Synopsis of World Mediation Summit Campaign

On October 9, 2019, information appeared on a New York City electronic mailing list inviting the members of the list to an upcoming conference in Tel Aviv entitled “The First International Conference on Innovations in Conflict Resolution and Mediation” (ICRM), to be held on November 7-9th, 2018. The conference was being organized by a Professor Alon Tal at Tel Aviv University with a group of sponsoring partners. Here is the Tel Aviv University website of the “Innovations” conference:

One of these partners is a corporation called “Mediation International,” owned by Mr. Kevin Brown. The Mediation International corporation described this conference on its own website as one of its ongoing series of international “Summit” meetings held in various countries, produced in this instance in conjunction with the ICRM conference–as be seen here:

The electronic mailing list which published the invitation, NYC-DR, is hosted by the City University of New York’s Dispute Resolution Center at John Jay College for Criminal Justice under the management of Professor Maria Volpe of John Jay College; the electronic mailing list involves approximately 3500 members–mostly apparently in the USA but also including many members in Israel and in Europe. In response to the invitation to ICRM conference in Tel Aviv, there was prompt and vigorous discussion involving many online mailing list members. The USA-Palestine Mental Health Network participated in this discussion, explaining our “Don’t Go” position in support of the Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists, asking for solidarity in avoiding mental health conferences in Israel.

In addition, on October 11, 2018, the USA-P MHN wrote a letter of protest to Professor Tal and Mr. Brown regarding this conference, which may be read here .

Following the vigorous (and at some points, vitriolic) discussion on the electronic mailing list, the list manager Professor Volpe extended an invitation to the entire electronic mailing list to an IN-PERSON meeting in New York City. One of the goals of this meeting was to address the abusive behavior of some of the members of the electronic mailing list towards one another–a rather ironic situation given the fact that the members of this list are themselves dispute mediators.

The in-person meeting took place on October 11th, 2018 involving approximately 25 individuals. The group discussion focused on the important distinction between the processes of mediation on one hand and achieving restorative justice on the other. Mediation is grounded on the concept of witness-neutrality whereas restorative justice is grounded on the concept of victim reparation. This USA-P MHN finds this distinction central to our work on behalf of the people of Palestine. In our view, situations of chronic, intense, and systematic injustice cannot be resolved through neutral dialogue. Dialogue is, indeed, contra-indicated in the face of systematic injustice because it creates a fiction that “something is being done,” while it in fact only perpetuates, supports, and normalizes the status quo.