The Hebrew University of Jerusalem held a conference on transitional justice
from Sunday through Tuesday addressing the question: Can models of transitional
justice in other war torn countries help with new approaches to resolving the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Transitional justice involves analyzing questions
of how war-torn societies make peace and address past injustices between warring
groups (often different ethnicities) who often still bear significant
Even after a war between different ethnic groups is over,
questions of who committed war crimes and how to a new peace will be best
helped, are complex and can even be dangerous to address.
On the one hand
there is the model of bringing war criminals on both sides to trial. The idea
being that justice – enforced in a colorblind and ethnicity-blind fashion –
binds the different sides together in a new respect for the rule of
On the opposite end of the spectrum, is a “truth and reconciliation”
process, in which punishment is not meted out to anyone.
wrongdoers on both sides confess their misdeeds and gain absolution in a spirit
of moving on from the past.
Then, there are of course, hybrids of the two
approaches in which some of the worst war criminals are brought to trial, but
most others are absolved in some sort of truth and reconciliation
The first two days of the conference were focused on a detailed
exploration of case studies of other war-torn countries’ approaches to
The case studies reviewed included Yugoslavia,
Rwanda, Ireland, Chile and South Africa.
Some speakers addressed issues
regarding how democracies come to terms with allowing past perpetrators to avoid
Others questioned whether the academic theories
underlying transitional justice discourse were practical beyond the particular
conflicts in which they were employed.
The final day of the conference
was devoted to exploring how experiences in other nations could help with the
Among a number of issues, Dr. Tomer Braude
discussed how Israeli courts – by avoiding historical interpretations of the
conflict regarding the events of 1948 and 1967 – could serve as objective and
even-handed purveyors of justice in the future.
academic and legal practitioner Sigall Horovitz talked about the bright aspects
and missed opportunities of the Or Commission which investigated the deaths of
Israeli-Arabs during high-profile riots in October 2000.
Dr. Jona Bargur
of the Forum of Bereaved Israeli and Palestinian Families for Peace and
Reconciliation said he travels around the country’s schools, telling students
that they should be optimistic and that if he “has not given up hope at 76 and
after what he has been through,” that they “should not give up at the young age
Moderator Hillel Cohen, on the other hand, said that one of the
speakers had urged “repressing both sides’ narratives” and another speaker had
urged “repressing Palestinian democracy.”
He said that this had
left him “pessimistic, so I guess I’ll look for optimism elsewhere.”
Horovitz, the most important thing to take away from the conference was that
“Israel can learn from other post-conflict states.” It can improve “how it
treats minorities, relates to past injustices through recognition” and other
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