Written by Administrator
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 12:12
The Center for Democracy & Community Development
Creating a free, democratic, prosperous, and secure West Asia and North Africa.
"Be the change you wish to see in the World….." Gandy
Mission Statement :
Founded in 1997,The Center for Democracy and Community Development is a non-profit Palestinian NGO based in Jerusalem amid at: disseminating the concepts and experiences of community –based participatory democracy; promoting the practices and theories of just peace in the Palestinian community North Africa, and the countries of West Asia ; encouraging the participation of marginalized groups in the decision – making processes ; working with children , youth, women, and community groups to improve society ; developing exchange programs , research project ; and policy initiatives for the purpose of community building , training , empowerment , and rehabilitation; and coordinating with all local, regional and global institutions that conduct related work.
1-Disseminating participatory democracy in Jerusalem , in Palestine society, and throughout North Africa and West Asia;
2-Developming the capabilities and skills of youth, and strengthening youth's community involvement and participations ;
3-Disseminating the concepts and mechanism of community development by encouraging the participation of community groups;
4-Strengtheing women's participation in community building;
5-Promoting ideas of civil peace, non-violence, and peace with others;
6-Stimulating the involvement of academics and intellectuals in the community.
1-Program of citizenship and human rights.
2-Program development of dialogue, empowerment, and community development .
3-Program of strengthening civil peace.
4-Program of strengthening public ethics .
5-Program of supporting just peace.
While the Center has published many papers in participation with other institutions, the following represents a list of the publications organized by the Center :
-Zoning in Jerusalem /2008 .
-Arab Peace Initiative and the Palestinian –Arab options /2007 .
-Guiding Principles for Academic Cooperation /2007 .
-Principles for Peace Building /2007 .
-Mapping of Mainstream Organizations /2007.
-Guide to Community Development in Jerusalem /2007.
-Israeli's Government Disengagement Plan : Scenarios and a Program of Action for Civil Society / 2005
Future proposals for the Center include:
-Designing a participatory democratic community management structure in Jerusalem , including youth and women's participation.
-Implementing the women's agenda and promoting the participation of women's groups in Jerusalem .
-Developing laws, practices , and promoting citizenship throughout West Asia and North Africa.
The center has domestic and international partnerships with many different institutions , including :
-Majlis Al-Hassan /Jordan .
-IKVPaxchristi / The Netherlands .
-The Arab Thought forum / Jordan .
-Friedrich Naumann Foundation .
-Panorama Center /Ramallah .
-Stanford Center for Internationals Conflicts and Negotiations (SCICN) .
-Al-Quds Council for Development .
-Al- Quds University .
-Middle East Non-Violence and Democracy Center (MEND) .
-The United Nations Volunteers Program (UNV) .
-The Arab Education Institute /Bethlehem .
-The Center for Contemporary Culture / Barcelona (CCCB) .
-Al Kawakebi Center / Tunisia .
-The European Center for Conflict Prevention (ECCP) / Netherlands .
-Intercom/Belfast/ Northern Ireland .
-Incore Center –Ulster University Derry/London Derry – Northern Ireland .
The center has two branches , one in Jerusalem , the main office, the other in Gaza as a branch one.
The Center is managed with the following structure :
Board of Directors
Composed of seven people, who meet at least four times every year, of policy meetings charged with the responsibility , and monitoring the implementation of, the administrative and financial policies and plans for the center.
The staff of the Center consists of :
Acting General Manager .
Finance and Administration Manager .
Project Coordinators .
Administrative Assistant .
Target Groups :
The Center works with many different community groups, from political and civil society, and both of local and private sectors .
Contact Us :
Jerusalem Main Office
14 Ibn Batuta St.Kamal Bldg . 2nd Flr .
Tel : 02-6281151
Fax : 02-6283351
Web site : www.cd-cd.org
Gaza Strip Office :
Omar El- Mokhtar St .
Bank of Palestine limited Bldg. 7th Flr .
Walid Salem's Biography:
Walid Salem was born in East Jerusalem in 1957. He is a writer of thirty books and tens of research paper in Democracy, civil society, citizenship, refugees, Jerusalem and Peace building issues and also a consultant, evaluator, and trainer for Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem. He has lectured at several informational conferancees and seminars about democracy, Jerusalem, refugees, and development in Palestine.
The staff of the Center consists of :
Acting General Manager .
Finance and Administration Manager .
Project Coordinators .
Administrative Assistant .
Activities report 2008-2009 for the CD CD
The Palestinian Board members include:
- Dr. Basem Ra'ed
- Rula Jadallah Afandi
- Dr. Ali Qleibo
- Dr. Salman Salman
- Omar Sha'ban
- Dr. Mohammed Al-Masri
- Suleiman Abu Dayyeh
- Dr. Salim Tamari
- Dr. Samir Ghattas
- Dr. Rassem Khamaisi
- Radi Jira'I
- Ziad Abu Zayyad
- Dr. Abdel Salam Al-Majali
- Dr. Riad El-Aila
- Dr. Rami Nassrallah
- Dr. Issam Milkawi
- Mohammed Hamdan
- Dr. Samir Mutawi
- Dr. Kamel Abu Jaber
- Hamada Faraneh
- Adnan Abdel Razek
- Maha Abu Dayyeh
- Dr. Mkhaimar Abu Sada
- Zahira Kamal
- Dr. Lucy Nusseibeh
- Murad Bustami
- Nafiza Badarin
- Dr. Mohammed Abu Nimer
- Dr. Manuel Hassassian
- Dr.Walid Shomal.
The International Advisory Board includes:
- HRH Prince Hasan of Jordan
- Mrs. Esther Riley: Former educator and writer-editor involved in peace issues.
- Dr. Martijn Dekker: Doctorate candidate at Free University.
- Dr. Allen Weiner: Co-director of the Stanford Program on International Law and the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation.
- Mr. Tony Klug: Writer in Arab-Israeli Conflict for 40 years, advisor on the Middle East for Oxford Research.
- Dr. Colin Irwin: Senior Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool.
- Dr. Abdul Salam Al-Majali: Former Prime Minister of Jordan.
- Dr. Issam Malkawi: Researcher at the Academy of King Abdullah for Defense Studies.
- Dr. Samir Muttawi: Former chairman of the board of PETRA News Agency.
- Dr. Kamel Abu-Jaber: Former Foreign Minister of Jordan.
- Dr. Rasem Khamaisi: Head of Planning Team, International Peace & Cooperation Center.
- Dr. Izhak Schnell: Professor at the Department of Geography and Human Environment, Tel Aviv University.
- Dr. Yehuda Paz: Chairperson at the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development (NISPED).
- Dr. Elie Podeh: Professor with PhD from Tel-Aviv University in Middle East studies.
- Dr. Alon Liel: Chairman of Israel-Syria Peace Society.
- Mr. Ofer Bronchtein: President of the International Forum for Peace.
- Dr. Galia Golan: Academic Director of International Program and Conflict Resolution.
- Dr. Dan Jacobson: Professor of organizational behavior, formerly at Tel-Aviv University, presently at the Management College.
- Dr. Yair Hirchfeld: Director of Economic Cooperation Foundation (ECF/Israel).
- Dr. Rami Nasrallah: Head of the International Peace and Cooperation Center.
- Dr. Lucy Nusseibeh: Director of Middle East Non-Violence and Democracy.
- Mr. Jan Jaap Van Oosterzee: Head of the Middle East Department at IKV Pax Christi.
- Dr. Giorgio Gallo: Professor, Interdisciplinary Center Sciences for Peace, University of Pisa.
- Dr. David Newman: Professor of political geography, Ben Gurion University.
- Dr. Mient Jan Faber: Professor of Citizen’s Initiatives in War Situation, Free University of Amsterdam.
- Mr. Ziad Abu-Zayyad: Lawyer and writer, co-editor of PIJ, former PLC Member and PA minister.
- Mr. Omar Shaban: Senior economic advisor.
- Mr. Radi Jira’i: Abu-Jihad Museum for the Prisoners Movement Affairs, Al-Quds University.
- Mrs. Rula Jadallah: Director of Public Relations, Culture and Information, Al-Quds University.
- Dr. Mkhaimer Abusada: Professor of Political Science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza.
- Jannie Kuik: Senior Programme Officer for the Middle East, IKV Pax Christi.
- Mohammed Abu Nimmer: Associate professor, American University's School of International Service in International Peace and Conflict Resolution in Washington, DC, and Director of Peacebuilding and Development Institute, American University.
- Dr. Esra Cuhadar: Political Science Assistant Professor at Bilkent University, Ankara.
Projects at CDCD include:
- Bringing Peace Together (BPT)
- Jerusalem Community Based Organizations (CBOs and the Women's Project)
- Promoting Youth Citizenship in Palestine (PYC)
- UNESCO Project: Guiding Principles for Israeli/Palestinian Academic Cooperation
- Middle East Citizens' Assembly (MECA)
- Shared Destiny: A Program for Young Palestinian and Israeli Environmental Leaders
- CDCD Conferences
Bringing Peace Together
Bringing Peace Together (BPT), established in 2004, is a multifaceted campaign that works across the Palestinian-Israeli divide to bridge the gap between the two peoples. The project brings together representatives of different Israeli, Palestinian, and international peace movements and organizations in order to exchange visions and experiences with one another.
The Center for Democracy and Community Development (CDCD), led by Mr. Walid Salem, is the coordinating organization of this initiative. Other organizations, including Peace Now, Israeli Palestinian Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), International Peace Cooperation Center (IPCC), the Arik Institute, and members of the Geneva and the People’s Voice initiatives are all participants in the project. The project is funded by Interchurch Peace Council (IKV), a nongovernmental organization based in the Netherlands that promotes peace initiatives in the region and whose representatives are active partners in the project.
Project Aim and Objective:
This project was built on the basis of two assumptions: that Israeli, Palestinian, and international peace movements are working parallel to each other; and that coordination is possible between these movements, whatever political or ideological differences there may be between them. Based upon these guiding principles, the project has two objectives:
- Contributing to the development of peace action in the region and worldwide.
- Promoting understanding between Israeli-Palestinian and international peace initiatives.
The idea is to bring together peace groups of all colors into meetings and activities in order to exchange visions, approaches, and experiences. BPT also aims at being an advocacy group promoting and triggering new ideas among the peace movements as well as decision makers.
BPT components include:
- Holding seminars, conferences, and roundtable discussions in order to exchange experiences and develop visions amongst the participating Israeli-Palestinian and international peace movements. The BPT hosts approx. 4-6 meetings a year.
- Writing policy papers and distributing them to the decision-makers both internationally and within Israel-Palestine.
- Preparing declarations and publications and distributing them by email (to approx. 3000-7000 people, including local and international decision-makers)
- Initiating an Israeli-Palestinian and International group called Joint Civil Society Rapid Response Committee (JCSRRC), which took the responsibility in 2005-2006 of promptly releasing statements and responses to events taking place in Palestine-Israel.
Summary of Achievements 2004-2007:
In 2004 and 2005 BPT began with conferences and meetings discussing strategies for peace making. Participants of the discussions produced and distributed monitoring reports and newsletters. A meeting with Euro-Parliamentarians held in Brussels discussed the post-disengagement period. BPT's episodes in the radio talked about the issues. A joint campaign was established to preserve Jerusalem as an open city and a capital for two states. This was done through a joint network that initiated public campaigns and activities towards local and international decision makers.
In 2006 BPT added new components relating to the Palestinian election results, deeply exploring the concept of Hudna and its relevance to peace making including a paper prepared by an Islamic scholar, and discussing Gaza and the regionalization of the conflict. Participants debated and prepared a monitoring report on the Sharm Ash-Sheikh understanding and a code of ethics for peace activism. Another new component added was that of working with community based organizations (CBOs) in Jerusalem, including women's group projects; BPT moved from not only organizing activities and meetings to actually motivating changes on the ground towards peace. A third new component in 2006 was that of developing the project website as well as organizing a workshop at the WOCMES meeting in Amman.
2007 was a very active year for BPT as it conducted two large campaigns. The first one was on the Arab Peace Initiative (API) of 2002, aiming to promote it in both societies through seven meetings in Palestine, advertising in Israel, a joint statement of support with signatories from both sides, a Palestinian policy paper on how to advance and encourage the Initiative further, and extensive coordination and activities with all participants involved. The second campaign was on the Annapolis Conference with a preparation of a statement with 400 Palestinian, Israeli, and international signatures; it was sent and handed to local and international decision makers, including EU ministers and White House staff such as Condoleezza Rice during their visits to the region. BPT also gathered signatures for the statement from the EU Parliament during meetings in Brussels. The year also included a meeting organized by BPT in Bilkent University (Ankara) on Hudna, with both Hamas and Israeli participants present. The project also prepared a study on the impact of the Lebanon War on Israeli public opinion, two workshops were held about the human security of Jerusalemites.
