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Yisrael Medad is a revenant resident of Shiloh, in the Hills of Efrayim north of Jerusalem. He arrived in Israel with his wife, Batya, in 1970 and lived in the renewing Jewish Quarter, eventually moving to Shiloh in 1981.
Currently the Menachem Begin Center's Information Resource Director, he has previously been director of Israel's Media Watch, a Knesset aide to three Members of Knesset and a lecturer in Zionist History. He assists the Yesha Council in it's contacts with the Foreign Media in a volunteer capacity, is active on behalf of Jewish rights on the Temple Mount and is involved in various Jewish and Zionist activist causes. He contributes a Hebrew-language media column to Besheva and publishes op-eds in the Jerusalem Post and other periodicals.
Let's take a different look at the American role in the negotiating of peace between Israel and Arabs: local, near and far. Peace is not only a Road Map or Proximity Talks. It isn't only Jimmy Carter or George Mitchell.
To my mind, the United States, foremost, has to project into the process elements that can sustain it for generations after any treaty or arrangement is signed or agreed upon. And those are the concepts of individual freedom and personal liberties as well as democracy and a liberal outlook, as much as possible on life.
It has to make peace seem a better proposition than anything else. At the present, that isn't the case. I cannot properly view how the Arabs see this, so I won't even guess but I am sure they feel they have quite legitimate concerns than are being disregarded.
As for me, well, we see a series of domino pieces: Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Iran, etc. We see borders, then Jerusalem, then the "right of return". Nothing ever seems to end. And my feeling is that with every withdrawal, territorial or position-wise, every backward step to some status quo ante, is not a strengthening but a weakening.
Crude Arab propaganda continues. Anti-Jewish imagery is fomented. Denial of responsibility. Continuing terror and terror attempts. Lack of administrative maturity. No transparency in the PA's court system, financial system, etc. Human rights of Arabs trampled. EU and US Foreign Aid monies are stil embezzled. The list is long.
This is the society, the social and political culture that is expected to maintain peace.
So, what does the US do on this front?
A lot, actually.
On the front page of the US Jerusalem Consulate General site (and it updates), there's this list of Cultural and Educational Activities:
1. US Consulate General Supports the Opening of the Al-Jib Museum in the West Bank
US Consulate General Supports the Opening of the Al-Jib Museum in the West Bank
On May 18, the West Bank community of Al-Jib inaugurated its first cultural heritage museum showcasing Palestinian artifacts and cultural arts. The museum and its gift shop was made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation to the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange (PACE).
2. Gaza Theater Group Presents American Classic Steinbeck’s “The Pearl”
Gaza Theater Group Presents American Classic Steinbeck’s “The Pearl”
“Basma” (Smile), a Gazan cultural arts organization, held its first performance of John Steinbeck’s classic story “The Pearl” on May 12 in Gaza. With a $20,000 grant from the Consulate General’s Public Affairs office, Basma translated Steinbeck’s work into classical Arabic and hired actors and a director to stage the play.
American Corner Gaza Organizes Clean-up of Al-Azhar University Campus
3. American Corner Gaza Organizes Clean-up of Al-Azhar University Campus
As part of U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem’s April “Environmental Awareness Month,” and in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the American Corner in Gaza (AC Gaza) organized a planting and clean-up campaign at Al-Azhar University.
Yaa Samar! Dance Theater Brings American Modern Dance to Bethlehem
4. Yaa Samar! Dance Theater Brings American Modern Dance to Bethlehem
The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem hosted Yaa Samar! Dance Theater, an American modern dance ensemble, for a one-day engagement at the Bethlehem Peace Center on May 2, 2010. Led by Palestinian-American choreographer Samar Haddad King, Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre is a New York City-based contemporary dance company.
5. Celebrating Women’s History Month with a Quiz Night Event in Ramallah
Celebrating Women’s History Month with a Quiz Night Event in Ramallah
In cooperation with Pal-Vision, a Palestinian NGO based in Jerusalem, US Consulate General Jerusalem organized a Quiz Night in honor of Women’s History Month at the Hamra Palace in Ramallah. The Quiz Night is part of a series of monthly events organized by Pal-Vision, made possible with a grant from the US Consulate to support thematic programming.
And there's more:
6. Nature knows best, don’t destroy it
10 Palestinian students are on a 5-week exchange program in Humboldt, California, sponsored by the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem as part of the 2010 Study of the United States Institute for Student Leaders on Global Environmental Issues. Each week the group will share an environmental tip and photo.
