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What Should Be Top Priority for Religious Leaders:
Peace, Not Nationalistic Slogans
Highlighting the need for more powerful advocacy for a just peace from religious leaders, Rami Khoury calls on Ahmed Qurei to play a leading role in overcoming many of the internal challenges in which the Palestinian Authority finds itself before embarking on appeals for assistance from others...

What did you do today, to promote peace?


Rami Khouri, Daily Star Editorial

Pope John Paul II made a poignant case for Middle East peace on Thursday, averring that “it is reconciliation that the holy land needs: forgiveness not revenge, bridges not walls.” Coming as they did during a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, the pontiff’s words were not just accurate but also timely. It has to be added, however, that while the Vatican has periodically urged the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict to settle their differences at the negotiating table, its remonstrations have been neither forceful nor regular enough to exert a far-reaching impact.

And nor has Rome, by any means, been alone in failing to provide powerful advocacy for a fair and speedy peace: Muslim and Jewish religious leaders have been even less helpful.

It defies logic that people of faith and the clerics who hold so much influence over them should regard peace as anything but a top priority. So long as innocents are dying, priests, sheikhs and rabbis should be united in demanding an end to the carnage. Instead, many of them have allowed themselves to be swayed by nationalist slogans and even to utter chauvinistic comments whose only effect can be to worsen existing divisions.

There are inter-communal organizations that strive to counteract the rhetoric employed by hard-liners, but they need help in demonstrating the possibility of peace and the utility of tolerance. A good part of that help has to come in the form of better secular leadership that seeks to lay the groundwork for understanding rather than fanning the flames of hatred and tension.

This is where Qurei’s role is so crucial. Rightly, the Pope implored both sides to end the appalling cycle of tit-for-tat violence and urged the Israeli government to abandon construction of its controversial wall around (and into) the West Bank. It is Qurei’s Palestinian Authority (PA), though, that might have the most essential part to play. Before he and his colleagues can claim the moral authority to seek fuller assistance from religious leaders, they have a clear obligation to clean up their own mess.

The PA’s innumerable problems have been exacerbated by the struggle with Israel, but domestic corruption and incompetence are what made the Palestinian people so vulnerable to the current socioeconomic crisis.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s record on this score is abominable, but there is still time for Qurei to prove his worth by making the best of a bad situation, thereby preparing for the potential opportunities of the future. He has a right to ask for help, but only if he is willing to shoulder a large part of the burden himself. He must be wiling to invest his own political capital before expecting anyone else to do the same.

Source: Daily Star, February 13, 2004, dailystar.com.lb.

Recent announcement by Prime Minister Sharon:
Breakfast with an Israeli Friend

Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab describes a recent discussion with an Israeli friend over breakfast in a West Jerusalem café. In this discussion, the author and his friend debate over the recent announcement by Prime Minister Sharon to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip...

The Separation Wall in Abu Dis:
The Walls of Hurt

M.J. Rosenberg, Director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy Forum and former editor of AIPAC’s (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Near East Report, reflects on his recent visit to Israel and recounts his impressions while visiting the separation wall Israel is building in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Abu Dis...

Middle East:
Teens Seek to End Conflict

Regional and world disputes took on a new tone this week, as more than 300 Israeli and Palestinian teenagers stepped into each other's shoes for a simulated UN conference in Israel. Israel is the only nation to hold a simulated conference that includes a committee to mediate Israeli-Palestinian issues. While focusing on conflict resolution, in this committee, students represent their own points of view, instead of role-playing...


A Flicker of Light in the Dark, the Geneva Document:
Will It Be the Salvation of Both Nations?

Palestinian journalist and writer M. Daraghmeh discusses the Geneva Accords while stressing its “balanced content” that will constitute the main framework for a future settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although the document entails painful concessions by both parties, the Accords carry “an equilibrium that provides it with an opportunity to be accepted by both nations.”

Common Ground News Service
February 20, 2004
CGNews promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

From the Common Ground News Service
hagalil.com 18-02-2004



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