Seminars, conferences, and roundtable discussions included:
- Statehood and Refugees (May 2005)
- Peace Movement Strategies Towards Post-Disengagement (September 2005)
- Peace Movement Strategies and the Palestinian Right of Statehood, in Light of the Results of the Most Recent Palestinian Elections (March 2006)
- The Impasse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace and Ways Out (May 2006)
- Meeting about Hudna, Dr. M. Abu Sway (July 2006)
- Possible Re-regionalization of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (September 2006)
- One Year After the Evacuation of Gush Katif: State of Events (November 2006)
- Two meetings about Democracy and Citizenship, Dr. S. E. Ibrahim (January 2007)
Policy papers distributed to decision-makers included:
- The Israeli Government Disengagement Plan: Possible Scenarios and an Agenda for Civil Society Actions (W. Salem, main author; I. Schnell, contributor)
- Monitoring the Implementation of the Sharm al-Sheikh Understandings (W. Salem)
- Report of the Evacuation of Gush Katif (I. Schnell)
- One Year After the Evacuation of Gush Katif: the State of Events (I. Schnell, N. Sadeh, and N. Ziona)
- Lessons Learned by the Religious Zionists from the Evacuation of the Gaza Strip Settlements (I. Schnell, N. Sadeh, and N. Ziona)
- Going It Alone? Unilateralism vs. Negotiations, Palestine-Israel Journal (W. Salem and I. Schnell, coordinators).
Emails that were sent (to approx. 3000 people):
- A series of articles on disengagement, 2004
- A series of articles on post-disengagement, 2005
- A series of articles on post-Arafat era, 2006
- A series on Palestinian elections, 2005-2006
- A series on post-Palestinian elections, 2006
Some of the articles can be found on the Web: www.safe-democracy.org www.mideweb.org www.cips.org
The Joint Civil Society Rapid Response Committee (JCSRRC) activities included:
- Responsibility in 2005-2006 of releasing prompt statements and responses to the events taking place in Israel-Palestine.
- Organizing four radio episodes in 2006 in cooperation with “All of Peace Radio” (FM 107.2, www.allforpeace.org): about the Middle East Citizen Assembly(MECA), the role of civil society in peace building, the peace camps in the two sides, and the international role in resolving the conflict.
2008 Activities Report:
BPT faced a new context in 2008 of reviving the partnership between Israelis and Palestinians, with an international feeling of urgency to establish a Palestinian state to support moderates and to isolate the extremists, mainly the Iranian regime. The new context included analyzing the view that the security issue was the main obstacle for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, as well as the argument that Israel should initiate a real withdrawal in order to improve security there. While the parameters of a permanent status solution were already known and the establishment of a Palestinian state agreed on, the first stage principles of the Road Map included not only controlling security, but also the dismantling of settlement outposts, releasing prisoners, and freezing settlement expansion altogether. These responsibilities were to be implemented in a parallel and equal way by both parties.
2008 Seminars and Conferences:
In 2008 the project's many meetings and conferences were held with partner organizations and political decision makers in a number of countries in order to debate how to push the peace process forward. Participants drafted political initiatives on issues such as Gaza and the rift between the Palestinian factions, they drafted appeals on topics like citizenship and nonviolence, and inspected the options for the future. Three monitoring reports were written on the on-going situation and disseminated widely on the internet. A conference titled One Year after Annapolis drew international recognition and attention to CDCD. The year 2008 seminars and discussions were highlighted by the reviewing of the different options left for the peace movements; this was due to lack of clarity and direction in the peace process, of what exactly was happening at the level of the political negotiations. Different alternatives for working towards peace were reexamined over and over again in the foggy political situation.
Conferences organized by BPT included:
- On March 12 meetings were held with EU Parliamentarians in Strasbourg discussing the first draft of a statement to the Arab Summit including many other issues. At the end of March a letter was prepared and distributed to the Arab Summit, the League of Arab States, the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv, all the EU Parliamentarians, and to everyone on the BPT list of contacts.
- April 2 BPT organized a roundtable meeting in the Ambassador Hotel attended by 42 people. The topics were Hamas between the Muslim Brotherhood Agenda and the Palestinian Agenda and The Settlers: Between Eretz Israel Agenda and the Two State Solution Agenda.
- Three Palestinian meetings held in Jerusalem, Jenin, and Tulkarem, looked at options in Palestine for the year 2009 and beyond. Some meetings were held in Belgium and Turkey with international participants.
- May 29 a roundtable seminar held at the Ambassador Hotel was attended by 28 participants. They inspected different options for Palestinians to pursue. They also addressed some important questions: what will happen if agreement on permanent status is not reached by the end of 2008; what were the options for peacemaking in that case; what options were there for international intervention for accelerating the ending of the occupation and creating an independent Palestinian state.
- On June 18 BPT had meetings in Gaza with NGO representatives and on June 20 with NGOs and policy makers in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Ramallah.
- On July 22 a roundtable meeting held at Saint George Hotel was attended by 20 participants. They looked at Palestinian options, asking certain critical questions: should Palestinians dissolve the PA; should they declare independence unilaterally and practice it on the ground like in the Kosovo model; should they accept a state with provisional borders, or seek Israeli unilateral withdrawal or international intervention; should they postpone negotiations until a new American administration was in place.
- On August 8 a workshop was held in Jenin about scenarios and policy options for Palestinians. 31 people participated.
- October 16 a conference in Nablus discussed the role of educated people in Palestinian society.
- October 19-20 saw a STAT meeting bring people together to discuss the November Summit between Israeli and Palestinian leadership in Washington with the agenda of presenting guidelines to them.
- November 26-27 a conference was held titled One Year after Annapolis, and a political initiative written up from this was disseminated widely (details are in the CDCD Conferences chapter).
2008 Courses and Training:
Courses and other activities held during the year included:
- A lecture at al-Arava College in the Negev about Palestinian narratives to 40 students from different Middle Eastern countries.
- A meeting at the Capitol Hotel with group of 40 Italians. Booklets about the API were distributed and discussed.
- The MECA and WANA meeting in Amman, discussing the draft of the citizen charter, the strategy plan, and policy paper.
- A meeting with a Jewish group from Zochrot about Palestinian narratives, held in the Willy Brandt Center.
- Visiting Stanford University for lectures, meetings, and planning video conferences.
- A lecture in Maale Hamishah for officers in the Israeli army on Palestinian narratives.
- A meeting with the municipal engineer on zoning issues in Al-Tur.
- A meeting with STAT organized by IPCRI in Nazareth. Participants developed scenarios to solve issues in the Old City of Jerusalem including the religious places.
- A 36-hour course on strategic planning to inhabitants of Shu’afat Refugee Camp.
- A meeting with group called “All for Jerusalem” led by Micol Nizza, a previous staff member of BPT. She is now working with this new group in order to run together in the coming municipal elections, aiming to implement a community based plan for the city development based upon the project's guiding ideas.
- A lecture at the Open University of Amsterdam.
- A lecture in Jericho to 35 majors on community development.
- A lecture in the Tami Steinmetz institute in Tel Aviv University on the Palestinian political system. Invitations to the roundtable-discussion of 2.4. were distributed.
- On February 16 a workshop was held in Gaza on the political, economic, and legal implications of the border incursion at the Egyptian border. It was held in cooperation with Palthink Center for Strategic Studies and 43 participants attended. There was unanimity on the need to find a solution to the division of the Palestinian state and the need to work on opening border crossings to rid the Palestinian people in Gaza from the suffocating blockade.
- Another workshop was held in Gaza on how to restructure the security forces, ministries, and civil peace in the Palestinian society.
- Three monitoring reports were written on the present situation and disseminated widely over the internet.
- Two statements and advertisements were published in Israel.
- Three manuals were published.
- Updates on the BPT website.
2009 Activities Report:
In September 2008 a report claimed that the two parties were close to solving the border issue; only 70 square km were disagreed on. This means the negotiators went beyond Taba 2001. The continuing issues included the following challenges: Israel was unsure of security after a withdrawal; the Israeli government was weak in front of the settlers; Abu Mazen worried about a Hamas takeover in the West Bank. The two sides continued rejecting each other's proposals. A new American administration came into power, a new (right-wing) Israeli administration came into power, and Palestinian presidential elections were not held. There were proposals from Israel, the EU, and Palestinian teams, and so BPT decided to propose its own joint Israeli-Palestinian political initiative and presented them to the new US administration and others.
2009 was planned to be a year to activate the regional role in reaching an agreement. This included submitting the political initiative to the new American administration and promoting the Arab Peace Initiative (API) even further, especially in Israel, where it needed to be clarified to the public. Since the refugees are the main issue in the API there were more workshops on that for Palestinians. And
The Israeli war in Gaza December 2008 - January 2009 changed the previous plans for the beginning of the year. Gaza had been expected to face a crisis after the expiration of the Tahdi'a on December 8th, 2008, and the West Bank faced looming difficulties with the expected end of Abu-Mazen's presidency term in January, 2009. Violence and social rifts were expected in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas supporters. Activities were planned for bridging the social rifts through human security activities in the communities and workshops aiming to bring different NGOs to work together. If the dialogue in Cairo would not find solutions then the activities on social rifts would continue to be valid. However, the war in Gaza exceeded all fears of the level of destruction and loss of life that would ensue and so preceded all other topics for BPT.
The BPT activities for the first half of the year were numerous. In January-February they focused on discussions about the war in Gaza and its repercussions. This happened through BPT itself, as well as through active participation in the Peace NGO Forum debates and MECA discussions. March was mainly spent following the dialogue between the Palestinian factions, with discussion about the new era and the new programs that it required. April-May witnessed many advocacy meetings with Israelis, Palestinians and international decision makers, and a lot of lectures. Moreover, several monitoring reports and proposals on Gaza and Jenin were worked on. Other activities included preparation for a conference on September 29th on problems of the peace process, as well as a three-day international conference starting September 30th on the Palestinian future.
BPT began to enjoy a status as a well-known advocacy group to many Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordanian, American, German, and British decision makers, with whom we keep regular consultation. Also, BPT is becoming a source for lecturing and providing for advice for many Israeli, Palestinian, and international partners and non partners as well.
2009 Seminars and Conferences:
Seminars and conferences organized by BPT included:
- A lecture was held January 15 at the Ambassador Hotel by Dr. J.M. Segal on the topic Obama's Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, with 43 participants.
- April 7 Professor L. Diamond lectured on the topic Democracy in the Arab World and the Role of the USA. BPT advertised the lecture in Al-Quds, Al-Ayyam, and Al-Hayat newspapers and distributed invitations to institutions by hand. 84 people participated.
- April 21 Hamadeh Farraneh, Sanmir Ghattas, and Ali Abu Shahla lectured about Palestine and the Different Visions in Al-Quds University.
- April 28 H. Faraneh lectured on Dividing Land or Dividing the Authority at Al-Quds University, with 60 participants: Israelis and Palestinians need to decide either to divide the land into two states or to divide the authority within one state.
- On June 10 a roundtable discussion was held at the Notre Dame Hotel engaging the topic New Era: What Regional Road Map (RRM) for the Palestinian-Israeli Two-State Solution? The participants looked at two new ideas which had come out of an impasse in the bilateral negotiations: bypassing political decision-makers and calling for a popular referendum on a political solution, or the Regional Road Map (RRM). 36 participated, including two from the Likud, two from the Israeli Ministry of foreign Affairs, one political advisor from President Abu-Mazen's office, the head of USAID in Tel-Aviv, ICG participants and other peace veterans.
- September 29 a conference was held at the Ambassador Hotel under the title Israeli-Palestinian Peace: Any Successful Process? concentrated on the problems in the peace process. Two kinds of problems were discussed: one related to the deep issues of security, safety, fear, and recognition; the second having to do with being unilateral, bilateral, regional, or multilateral, and the roles of the different actors in this regard. Palestinian, Israeli, and international participants were present, with speakers from the peace camp in Israel, from the Likud (Uzi Dayan), and others who are close to the Israeli government. 99 people attended.
- The three-day conference of September 30-October 3 on the Palestinian Future was organized in cooperation with Al-Quds University. 330 intellectuals attended on the first day, 160 on the second, and 140 on the third. All the main issues of the Palestinian future were discussed, including a variety of opinions within a framework of academic freedom (for details see the CDCD Conferences chapter).
- December 7-10 meetings were held in Brussels with individuals in the European Council, European Parliament, the Belgian Parliament, and different NGOs based in Brussels. A political outline for the discussion was distributed to all participants and letters were sent afterwards to all those we met. Mr. N. Rinaldi visited us at our office on December 22.
2009 Other Advocacy and Meetings:
- Four meetings were held in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs January-May: the first was a lecture to cadets about the Palestinian views about and after Annapolis; the second was a meeting with Haim Asaraf, the head of the Palestine Department in the Ministry, agreeing to cooperate to overcome the current impasse; the third was a lecture for 12 middle rank officers about MECA (with Eddy Kaufman); the fourth was a meeting with seven middle rank officers about the question of the Islamists.
