Theatre How to make peace
www.thelancet.com Vol 390 October 21, 2017
“‘It is only through the sharing of the personal that we can see each other for who we truly are.’” In the play, Israeli and Palestinian delegates are never cartoonish and are both engaging and poignant in their performances. The Palestinian side was formed by the finance minister for the PLO Ahmed Qurie (a spectacular
Peter Polycarpou), who is extremely moving when he talks about his longing to return to Jerusalem to see his father, and Hassan Asfour (a fiery Nabil Elouahabi), a hot-blooded delegate who never misses a chance to utter Communist aperçus. The Israeli side is formed initially by two professors of economics and then by the flamboyant Uri Savir (a lively performance from Philip Arditti), from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who threatens to unbalance the fragile agreement before revealing a strong commitment to make the meetings successful. The play does not refrain from reminding the audience how the hopes created by the Oslo Accords were dashed by subsequent events that derailed the peace agreement. Yet, it would be too easy to judge the Oslo Accords as a failure. What is important to take from this play is the principle that informed these negotiations. As Rød-Larsen says in the play: “It is only through the sharing of the personal that we can see each other for who we truly are.” Something that is helpful to remember even today, when we are confronted by someone who seems very different from what we are.
with the draft of an agreement to establish the basis for peace. The approach used by the two Norwegian facilitators stemmed from the concept of gradualism developed by Rød-Larsen, which is explained in the play: “This new model—my model—is rooted not in the organisational but the personal”. Gradualism worked by addressing each point of contention separately by specific individuals as themselves, not as the forces they represented. Through sharing their time together in the Norwegian castle, the delegates discovered that they had many points in commons, like having a daughter with the same name or their shared pleasure in mocking Rød-Larsen. These crucial personal connections made possible the drafting of the Oslo Accords.
Oslo By J T Rogers, directed by Bartlett Sher. Harold Pinter Theatre, London, UK, until Dec 30, 2017 https://www.nationaltheatre. org.uk/shows/oslo-at-theharold-pinter-theatre
Marco De Ambrogi
As a character said in Jean Renoir’s 1939 movie The Rules of the Game, “The awful thing about life is this: everybody has their reasons.” Pertinent for our daily interactions with other people, this point is also relevant when we think of politics and international disputes. At a time when diplomacy and peace-making skills are disregarded by some political leaders, it’s refreshing to be reminded that listening to other people made a big difference in a peace process, even in the most unlikely conditions. Oslo, a play recently transferred from the National Theatre to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London, UK, tells the story of the talks that led to the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israelis and Palestinians after decades of conflict. Oslo, written by J T Rogers and directed by Bartlett Sher, shows how the peace-making process was initiated and charted through stormy waters by two unsung heroes: sociologist Terje Rød-Larsen (played by a witty Toby Stephens) and his wife Mona Juul (Lydia Leonard, showing an impressive poise), who worked for the Norwegian Government. Up to 1992, after more than 40 years of conflict, peace between Israelis and Palestinians appeared impossible. At the time, the unofficial Palestinian authority, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), led by Yasser Arafat, was considered a terrorist group by the Israeli Government and its leaders were living in exile in Tunis. At the same time, the Palestinian authorities did not recognise the existence of the state of Israel. While an ongoing US-led peace-making process based on traditional diplomatic routes was at a dead-end, Rød-Larsen and Juul managed to convince Israeli and Palestinian representatives to meet for the first time secretly in a castle south of Oslo. They were invited to discuss their differences and try to come up