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The meeting

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Jeremy Gilley

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Makram Khoury

 

NSWAS hosts a meeting arranged by "Peace One Day" for Palestinian and Israeli peace activists
(July 30, 2000)

Jeremy Gilley of the British organization Peace One Day, Ltd. organised an event that brought together peace organizations from Israel and Palestine. Participants included members of the Peres Institute, the Orient House, The Adam Institute, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Committee Against Housing Demolitions, UNSCO, Yehuda Wachsman and others. Well-known Palestinian Israeli actor Makram Khoury delivered two stage monologues in Hebrew and Arabic. His monologues focused on the vicious cycle of bloodletting and revenge. The actor’s presentation was followed by a film made on the Peace One Day Campaign, and then by an open discussion.

The Peace One Day Campaign was launched in September 1999. All those who work on the project are volunteers who use their skills to "try to make a difference."

The campaign is based on three simple ideas:

1. To create a global cease-fire day, for the first time in history

2. To raise awareness towards the United Nations International Day of Peace, which is not widely known.

3. To establish the United Nations International Day of Peace and the global peace fire day upon a fixed date (rather than as the third Tuesday in September, as it has been since 1971).

Peace One Day chose to focus upon seven conflicts in the world for its campaign, and to persuade the leaders in these conflicts to refrain from bloodshed in these areas on this day.

A part of the campaign is the production of a film on the campaign.

Open Discussion

According to the organizers, the effort expressed in the campaign is as important as the final goal or whether they will succeed in it. A part of this effort will be the discussion on what might be the content for a global peace day. In the group he asked people to share their thoughts on this and their experience of conflict.

Various people spoke, some expressing doubts about the value of the day. What would be the value of a single day of peace?

Gilley - "if we start with one day for peace it can show that we are able to stop."

Jeff Halper (The Committee Against Housing Demolitions) explained why he felt uncomfortable with such a simple idea of peace. He pointed out that peace could also be oppressive. It is easy to take peace as a self-serving concept, to maintain an unfair status quo. It is not possible to divorce peace from politics and power.

"Grim and tragic suffering are possible also under peace. Peace has to be connected to justice. Peace can give legitimacy to oppression. A true peace takes justice into account. Palestinians never talk just about peace. The message has to become more sophisticated."

Another participant said that indeed we are weary of oversimplification. But, on the other hand, conflict has become a way of life for us. We have lived so long with conflict but it has become habit. To ask people what peace itself means could be a contribution.

Abdessalam Najjar (NSWAS): "As peace organizations, we work on different levels. Our approaches are different. One thing we should consider is that it is difficult to lose our enemies. Who are we going to blame afterwards?"

Arik Asherman (Rabbis for Human Rights) - "The proposed day of peace will not in itself change the reasons for conflict. The power of such a day may be to help change the reality of conflict; to change the way people see each other."

Salman Shaikh (UNSCO representative) - "We don’t need to worry about the establishment of peace without justice. It is clear that there will only ever be peace here if it is just peace."

Young Palestinian - "I think this one day of peace would be useless. If there is a war going on, the war would not stop."

Shaikh – "But it does happen, in various places of conflict, that the two sides are able to honor a cease fire."

Yehuda Wachsman – "If the day does come about, we will have to use it to consider feelings. There are very heavy feelings behind conflict. We need to work on these feelings - to learn how to appreciate love. Today land is more important than life. I want every person to remain on the same land he is today."

Najjar – "One of the main factors in the conflict is our anger and our pain."

Wachsman – "And now, when we are sitting together, we must talk about these. There is a very pragmatic advantage to such a day, in that it would give us a day that we could celebrate together. Today, on our national days, we celebrate at each other's advantage.

Young Palestinian: "The problem between Palestinians and Israelis is that each side wants 100%. Between our peoples peace will never be established."

Young Palestinian: "How can I make peace with Israelis - when my friend was killed by an Israeli soldier."

Najjar - "We can accept and teach each other about each other's pain. This is why we should sit together and talk about it."

Wachsman - (to young Palestinian speaker) "I can understand your feelings - you want revenge."

Young Palestinian - "No, the problem is not between you and me. But most Palestinians and Israelis cannot accept it."

Young Palestinian (to Yehuda Wachsman) - "If you lost a friend, what would you do?"

Wachsman - "My son was murdered in September 94 by Hamas terrorists. I can tell you I hope Barak and Arafat will come back with an agreement. Today, your situation is not secure. I am concerned for the lives of you young people because I have felt the sorrow and don't want your parents to feel the same."

Young Palestinian - "Why do you say ‘terrorists’ - for me soldiers and "terrorists" are just the same.

Wachsman – "It doesn't matter what you call them. People are dying just the same."

Young Palestinian - "My concern is that there is still occupation. Nothing has changed since the peace process. How can we make peace?"

In his concluding remarks, Gilley thanked everyone for their candid discussion and apologized that he had to cut it short due to reasons of time. Responding to the criticism or skepticism that had been expressed, he pointed out that he does not see the proposed day of peace as an end in itself, but only as a beginning.