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Middle East Peace Programs

E. Glaubach: Prospectus for a Peace Academy

"There is clearly a younger generation in the Middle East, sick and tired of conflict and beginning to understand that their future and hopes reside not in confrontation over territory but in the challenges of science, technology and communication, and that they can win new life and a new future without boundaries."- Shimon Peres, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

The region has swiftly moved from an environment where encounters between Palestinians and Israelis were increasingly commonplace and talk of peace was welcomed as a serious prospect to a situation where the hearts and minds of many have been closed to the possibility of peace.

We propose a Peace Academy that can help build an infrastructure of peace by and for the people of the Middle East by promoting socio-economic development through spiritual, cultural, and educational means. It can promote cooperation and mutual understanding through academic and research activities and people-to-people interaction on all levels and cultures.

Strategy and methodologies need to be adapted to reflect the dynamic realities of the Middle East. As a non-partisan, non-governmental organization, a Peace Academy has a unique potential to sustain cooperative activities between Israel and her Arab neighbors during positive periods as well as during breakdowns in negotiations and upsurges of violence.

We see it as our duty to work with the people of the region to raise awareness of the possibilities for peacebuilding, thus preparing both societies for a future political solution to the conflict. Our aim is to break through constraints of misconception and suspicion to trigger a process of conciliation and arrive at authentic cooperation.

Sustainable peace between the peoples and states of the Middle East is dependent upon more than politically negotiated agreements. It will succeed or fail as a consequence of the depth and warmth of cross-border human relations. The road to peace must be approached at the grassroots level of the populations involved as well as via spiritual and political leadership. Peace will only be achieved when the public, civic and the religious sectors recognize converging goals in ideology and practice.

Our activities are focused on identified common Arab and Israeli economic and social interests, based on spiritual and cultural differences, with particular emphasis on Palestinian-Israeli relations. Peacebuilding projects need to address these interests through partnerships with regional and international players. A key element of peacebuilding is a people-to-people emphasis, so that a wider public can come to know "the other" and understand the reality of their intertwined history and future.

It is the responsibility of everyone interested in promoting peace to become involved in those aspects of civil society which can make a positive contribution towards the goal of two socially and economically peaceful, developed states living side by side in peace. This is not a choice but a prerequisite for a brighter future in this region.

Approach

  • Identify common Arab and Israeli educational, cultural, spiritual, economic, and social interests.
  • Develop partnerships among various regional and international groups including the private sector, NGOs, etc.
  • Be flexible and recognize the diversity of beliefs.
  • Facilitate projects built on sustainable cooperation.
  • Engage multiple groups in peacebuilding efforts.
  • Integrate individual projects and programs into a comprehensive strategy of peacebuilding and coexistence.
  • Replicate successful cooperative projects that can serve as models for peacebuilding.
  • Link positive outcomes to the broader peacebuilding processes.


Departments

The following departments are proposed, based on the identification of common Arab and Israeli educational cultural, spiritual, economic, and social interests. Particular emphasis is placed on addressing issues of immediate and vital importance, such as the basic health and nutritional needs of the Palestinian population and peace education for Palestinian and Israeli youth.

Peace education

Education about the values of peace is a prerequisite to the renewal of meaningful relationships between Palestinians and Israelis, and it is the responsibility of each society to develop appropriate tools and methodologies to address this issue.

Peace education must start with the community's youth and must be facilitated by a long-term strategy for its implementation. Today's youth -- tomorrow's adults -- must embrace peace as a central objective and recognize that peace offers everyone, on both sides of the border, the best and only option for a brighter future.

Informal educational frameworks have the power to touch the lives of youngsters in a way that formal schooling cannot, and are ideal mechanisms for exploring values of peace and tolerance.

Grassroots collaboration

Real peace is not merely a product of political agreements. There must be an ongoing and proactive effort involving the grassroots populations of the two societies, together building the skills and mechanisms for understanding and cooperation. As the political peace process moves forward, civil society initiatives serve as complementary mechanisms for building simultaneous public support and participation in the reconciliation process. Such cooperative projects are informed by the view that citizen-based peacebuilding is instrumental and integral, not peripheral, to sustaining change.