- Several meetings were held with P. Inbari, O. Salzberg, and A. Leshem about a possible joint track II meeting, with the Likud and Yisrael Beitino.
- Advocacy with the American administration included sending a letter to President Obama in early January about the peace process, proposing five core strategies on how to bring about real change in the region. BPT also participated as a signatory of a letter that was received by Obama about the promotion of democracy in the Middle East, with F. Fukayama, L. Diamond, and others.
- In the USA on March 1-5: an ALLMEP meeting, a meeting with N. Brown, M. Indyk, John Kerry's lecture in Brookings Institute about the need for a regional Road Map, attending President Obama's speech June 4 with the American Cultural consul.
- February-June lectures to five visiting American delegations about the political situation. 15-40 participants were present from Baltimore, George Mason University, San Francisco, Stanford, and other places.
- A meeting with USAID director in Tel Aviv, on May 12.
- Advocacy with Palestinians included CDCD board member Ali-Abushahla's participation on the security committee in Cairo in March, with daily follow-up of the dialogue between the Palestinian factions.
- Several meetings were held with Palestinian decision-makers such as Qaddura Faris and Ra’fat Al-Ajrami in January, in addition to meetings with Azzam Al-Ahmad, Jibril Rojoub, Mariam Saleh, and Mahmoud Remahi. Regular communication with both Saeb Erekat and Rafiq Husseini continued.
- Monthly meetings for the past six years with the German Consulate political consul continued, also with a German head of the subcommittee for security and defense in the EU Parliament, and a meeting with Dr. K. von Wogau on May 27.
- Regular meetings continued with the Egyptian Embassy in Tel-Aviv through the Attaché Gamal Rushdi, and with the Jordanian Representative Office in Ramallah through the deputy of the Head Mr. Ahmad Ennab.
- Meetings with the British consul continued, including one on April 2 with British diplomats Mark Bell, Raman Chettsar,Gavin Vassey, and John Edwards, and with participation in the Queen's Birthday celebration on June 8 at Consulate.
- The monitoring report on the calmness agreement in Gaza was distributed to a 7000 email list, and Luisa Morgantini distributed it to all the EU Parliament Members.
- Hot discussions among Israelis and Palestinians and regionally (through MECA) took place during the war on Gaza in January 2009 and continued for a whole month afterwards. BPT participated actively through the Peace NGO Forum and in the discussions through MECA. The situation was tense with tough discussions, and therefore no joint statements were reached.
- BPT enjoys good relations with Russia Today TV, Nile TV, Saudi TV (Arabic), Saudi TV (English), Israeli TV (Arabic), Al-Ekhbarriah TV, Lebanese Future TV, and Dubai International TV, with monthly interviews with each.
- Advocacy activities done in joint Israeli-Palestinian initiatives and in Israel included: participating with IPCRI against the establishment of the “Tolerance Museum” on the Islamic cemetery; lecturing with IPCRI on May 26 at the Ambassador Hotel about President Obama’s Middle East Policies; participating in IPCRI STAT meeting in Nazareth on May 23 on how to promote the peace process; lecturing in the Arava Institute on March 13 about Palestinian narratives, joined by Dr. Eyal Neveh who talked about the Israeli Narrative; lecturing with Natan Sharansky to a group of Israeli students in the at the Dead Sea on May 18 on Palestinian democracy and what to do with the Islamists; lecturing about lessons learned from peace activism to GPPAC group, a meeting organized by Lucy Nusseibeh at Legacy Hotel on May 20; lecturing at the Hebrew University with Israeli and Swedish academics about “Relational barriers for conflict resolution” on May 24; Lecturing about the relational barriers issue to Israeli and Palestinian teachers in Talitha Komi, joined by Daniel Bar Tal and Yohanan Tzurif, on June 4; work through the political committee of the Peace NGO’s Forum on a joint political statement; participating in Palestinian-Israeli Journal editorial board meetings, the last on June 11; a press conference in the American Colony in June 16 in cooperation with Media-Central (Aryeh Green) about the Palestinian Democracy.
- Other international meetings included lecturing in Madrid Autonoma University on May 4 about the Palestinian civil society, lecturing to a group of youth at Willy Brandt Institute on the Palestinian political map on May 21, and meeting Christian Berger, the Head of the EU Delegation in Palestine, on May 24.
- Networking activities included many other lectures, meetings, conferences in the region and abroad, in embassies and government institutions, universities and NGOs, with students, activists and decision-makers: the International Dialogue Institute Conference, June 22-25; IPCRI public lecture about Israeli security demands and the peace process, July 8; conferences on Middle East peace in Europe July 23-27; meeting Peace NGO Forum political committee in order to continue discussing a draft political statement, July 30; lecturing in Tantur on visions to solve the conflict to the Global Majority group, August 3; meeting with the political consul in the German Embassy in Tel-Aviv, August 25 and October 13; attending the conference of the Palestinian National Council of PLO on the 25 and 27 of August; participating in the Geneva Initiative Meeting in Prague in order to produce the annexes of Geneva Accords invited by Forum 2010, September 1-4.
- Three meetings with Ofer Salzberg, Ali Abushahla, and Nicolas Pelhem on how to promote the regional Road Map in Israel, in July-August.
- Speaking to 30 Israeli academics and international psychologists on visions to solve the conflict in a meeting organized by Daniel Bar-Tal on September 8.
- Participating in a Ramadan event with the British Consulate on September 14.
- Meeting with Haim Asaraf, Palestine Desk Manager in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 15
- Meeting with UNDP staff members, September 17.
- IPCRI/STAT meeting, September 25th-26th.
- Meeting with Firas Ra’ed from the Quartet Office, October 12.
- Participating in PIJ roundtable discussion on refugees, October 15.
- Speaking to a German group of academics, teachers, and journalists, at the Red Crescent Society in Ramallah with 22 participants, on October 17.
- Lecturing to South African mayors and political leaders in Beit Vagan, with12 participants, October 19th.
- Participating in a conference about Jerusalem organized by the Arab Thought Forum, in Ramallah and Bethlehem, October 20-21.
- Meeting with Jerome Segal and Ofer Salzberg, October 22.
- Meeting with young European political leaders assisting EU MEPs, October 27.
- Participating in the national day celebration of the Czech Republic, October 27.
- Meeting with a Finnish delegation, October 28.
- Participating in the national day celebration of Turkey, October 29.
- Meeting with Dutch students at our office, October 31.
- BPT continued giving political advice to the German Embassy in Tel-Aviv through regular meetings.
- We advised the Egyptian representative office in Ramallah and the one in Tel-Aviv.
- Two meetings with British diplomatic delegations in Ramallah, on October 30 and November 11.
- Meeting with a Dutch group on October 31.
- Meeting on November 11 with European researcher Michael Base who prepared a policy paper to the EU on how to promote democracy in the Middle East.
- Attending the IPCRI STAT meetings on November 20-21.
- After the Brussels visit, we participated with a paper in a conference about secularism in Palestine in the same session with Hana Ashrawi on December 12.
- On December 14 there was a lecture in the Arava Institute about Palestinian history.
- We gave a course on Palestinian secularism in Bethlehem on December 20.
- December 29 a meeting with 35 Italian academics and activists at Al-Quds University organized by PISA University; prior to that an article was written and sent to PISA University for publication and for their preparations on the Conflict.
- A lot of work was done in May in regard to the EU proposal on P2P.
2009 Advocacy and New Relationships:
- A new relationship was created with the Likud government through a meeting with Mr. Kobi Koberfasser, the deputy of Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and journalist Phinas Inbari. On November 25 we exchanged our political views and agreed to establish a joint-group of five Palestinians and five Likud members for further discussion.
- Another new relationship was established with the Jerusalem department of the PLO, led by Mr. Ahmad Qure’i (Abu Ala’). BPT participated in the preparation of a PLO paper on Jerusalem expressing the Palestinian position. 12 pages in the paper were written and contributed by Walid Salem.
- A relationship was established with the Quartet through a meeting in November. Mr. Firas Ra’ad, an assistant of Tony Blair's, visited our office for guidance and advice regarding the policies and actions of the Quartet in Jerusalem. We agreed to continue consultation and regular meetings. Another meeting took place on January 11, 2010.
- We started a new relationship with the Madrid Coalition and now enjoy membership in their coordination committee, which began preparing for one regional peace conference in cooperation with MECA in March 2010 and another one in Madrid in May 2010. Both conferences support the Arab Peace Initiative.
2009 Monitoring Reports and Publications:
- A book was published on the 2008 One Year After Annapolis conference proceedings titled: A Conference of Local and International Experts Reviewing the Peace Process: Towards a Sustainable Peaceful Solution (2009).
- The Gaza War Diaries by Ali Abushahla were published with the calmness agreement, and with Anat Cygielman's Israeli perspective. Editing: Patricia Boehme.
- Jenin model, prepared by Giorgia Giambi.
- National dialogue and Gaza reconstruction process; the dialogue section is by Ali Abushahla, the reconstruction of Gaza section is by Nicole Arseneanult.
- Monitoring report: Gaza War Diaries, by Ali- Abu-Shahla.
- Monitoring report: Jenin Pilot, by Giorgia Giambi and Anat Cygielman.
- The two monitoring reports were distributed by hand to three EU Parliament delegations visiting Palestine-Israel, to diplomats, and to decision makers and other people in Israel and Palestine, in Belgium and the Netherlands, and by e-mail to our emailing list with 7000 recipients. Extensive feedback was received about the Jenin report.
- An article was written about the Jenin monitoring report and published on November 1 in This week in Palestine magazine, which has a wide international distribution.
- Two articles were written and published on the internet www.bitterlemons.org , one about the necessity to bypass the second stage of the Road Map, the about the relationship between the internal Palestinian reconciliation and the peace process.
- The paper written in June about “Palestinian Unilateralism” was distributed widely and it created a lot of discussion.
- The last Bitterlemons article was translated and published on websites in Germany and Italy.
- A report titled Jerusalem Monitoring Report was prepared by Murad Bustami.
- Ali Abu Shahla edited his report about “Palestinian National Dialogue” into a more readable form. After that it was sent to Matthias Verbeke for further editing.
- The two reports on Jerusalem and National Dialogue were placed on our website, and both were distributed to our mailing lists of 7000 recipients.
- The website was improved and updated with all the new writings and reports.
- Two strategic assessments were written in order to help explore our political plans and distributed to all on our mailing list. They created a lot of discussion.
- In response to the violence in Gaza, in January the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum gave out a declaration with the help of BPT titled War Is Not a Solution, Only Negotiations Will Bring About Peace and Security. It strongly condemned all violence against civilians perpetrated by Israeli forces and rocket attacks from Gaza, calling a halt on all military activities, a withdrawal from Gaza, and an ending of the siege and blockade. It also called for an international campaign to stop the smuggling and trafficking of weapons and to rebuild Gaza. These topics continued in many discussions, especially that of the reconstruction of Gaza.
- Walid Salem prepared two articles on strategic assessments.
- Preparations began on a new book: The Promotion of Liberalism.
Jerusalem Community Based Organizations
The Jerusalem Community Based Organizations (CBOs) were established in 2006 as components of the project Bringing Peace Together (BPT). This was a significant step as BPT developed from not only organizing conferences, meetings, and other similar activities to actually motivating changes on the ground and the grassroots level and improving the situation of Jerusalem's inhabitants as well as the possibilities for a peaceful solution to the conflict. The CBOs include components such as community development projects, zoning plan rights projects, youth leadership projects, as well as the Jerusalem Women's Project.
CBOs: Community Development and Zoning Plan Rights
The community development projects include many courses held by Walid Salem, Iman Ratrout, and Abdullah Kiswani, aimed at creating committees in communities, empowering inhabitants of neighborhoods with knowledge and the means to improve the society, and teaching leadership skills to youth. The nonviolence and leadership courses of the project promote democratic development, respect of law, respect of the democratically elected governments, dialogue and communication in order to promote internal peace in each society, confront terrorism, corruption and other challenges, and promote symmetric relations between the two peoples by ending the occupation from an increasing amount of Palestinian territories.
The East Jerusalem neighborhood project for zoning plan rights helps to create local coordinating committees in selected Palestinian neighborhoods. The aim is to work through these coordinating committees to ensure and protect Palestinian lands and zoning rights in neighborhoods where Israeli building projects threaten to confiscate lands. This involves advocacy, as well as cooperating with the Jerusalem Municipality in joint planning and lobbying it for Palestinian land rights.
In 2007 the CBO projects in Al-Tur and Tal Addasseh became sustainable with clear results on zoning issues and community organization. The women's project progressed; through seminars the agenda began to develop and a women's committee in Al-Tour began to grow.
2008 CBO Activities:
At the beginning of January the Jerusalem Community Development Project took place in Al-Tur, Al-Mukaber, and Tel Al-Addasah, where courses about community development were held by Walid Salem and Abdullah Kiswani. There were 15 participants and the courses covered 30 hours of training. The trainers Iman Ratrout and Abdullah Kiswani gave two new courses for young leadership, one in Al-Tur (with 20 female university students) and one in the Community Service Center (with 26 female university students). Each course covered 26 hours of training on community development.
