June 23, 2003

We need to move forward and the time is now.The Middle East is at a vital crossroads.

When we think about achieving peace in the Middle East, the images that often come to mind are the immediate issues – the agreements, security issues, borders, and the suffering no both sides.

But there is something else, just as vital, which has not been seriously addressed – yet it is at the heart of the problem – and that is the culture of peace.

After 10 years of direct, formal dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, there is no escaping the fact that the parties remain deeply divided by psychological gaps and mutual mistrust.

The core issue is the need for a new culture of peace to replace the climate of intolerance that has plagued our region. The Sharm and Aqaba summits symbolized the emerging consensus on the need to end the culture of hate.

The essence of Israel and Judaism is the yearning for peace. A central tenet of our religion is “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” The ancient Hebrew prophets preached the vision of “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation

You find it in every aspect of our lives, in the way we pray, educate our children and greet one another. The word “shalom,” which means peace and salaam, expresses our collective experience.

At the same time, we are deeply concerned about the sentiments towards Israel in the Palestinian Authority and Arab states. Rather than cultivate a culture of peace, a vast infrastructure of incitement and hatred glorifies violence and undermines peace.

This incitement is organized and systematic. It continues to foster and encourage terrorism and the denial of Israel´s right to exist. We see it in the educational system, textbooks, mosques, the media, including official organs, and in public statements.

This summer, nearly 40,000 Palestinian children will attend summer camps in the Palestinian Authority. In previous years, these summer camps conducted paramilitary training and fomented hate. One wonders what these children will be taught this summer. Will they learn tolerance and acceptance of others? Will they learn to lead productive lives? Or will it be more of the same? These are important questions, upon which our future rests.

Education that calls for violence is unacceptable. In this competitive global village, education systems should provide the children of the Middle East the tools and skills to compete on an equal basis with their peers in New York and Singapore. Instead of preaching intolerance, educators should emphasize engineering, sciences, computers and math.

A culture of peace is one that offers real hope to the people of the Middle East. This includes economic growth, educational opportunities and regional cooperation. The development of sound and sustainable economies that complement each other will enable the region to flourish and prosper. Identifying common interests and projects will further the flow of free trade, international investment and modern technologies. We need to move forward and the time is now.

(Excerpted from a speech made at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic The Dead Sea, Jordan, June 22, 2003)

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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