Programs promoting civil society cooperation are powerful and necessary tools in sustaining peace and coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis. Such programs call for the broad participation of society in the establishment of a socio-economic as well as educational, cultural and spiritual infrastructure of cooperative relations.

Through civil society cooperation, a Peace Academy can stimulate mutually beneficial cooperation among Palestinians and Israelis at the community level by advancing people-to-people relations in a variety of fields. A Peace Academy can work directly with agents of influence -- professionals and leaders in chosen specialties and specific communities -- to identify areas that need to be further addressed. A Peace Academy can then provide a platform for direct dialogue between these key players which results in both fruitful discussions and tangible programs. A subsequent multiplier effect allows these key players to take the message of cooperation and tolerance to their respective communities.

Sports collaboration

Sports have a unique ability to overcome barriers of language, politics and religion, and as such are a successful tool in the modern challenges of peacebuilding. A coordinated program can address the needs of the Palestinian and Israeli communities.

Academic collaboration

Academic cooperation between regional institutes can provide opportunities to further dialogue for peacebuilding in the Middle East. Students comprise a high proportion of both the Palestinian and Israeli populations. It is important to build cross-border ties among them before they are transformed into the economists, scientists, politicians, journalists and health care providers of tomorrow.

Highly integrative cooperation between academics and higher education students can engender a sense of shared destiny and an understanding that exchanges of knowledge and expertise can result in improved outcomes for everyone concerned.

An additional area of important professional cooperation is that of research and development (R&D), especially on ways to overcome the natural constraints of land and water in the region. The promotion of R&D in technology and its practical application is a perfect example of how to take advantage of manpower, a resource in abundant supply.

Economic collaboration

Economic stability and prosperity are key factors in developing a sustainable peace in the region. Failure to achieve these can place the entire process at risk. Businesspeople from Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel can collaborate to develop integrated initiatives for the mutual benefit of all. The emphasis is on creating realistic, strong ties between principal economic players in each society who are in a position to make genuine business changes, with the aim of improving the region's macro-economic situation.

High-level business and industrial players also have a significant role to play in our quest for civil society to act as pillars to build and strengthen peace in the region. The private sector should be encouraged to embark on mutually beneficial economic endeavors that harness the best of each society for the good of both societies.

Health and nutrition collaboration

The integration of health services and the adoption of sound policies and strategic planning can guarantee the provision of quality, sustained and integrated health services to the population. These are challenges faced by most countries of the region. Regional cooperation and the sharing of resources, know-how and modern technology can enhance health services in the region, while also offering a tangible demonstration of the potential benefits of peaceful cooperation.

There are many areas of need: investment in Palestinian healthcare infrastructure; cooperation in medical training, clinical medicine, healthcare, and biomedical technology; residency and fellowships for Palestinian health professionals in Israeli hospitals; joint study programs in both visually and hearing impaired; improvement of nutrition through joint agriculture initiatives focusing on water, crop exports, or pest control.

Friends Associations

The Peace Academy can establish associations of friends throughout the world and in the Middle East, especially those who have participated in the global peace pilgrimages. These associations can serve multiple purposes:

  • Constitute vibrant, ongoing links between the Peace Academy and individuals who identify with its mission, objectives and programs
  • Support Peace Academy activities
  • Encourage partnership links in program areas and projects
  • Develop bonds such as sister cities, sister schools, and sister places of worship.
  • Empower people to serve as Ambassadors for Peace in their respective countries

Funding

The activities of the Peace Academy would need support from grants and contributions from donor bodies, international organizations, and corporations.

Based on Furrows of Peace in the Middle East: A Mosaic of Proposals and Initiatives, by Dr. Eliezer Glaubach-Gal (Jerusalem: UPF-Israel, 2006)

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