Activities in Tel-Al-Addasah:
- All documents were prepared and the application for building permits was initiated.
- A follow-up planning committee was established for lands without zoning plans.
- A request was submitted to the PA for financial support for some families and the support was received.
- Pressures from the municipal building inspectors were worked on.
- A follow-up committee was established to work with the issue of people applying for financial help to pay the high fees demanded by the municipality.
- Steps were taken to intensify the relationships with the owners of land without zoning plans.
Activities in Al-Tur:
- Legal issues of zoning and the financial dispute were solved.
- The period of postponing the demolition of the mosque was extended.
- A request was submitted to the municipality to extend the non-demolition period for the houses in the region until the people have received their permits.
- There is an agreement now between all institutions in the village to establish a non-partisan community council that includes all. The first meeting was held on the 10th of April and people elected a secretary.
- Some of the heads of the clan rejected this new council, but this was solved when representatives of the clans were included in the council.
- Preparations were made to engage the municipality plans to confiscate the area called al-Sahil in order to establish a secondary school for girls, the expansion of the Beit Orot settlement, and the postponing of decisions on zoning.
Activities in Al-Mukaber:
- Three visits were conducted to establish relations with the landowners for an overview of the inhabitants’ needs.
- The municipality was visited in order to discuss the preparations for zoning plans.
- Visits to the location were continued.
- A temporary follow-up committee was established.
- Previous successful initiatives were collected and discussed with inhabitants in order to motivate them.
- A database on landownership was established.
- Meetings were held between landowners in order to create a positive atmosphere for communication leading to cooperation on zoning needs.
Community Building Courses were also held to Fateh in Eizarriyyah and Beit Enan with the aid of a manual which was prepared.
2009 CBO Activities:
In the Jerusalem CBOs the work continued at four locations, a women's parliament was established, and three courses were held, among other activities. The activities included work in four neighborhoods, three courses in the CDCD office with 75 hours of training, the preparation of proposals to promote this work, and other CBO activities:
Three courses in the CDCD office:
- The first course (25h) was held in February to a group of women activists in the communities and men activists in the Youth Clubs' administration. The topic was strategic planning, and the trainers were Walid Salem and Iman Ratrout.
- The second course (35 h) was held in April for the “Watan” youth group at the Hebrew University. The topic was strategic planning, and the outcome was a strategic plan document from the group that represented the 150 East Jerusalemite Students at the university, included strategies for them within the university, and other ideas for their work with their communities. The trainers were Walid Salem and Iman Ratrout. This group with special status was worked with to create a sustainable relationship.
- The third course (15 h) of training was also organized for the “Watan” group on fundraising and proposal writing, held by Walid Salem.
Work was carried out in the four communities of Al-Tur, Tal Al-Addasseh, Shu’fat, and Al-Mukabber. The general issues and results included:
- The slow movement of the zoning process, and the continuous contradiction between the plans that the people want and the ones the municipality prepared and tried to impose, which added another reason for the delay of the approval of the zoning plans.
- The zoning plans approved did not include the whole location, but only a part of it, which also slowed the process; one might receive a zoning plan for one part and a demolition order for homes and buildings in another part, adding to the complexity.
- There were conflicts amongst the population; when some were solved, others might erupt at any moment due to the fragmentation of ownership, the Islamic inheritance system, and the historical absence of land registration.
- The PA was recruited to help paying the expenses that the population cannot provide for; Mr. Hatem Abdel Qader, Minister of Jerusalem, cooperated on this matter.
- Tal Al-Addasseh now has a committee that includes a representative of each family.
- Al-Tur has a local council that was organized last year of 51 members which elected an executive committee for the follow-up of all the issues.
- Al-Mukabber has had a popular commission acting there since 1978, and has representatives of the factions, the families, and the Reform Committee.
The main developments in Tal Al-Addasseh:
- The roads plan were finished, Archeological Department approval for new building was obtained, IPCC began preparing a full plan for all Tal-Al-Addasseh in cooperation with the municipality, and the demolition of 41 houses was prevented while another 19 received demolition orders.
- A new project was started in the area regarding the zoning of the pieces 70 and 71. A zoning plan, with maps, was prepared by the local community, and was submitted to the municipality on July 23rd. The municipality sent an answer back in August asking for more details and preparations that the community began working on.
- The Municipality decided to demolish 9 houses in June, but withdrew the decision in September, due to the follow-up by the local community committee.
- Funding from the Prime Minister's Office was used in paying the costs of a lawyer, an engineer, and zoning plans. The demolition of 18 houses was successfully postponed while two were demolished. After the demolition the municipality was contacted and a written agreement was made that no more demolitions would take place and residents would not build without permits.
The main developments in Al-Tur:
- The local council was sustained, with regular meetings of its members and its executive committee, where they discuss Al-Tur problems. Last year's discussions were about closing the Community Center that is connected to the municipality, but this year the council reached a conclusion that it should not be closed; therefore persons from the council should be added to it.
- Al-Tur witnessed in this period the confiscation of 20,7 dunams by the municipality for the establishment of two schools that were supposed to be built on the location of Orot settlement according to a previous plan. Also, the 450 houses of Khallet Al-Ajouz neighborhood were still under threat to be demolished in addition to another 240 in other locations where their demolition was successfully suspended. The confiscation of 9 dunams in Al-Sahel neighborhood was prevented, and preparations of another zoning plan for 22 dunams were begun. A database about Al-Tur zoning issues and a legal clinic of two lawyers were established. The demolition of 48 houses was stopped in another location, while 3 were demolished. This was part of the policy of the new mayor Nir Barkat, who is intensifying demolitions.
- A new zoning project in Al-Sahel of 42 dunams was started.
- The Municipality previous decision to demolish 450 houses on Khallet Al-Ajouz was frozen for another three months due to pressure from the community committee. No progress was made yet with the municipality in regard to the re-zoning of this area or the canceling of the demolition orders.
- The municipality decided to confiscate 9 dunams in Al-Sahel area, then the decision was frozen due to the local follow-up.
- The municipality presented a project to confiscate all land between Augusta Victoria Hospital and Al-Sawiyyah in order to establish a “national park”. The plan was rejected by the community committee and the land owners.
- A permanent committee composed of 15 persons was elected by the local council.
- A landowner (Ziad Abu Ghanam) gave a part of his land as a contribution in order to build a new school on it. The school was originally supposed to be built on land which was confiscated and moved to the Israeli settlement of Orot in Al-Tur.
- In Al-Sahel the municipality agreed to start zoning. Community members participated in creating infrastructure at the location. The demolition of 24 houses was stopped, while the municipality gave Orot settlement permits for 22 new units.
The main developments in Al-Mukabber:
- People were able to finish preparing their zoning plan, which contradicted with the one that was prepared by the municipality. An approval for a sub-plan for 40 dunams was achieved. The municipality tried to have separate agreements with each individual, but this was rejected by the population and the collective zoning project.
- The municipality also tried to expand the land area of a garden for the use of the settlers on the expense of the population of Al-Mukabber.
- The community members established a fund for the zoning plan for which they each contributed. They made an agreement with the municipality to stop building without permits in exchange for an end to the demolitions until the zoning plan is finalized.
The main developments in Shu’afat:
- An area of 220 dunams beside Reches Shu’afat settlement needed zoning; 120 dunams were declared by the municipality as a green area where building is prohibited. Internal conflicts were solved between the locals, and they began preparing a zoning plan to submit it together to the municipality. The population and Hatem Abdel Qader Office would pay the expenses.
- The work continued in order to prepare the zoning plan, and certificates were collected in order to submit them to the municipality.
- The municipality began expanding the neighboring settlement on the expense of the land owned by the Palestinians in the area; a petition against it was sent to the municipality, but with no positive response.
- The local committee elected Mr. Musa Ali Shehada as its coordinator, and showed readiness to go forward in the collective zoning project.
- Property certificates were collected from all of the one hundred dunams, except from four people, in preparation for submitting the zoning plan.
Other Jerusalem CBO developments:
- A proposal for women's participation in the CBO’s was presented to the EU on June 8 and July 2, as well as January 19, 2010.
- Three courses (60h) were held in the CDCD office for 30 participants on the skills of community work and fundraising.
- A guide to CBO global work was prepared, with interesting findings for Brazil, Quebec, and different European countries.
- A lecture was held about East Jerusalem CBOs’ experiences to a group of 45 from Tel-Aviv on May 9.
- A meeting for discussing the details of the work was held with a consultant at the office of President Abu-Mazen on May 13, in order to include this approach in the recommendations to the President's team.
Community Building courses:
- February-March; four courses about Young Leaders in Jerusalem, Sur Baher, Jabal El-Mukaber, then chose small committees (5 people) for each site.
- March-April; four courses about Young Leaders in Shu'afat – Beit Hanina, Beit Safafa and in the city center.
- May; courses about Young Leaders in the Old City, one general and one only for women, and common courses in the neighborhood committees.
Jerusalem Women's Project
Another CBO project is the Jerusalem Women's Project, which plans to foster cooperation based on principles of coexistence and symmetry. The project involves establishing joint groups of Palestinian and Israeli women cooperating together with the purpose of sharing experiences, through for example showing the reality of life in East Jerusalem to Israelis, and creating a common women’s agenda for Jerusalem. The target group for the project is women as a whole, excluding nobody, not only including prominent women in public life or those active in peace organizations. The idea is to empower women at a personal, relational, and collective level.
The women's agenda team works to derive an agenda which meets the needs and concerns of women in the eastern and the western part of the city, aiming to bring together both Palestinian and Israeli women in one campaign for their rights. Special attention is given especially to those in the occupied Palestinian area of East Jerusalem. The idea is to cover the shortage of work for women due to the separation of Jerusalem from other Palestinian territories, which began in 1993 and has culminated with the building of the separation wall. The agenda aims to strengthen the links between Israeli and Palestinian women as it concentrates on issues like unemployment, education, rights, dreams for the future, and achieving the two-state solution.
- A joint Jerusalemite women's group was established (a core group of 10 members on each side) working together.
- A joint seminar was held on November 23, 2006 in order to prepare the first draft of the women's agenda.
- Preparing a draft of the wome's joint agenda in Hebrew and in Arabic.
- Two training courses for the women's core groups on each side.
- Establishing a women's committee in Al-Tur with five members and 25 supporters and more than 100 friends.
- Establishing a preparatory committee in West Jerusalem with 15 friends.
- Training more than 70 women in addition to 100 students at girls' schools in Al-Tur in women's health and social issues.
- Through various seminars the women's agenda began to develop and a women's committee in Al-Tur began to grow.
2008 Women's Project Activities:
- Iman Ratrout and Amit Leshem gave courses to women in order to teach the women's agenda to them, about the developing women's situation, democracy, and women’s rights. Iman spoke about women's empowerment with Israeli and Palestinian groups.
- On March 30 they met again with seven women and the facilitator who trained them for three hours in order to gain confidence to approach groups of women and giving the necessary initial tools to start conversation on the issue of meeting the "other".
- Within the Women's Project a community based agenda for Palestinian and Israeli women in Jerusalem was prepared, and then the agenda was published and disseminated. Plans were also made to develop a women's youth group of 100 participants and a trainer group of female students.
- Abdullah organized a women's parliament of 300 members which held its first conference in Al-Quds University on April 27, with Sari Nusseibeh's support.
- A course of 20 hours on strategic planning training was delivered to the women's parliament. A strategic plan for the women parliament was prepared.
Getting women's groups to cross the divide to proceed with the topic of dialogue between East and West Jerusalem was more challenging. Meetings were held with leaders in Katamon and Kiriyat Yovel. Due to holiday schedules it was difficult to conclude on the program for the next year. Two facilitators in Kiriyat Yovel on October 31 expressed interest but said their schedule was very busy with other projects such as the upcoming Municipal elections. Plans were made to continue with the dialogue project to exchange ideas and experiences. One of the challenges was that the women who participate in the groups were passive; the idea is to create fields of autonomy and responsibility for women. Women need to take responsibility of their own community before they can take responsibility for an encounter between two societies, and their aim in the project needs to be clear before meeting another ethnic group.
2009 Women's Project Activities:
- Courses and lectures continued as in the previous year. More women were reached in both East and West Jerusalem neighborhoods, training and encouraging them to establish their own committees and lead them by themselves.
- Developing and supporting the newborn committees in Al-Tur and Kiryat Yovel and establishing six new women's committees with more than 60 members.
- A meeting was held on June 17 in a community center in Kiryat Yovel. 11 women participated. Iman Ratrout shared with them the Palestinian women's experiences on early marriages, life in East Jerusalem, and the difficulties the Wall poses on traveling and family reunions. There was discussion on whether it was possible to have meetings without politics, for example about workers' rights and their exploitation by employers which is common to both societies. The participants agreed that if peace depended on people and not on leaders we would have peace easily.
