ago this conflict started. The rest is history. 

On October 7th 2023 Hamas, a semi-state organization in a tiny

Palestinian Arab enclave known as the Gaza Strip, carried out a ghastly killing and kidnapping spree. Many hundreds were slaughtered, including at least 300 Israeli civilians, and hundreds of Israeli Defense Force soldiers.

I grieved the October 7th attacks, for several weeks, because I could picture the young bearded, handsome, probably progressive-minded and compassionate Jews, civilians and Israeli soldiers, who were cut down, cut up, lynched by the  seemingly beserk militants.  My ability to grieve for these distant Israeli people was made easier because my beloved son, now 27, was brought up American secular Jewish, and he looks Jewish.  I can picture him getting massacred by the Gazan invaders.  It breaks my heart. 

Maybe what I am asking for is for Beyond Intractability and all U.S. mediators and circle keepers and people who want peace, to  say they will eventually get over the shocking Hamas and subsequent and now on-going Israel Defense Force brutality, and come back, so to speak, in this Israel/Gaza “war”, to a true conflict analysis, or conflict resolution posture. One that fully hears the hateful narratives on both sides without conceding to any participant the moral high ground, to use British mediator Michael Jacobs’ formulation.  

There are already enough supporters of Palestine. There are enough pro-Israel supporters. What the world desperately needs is peacemakers. 


John Cabral

John Cabral came to the mediation profession from urban planning and peace and justice activism. His training is from the Chicago Center for Conflict Resolution, with additional training received from Richard Blackburn, John Kinyon, and Gary J. Friedman. His favorite mediation authors are Kenneth Cloke, Bernard Mayer, William Ury, Gary… MORE >

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