In conversation with Dr Imad Karam


This interview took place before the recent war in Gaza in which Imad’s sister lost her home and 18 members of her husband’s family were killed.

For Gazan-born Dr Imad Karam, Director of Beyond Forgiving, Ginn and Letlapa’s story is an example of the power of the human spirit. Their journey demonstrates how it is possible to work through pain and suffering and break away from the cycle of vengeance. I spoke to him on the lessons we can learn from these two extraordinary South Africans.

What inspired you to share Ginn and Letlapa’s story?

I met Ginn and Letlapa 10 years ago at an international peace conference in Switzerland organised by Initiatives of Change. As it happened, Howard Grace, the Executive Producer of the film, was there. We and the audience were deeply moved by their standing together to tell their story. At that moment, we developed a conviction to make a documentary film about them.

There are many conflict areas in the world where there is deep pain on a vast scale. One of these conflicts is Israel and Palestine, my homeland. I believe that our film can bring a glimpse of hope to a world torn by conflict and violence and make a difference to them. If people can see that even in the direst circumstances forgiveness is possible, then many of us can at least forgive those who cause us small upsets in our daily lives.

What lessons can we learn from their story?

Beyond Forgiving shows that is possible to forgive, but that it requires a degree of empathy and humanisation. Forgiveness can bring about healing and reconciliation. It is important to move beyond forgiving into action that can inspire others and bring about healing. Despite living through the horror of injustice, inequalities, violence and personal loss, it is possible to transcend the hurt of the past and go beyond forgiving to help others build bridges across divides. Their story shows us and inspires new ways of living.

Our hope is that Beyond Forgiving will inspire people to be positive agents for change within their own communities and play their part in building a better world. Initiatives of Change believes that change comes from within and that individuals can take personal responsibility, whether it be in their own personal life or community, to make a real difference to help change society for the better.

As a Palestinian, do you think forgiveness and reconciliation are possible between your home country and Israel?

Yes I certainly hope so, but to reach that we need first of all to arrive at a political settlement which deals with issues of occupation, domination, fear and security. For me, it is a privilege to work on this inspiring story because as a Palestinian I can draw a parallel between the Apartheid period in South Africa and the situation in my country. To see that people who used to be completely at odds in extreme positions are able to look back and feel how horrible it was, gives me hope that one day in Palestine we could see a peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Tony Blair said that he believes passionately in the two-state solution, but also believes that it can only be achieved by a negotiation with Israel. He is quoted as saying: ‘The truth is that transformational change is impossible unless it goes hand in hand with a political process.’ Do you agree?

First of all Blair is a politician and he speaks like one. However, I do agree that peace through negotiations is the best and even only option, however, unequal warring parties need outside help or pressure to move beyond their positions and reach a degree of empathy that can then bring about a just solution.

What do you think would help build peace between Israel and Palestine?

Pressure from outside, especially from the friends of Israel, to bring about a realisation that dominating the destiny of another nation can’t continue indefinitely, will not bring security to Israel and ultimately is not in the best interest of Israel. I’ve become more convinced than ever that there is no solution without serious international pressure and even intervention.

Palestinians and Israelis are not equal parties in any sense of the word. They can’t be left to sort it alone, either on the negotiating table or in the ‘field’. Israel sees that it has a right to exist and to defend itself but is blind to the injustices that it is inflicting on another people. We, the Palestinians, have a legitimate right to freedom and self-rule, but can’t see that our militant actions are bringing us no closer to our aspirations. Both parties will only change with the help of serious international pressure that would see them reach a final settlement to be put to both peoples in a referendum.

So, a greater empathy by the Israeli public and awareness of the daily violations of Palestinian human rights by the Israeli occupying forces in the Palestinian territories is needed. Also, for the Palestinians to be united behind a strategy of peace and to give peace negotiations a chance by denouncing all forms of militant resistance while adopting a strategy for non-violent resistance.

by Davina Patel

Categories: Forgiveness