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Breaking Them Down: Walls that Block People and Walls that Block Words

un article par David Adams

Around the world people have admired the courage of the Palestinian people who broke down the wall at Rafah to get food and supplies and break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

One of the most moving descriptions on the Internet came from Gush-Shalom (Peace Now), an Israeli peace organization that works in solidarity with Palestinian peace activists. It was written by Uri Avery and is available on the Internet site of Gush-Shalom.

Avery's description is especially moving because it is written from the perspective of the peace movement inside Israel. He says, "It looked like the fall of the Berlin wall. And not only did it look like it. For a moment, the Rafah crossing was the Brandenburg Gate. It is impossible not to feel exhilaration when masses of oppressed and hungry people break down the wall that is shutting them in, their eyes radiant, embracing everybody they meet - to feel so even when it is your own government that erected the wall in the first place. The Gaza Strip is the largest prison on earth. The breaking of the Rafah wall was an act of liberation. It proves that an inhuman policy is always a stupid policy: no power can stand up against a mass of people that has crossed the border of despair. That is the lesson of Gaza, January, 2008."

There is another wall that has been broken, the wall that has blocked words in the past. For in the past the news services of the West might well have ignored the event. Now they cannot, because, as Avery says, "Again and again, Aljazeera broadcast the pictures into millions of homes in the Arab world. TV stations all over the world showed them, too. From Casablanca to Amman angry mass protest broke out and frightened the authoritarian Arab regimes. Hosny Mubarak called Ehud Barak in panic. That evening Barak was compelled to cancel, at least temporarily, the fuel-blockade he had imposed in the morning."

Elsewhere on the Gush-Shalom website, one can read about the relief convoys being organized by peace organizations in Israeli that they are trying to send into Palestine. Click here for the story as of January 26. At that point in time, the Israeli army was blocking delivery of the convoys: "Since the Israeli army has not allowed the relief supplies into the Gaza strip, they were stored in a neighboring kibbutz. If the military will not permit their transfer to Gaza in the next two days, we shall apply to the High Court of Justice and start a legal fight until we succeed."

Stay tune to the Gush-Shalom website for further developments.


Question(s) liée(s) à cet article:

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?,

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Commentaire le plus récent:

The following excerpts come from remarks made recently by Alan Baker to a conference in Istanbul on "Conflict Mediation through Cultural Diplomacy in Current Areas of Conflict".  Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, former Legal Adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador of Israel to Canada.

Over the past 30 years I have been a participant in virtually all Track I peace negotiations with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians, involved in negotiating and drafting peace-process documents – peace treaties, interim agreements, and the rest.

Peace cannot emanate only from documents signed by leaders alone, but from mutual good faith and credibility among the peoples for whom the agreements are signed.

All the Middle East peace negotiations have, from the start, always aimed at neighborly, mutually respectful, "people-to-people" relationships, and each agreement includes appropriate provisions on mutual respect of religious beliefs that can serve as guidance to others. Our agreements include provisions for free access and respect for holy sites, respect for and upkeep of graves and memorials for fallen soldiers, and respect for religious beliefs and practices.

The UN Role

The aims of this conference were set out in the preliminary documentation, including the "Mideast Peace Process Berlin Initiative." The UN resolutions adopted with a view to elaborating a culture of peace, as listed in the Berlin Initiative document, are most important and constitute the genuine implementation of the aims and purposes of the UN Charter as set out in its first two articles. These resolutions need to be given greater attention, visibility, ongoing review, and accentuation.

These resolutions include, inter alia:

 Promoting Religious and Cultural Understanding, Harmony and Cooperation (UN General Assembly resolution 58/128).

 Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance (UN General Assembly resolution 59/199).

 UN Millennium Declaration: Principles of the UN Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (UN General Assembly resolution 53/22).

 Culture of Peace (UN General Assembly resolution 53/243).

 Dialogue among Civilizations (UN General Assembly resolution 56/6).

 Madrid Declaration (December 2000).

 Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (UN General Assembly resolution 53/25).

 Protection of Religious Sites (UN General Assembly resolution 55/254).

 Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace (UN General Assembly resolution 60/L.4).

 Promotion of Interreligious Dialogue (UN General Assembly resolution 59/23).

 Rights of Indigenous People (UN General Assembly resolution 61/295).

. . . . .

Cultural Diplomacy and the Aims of This Conference.

The goal of this conference, as set out in the Berlin Initiative document, is to "define Track III Cultural Diplomacy and its relevance to the Middle East peace process and its importance as a model for conflicts around the globe," and the "search for common values and principles in the arenas of religion, law and education among the conflicting parties to the dispute" – this is indeed the crux of what cultural diplomacy must do.

In order for it to succeed, practically, it needs to include a compilation of those elements covered in the various UN resolutions listed above on aspects of cultural diplomacy, including:

1. First and foremost, and as an appropriate sign to the general public, an acknowledgment by political and religious leaders that peace, justice, and mutual respect are basic values in all religions, as well as central assumptions in international law and diplomacy. Negative public pronouncements against other peoples and religions by religious and lay personalities and leaders must end.

2. Mutual, reciprocal acceptance and respect by each religion of the others, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Bahai or any other.

3. Ongoing spiritual and practical dialogue among religious leaders, clergy, and lay leaders to establish common principles and interests among their communities.

4. Ending religious incitement and hatred through appropriate guidelines for religious leaders, clergy and other religious staff, such that all places of worship of all religions become centers for positive and constructive religious interaction and tolerance, rather than centers for hatred and incitement of the masses.

5. Educational programs geared to home, kindergarten, school and college, towards mutual respect and acceptance.

6. Ending negative public propaganda. Use of media and social networking to advocate mutual respect, rather than the opposite.

7. Acknowledgment of the rights of all indigenous peoples to their indigenous lands, resources, and properties.

8. Enabling unfettered religious and cultural tourism and visiting holy sites.


These must be the components of any practical and viable road map for cultural diplomacy and peace. They all emanate from UN General Assembly resolutions on the culture of peace. This compilation needs to be expanded at future meetings with practical measures to attain positive results. As a Track I negotiator I'll be happy to lend my hand and assist in this endeavor.

Cet article a été mis en ligne le January 29, 2008.

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