225: Matt Olsen/Gaza Surf Club

This week’s guest, Matt Olsen, is the Founding Director of Explore Corps, the non-profit that founded Gaza Surf Club back in 2008.

Although he described himself as ‘just some dude from Washington’ in a recent Inertia interview, Matt’s roots in Gaza and Israel go back to his childhood, when his Dad was stationed in Israel while working as a diplomat. He’s been visiting Gaza since he was a surf-mad teen, and has been intimately involved with the Israeli and Gazan surf communities ever since. As such has a really nuanced understanding of the relationship between these two communities, as well as the roots of the historical and current conflict.

He has also been involved in the region through his work in development, diplomacy and ‘cross-cultural communication’, as the Explore Corps website puts it, and as a multi-track negotiator.

All of which means he is extremely well-placed for a discussion on the current situation in Gaza and Israel. What follows is an extremely broad and wide-ranging conversation about the roots of the current and wider conflict, the history of the Gazan and Israeli surf communities, and Matt’s own role in this ongoing story.

I approached this conversation with an open mind. I disagreed with some of Matt’s views and statements, and agreed with others. Nevertheless, I learned a lot, and now feel more able to form my own view of the situation, which was really the point of the entire exercise, and what I hope listeners will also get out of our lengthy, immersive and at times confounding conversation.

I’m very grateful to Matt for taking the time to participate in our conversation, and for answering my questions so thoughtfully.

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