Tag Archives: Pamela Olson

Finding Peace in Palestine, by Pamela Olson

Doves Take Flight, by Artist-in-Residence, Paula Lietz

Finding Peace in Palestine

by Pamela Olson

Pamela Olson, Writing for Peace AdviserI stumbled into Palestine at age 23, young, impressionable, and naïve about the ways of the world.  What I saw absolutely shocked me.  The way Palestinians were treated was traumatizing to witness.  It violated everything my heart had ever believed about fairness.  The brutality of it—against the people, against the land, against common sense and decency—was breathtaking.  And yet it was happening, and the people who were doing it were just people, not so different from myself.  They just happened to be in a political and social situation where such brutality was acceptable.

What people in the US hear about is mostly the brutality of Palestinians—their rocks, their bombs, their angry demonstrations.  Yet everyone I tour-guided in the West Bank (including Israelis and Americans) said the same thing once the situation began to become clear in their minds: “I can’t believe Palestinians aren’t more violent!”

This speaks of two things.  One is the tendency of Israelis and Americans to project their own attitudes onto others.  As regional and global hegemons, violence has often been ‘necessary’ to maintain Israel’s and America’s edges of power.  So violence has become normalized in those societies.  It has to, or they could not convince their citizens to perform and support such violence.

The second is the incredible ability of Palestinians to sublimate their anger and frustration and channel it into productive actions such as helping the less fortunate, engaging in non-violent resistance, or simply doing what they have to do to survive on land they have inhabited for centuries.  This is a story rarely told outside of Palestine, yet it is seen constantly within Palestine.

I brought my American sensibilities with me to Palestine, and at first I had a hard time controlling my outrage.  It was maddening to simply accept the conditions imposed on my friends without doing something, but in my angered state I couldn’t think clearly about what.

It was the Palestinians who convinced me, through their example, to calm myself as best I could rather than lashing out, at least at the beginning, and to keep learning and doing what I could day to day to improve things a bit (such as visiting injured Palestinians in hospitals) and try to educate my fellow countrymen about a situation about which most Americans are sadly ignorant, despite the fact that our government bankrolls an unjust occupation with billions of our tax dollars.

I started out working as a volunteer, then a journalist, but after a while I became frustrated.  The statistics and anecdotes in my 800-word reports could never capture the full gestalt of the situation for people who didn’t already have a good understanding of the history, culture, and politics of the region.  Most Americans in particular have a one-sided framework in their heads that distorts any attempt to explain a given situation.

I finally realized that if I wanted to reach people in a meaningful way, I would have to write a book that could take them through all the steps I went through, first to become intrigued about the state of affairs, then charmed by the region, then horrified about the situation, and finally confident enough to engage fully and fruitfully, with a kind of holistic understanding backed by years of research and soul-searching, always open to new information and analyses.

I tried to get that all across in 300 short pages targeted to American audiences (plus a sequel I’m working on that focuses more on the “special relationship” between the US and Israel and the intolerable situation in Gaza).  I hope it can make some kind of contribution toward real peace—sustainable peace that includes enough justice and understanding to serve as a stable foundation for what comes after peace is made.  I hope it can serve as a wake-up call to many Americans who believe the conflict is primarily about “terror” and “security,” who are comfortable with this framework, and who know nothing of Palestinian history, culture, or humanity.

It’s a small contribution in the grand scheme of this decades-long conflict, and it’s difficult to know if it will do any good.  As Palestinian superstar singer and UN youth ambassador Mohammed Assaf said, “There are many ways to make a difference in life, but my way is as an artist.”

If you do what you love, with an intention of peace—maybe it’s the best we can all do.

I won’t lie.  Sometimes it’s still very difficult to control my anger when another mother’s son or daughter is brutally taken from this world, or another piece of beautiful land is stolen and bulldozed into prefabricated settlements, and the killers and thieves escape any kind of justice.

But then I think of examples like the Palestinian family whose son was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during a Muslim holiday, who grieved as much as any family who loses a son, searched their souls, and donated the boy’s organs to Israelis in need.

And I feel deeply humbled, and like there are better emotions than anger to motivate a human being.

What were the experiences that shaped Pamela Olson’s understanding of Palestine? Read an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Fast Times in Palestine, showing her first taste of both the wonder and oppression of Palestine.

About Pamela Olson

Fast Times in Palestine, by Pamela OlsonPamela Olson grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, and studied physics and political science at Stanford University. She lived in Ramallah for two years, during which she served as head writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor and as foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi’s 2005 presidential campaign.

Pamela wrote an award-winning book about those experiences called Fast Times in Palestine.

Learn more about Pamela Olson’s work here. And check out Pamela’s website here.

About PD Lietz, Artist-in-Residence

Pd Lietz, Writing for Peace Artist-in-ResidenceThe art for this piece was contributed by Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence, Pd Lietz.

Pd Lietz is a widely published writer, photographer and artist who lives in rural Manitoba Canada. Ms. Lietz was awarded first prize United Kingdom Frost Photography International Competition 2011. Learn more about Pd Lietz here. View works by Pd Lietz here.

Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace News

Young Advisers’ Panel

Writing for Peace is accepting nominations of extraordinary young activists, writers, and artists, for our new panel of Young Advisers. Please send nominations by email, along with the reasons for your nomination, and contact information to editor@writingforpeace.org, subject heading: Young Adviser Nominations.

2014 Young Writers Contest

Writing for Peace Young Writers' ContestThe Writing for Peace 2014 Young Writers Contest deadline is March 1st, 2014. Our prestigious Judges Panel includes Robin Black, fiction; Dinty W. Moore, nonfiction; and David Mason, poetry. Submission guidelines here.


DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceDoveTales Call for Submissions

Writing for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Support Writing for Peace

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013Help us reach out to schools and young writers by purchasing a copy of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to gift to your local high school or junior high. Let us know you are gifting your copy, and we’ll include extra bookmarks (beautifully designed by artist-in-residence, PdLietz). Purchase our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Writing for Peace News, July 2013

We abuse the landWe abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.

~ Aldo Leopold

Photo by Pd Lietz, Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence


Announcing 2014 Young Writers Contest Judges

Writing for Peace gratefully acknowledges our 2014 judges panel, three accomplished writers who have not only achieved excellence in their respective fields, but are also quick to volunteer their time where their efforts will encourage, inspire, and guide young writers.

Robin Black, 2014 Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest Fiction Judge

Photo © Marion Ettlinger

Robin Black (fiction), author of the story collection If I loved you, I would tell you this, published by Random House in 2010 to international acclaim by publications such as O. Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Irish Times and more. Robin’s stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications including The Southern Review, The New York Times Magazine. Learn more about Robin Black here.


Dinty W. Moore, Writing for Peace AdviserDinty W. Moore (Nonfiction) is author of The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life, as well as thememoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize in 2009. He also edited The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers. Moore has published essays and stories in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, Gettysburg Review, Utne Reader, and Crazyhorse, among numerous other venues. Learn more about Dinty W. Moore here.

 David mason, 2014 Writing for Peace Young Writers Poetry Contest JudgeDavid Mason’s books of poems include The Buried Houses (winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize), The Country I Remember (winner of the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award), and Arrivals. His verse novel, Ludlow, was published in 2007, and named best poetry book of the year by the Contemporary Poetry Review and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. It was also featured on the PBS News Hour. Author of a collection of essays, The Poetry of Life and the Life of Poetry, his memoir, News from the Village, appeared in 2010. A new collection of essays, Two Minds of a Western Poet, followed in 2011. Mason has also co-edited several textbooks and anthologies, including Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry, Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism, Twentieth Century American Poetry, and Twentieth Century American Poetics: Poets on the Art of Poetry. Learn more about David Mason here.

 Young Writers Contest Guidelines are posted here.

Call for Submissions!

DoveTales, a publication of Writing for PeaceWriting for Peace is accepting submissions for our 2014 Issue of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts. The theme of our second journal is contrast. Check out our submission guidelines here. Purchase a copy of our 2013 “Occupied” Issue here.

Welcoming Two New Advisers!

Writing for Peace is thrilled to welcome two new members to our esteemed Advisory Panel. Watch for their posts on our blog!
Phyllis Barber, 2013 Nonfiction JudgePhyllis Barber is the author of seven books (a novel about the building of the Hoover Dam, two books of short stories, two children’s books, and two memoirs, one of which, How I Got Cultured, won the Associated Writers and Writing Program Award for Creative Nonfiction in 1991). Her latest book, Gentle Fire: A Spiritual Odyssey is due out from Quest Books in May, 2014. It is a collection of essays based on her travels to a variety of spiritual practices, both traditional and non-traditional, in an attempt to find the Spirit that dwells in all people to one degree or another. Her desire is to help create harmony and understanding between people of seemingly opposing ideas and sensibilities. She has taught creative writing for the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program for 19 years, and is currently residing in Park City, Utah, where she writes, edits, and critiques manuscripts for other writers. Learn more about Phyllis here.
Pamela Olson, Writing for Peace AdviserPamela Olson grew up in small town in Oklahoma and studied physics and political science at Stanford University. She lived in Ramallah for two years, during which she served as head writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor and as foreign press coordinator for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi’s 2005 presidential campaign. She wrote an award-winning book about those experiences called Fast Times in Palestine.

In January of 2006 she moved to Washington, D.C., and worked at a Defense Department think tank to try to bring what she had learned to the halls of power — an educational but disillusioning experience. She is currently working on a sequel to Fast Times in Palestine called Palestine, DC. Learn more about Pamela Olson here.

2013 Young Writers Contest Winners

Winners for our 2013 Young Writers Contest were announced on May 1st. Entries came in from 21 different countries. Meet all our winners here!

Support Writing for Peace!

Last year we reached students in 21 countries, this year we hope to double the number of entries. Help us spread the word about Writing for Peace to schools across the globe!

Contact us at editor@writingforpeace.org to learn how your school can receive free bookmarks for participating students!

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.