- A women's meeting was held on August 12 at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. The lecturer was Dr. Taghreed Younes on the topic: "From the Domestic to the Public: What makes the difference? Who supports a successful woman in traditional societies?" 15 women participated. Discussion ensued with participants sharing their experiences and thoughts.
By the end of the year there were several established women's groups working in East Jerusalem neighborhoods: Al-Tur, Silwan, Shu'fat, Beit Hanina, Jabal Al-Mukaber, the Old City, Al-Thoure, Shu'fat Camp, and Anata. A women's group in Kiryat Yovel in West Jerusalem held meetings as well, made up of members of a previous club for retired and elderly women.
The difference between the two sides was that in Kiyat Yovel the participants were generally older, while the Palestinian groups had younger participants, due partly to the cultural aspect of younger women given more opportunity to share in community activities than older women. Women in West Jerusalem were also active in community committees supported by the Jerusalem Municipality, thereby hindering the formation of any new committees carrying the same goals. The Municipality does not represent the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, so there is desire to form groups in order to claim rights for East Jerusalem women. Also, there was a difference in the objectives of the meetings on the two sides: the goal of Israeli women was more about sharing and spending good time together, while the Palestinian women worked with the aim to end the Israeli occupation and build community-based committees to provide services for women.
Despite all the achievements and success the women's project has had in its starting years, the basic obstacle of an asymmetry between East and West Jerusalem still exists on many levels of activities and society. There is an unequivocal power gap between the two: political, economic, and social. Activities and community centers in West Jerusalem are already mature and well developed. Bringing participants together from both sides may help to boost the weaker side to the level of the stronger one; women in East Jerusalem can learn from the experiences of women in West Jerusalem. However, it can also be discouraging to realize the power gap, especially under the Israeli government's and Jerusalem Municipality's unchanging policies. Therefore the project's concept has been modified to "peace-building through community based interactions." The women's project continues to work to reach its ultimate goals of meeting all needs and concerns of women in both East and West Jerusalem.
Promoting Youth Citizenship
The Promoting Youth Citizenship (PYC) project objective is to promote knowledge and foster education about citizenship and youth civic participation in political, social, and economic spheres. The goal is to encourage participation amongst youth in society and in political processes. The project promotes healthy concepts of citizenship such as volunteerism as a means of youth engagement. It enhances the ability for youth to explore how the governing bodies could be more responsive to their needs. CDCD works through its established network of community-based organizations (CBOs) and youth activists and leads over a hundred sessions and workshops on citizenship in Jenin, Jerusalem, and Gaza.
Work with the project began in 2009. It managed to enter most high schools and universities in Jerusalem, while some workshops were held in the CDCD office for students to have an alternative participation time. The Palestinian Directorate of Education recommended an implementation of workshops in Jerusalem suburb schools as well, a plan which was carried out. The project then gave more opportunities to suburbs youth institutions in Jerusalem, because these institutions are more deprived from NGOs and community development organizations which tend to choose easier locations and institutions for their activities, like private schools in the city center.
- Between February 1 and May 2, 34 workshops were held in different neighborhoods in Jerusalem: Abu Dis, Al Dahya, Al-Tur, Rass Al Amoud, the Old City, Al-Sheikh Jarrah, Jabal Al Mukabber, and Beit Hanina. 517 Palestinian youth participated, with 252 female and 265 male participants. The main discussion subjects were the Palestinian youth citizen appeal, Palestinian citizenship, women's empowerment, how to build women's institutions, rights and duties of Palestinian youth, and choosing the Tawheeji major (scientific or arts track). The trainers were Iman Ratrout and Walid Salem, with help from Ikram Badrieh.
- Between April 31 and July 31, another 21 workshops were held in Jenin in different neighborhoods: Burqeen village, Al Jalame village, Jenin Camp, and in Jenin itself. Five workshops were also held in Jerusalem at that time. Altogether 251 Palestinian youth participated in these workshops, with 120 female and 131 male participants. The main subjects included Palestinian youth citizen appeal, Palestinian citizenship, and the rights and duties of Palestinian youth. The trainers were Iman Ratrout and Walid Salem. The experience showed that more than one workshop is needed, as participants asked to convert the workshops to full training courses. The five workshops in Jerusalem were held as the communities had heard about our work, and there have been other demands for them.
- Between July 31 and November 30, 22 workshops were held in Gaza and three in Jenin. The Gaza workshops were held in the neighborhood of Southern District Alrimal and Sheikh Radwan. 413 Palestinian youth participated, with 227 females and 187 males. The main subjects included Palestinian youth citizen appeal, Palestinian citizenship, rights and duties of Palestinian youth, and the legitimacy of elections being held and their benefits. The trainers were Ali Abu Shahla and Asma Qwaider in Gaza and Iman Ratrout in Jenin. Three workshops were held for each school/institution responding to the lesson learned from the two previous projects. Only private schools agreed to hold the workshops in Gaza, as the others needed approval from Hamas ministry of interior. One school in Gaza asked the trainer to leave during the first hour because of fear of political discussions. Partisanship of some participants also prevented some of the university students from continuing, so there appeared a shrinking of the number of participants in the second and third workshops. Political split dominated some of the workshops, forcing the trainer to act as a lecturer rather than a trainer.
- Between November 30 and February 28, 2010, another five workshops were held in Gaza, five in Jenin, and five in Jerusalem. 12-20 youth participated in the Jenin workshops, 12-17 in the ones in Jerusalem, and 11-20 in Gaza, with 16-23 female and 19-34 male participants. The main subjects included Palestinian youth citizen appeal, Palestinian citizenship, rights and duties of Palestinian youth, problems faced by youth and their analysis and connecting them with the draft citizen appeal, and developing the draft of youth citizenship appeal. The trainers were Iman Ratrout in the West Bank and Asma Qwaider in Gaza.
Guiding Principles for Israeli/Palestinian Academic Cooperation
Few Israeli and Palestinian academics, university faculty members, or researchers in specialized institutions or think-tanks have cooperated with each other in research projects or maintained a sustained working relationship. Over the years an estimated 2% of the Israeli academics and approximately 5% of their Palestinian counterparts have participated in such ventures. The vast majority of Israeli academics have either remained indifferent or opposed, concentrating on their own careers and research agendas. In the case of the Palestinians, academics have opposed passively or actively, establishing such relationships across the divide. Even if the few academics who participated have made substantial contributions to the advancement of peace, their work represents only a small fraction of the potential of this sector of society. Furthermore, those figures, calculated before the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in October 2000, may have been further reduced by the increasing psychological hostility between Israelis and Palestinians due to the widespread use of violence by both communities as well as by the physical limitations, such as checkpoints, the separation wall, and legal statutes, thus restricting contact between the two national groups.
Consequently, in 2004 UNESCO approached the CDCD and the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace (a research institute located at the Hebrew University) in regard to a study of the obstacles and promise of establishing a sound basis for academic and intellectual cooperation across the socio- political divide. CDCD and Truman have been involved over the years in a series of projects and have consequently acquired a vast experience in the field of conflict resolution and joint Israel-Palestinian activity, while developing a close working unilaterally within sectors of the Palestinian and Israeli civil societies not currently engaged in bi-national activity.
The Aim of the Project:
The ultimate goal of this project is to explore avenues for significantly increasing the percentage of Israeli and Palestinian academics and intellectuals engaged in constructive dialogue for peace. The starting point is the articulation and agreement of shared principles for effective cooperation. To that end, we submitted a draft text outlining “ground rules” for dialogue, a set of principles or code of ethics that highlights the necessary conditions for change in bringing a higher number of our Israeli and Palestinian colleagues to join the effort to make dialogue for peace a priority.
The goal of the project is to acknowledge the “other” and to act together on the knowledge of a shared reality and a shared social responsibility in changing the unacceptable situation that Israelis and Palestinians find themselves in. This action research project, undertaken under the auspices of UNESCO, aims at providing a better understanding of the underlying difficulties and the potential for change in the current Israeli-Palestinian context. The first year the research team undertook an in-depth study of the current stance of academics and intellectuals toward Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, and drafted a set of principles that could encourage academic cooperation. The short set of guiding principles for dialogue and cooperation was derived from a series of interviews and focus groups held with Palestinian and Israeli academics and intellectuals. The guiding principles reflect, therefore, mutual understandings that emerged out of open discussion regarding the social responsibilities of academics and intellectuals due to our shared professional commitment to academic freedom.
The Outcome of the Project :
The Code of Ethics for the Palestinian, Israeli, and international academics, intellectuals and all people in general was produced and distributed.
The Jerusalem Institute
for Israel Studies
Over the years UNESCO has aimed to contribute to establishing a constructive dialogue between the two societies through its program Civil Societies in Dialogue: Israel / Palestine. Several studies have been carried out, resulting in the publication of three books prepared jointly by Israeli and Palestinian teams. CDCD has had a central role in these studies and publications.
- Mapping of Mainstream Israeli and Palestinian Organizations Willing to Engage in Dialogue, proposes a study of cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations and presents the main organizations and their level of engagement in dialogue. Prepared by the Palestinian Centre for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development (Panorama, now CDCD), it contains a report by the Centre for Multiculturalism and Educational Research of Haifa University and a report by the Institute for Community Partnership in Bethlehem. To download in English: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001575/157520e.pdf
- The Evaluation of the Cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli NGOs: An Assessment, was prepared by the Jerusalem Institute for Israeli Studies (JIIS) in cooperation with the International Centre for Peace and Cooperation of Jerusalem (IPCC), and with texts from writers including CDCD's Walid Salem. It offers a critical analysis of the initiatives for dialogue and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian NGOs. Currently available in English, Hebrew and shortly in Arabic, this book compiles an Israeli report, a Palestinian report, and a joint report together with the findings from a workshop organized by JIIS in 2006. To download in English: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001561/156120e.pdf
- Proposed Guiding Principles for Israeli/Palestinian Academic Cooperation: Translating the Shared Adherence to Academic Freedom into Action, presents a project of guiding principles for dialogue and cooperation to enable the establishment of academic and intellectual cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian Institutions.
Prepared by Panorama Centre (now CDCD) and by the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, it is available in English, Arabic and Hebrew. To download in English: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001564/156437e.pdf
The recommendations contained in these three publications are the subject of meetings with academics and intellectuals in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories. The purpose of these meetings is to disseminate such publications and build a consensus among policy-makers around the proposed set of principles for academic cooperation between Israel and Palestine.
The achievements of the time period 2004-2007 include joint meetings of Palestinian and Israeli academics and intellectuals, as well as meetings in Palestine and Israel. The year 2006 especially saw a lot of meetings in preparation for future projects.
Joint Meetings of Palestinian and Israeli Academics and Intellectuals:
- May 31, 2006 Conference: 100 people attended, a draft of a new document A Code of ethics for peace activism was presented.
- June 7, 2006 Van Leer Institute meeting: At that meeting 16 participants attended from both sides.
- June 20, 2006 meeting at Eddy Kaufman's house to launch a new book edited by Eddy, Walid Salem, and Juliette Verhoven from the European Center for Conflict Prevention, titled Bridging the Divide: Peace Building in the Israeli Palestinian Conflict. 40 academics and intellectuals attended from both sides. Eddy distributed copies of the Guiding principles for Dialogue and Cooperation.
Meetings in Palestine:
- Jenin: Nasser Sheikh Ali held a meeting attended by 12 academics from the Open Jerusalem University on June 11, 2006.
- Gaza: The meeting there was not possible considering the crisis that began after the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on June 25, 2006, followed by the killing and injuring of hundreds of Palestinians by Israeli forces. The academics in Gaza released a statement, and also the Faculty for Palestinian Peace International (FFIPPI) released an urgent call to stop the violence and to make peace.
- Ramallah: Participation in the development of a code of ethics of the Palestinian NGO’s there, and contacting the 16 academics who participated in the first stage of the project again and speaking to them about their positions. More were now less supportive of relations with Israeli academics.
- Meeting on June 8, 2006 with Hanna Seniroa and Ata Qaymari.
- The group of intellectuals of the Palestinian National Theatre were contacted again on June 29, 2006. Unlike West Bank and Gaza people, they were more supportive of joint cooperation with Israeli academics and ready to conduct joint activities.
- Meeting with Dr. Bernard Sabella on September 22 (a member in the Palestinian Legislative Council, who showed a position against normalization).
- Dr. Mustapha Abu Sway, the Director of the Islamic Research Center in Al-Quds University indicated in a meeting at CDCD on August 5, 2006, that Israel should choose between denying Palestinian violence or Palestinian nonviolence, not both, and since boycott to the Israeli academics who are against the Palestinian rights of self determination is a nonviolent activity, Israel should accept it and also respect it.
Meetings in Israel:
- In addition to some individual meetings, Eddy Kaufman had two activities at Haifa University on June 6, 2006:
- At the Arab-Jewish Center a meeting with the board including Gabriel Warburg (former Rector of Haifa University), the Director, and others. The general reaction was positive to the idea, but with some suggestions.
