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Middle East Peace Programs

Non-Violence and Reconciliation

The Middle East is often seen as an area of conflict where the tradition of non-violence is absent. That is actually not true. MEPI engaged in dialogue with organizations on both sides that promote non-violence, calling attention to the legacy of people such as American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Non-violence is perceived as a weak and ineffective model of concessions,” according to Dr. Muli Peleg, co-chair of OneVoice Israel Palestine. “Yet as a rule, the reality is different.”

OneVoice Israel Palestine seeks to empower the moderate majority of Israelis and Palestinians to take a more active role in resolving the conflict. Dr. Peleg calls people on both sides to reconsider their patterns of violence: “The ongoing violence has served no one. Both through the first Intifada, as well as the evil aspects of mass undiscriminating terrorism, violence has perpetuated Palestinian misery. Negative images flourish as a result of the occupation on one side, and terrorism on the other side. For Israelis the non-violent approach is odd and foreign. Non-violence threatens this outline which has been reinforced for generations.”

MEPI participants had opportunities to learn about the work of other peace organizations, both Israeli and Palestinian. For example, Peace Now seeks to sway popular opinion and convince the government of the need to achieve a just peace and historic conciliation with the Palestinian people and neighboring Arab countries in exchange for a territorial settlement based on “land for peace.” B'Tselem is an Israeli organization monitoring human rights in the Occupied Territories.

An example of a Palestinian peace organization is the Palestinian Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, which seeks to give people knowledge and skills in order to sustain principled negotiation and mediation approaches. Al-Tariq, the Palestinian Institution for Development and Democracy, holds summer camps for young people, educating them in the values of democracy, non-violence, and dialogue.

To gain first-hand insights, MEPI participants visited the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif in Gaza after it was announced that Israel would withdraw its settlers and demolish the settlements; they also visited residents of the city of Sderot and settlements of Gush Etzion. In addition, participants visited Gaza and the Deheisha Refugee Camp near Bethlehem.

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