On New Year's Day, a team of four Palestinians and four Israelis
sailed from the southern tip of South America to Antarctica to explore and
name a mountain no one had climbed.
The purpose of the journey was less scientific than collegial. The team,
called Breaking the Ice, was formed to prove to itself and the world that
representatives of warring Middle East factions could work together to
achieve a common goal.
Cooperation often proved difficult.
The team nearly came to blows after one member, an Israeli lawyer, took
offence that another, a member of the revolutionary group Fatah, accepted a
phone call from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. That exchange, according
to an online diary of the expedition, led to verbal attacks and
counterattacks over such issues as control of the West Bank and religious
sites in Jerusalem.
Ultimately, the physical challenge of conquering a 3,300-foot mountain
commanded the attention of the six men and two women, most of them amateur
climbers. Working in unity, often roped together on icy slopes, they
attained their goal. The group summited Jan. 16 and named its conquest "The
Mountain of Israeli-Palestinian Friendship."
The team's success was noticed by the Washington-based Search for Common
Ground, a non-governmental organization and international leader in conflict
resolution. On March 18, at the Embassy of Austria, Breaking the Ice and
five other groups or individuals will be recognized for their peace
initiatives. All will receive Common Ground Awards in the seventh annual
presentation of the prizes.
The usual number of five recipients was chosen before Indian Prime
Minister Atal Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf renewed
peace negotiations between their countries. So they were added to the list
and will receive a joint award, said John Marks, who founded Search for
Common Ground in 1982. The organization now has 400 staff members in
Marks spoke via telephone from Jerusalem, where he and his wife, Susan
Collin Marks, opened a Search for Common Ground office two years ago. They
are preparing a five-hour television special that examines how the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved without threatening the
integrity of either group.
The film, scheduled for release this summer, will be shown to
Palestinians in Arabic and to Israelis in Hebrew, he said.
Recent winners of Common Ground Awards include Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
journalist Ted Koppel, the Daniel Pearl Foundation and the Alliance of
Concerned Men, an organization that mediates gang rivalries in Southeast
This year's other award recipients:
• The Pontanima Choir, formed in 1996 in Sarajevo
after the war in Bosnia, is composed of Christians, Muslims and Jews from
the Sarajevo area. The seventy-five voice choir, which has performed in
several countries, sings a range of songs from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and
Far Eastern traditions.
Twenty-seven members of Pontanima -- Latin for "spiritual bridge" -- will
perform at the awards ceremony March 18 and at area churches Friday, March
• The Community of Sant'Egidio, a Catholic lay
movement, was founded in Italy in 1968 and has become one of the most
influential conflict resolution groups in the world, with 40,000 members in
sixty countries, Marks said. The organization has been credited for its
peace efforts in Mozambique, where fratricidal conflicts have lasted thirty
years. It also has played prominent roles in AIDS prevention and treatment
in Africa and has provided aid to war and famine refugees in Southern Sudan,
Burundi, Albania and Kosovo.
• Evangelist James Movel Wuye and Imam Muhammad
Nurayn Ashafa, co-directors of the Inter-Faith Mediation Centre in Kaduna,
Nigeria, once led religious youth leagues whose members directed violence
against one another in a years-long civil conflict that cost thousands of
lives. The two men met at a state sponsored gathering for which they had
mutual distrust. After getting to know one another and sharing grief about
family members injured or killed in the conflict, they became friends and
co-activists in promoting community dialogue and peace. In one recent
project, they brought together pairs of Christian and Muslim youth leaders
from thirty of Nigeria's states for a five-day workshop for peace.
• The Charlotte-based Regional AIDS Interfaith
Network provides HIV/AIDS care for individuals and families, through a
network of 2,500 volunteers and more than fifty congregations representing
twenty denominations and faith traditions. The network -- created in 1992 by
the Rev. Deborah C.
Warren, a Baptist minister -- trains pastors and seminarians; assists
congregations in developing HIV prevention education programs; and develops
congregation-based care teams that provide practical, emotional and
spiritual support to people with HIV or AIDS.
• Harold Saunders, director of international
affairs at the Kettering Foundation, will receive the Common Ground lifetime
Saunders, who has written several books, has taught international
relations and conflict resolution at George Mason and Johns Hopkins
universities and is a member of the International Negotiation Network at the
Carter Presidential Center. Saunders, a former member of the White House
National Security Council staff (1961-74) and Assistant Secretary of State
for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs (1987-81), was part of a team that
mediated five Arab-Israeli agreements in the late 1970s, including the Camp
David Accords, and helped negotiate the release of U.S. hostages from Tehran
The awards ceremony, including dinner, will begin at 6:30 p.m. March 18
at the Embassy of Austria, 3524 International Court NW. Seating is limited.
Tickets are $50; 202-777-2235.
Bill Broadway is a staff writer for the Washington Post. Source:
Washington Post, March 6, 2004,
The Power of Incitement
In light of recent suspected involvement of Jewish and Arab Israelis in
violent acts against each other’s communities, this editorial states that
the ‘task of Jewish and Arab leaders in Israel is to educate their
communities toward tolerance of the views of the other side, to cultivate
the recognition of freedom of speech, and to remove stereotypes that derive
from racist and preconceived notions from public discourse.” (Source:
Ha’aretz, March 7, 2004)
The Palestinian’s Long Wait for Peace
Elias H. Tuma, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of
California reflects on the Palestinian strategy of waiting for external
intervention to resolve the conflict with Israel. He further advocates for
the Palestinians to “initiate and propose solutions that Israel cannot
reject, even if such solutions entail serious compromises on their part”.
(Source: AMIN.org, March 1, 2004)
Revive the Peace
Initiative, but this Time, Do it Right
This Daily Star editorial praises last Wednesday’s reiteration by Jordan's
King Abdullah II of a proposal to revive the "land for peace" initiative
spelled out at the Arab summit in Beirut in 2002. It argues that to be
successful, the initiative must include a serious diplomatic and public
opinion campaign communicating the Arab desire for a fair and honourable
peace accord to the Israeli and Jewish people. (Source: Daily Star, March