- A conference on "Building Walls" at Haifa University. 60-80 people attended, and Eddy Kaufman had the honor to speak in the final section with an Arab Member of Knesset. His presentation generated many questions, particularly his references to the President of Haifa University who had rejected the boycott initiated by the British Union of University Teachers on the grounds that this was an attack on academic freedom. Eddy concurred but asked where was the President when the Israeli government closed Palestinian universities time and again, a worse form of collective punishment since it affected both faculty and students. It showed how relevant the code of ethics was, given the concern of Israeli universities about the international boycott.
2008-2009 Meetings and Advocacy:
- A Civil Societies in Dialogue Program work meeting with UNESCO's Assistant Director-General Mr. Pierre Sane on March 10, 2008. Discussion concentrated on: the guiding principles for Israeli-Palestinian academic cooperation, their promotion through the internet, and proposing an action plan for phase IV of the project; evaluation of the different evaluations of the situation, promotion of code of principles for peace-building cooperation; the mapping of mainstream Israeli and Palestinian organizations willing to engage in dialogue; and evaluation of the cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli NGOs.
- In addition, the Guiding Principles document was distributed to the 300 participants of the One Year after Annapolis conference held by CDCD in cooperation with Al-Quds University on November 26-27, 2008. The document was also distributed at two other events: at the Notre Dame Hotel on December 18, 2008 and at the Ambassador Hotel on January 15, 2009.
Altogether 24 workshops were held in Palestine and in Israel discussing the Guiding Principles for academic cooperation. The workshop preparation team included Walid Shomali, Taleb Awad, Samir Awad, Nasser Al Sheikh Ali, Khaled Zawawi, Ali Abu Shahla, and Walid Salem.
The First 12 Workshops (October 2008 - February 20, 2009):
Of the first twelve workshops, 11 were held in Palestine and one in Israel. Of the Palestinian workshops, two were held in Nablus, one in Bethlehem, four in Jerusalem, three in Ramallah, and one in Gaza. The number of Palestinians who participated in the 11 workshops and the electronic communication reached 373 academics and intellectuals. This group consisted of 128 Jerusalemites, 63 from Ramallah area, 25 from Bethlehem, 16 from Hebron, 38 from Nablus, 38 from Gaza, and 9 from Jenin, in addition to 62 academics working in the PA presidential office and ministries, and PLC members. The positions of the academics and intellectuals varied, influenced by which governorate they lived in, their status in society, how much cooperation they already had with Israeli colleagues, and whether they worked in the PA or independently. The workshop held at the Haifa University in Israel had 17 participants.
Nasser Asheikh Ali Ghassan Al-Sheikh Khalid Zawawi
Al-Mustaqbal Hall, Nablus
Dr. Walid Shomaly
Talitha Kumi School, Beit Jala
Ramallah (3 workshops)
Al-Azhar University, Gaza
Eddy Kaufman & Walid Salem
The Second Group of 12 Workshops (March 1 – May 31, 2009):
The second group of twelve workshops again discussed the Guiding Principles for academic cooperation. 11 of the workshops were held in Israel, and one in Palestine. Participation of Israeli academics at different workshops was between 5 (Oranim) and 30 (Tel Aviv University), from young researchers only (Van Leer Institute) to leading authorities (Deans, Vice President for Research, Tel Aviv University). There were fewer participants than expected. In some cases, it may have been for technical reasons, but perhaps it showed a low current interest of the subject of cooperation across the divide, and even on the overall topic of academic freedom.
Eddy Kaufman & Walid Salem
Eddy Kaufman & Walid Salem
Bar Ilan University
Eddy Kaufman & Walid Salem
Haifa University (2)
Eddy Kaufman & Walid Salem
Eddy Kaufman & Walid Salem
Beit Berl Academic College
Eddy Kaufman & Walid Salem
Minerva Human Rights Center /Tel Aviv University
Eddy Kaufman & Walid Salem
Israeli Foreign Ministry
Eddy Kaufman & Walid Salem
Edy Kaufman & Walid Salem
Ben Gurion University
Gaza/Al-Azhar University Academics (2)
The following is a brief summary of our findings in the workshops of views on the proposed guiding principles:
Israeli academics were divided between those who felt that the role of the academic in society is to be objective and to conduct (apolitical) research, and those who saw it as one of social and political responsibility, providing a unique position from which they could disseminate ideas and help to influence public opinion. Within the Israeli academic community, many who supported the idea of a set of guiding principles for dialogue and cooperation emphasized that the document should not be a political statement, but should point specifically to prerequisites for cooperation, such as freedom of movement, access to laboratories, etc. The proposed guiding principles thus do not copy existing international principles. Nevertheless, the Israeli focus groups also felt that the guiding principles should reflect universal principles that cross dividing lines and do not leave room for conflicting interpretations. Some Israelis also felt that the guiding principles should not be compulsory for cooperative projects, but should be a basis for voluntary adherence, perhaps consisting of a series of clauses that academics, who tend to be individualists, can feel more or less committed to and endorse at will.
Israelis suggested that the proposed guiding principles should outline rules of behaviour for cooperation, and that they should also specify the extreme situations that justify the cessation of such cooperation. The document should be inclusive in nature and should emphasize both collective and individual responsibilities in a manner that encourages introspection. Project stakeholders should be encouraged to experience the conditions of the other side. Meetings should therefore be encouraged not only in Israel but also in the Palestinian territories, using both Arabic and Hebrew if possible, or a third language, such as English, as a bridge. The work should be conducted openly, transparently, in a manner that would overcome institutional, peer and social objections.
Those Israelis who were against the idea of guiding principles for dialogue and cooperation stated that they were concerned with the politicization of cooperation that could result. They suggested that practical projects might be more important than a declamatory document, and that the process of creating such a document might lead to a negative reaction that could harm the few meaningful Israeli-Palestinian ties still in existence. Others argued that academic cooperation should grow naturally rather than be artificially stimulated, and that if violence is one of the constraints on cooperation, the real issue is to fight against terror.
Palestinian academics, since the outbreak of the first Intifada, have split into those remaining at universities, those who have left to work for professional NGOs, those who have joined Palestinian political parties as ideologues, and those working for the PA. While some of these academics continue to work on Track II activities and proposals for final-status issues, others have resigned from public service out of frustration. Like their Israeli counterparts, Palestinian academics are divided between those who believe it is enough for academics to teach and influence their societies through their research and influence on the young, and those who believe that academics have a social and political responsibility to be the vanguards of their people. A large number of participants, however, were against the creation of a set of guiding principles as long as the current political situation persists. Many of these same academics and intellectuals expressed a willingness to explore such a possibility if a Palestinian state were to be established alongside Israel, thereby ending the current asymmetry.
Palestinian participants mentioned many obstacles to dialogue and cooperation stemming from the current political and social situation in the Palestinian territories. In addition to the Israeli occupation, these obstacles include the crisis of Palestinian identity, the lack of freedom of thought, and the power of militant groups that threatens the personal and professional safety of academics. The university structure itself provides another obstacle, as many Palestinian academics must take up additional employment in order to augment their low salaries, and extreme competition for positions exists between those who have foreign degrees and those educated locally.
The Palestinians expressed more specific objections stemming from past experience with dialogue activities. As one participant noted, "We were defeated when we resisted Israel and we were defeated again when we normalized with Israel without good previous preparation." Others felt that Israeli academics were humanistic Zionists or were against Palestinians, and that their attitudes prevented cooperation. Palestinians also mentioned the campaign to boycott Israeli acdemics, stating that they could not be against it considering the silence of Israeli academics towards the occupation. They also provided accounts of previous failed efforts at dialogue. Some believed that negotiations and relations across the divide should be left to political decision-makers.
A minority of Palestinians supported the idea of guiding principles for dialogue and cooperation now, provided that the Israeli academics support the Palestinian people's rights to self-determination and statehood. A few were willing to support professional cooperation regardless of political positions, and others only cooperation between "comrades" from both sides (i.e. left-wing academics and intellectuals). Palestinians disagreed as to whether the basis for these guiding principles should not be a law or a tool for restricting freedom of thought. Further, the proposed guiding principles should include the specific values and norms relevant to joint Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, including the responsibility of academics towards the ability to practice of other academics living on the same land. The guiding principles should emphasize social responsibility, acceptance of diversity, and understanding the needs and positions of the other side. Like their Israeli counterparts, the Palestinian academics stressed the need for transparency, commitment to a common vision rather than to funder's objectives, to work against tendencies to justify violence, and to act in a professional and objective manner.
Proposed Guiding Principles for Israeli/Palestinian Academic Cooperation:
The workshops provided a study of the stance of academics and intellectuals towards Palestinian-Israeli dialogue. A set of principles were drafted that would encourage academic cooperation. The set of principles for dialogue and cooperation derived from these focus groups reflect mutual understandings that emerged from open discussions on the social responsibilities of academics and intellectuals arising from our shared professional commitment to academic freedom.
Middle East Citizens' Assembly
Peoples' Initiative for Peace, Progress and Political Pluralism
Middle East Citizens' Assembly
December 10th, 2001, the participants in the Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue on Terrorism and the New War Seminar in Istanbul, sponsored by the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly (HCA) and Inter-church Peace Council of the Netherlands (IKV), adopted the resolution to establish the Middle East Citizens' Assembly (MECA). Establishing MECA was a response to post-Cold War era issues, the New World Order, and the September 11th tragic events. The Assembly was envisioned to serve as the peoples' initiative for peace, reconciliation and cooperation with the aim of promoting civil society and human rights through constructive dialogue among the peoples, cultures and civilizations in the broader Middle East Region including Caucasus, Central Asia and North Africa (MECCANA).
An interim coordinating council composed of the participants from Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and associate members from the Netherlands (IKV) and Finland (HCA) was elected to plan and to coordinate the future actions. The concept was discussed further at a meeting held in Baku in 2003, and it was given explicit attention at the Human Security roundtable held in Amman by the Oxford Research Group and H.H. Prince Hassan of Jordan in May, 2004. Panorama Center (now CDCD) assumed responsibility for organizing a founding conference in Amman on March 5-7, 2005, under the auspices of HRH Prince Hassan and generous contributions of IKV.
MECA founding meeting in Amman, March 5th-7th, 2005.
Individuals and NGO representatives from the civil society in the Middle East and Europe attended the conference. They debated issues on the agenda and participated in the process of establishing this regional organization representing the needs, worries, and interests of civil society and the voice of the silenced majority in the region. The founding meeting elected a coordinating committee of nine members; Walid Salem of the CDCD was elected as a coordinator of this committee and for the overall work of the Middle East Citizens' Assembly.
Since then, members from most countries in the region have joined MECA, as well as from a few other countries in Europe and North America.
Project aims and objectives:
The project aim is to advance the transformation of people from subjects and compatriots to respected citizens in the regions of West Asia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and North Africa. More specifically, MECA's goals are:
- Promoting dialogue, solidarity, and experience sharing among people on the cultural, political, and social level.
- Encouraging initiatives for peace, reconciliation, and cooperation.
- Stimulating citizens’ participation in the political development process of building and protecting democracy and civil society on the basis of human and citizen rights.
- Developing human and economic resources through the empowerment of free citizens and the protection of their rights for free and prosperous life.
- Promoting recognition of citizenship, human rights, and human security at all levels, and awareness of the delicate balance between these (mutually exclusive) concepts.
- Enhancing citizen-citizen interaction and the free intra and inter region flow of people regardless of their national identity, ethnicity, religion, gender, or any other type of difference.
- Encouraging participatory democracy and democratic transformation processes in the region.
- Advocating peaceful changes in the region and rejecting all forms of terrorism, including group as well as state terrorism, occupation, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
- Promoting East-West dialogue and togetherness between human beings on the basis of mutual respect of diversity and multiculturalism.
- Addressing anguish of suffering and minimizing or even canceling injustice.
- Raising the voice of the silenced majority or of the conscience, and protecting those who dare to raise their voice in face of illegitimate governments and regimes that continue to govern against the will of their peoples and the will of the international community.
- Empowering groups and individuals to be responsible for their own fate, especially women, youth, the oppressed and dispossessed, and those discriminated against.
- Helping implement a humanitarian order, a code of ethics, or a code of conduct in human interrelations as well as with nature, to prevent all kinds of racism, discrimination, exploitation, abuse, and violence.
- Raising and advancing a moral authority above politics, or a charter of rights and responsibility in each society and in international relations.
- Human and social solidarity and mutual commitment to the human values of justice, equality and fraternity.
- Promoting dialogue on all levels: cultural, political, social, and religious dialogue among all parties involved: states, classes, sects, national and religious groups, and between governments and civil society.
- Reconstructing the relations between governments and civil society.
- Promoting the moderate and main stream trend in Islam in face of extremism.
