Fact finding and peace mission to Israel and Palestinian areas. American Muslim peace Initiative Board members will travel to Israel and Palestinian areas to have meeting with key individuals to identify common grounds and share perspectives on peace, tolerance and identify steps and ground rules to move towards lasting peace.
Details of the Visit:
The humanitarian crisis spanning over generations, fueled by violence between Israel and the Arabs, continues unabated. The vicious cycle of death and destruction we are witnessing today is heartbreaking, to say the least. The policies and practices of the previous half a century have not resulted in peace; rather, they seem to have deepened and accentuated the misery of the already fragile population. The chaos and mayhem in the region has led to unprecedented polarization in the rest of the world, too, to the detriment of the Muslims, in particular.
Our mission to Israel and the Palestinian territories was simple. We wanted to have first-hand information about the region, its people and the conflict. We went as fellow human beings looking with anguish at the carnage that we see on the television, wondering why Palestinian and Israeli children cannot have a normal childhood like others. We went with the belief that, at the core, all human beings wish to lead normal healthy lives in the comfort of their own homes, with their families, in peace and tranquility. We wanted to find out why that did not appear to be the case in the Middle East, and to see if there was anything that could be done to help.
The American Muslim Peace Initiative, which is a not-for-profit, non-governmental, U.S. based endeavor, sent its delegation to the Middle East, funded by its own resources, with its own itinerary and goals. It asked the American Jewish Congress to facilitate the meetings, especially with the Israelis. We visited Israel and Palestine, and had discussions with leadership on both sides. In order to get an in-depth perspective, members of our group met with people on the street, including the Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Israel, and the Muslims and Christians in Palestine. We did not see all we wanted to see, nor could we meet with everyone we wished to have met. However, we did see and hear plenty.
What we saw there was not much different from what we had thought. The Palestinians were living under miserable conditions, and the Israelis felt insecure. They had markedly different perspectives; there was a wide breach between them, and the distrust was depressing. However, both sides were yearning for peace. In our meetings with them, we implored them to renounce violence, immediately and completely. We told them that killing of innocent people and mass punishments, regardless of the ostensible provocations, were not only unacceptable, but also counterproductive to their professed desire of peace and security. We emphasized the imperative need to develop understanding, and respect between them, and encouraged dialogue as the only rational way to achieve their mutual goal of peaceful freedom.
It is our opinion that such contacts will lead to building up of confidence and trust between them, which will create a sphere of influence helpful in the resolution of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. On one hand, it would encourage the Palestinian leadership to make the necessary tough decisions to obtain freedom, and on the other hand, it would provide a certain measure of confidence to the Israeli leadership to make the desirable concessions to achieve peace.
We have no illusions that our efforts alone shall bear the fruit that we desire, in the near future, but we have no doubt that this small step had to be taken to break yet another futile taboo which has prevented peace in the region. We earnestly believe that those who have differences have to sit and talk together to resolve them. The alternative of violence and destruction is unacceptable.
Ironically the events since our visit have been anything but encouraging yet we believe in the eventual success of such efforts. We wish to continue taking small but hard steps towards peace, breaking absurd barriers. We pray that God may continue to guide and bless such efforts with success.