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Question: How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East? CPNN article: Four Opportunities to Visit the Holy Land
CPNN Administrator
Posted: Dec. 31 1999,17:00

This discussion question applies to the following articles:

Four Opportunities to Visit the Holy Land
"Colors from Palestine" Calendars and Cards
Breaking Them Down: Walls that Block People and Walls that Block Words
A Letter from the Palestinian nonviolence Resistance
The Gaza Peace Center organizes a workshop on freedom of expression
The Elders welcome UN recognition of Palestine as an observer state
Peace through Commerce in Israel and Palestine
Under the Same Sun: A film for Israel and Palestine
Jordan River Conference
The Elders support Palestinian move to sign international treaties
The Elders applaud Palestinian unity agreement
The Elders welcome Iranian nuclear agreement as boost to Middle East peace
March of Hope gathers 20,000 in historic Jerusalem rally
The Elders welcome Paris conference as step towards two-state solution for Israel-Palestine
Middle East Peace Conference Joint Declaration
Conférence pour la paix au Proche-Orient – Déclaration conjointe
Jordan: RC societies meeting kicks off Tuesday to promote culture of peace
Tel Aviv rally for two-state model
USA: Israel-Palestine statement by the Mennonites takes a ‘third way’
The Elders applaud Palestinian reconciliation; renew call for end to blockade of Gaza

For more recent articles and discussion, click here.
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Mohamed Abu-Nimer
Posted: July 13 2007,09:50

The following commentary was first published in Newsday magazine on July 1, 2007.

Israelis, Palestinians must promote peace culture


With shame, hopelessness and helplessness, many Palestinians see their dream for an independent state being dismantled by their own so-called national leaders.

This evolving reality is hard to comprehend, and it has caused the majority of Palestinians, according to a recent survey from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, to blame both Hamas and Fatah leaders for what has happened to them under the Israeli occupation.

Hamas claims to have "liberated Gaza," and in response Fatah leaders declared they are "managers" of the West Bank. As a result, there is no discussion of two-state solution of Israel and Palestine. Instead, Hamas and Fatah seem to support a two-mini-cantons solution in which each leadership can continue to protect its narrow self-interest in cooperation with its patrons (Israel, the United States, Syria, Iran).

Again, the Palestinian leadership has failed its people. The competition between Hamas and Fatah, with each taking control of a portion of the bread crumbs that the Israeli government left when it pulled out of Gaza and agreed to elections in the West Bank, entails disastrous results for anyone interested in securing a free and democratic Middle East.

The Palestinians have been set back several decades, to the time when they were fighting over who should represent them. Now there are too many leaders, voiceless people, and an internal culture of violence that has been nurtured by the Israeli occupation system and the creation and growth over time of various Palestinian paramilitary militias. Both Israelis and Palestinians paved the way by tolerating the corrupt leadership of the Palestinian Authority, thus giving it public legitimacy to operate.

The illusion among certain Israeli and American political forces is that the two mini-cantons eventually will end the Palestinians' demand for a viable and independent state and will bring security or stability to the region.

However, as the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and many other colonial and post-colonial struggles has taught us, a cantonization of the Palestinian national identity will not end people's yearning for their own single country and likely will bring on only higher levels of violence.

In this case, Israeli security will be further threatened by the proximity of Hamas and its allies in the region. And we can expect Fatah's leaders to have trouble maintaining legitimacy, meaning their own fighters are likely to turn against them.

The United States loses in that it will be blamed for failing to push hard for the two-state solution endorsed by President George W. Bush, for encouraging a weak Palestinian leadership to fight each other and for collectively punishing Palestinians with economic sanctions after they democratically elected Hamas last year.

How can the Israelis and Palestinians get themselves out of this hole? The answer, not easily achieved, is that they must adopt and promote a nonviolent political culture in which neither Israelis nor Palestinians tolerate their own leaders' decisions to launch military campaigns on the assumption that armed victory can lead to peace. A new culture could take hold if moderate Palestinians and Israelis, of whom there are many, are willing to step up and publicly reject the status quo and campaign and vote for political leaders who will move in this direction.

Second, the Palestinians must begin a dialogue among themselves to re-evaluate national priorities. What do they want as a people? Is the two-state solution still the most viable option? Should the Palestinian Authority be dismantled, as many Palestinians argue, because it has failed to fulfill its mission to build an independent state?

Third, since Hamas and Fatah both claim political legitimacy and support of the Palestinian people, new elections should be called to allow the people to select their leaders. Neither coup government is fully legitimate; the people need to decide.

It should be clear to Israelis, Americans and Palestinians that this conflict cannot be settled by military means. But the steps I am recommending can be effective only when the Israeli and U.S. governments stop their collective punishment of Gazans. Further isolation of Hamas and its leadership from any negotiated settlement will drive Palestinians everywhere to hopeless alternatives. A lasting settlement of this conflict has to engage all parties, including the elements of Hamas that are willing to negotiate.


Mohammed Abu-Nimer is an associate professor at American University's School of International Service in Washington, D.C., and director of the university's Peacebuilding and Development Institute.
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CPNN Administrator
Posted: June 25 2013,15:18

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.
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CPNN Administrator
Posted: April 28 2014,12:58

Here is another view of the Hamas/Fatah agreement, sent to CPNN by the Palestinian peace activist, Mazin Qumsiyeh:

People asked me about the latest "reconciliation" agreement between Fatah and Hamas. Most Palestinians here are skeptical of the sincerity of leadership in Fatah and Hamas and most still think these leaders are driven by narrow factional and personal interests than by interest of Palestine; noticeably absent was the popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the largest secular faction after Fatah. Women leaders also complained about the exclusion of women voices and youth were also absent as most of those politicians are my age or older. In my talks (and I give several every week to visiting delegations and local people), I emphasize that people must wake up and push politicians to do the right thing. That is how history changes: via people especially youth and women. Of course, many wish that politicians show some leadership for positive change but we the people have to act. Meanwhile, we have an ongoing slow genocide of the Palestinian people. 7.4 million are refugees/displaced people and that number keeps growing. Those of us who against all odds remain here are subjected to unspeakable restrictions and squeezed into ghettos/cantons by an apartheid regime worse than in Apartheid South Africa and the most profitable occupation in history (thanks partly to the Oslo accords). But I do see positive signs of people acting here and there regularly: so many internationals show so much solidarity because Palestine today is the lightning rod against western hypocrisy and racism in the same way that South Africa provided such a beacon in the 1980s

Editor's note.  Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu was already calling the situation of Israel/Palestine as a system of apartheid in 2003, as reported in CPNN  and now US Secretary of Foreign Affairs, John Kerry, is beginning to speak in the same terms, as reported further down in the same CPNN discussion
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