Vision and values:
MECA looks to become a citizens’ participatory movement to increase respect for human and citizen rights, peace, freedom, democracy, human security, solidarity, equality, and the promotion of diversity, beyond subjects and compatriots, tribal, sectarian, and cliental fragmentations, in the way leading to new, diverse, cohesive, and integrative societies of equal citizens all around the region. MECA is a civilians' organization that is based on citizens initiatives in the region with a vision that ensures the following values and principles:
- Democracy, pluralism, transparency, accountability, and good governance.
- Peace, reconciliation, cooperation, human and civil rights.
- Freedom and dignity in all their human aspects, especially freedom from fear, and for all human beings.
- Solidarity building and civic affinity-“infinity” (citizens stick together).
- Respect for cultural, economic, and social rights.
- Education and human resources development and capacity building.
- Human and social solidarity and mutual commitment to human values of justice, equality and fraternity
Internal organizational principles and commitments:
A coordinating committee of nine members is elected on personal basis to facilitate and coordinate actions. Parallel chapter committees are established in each member country with a chairperson responsible for coordination with the committee.
The MECA coordinating committee works with its chapters upon the following principles:
- Decentralization: the right of every chapter to choose and decide on programs suitable for their own situation.
- Open communication: promoting togetherness, care, trust, and responsibility to protect one another.
- Inclusiveness: open structures open for membership for anyone, with full rights to all members to run in elections in MECA chapters and the coordinating committee.
The mutual commitments include respect even upon differences in opinions, accepting and adopting compromise wherever there is no possibility for consensus, empowering one another to promote the aims and goals of the organization in their respective countries, and strengthening interrelations between the countries of the region.
Bottlenecks and Potentials:
The countries, nations, and peoples of the broader Middle East region, despite significant historical ties and common backgrounds, are for the most part quite isolated from each other, and there are relatively few intra-regional exchanges between the nations in the region. The post-Cold War era has been concurrent with the eruptions and resurfacings of ancient rivalries, tribal animosities, religious sectarianism, cultural animosities, and a complex range of intra-regional as well as inter-regional conflicts. The range of conflicts may be defined as conflicts between and amongst: East and West, sub-regions, nations, religions, ethnicities, minorities, genders, ruling classes vs. the people, and so on. Persistence and the intensification of these conflicts have created a murky future outlook of the entire region as reflected in the challenges of the masses, particularly those of the women and the youth. The welfare of the Middle East Region, and the whole world for that matter, rests on the immediate serious dialogue among the peoples of the region for the amelioration of these conflicts. There is a serious need for intra-regional citizens' activism which MECA is trying to promulgate.
However, while the older generations are entangled in the realms of settling centuries-old scores of tribalism, sectarianism, and bitter historical memories of colonialism, the younger generations are moving fast from national issues to regional identities and international affairs. The new generation constituting more than half of the population of every nation in the region manifests contrasting qualities conducive to the modern age. The information age has empowered the youth to ascend quickly from the national identity to the regional issues and beyond to the global concerns. Thus, the Middle East is at a critical junction capable of a historical transformation into the modern world and the information age: a move in which all manifestations of an advanced society – democracy, civil society, transparency, accountability, pluralism, tolerance, human rights and the like – are inseparable prerequisites. The youth, academics, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and professionals constitute the “agents of change” in the region. These are the segments of the populations most capable of assuming this historical role. The MECA Virtual Community (MECA-VC) was envisioned as a pilot project to introduce and promote such an approach.
Elemental to any realistic change in the socio-political structures of the nations in the Middle East is a grass root citizens’ participation in across-border intraregional dialogue without interference from local governments or outside influences. Internet based forums offer empowering tools for the emergence of open virtual communities conducive to the advancements of civil society, transparency, rule of law, human rights, political pluralism, peace, stability and regional cohesion. MECA-VC was planned as a foundation for a web-based platform for citizens’ participation leading to a more open environment for debates on political pluralism and democratization processes.
2001- 2007 Achievements:
From the initial steps in 2001 through to 2006, MECA experienced small to medium size gatherings of the activists and academics in Istanbul, Baku, Amman and Venice. Each event attracted more memberships and better articulation of its goals and objectives. The idea of MECA attracted significant interest throughout the region and the initial undertakings have proven to be a worthwhile initiative. Local travel restrictions caused some difficulties though. Dependence on the physical presence of individuals limited the number of locations where all members from different countries could attend, as there are problems associated with the travel of our members from Israel, Palestine, Syria, and Iran.
After the Amman meeting in 2005, MECA chapters were established in Israel-Palestine (the Bringing Peace Together project), Iran, Morocco, Tunis, Algeria and Azerbaijan. Some of the other activities included a fruitful visit to Syria and Lebanon, designing the MECA portal, and 12 people working on the website: www.meca.Name (Ali Rabi), registering MECA in the Netherlands, roundtable meetings in Rabat, and the MECA virtual community proposal.
- In Palestine, we had already held four meetings before the founding conference in Amman in 2005; in Jenin, Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, where 60 people participated to discuss the idea of MECA. Also we were cooperating with different organizations including the Arkan project in order to promote citizenship in Palestine.
- In Israel, Edy Kaufman and Izhak Schnell developed a paper that aimed to bring peace movements and human rights organizations together in order to amalgamate peace with justice.
- In Tunis, Mohsen Marzouk began to establish a chapter there; in Jordan, Walid Salem met Ibrahim Tahtamoni who agreed to establish a MECA branch in Jordan; in France, Kamal Jandoubi and Khamis Kisila agreed to establish a MECA chapter for the immigrants there.
MECA regional seminars, conferences, roundtables and missions:
- Bridge between East and West: Dialogue of Cultures and Civilizations (Baku, 8-9 May 2003)
- New Tactics in Human Rights - Regional Training Seminar for the Eastern Mediterranean & Middle East (Sili, Turkey, 4-7 September 2003)
- Human Security in the Middle East - The Oxford Group roundtable (Amman, May 10-14, 2004)
- MECA Founding Session, Declaration of MECA Vision and Mission (Amman, March 5-7, 2005)
- Syria and Lebanon Fact Finding Missions, Delegation composed of MECA members (Damascus and Beirut, June 6-14, 2005)
- Seminar on Political Pluralism and Electoral Processes, European Union Inter-University Center for Human Rights, with MECA session and presentation of action plan (Venice, Italy, 19-24 July, 2005)
- MECA General Assembly II (Amman, March 7-9, 2006)
- Conference in Tanzania (November, 2006)
- WANA meeting with H.R.H. Prince Hassan (Islamabad, February 2007)
- Attending Majlis El-Hassan and Sasakawa Peace Foundation meeting: Promoting Political Participation as an Alternative to Extremism (Amman, June 12, 2006).
- Attending WOCMES meeting (World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies) in Amman on June 6th, 2006, and holding a meeting about MECA.
- Attending Majlis Al-Hassan meeting about political participation (July 11th-12th, 2006), where the MECA strategic plan was presented. The Participants were from the Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy, the Sasakawa Foundation, and the European Social Economic Council, among others. The Finnish and the Japanese participants showed interest in receiving proposals about MECA work in order to see how they can help secure funding for MECA.
- Participating in Middle East Youth Forum meeting in Istanbul from August 29th to September 2nd, 2006).
- Organizing a huge web, portal, and blog for MECA: Ali Rabi.
- Trying to organize a Jordanian- Israeli- Palestinian trilateral meeting, in cooperation with EU Social Economic Council upon their request.
- Writing two research papers about the role of the third party and Turkey in the Israeli Palestinian Conflict upon participation in two conferences on these issues. These two papers can be found on: www.bringingpeacetogether.org
- Participating in the establishment of Al-Kawakibi Center (14-15 June 2006).
- Registering of MECA in the Netherlands.
- A series of dialogues in Rabat (March-October 2007), bringing together representatives of various political and ideological currents in Morocco. Four roundtables discussed the best ways of preserving civil peace and narrowing the rift between differing points of view. The meetings led to extensive media coverage and the publishing of a book based on the discussion: Islamists Versus Seculars - Confrontations and Dialogues in Morocco.
- MECA Virtual Community Proposal by Eddy Kaufman and Alriza Rabi
Visit to Syria and Lebanon:
The MECA delegation visit to Syria and Lebanon took place on June 6-14 2005. The group met with a whole range of people in the changing Syrian society varying from human rights activists and NGO representatives to religious leaders and MP’s. While the group was in Syria the Ba’ath party had a convention which decided to advise the government to enlarge political pluralism in Syria; there was an atmosphere of crisis and immense pressure on the regime from the activating grassroots and human rights groups, with a current leading either to reform or to a collapse of the repressive regime.
Lebanon, a country of many different groups, will always feel the consequences of any international or regional tensions, including 30 years of civil war and an oppressive Syrian presence afterwards. However, the atmosphere in Lebanon during our visit was overall much more optimistic than in Syria. Elections were going on with political activists and NGOs very much involved in the elections and the campaigns. Most people we spoke with were optimistic about the chance to deal with the political problems, although the real political problems were not openly on the agenda during the elections. The real political issues were: economics, internal reforms, relations with the Arab world, the disarmament of Hezbollah, relations with Israel, the position of the Palestinian refugees, and the restructuring of the security system.
The second annual meeting:
MECA held the second annual meeting in Amman on March 7-9, 2006, as an opportunity to discuss the agenda for the coming years. The aim was to discuss experiences and visions and to analyze the situation on the ground, to strengthen the existing chapters and organize new chapters, discuss ways to promote women's and youth participation in MECA work, develop special campaigns such as one in solidarity with the Iraqi people and a campaign for citizenship. Also, this meeting was an opportunity to develop the organizational aspect of MECA work (charter and registration mainly), and to improve the use of the website and the portal in campaigns.
The meeting included previous members as well as new members from MECA chapters, with the participation of people from 15 Middle Eastern countries and four other countries. These included Jordan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Algeria, Syria, Tunis, Morocco, Yemen, Turkey, Sudan, Netherlands, France, Germany, and Japan. Other participants included those who we met in Syria, Lebanon, Venice, Cairo and other places where MECA participated in international meetings. The significance of this year's meeting was the attendance of the members of the “Middle East Youth Forum”, which held its founding conference from the 4th to the 7th of March, also in Amman. The new coordinating committee was elected at the end of the meeting and two young people from the new youth Forum were elected to its membership.
Visits to Morocco:
A series of dialogues took place in Rabat between March and October 2007 organized by MECA in association with IKV Pax Christi and the Moroccan Association. The primary goal of these discussions was to bring together representatives of various political and ideological currents in Morocco, including those who participated in the government and those who oppose its policies. Four roundtables of intellectuals, political leaders, and civil society players reflected on the best ways of preserving civil peace and narrowing the rift between differing points of view.
Even as there were opponents among both the secularists and the Islamists who radically reject to deal with the state, most parties clearly showed a willingness to cooperate with the system in order to get change into society. 500 people took part in these encounters. Movements such as the Islamic association of Al-Adl-Wal-Ihsan ("justice&charity") and the Marxist party of Al-Nahj Al-Dimouuqrati ("democratic approach") argued their stances face-to-face, while insisting that only public opinion within the context of a democratic regime can decide between them. The meetings led to extensive media coverage. Al-Jazeera broadcast large extracts of these dialogues between the Islamists and the Left. The discussions between secularists and religious groups were also published in a book called Islamists Versus Seculars - Confrontations and Dialogues in Morocco, edited by Ma'ati Monjib.
- In Amman on January 1; an annual meeting where MECA members discussed the way forward and planned upcoming activities.
- May 25-26 a MECA core group meeting in Cyprus. There was discussion about which term should be used: WANA or MECA. Other items on the agenda were the progress on the citizenship chapter, virtual community, structure, and participation and funding strategies.
- November 6-7 saw a third core group meeting. Participants planned an agenda for the following Annual Assembly, reviewed the hot topics in the region such as the American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, extremist groups in the area, MECA’s role in the war on terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and MECA's role in it.
- On September 23 there was a conference in Irbil (Kurdistan) on human security in Iraq and Palestine. Participants included academics from different universities in Bagdad, Basra, and Mosul. A delegation from Kirkuk shared their perspectives and knowledge on human security in Iraq, and we presented the situation in Palestine.
2008 Other Activities:
- January 8-9 MECA participated in a conference called Voices from Asia: A Citizens' Charter, organized by Prince Hassan bin Talal and his office. Together we developed a citizens’ charter as a way to promote regional cooperation for social and economic development in the West Asia and North Africa region. This meeting was the third of its kind, with the two previous ones in Amman and Islamabad.
- The chapter in Morocco produced a book based on the conference they had on the dialogue between Muslims and seculars in Morocco.
- The chapter in Iran worked on the virtual community. They have been operating under the International University of Iran.
- MECA participated in an Arab thought forum that was held in Rabat, April 22-24. Walid Salem represented MECA and helped prepare the citizenship appeal.
- July 24-27 both Walid Salem and Hussein Shaaban helped develop the one page citizen appeal with Al Kawakibi Center, a document that is used in a broad campaign for citizenship rights in the Middle East.
