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Navigating Conversations About The Middle East

Apr 15, 2024

Contentious and adversarial debates about the Israel-Hamas conflict, polarization of Jewish-Muslim identities, and increasing instances of hate and intolerance in communities and workplaces, especially those that are geographically removed from the Middle East, perpetuate collective and historical trauma and create deep human and leadership dilemmas. Situations like these demonstrate how leaders are profoundly ill-prepared to navigate the challenges of today. 


Susan, an Executive, was approached by members of the Jewish Employee Resource Group, who were outraged by the lack of organizational support in response to the conflicts in the Middle East. Just as the organization was quick to vocalize stances on anti-racism in response to George Floyd, they questioned why there had been any statements about anti-Semitism. 

Members of the Muslim Employee Resource Group also reached out to Susan. Among them, two employees with Palestinian backgrounds expressed fears about their physical safety and lack of support. 

Susan grappled with how to respond effectively in these conversations. She questioned her role as a leader and the organization's role in addressing these concerns and wondered if it was even possible for conversations to remain respectful and constructive. 


Aggravated by haunting brutality, vexing complexity, historical context, and the entanglement of political, ethnic-, national-, and religious- aspects of identity, we find the categorizations of diversity are woefully naïve and unhelpful. Of course, this only reinforces the sense of overwhelm and helplessness and highlights the need to deepen our understanding. Tragically, for those not directly affected by the unfolding atrocities, it is a call to demonstrate empathy and practice compassionate curiosity. 

Rather than avoiding the topic, it is critical that executives and organizations acknowledge the impact on their Jewish, Palestinian, and Muslim employees, partners, and constituents.

Here are five key actions for leaders:

  1. Boost awareness and attunement to global current events and the impact on employees. In organizations that are physically located outside of the Middle East, it may be easier to lose sight of the day-to-day realities that employees face. Whether they have family in the region or are experiencing prejudice, discrimination, or acts of hate, the ripple effect of current events is often multi-layered and can be all-consuming.
  2. Educate yourself. Expand your understanding of the historical context and complexity of the Israel-Hamas conflict and the Jewish-Muslim dimension. Conduct research, read news from global sources, or attend learning, events, or activities that promote cultural awareness, perspective-taking, and understanding of historical context. 
  3. Foster Psychological Safety by regularly "checking in" with employees. You may not always know who is directly impacted and to what degree, but it is important that all employees know they have the support needed in the wake of global events and tragedies. Regularly connecting with colleagues also helps you to stay attuned to people’s needs as they evolve.
  4. Demonstrate Compassionate Curiosity. Compassionate Curiosity recognizes the limits of our own perspectives, experiences, and knowledge while appreciatively inquiring about the unique qualities of another's lived experience. Compassionate Curiosity allows multiple realities to co-exist and serves as an anecdote for getting caught up in debate and tension. 
  5. Create Conversation Forums for employees to engage in respectful conversations on sensitive and emotional topics, ensuring that differing perspectives and experiences are welcomed and heard respectfully and constructively. It is critical to curb any impulse to "debate” or "resolve” the conflict. Attention should be on empathizing with the impact of the terror and atrocities and supporting our friends and colleagues by acknowledging their experience and by providing safe spaces and resources to manage trauma, grief, threat, social exclusion, and alienation.

By taking these actions and implementing these strategies, leaders can create a workplace culture that values respectful dialogue, fosters inclusiveness and promotes understanding across diverse perspectives on sensitive topics like the Israel-Hamas conflict and the Jewish-Muslim dimension. Through intentional facilitation, education, and a commitment to creating a safe and inclusive environment, organizations can navigate complex conversations with empathy, compassion, curiosity, openness, and respect, ultimately facilitating mutual understanding and strengthening the relational fabric of their diverse organizations.

 

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Joerg Thomas Schmitz

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28217 Bremen ‚Äď √úberseestadt
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+49 1520 8612287

[email protected]

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Joerg Schmitz    
 

 

Company Information
The Inclusive Leadership Institute 
Inhaber/Owner: Joerg Schmitz
Kommodore-Johnsen-Boulevard 26
28217 Bremen / Germany
Betriebsnummer / Company Nr.: 83841216
UST-IdNr. / VAT ID: DE 339418563

Home | Coaching | Consulting | Learning | About | Events | Contact

Imprint

Inhaber/Owner:
Joerg Thomas Schmitz

Address/Adresse:
Kommodore-Johnsen-Boulevard 26

28217 Bremen ‚Äď √úberseestadt
Germany

Telephone/Telefon:
+49 1520 8612287

E-Mail:
[email protected]

Rechtsform: Einzelunternehmen

Betriebsnummer:
83841216

Ust-Id Nummer:
DE 339418563       

Gesch√§ftsf√ľhrer:
Joerg Schmitz    

Company Information
The Inclusive Leadership Institute 
Inhaber/Owner: Joerg Schmitz
Kommodore-Johnsen-Boulevard 26
28217 Bremen / Germany
Betriebsnummer / Company Nr.: 83841216
UST-IdNr. / VAT ID: DE 339418563