7. An-Najah Opens an American Studies Resource Center
The Center, located in the “Old Library” on the University’s campus, is the culmination of months of cooperation between the Consulate General and the University
And there's another section: Speakers & Specialists
The Public Affairs Section hosts U.S. speakers who are experts in a variety of fields, including: governance/rule of law, civic education, youth issues, American Studies, culture/arts, women’s issues, human rights, democracy/elections, economic development, religion, foreign policy, information technology, and journalism. During their 2-3 day programs in the Palestinian Territories, U. S. speakers meet with their Palestinian counterparts and conduct workshops, seminars, and public lectures. In the event that a desired speaker is not able to travel, shorter programs can also be held via digital video conference (DVC) at venues in the Palestinian Territories.
The cultural specialist program brings specialists in the arts and other areas to the Palestinian Territories for 2-6 weeks, working primarily with one group or organization on a specific project, such as producing an American play in a local language, giving master classes to a national theatre company, or classes in writing skills. Costs for the cultural specialist program are shared by the host institution.
The academic specialist program provides grants to enable Americans to consult with foreign educational institutions, professional groups or governmental organizations about a specific educational project or to conduct workshops and seminars for faculty or professional personnel. The academic specialist program is co-sponsored by a host institution in the Palestinian Territories.
So, you may ask: what's your problem?
Well, one problem is I am not sure all the above and more is truly working, is turning the Pals. around.
But for sure I know that there are no Jews in those programs or no parallel seminars and activities for over 300,000 Yesha residents (and, if we go according to the Arab yardstick - and let's not forget that the State Department doesn't recognize Israel's claim to sovereignty not only over the new east Jerusalem neighborhoods but West Jerusalem as well) then we add another 200,000.
Yes, the US supports a "Palestinian state" but I do not think that it supports population separation. That is, at the most, a final status issue but nevertheless, if there are Arabs in Israel, can the US really promote expulsion of all Jews? And in supporting these programs I found above, as exclusive for Arabs, that is the result: discrimination.
One possible response could be that Jews even in Yesha can obtain separate but equal services in Israel. The Pals. can't. True, but the Arabs in Israel can obtain such services so why not Jews in Yesha?
More importantly, though, the object is to have the two populations coexist and even maybe empathize with each other.
So why not attempt know to bring them together now?
Think, diplomats, think: if the goal is peace, get busy on it.
If not, well, each to his own.
I'm starting a campaign and it involves a big and prestigious academic institution.
The Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) has extended an invitation to its members to travel to the Middle East with its official tour agency to "sustain your enthusiasm for learning and establish new friends among your peers."
The tour that caught my eye is this one: "The Holy Land: Views on Israeli-Palestinian Relations". It will take place between Oct 6-16, 2010 and Professor Everett Mendelsohn is the group mentor and leader.
And this is what they will do:
"Explore the archaeological and cultural heritage of Israel and Palestine, and engage in the political issues that they face. Visit Jerusalem with its unique interplay of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures and Ramallah, the political center of the Palestinian Authority. Then travel through the Jordan Valley to Tiberias, base for visits to ancient Capernaum and Beit She'an, a well preserved Roman and Byzantine city. Conclude in sophisticated and vibrant Tel Aviv. Meetings with distinguished Israeli and Palestinian notables in the political and diplomatic worlds will enhance this unique journey."
If you are a Harvard grad, by the way, I guess the tour price won't set you back too much. It starts from $7,795 per person, for only 10 days.
But there's a problem. Everett Mendelsohn, as Professor Emeritus of the History of Science at Harvard University, claims "he is committed to using his personal contacts to ensure we receive a balanced perspective on the history and current state of Israeli-Palestinian relations."
Mendelsohn, though, is on the FFIPP-USA Advisory Board. FFIPP is:
"an international network of academics and students that support a complete end to the illegal Israeli occupation of lands seized in the 1967 war and removal of all the settlements and the separation wall built on occupied land...It also very much an activist group.
Among its goals is to support the call to sanction faculty and institutions, which clearly support the occupation... FFIPPI expresses its strong support for and encouragement of individuals in the Israeli and Palestinian academy whose actions against the occupation and in support of peace and justice have resulted in personal hardship. Notable cases include Israelis refusing IDF military service in the occupied territories... FFIPPI views the College of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank as a part of the machinery of Israeli occupation and calls upon academics worldwide to refuse to collaborate with it in any way."
Do you think this tour is balanced? Fair? Pluralistic? Democratic? Heck, it isn't even academic. Is that the Harvard tradition?
At the very least, why not meet a revenant Jew residing in the area of his historic national homeland to present his view and narrative. Let the tour participants not be told, but hear the reality. Let them see the truth, learn of the totality of the conflict the local Arab residents have forced upon Israel and the world.
Want to suggest me?
Write them at firstname.lastname@example.org.