- The Palestine-Israel chapter represented by Walid Salem participated in a peace education week, an annual conference planned by IPCRI presenting MECA in one of its sessions.
- More work was done on the MECA Virtual Community (MECA-VC).
- The MECA General Assembly meeting was held in Amman, February 24-25. Discussion included: the reconstruction of Gaza through a path of human security and just peace; the new context in the region with new administrations in the US and in Israel; the Arab Peace Initiative as a vehicle to comprehensive peace; MECA and the Islamist movements in the region; disarmament, the human security doctrine in the region, and non-violence; MECA virtual community, MECA passports, and upcoming MECA activities; campaigns and regional issues, regional unity, and freedom of movement in the region; MECA networking, fundraising; election of the new coordinating committee.
- May 28 meeting between IKV Pax Christi, MECA, and WANA Forum. Topics included an overview of the Wana Forum, its role in MECA, the relationship between the three groups, and the activities of MECA in Jordan.
- July 1 meeting about focusing on immigrant youth, and creating dialogue between the immigrants coming from the Middle East and the hosting communities in Europe to discuss marginalization, discrimination, economic and social disadvantages, negative stereotypical views about each other, and other obstacles to the adaptation process.
MECA General Assembly - Amman, 24-25 February 2009
One outcome from the General Assembly annual meeting was the establishing of nine working groups each with its own topic of study from the proposed nine issues that are of concern to the majority of countries in the region. These issues are:
- The Arab Peace Initiative and campaigning for a US role in peace building
- Princes and public figures for citizenship and peace
- Weapons of Mass Destruction
- Capital Punishment
- Freedom of movement
- Islamic/secular dialogue
- The virtual community
The nine themes selected were the basis of research with the plan to build constituencies around them during the years 2010-2012. Among our members were experts in some of the themes who research and/or work closely with these issues as individuals in other capacities.
2009 Other Activities:
- The Palestinian Refugee Project: the issue of refugees and the related phenomenon of statelessness represent some of the primary challenges throughout the Middle East. Several prominent examples include the refugee crisis in Iraq, the Darfur region of Sudan, and Palestine, while Kuwait and several other Gulf states face the vexing issue of statelessness, and the Kurds are deprived of their right to citizenship in Syria. This project was planned to deal with the oldest refugee crisis situations in the Middle East: the Palestinians. The project would compare the living conditions and status of the Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, the Gaza strip, Iraq, and Lebanon, then devise strategies for resolving these refugee problems, improving living conditions on the ground, and solving the citizenship issues. A conference was planned in Beirut featuring workshops about the refugees of each country, on the legal, economic, political, social, and cultural issues, and conclusions, comparisons, and development of policies to be presented to regional and international decision-makers.
- Taking part in the Human Rights Committee of Lahore High Court Bar Association's condemnation of suicide attacks and the use of violence against innocent lives.
A Program for Young Palestinian and Israeli Environmental Leaders
Palestinians and Israelis share a small geographical area with common ecological systems and common ecological problems, such as water shortages, contamination of water supplies, unsound solid waste disposal practices, and air pollution. The need to solve our shared environmental issues necessitates cooperation. But coordination, let alone cooperation, between Israeli and Palestinian environmentalists is extremely difficult due to ongoing political unrest and security concerns. In turn, deteriorating environmental conditions – particularly the uneven distribution of scarce water resources controlled by Israel – fuel the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. As a result of the breakdown of the Oslo peace process, many of the governmental mechanisms for environmental cooperation have collapsed, and many Palestinian-Israeli NGOs have folded. Indeed, due to the military ban on travel, Palestinians and Israelis rarely even see one another any more. Now more than ever resolving the environmental crisis facing our region requires leadership of a young, energized network of Palestinian and Israeli environmental activists. New cooperative initiatives must be undertaken, for the sake of the environment and for the sake of peaceful coexistence.
CDCD cooperates in the Shared Destiny project with the Adam Institute for Democracy and Peace (ADAM), an Israeli NGO with expertise in democracy and peace education.
Shared Destiny creates a professional and personal network of young Palestinian and Israeli environmental activists who are not only well-versed in environmental issues, but are also masters of conflict resolution and creative problem-solving. By developing dialogue among young environmentalists from both sides the program creates a network of interpersonal contacts that will initiate substantive attitudinal reorientation and, in turn, strengthen the possibility for peaceful coexistence.
The primary goal of the project is not to address a specific environmental problem, but rather to create a grassroots network. Our project encourages the Palestinian and Israeli participants to brainstorm ideas for community projects, to help one another to formulate work plans and to share experiences, achievements, and frustrations. The project is structured to create and strengthen connections between the Israelis and Palestinians without requiring them to meet in person on an ongoing basis, which is difficult under current circumstances. The project also teaches an innovative approach to conflict resolution that is designed to produce creative, joint solutions to environmental problems. The focus is on pollution, not politics, and emphasizes cooperative, creative problem solving.
The program is unique in that it views the conflict of rights approach prevalent in the region, which claims that in order for one to gain the other must lose, a stumbling block to lasting environmental solutions in the region. Often the loser is the environment and the residents of Palestine. The program trains young environmentalists to adopt a different, more effective paradigm for conflict resolution, in which all sides come to recognize that their interests are intertwined. In this way, the external conflict of rights is recast in an internal dilemma. Participants learn to assess a problem from the viewpoint that everyone is harmed if the environment is harmed; everyone, not only the unemployed, is harmed if there is no work; everyone, not only one village, is harmed if an environmental hazard is simply shifted from one place to another. And everyone benefits if creative joint solutions can be found.
The shared interest in the environment and passion for the land we live on can pave the way for dialogue and joint activities – effective instruments for the prevention of crises and the resolution of conflicts.
- CDCD and ADAM worked together to produce a manual in both Hebrew and Arabic based on an existing manual prepared by ADAM in connection with its previous work in the field.
2008-2009 Project Activities:
- Seminar 1: The program brought together 10 Israeli and 10 Palestinian environmental activists for a multi-day seminar, including overnight stay. The seminar offered lectures on environmental issues, workshops on conflict resolution, comprehensive resource materials, and sessions to help the participants plan and implement community-based environmental projects.
- In between the two seminars, a discussion allowed the participants to keep each other appraised of the progress of their projects and to exchange advice and encouragement.
- Seminar 2 (November 2009): Similar to the first seminar five months earlier, with lectures and workshops on environmental issues, it also provided an overview and reflection on the community based environmental projects of the previous months.
- Evaluation meetings after the seminars.
- A performance of eastern and western music by a Palestinian-Jewish youth orchestra. A Palestinian-Jewish mime group performance. A lecture by Salmon Natur, an Arab author and journalist involved in the Israeli-Palestinian dialogues.
- In October 2009 a training course was held about proposal writing and fundraising, with six participants from the Palestinian group participating.
- Environmental Architecture for the Future of Green, November 19, 2009.
Some of the CDCD’s most influential activities include the One Year after Annapolis and the Palestinian Future conferences. These conferences contributed to CDCD’s growing status and prominence in the field of promoting peace and dialogue in the Middle East.
2008 Conference: One Year after Annapolis
The Annapolis Conference was held on November 27, 2007, in the United States. It took place approximately 30 years after Egypt and Israel signed a peace agreement and about 60 years after the United Nations Partition Plan (Resolution 181). The Annapolis Conference marked the first time the two-state solution was articulated as the mutually agreed-upon outline for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The different parties, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and President George W. Bush, cooperated to issue a joint statement at the end of the meeting. The objective of the conference was an attempt to produce a substantive document on resolving the conflict along the lines of the Roadmap for Peace, with the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.
CDCD held the One Year after Annapolis conference on November 26-27, 2008, with local and international experts reviewing the state of the peace process after the Annapolis meeting. It was organized in cooperation with the Al-Quds University, with the two teams working together preparing all the publications, badges, brochures, booklets (the monitoring report no. 3), bios, abstracts, websites, agendas, and invitations, in addition to working with the media. The invitations were sent by CDCD to 8000 people, including politicians, diplomatic missions, academics, peace activists, and media groups in Israel-Palestine and worldwide. Al-Quds University sent an additional 400 invitations from their mailing list. About 100 people were invited to speak in the conference of which 50 confirmed their papers in time. 15 international speakers participated paying fully their own travel and accommodation costs.
300 people participated on the first day, 70 attended on the second day. Participants included academics, representatives of more than 20 diplomatic missions and embassies in Israel and Palestine, in addition to a lot of peace activists. The peace activists included 60 people from the Arava Institute in the Negev with Israelis, Palestinians, and participants from different Arab countries. The conference was covered by different media groups such as Al-Quds University Educational TV, Palestine TV, and Israel TV in Arabic. Articles were published about it in the Al-Quds Newspaper, Benjamin Pogrund wrote an article for the Guardian Newspaper, and Reiner Bernstein wrote a report to the Middle East Department in the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Interviews were made by Dubai international TV and Al-Ekhbariah (Saudi TV) with Abdel Salam Al-Majali, Walid Salem, and Ilai Alon. Angham Radio held a telephone interview with Walid Salem that was broadcast on air. A photography company was hired to prepare photos and videos of the conference.
The speakers expressed diverse positions and analysis. The Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams at that time had consistently reported the talks to be positive and successful, but serious progress had now been marred by Israel's internal political crisis and the Palestinian President's highly unstable position. Prime Minister Olmert had resigned from office in September due to charges of corruption, and Palestinian and Israeli elections coming in January threatened to change the leading parties in both societies to those more critical towards negotiations. The U.S. goal of achieving a peaceful solution in 2008 looked highly unlikely. The situation on the ground, with increasing settlement building in the West Bank, growing settler violence, Palestinian bulldozer attacks in Jerusalem, growing Hamas influence in the West Bank, Israel's increased crackdowns on West Bank civilian networks, Hamas' grip on the Gaza strip, growing demonstrations against the separation barrier, the effects of the global financial crisis and donors pulling out, etc., did not look good. However, certain steps had been taken to relieve the occupation at least superficially, in removing roadblocks, increasing work permits, allowing the purchasing of farming equipment, in security reliefs as certain activities have been facilitated to the Palestinian armed forces, and the "Jenin Pilot" empowering PA security services and economy.
The participation in the conference included a lot of international and Israeli participants. Palestinians participation was less than expected, due to the weak participation of the University Community, the anti-normalization stances with some academics, but also due to reasons such as the absence of permits to West Bank people to join (a number of permit applications were rejected). The speakers from Gaza were unable to participate directly due to the closure of Gaza Strip by the Israeli authorities, and we solved that by communicating with them through a video conference in the second day of the conference.
A book was published on the conference proceedings titled: A Conference of Local and International Experts Reviewing the Peace Process: Towards a Sustainable Peaceful Solution (2009). A letter was sent to the new American administration and the Quartet upon the results of the Conference.
2009 Conference: Palestinian Future
The three-day conference of September 30-October 3, 2009, was titled Palestinian Future. It also was organized in cooperation with Al-Quds University. We contacted 310 possible speakers of which 43 sent in their papers in time and spoke during the three day. The conference was a full of intellectuals from many backgrounds; 330 attended the first day, 160 the second, and 140 the third. The conference was able to discuss all the main issues of the Palestinian future, and it included a variety of opinions within a framework of academic freedom, where all were included and given the floor to speak their opinion.
Five Jordanian participants gave a special flavor to the discussion about the previous, current and future Jordanian-Palestinian relations. Palestinian reconciliation was discussed in depth. 50 participants joined the video conference with Al-Azhar University in Gaza, which presented the participation of all the Palestinians in the process. We had hoped for the participation of Palestinians living in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq via video conference, but the lack of financial resources prevented it this time.
The conference gained extensive media coverage: Al-Jazeera direct channel broadcasted the first sessions live; local TV-stations and others presented daily reports about it; the Al-Quds and Al-Hayah Al-Jadidah newspapers covered the conference with long daily articles; Walid was interviewed a lot with the University teams about the different sessions and the overall goal of the conference. CDs were prepared of all the proceedings.
The conference achieved its objective of triggering and activating dialogue about the Palestinian future. This was encouraged further through the following:
- The distribution of the conference recommendations, and discussing them with local and international decision makers.
- Preparing the conference book in Arabic and English, publishing and distributing it. A draft was sent back to the writers for modifications and interns began working on the transcription. It will be published in 2010.
- Holding an additional two-day conference in cooperation with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to discuss, evaluate, and explore the prospects of his two years plan towards statehood. A proposal was sent to him in this regard and he gave his preliminary approval to the CDCD.
Another outcome from the two conferences in September-October was the establishment of two advisory boards: one is a Palestinian and the second is an Israeli/Palestinian/international board for the issues of peace and democracy. The second one includes 12 Israelis, and the others are Palestinians and internationals. As far as we know, there is no other Palestinian organization which includes Israelis on its board.
Last Updated on Monday, 19 March 2012 08:52