Joel Segal, legislative staffer for John Conyers (D-MI) brought Rep. Conyers to our Advisory Board and joined it himself as a founding member. He has since become Emeritus, in part due to his devoting full-time work to developing the Middle East Peace Working Group, which fosters dialogue, behind the scenes, on a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine.,
Middle East Peace Working Group (MEPWG) has issued a public letter signed by its Chair, Harriet Fulbright, and others. PDA is proud to share it, and thanks our friend Joel for his witness and peace work.
~Mimi Kennedy, PDA Advisory Board Chair
The decades old tragic conflict between Israel and Palestine is morally unacceptable; it has gone on for far too long and it must now come to an end. The recent escalation of the endless cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians living in Gaza will only result in the needless deaths of both Palestinian and Israelis---God’s children made in God's image who deserve to live in peace, security, and with prosperity and dignity. Nothing is more precious than human life and human dignity and the ability to live in peace, with security, stability, and shared prosperity. A long term solution that will bring a peace, justice, security, and economic prosperity to all involved parties remains possible and it is all the more imperative.
The majority of Israelis and Palestinians want to live, raise their families, and enjoy their lives in peace. Poll after poll consistently have shown that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians support a just two state solution and peace--as do the majority of American Jews and expatriate Palestinians. So why does this conflict continue unabated if the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians support a just two state solution and peace?
Perhaps it’s because the “silent majority” who support Middle East peace and justice for far too long have been silenced; they have lacked cooperation, consistent media visibility, and the requisite political and strategic unity to foster change and their voices overwhelmed by the hardliners on all sides. Although politically active, Middle East peace advocates have been working in their independent silos, and have not successfully amplified the voices of reason, sanity, and peace to win the hearts and minds of the people or elected officials inside and outside of the Middle East. The time has come for new leaders, increased cooperation, bold new ideas, and positive viable long term solutions to end the unnecessary conflict between Israel and Palestine.
A newly energized Middle East peace movement must call for an immediate cease fire between Israel and Gaza. We must call on the Israelis and Palestinians to immediately go back to the negotiating table, with the sponsorship and supervision of the United States, United Nations, G8, and the Arab League. Furthermore, President Obama and Congress must oppose Israel’s settlement expansion. This ill-conceived policy undermines the viability of a two-state solution and exacerbates the conflict. We call on President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Congress to actively re-engage in robust diplomacy, because we understand that long term peace and stability between Israel and Palestine can only be achieved through a historic “land for peace” agreement, one that will create true security for Israel and dignity and justice for the Palestinian people. After a final status agreement has been signed, Israel and Palestine can normalize relations, exchange Ambassadors, and cooperate on solar energy projects, water reclamation projects, agricultural and technological exchanges, and trade relations. Israel and the new demilitarized independent Palestinian state could work together to promote robust economic growth, and a jobs-for-all policy at a livable wage that would benefit both nations. It is imperative that global leaders work closely with the people of Palestine to end poverty and unacceptably high rates of unemployment in Gaza and Palestine. A peace agreement could help create a growing middle class in a new state of Palestine—an essential component in promoting peace and stability in the region. People who have something for which to live, peace, and economic prosperity are far less likely to commit acts of violence, surrender their lives, or seek the lives of others.
We strongly believe that Israel must live in peace and security. However, we believe this will not be achieved through an indefinite occupation, home demolitions, the illegal detention of Palestinians, the building of more disruptive settlements, long term economic sanctions that harm the people of Gaza, and the continued use of lethal force--resulting in the tragic deaths of innocent Palestinian and Israeli civilians, teenagers, and children. After a cease fire has gone into effect, the Israeli government should allow food and medicine into Gaza, and support rather than impede its reconstruction.
Furthermore, HAMAS cannot achieve their goals of opening up the border between Gaza and Egypt, releasing prisoners from Israeli jails, and ending the economic embargo as long as militants in Gaza kidnap and execute innocent Israeli teenagers, attack and kill Israelis via secret tunnels, or shower thousands of lethal rockets on Israeli civilians. We call on HAMAS to join the peace process, to recognize Israel’s right to exist, to renounce terror and violence, and allow the United Nations and the international community open inspections of secret tunnels and other locations where rockets, offensive weapons, and armaments are being stored. Otherwise, the government of Israel will continue to bomb and kill more innocent civilians, who you claim to represent, in order to stop your lethal rocket attacks.
We also call on the Israeli government to make it crystal clear to the settlers, and all Israelis, that any acts of violence and terror against the Palestinian people will be met with swift and severe punishment. No longer can the Israeli government act with impunity against the innocent civilians in Palestine, and no longer can HAMAS act with impunity against the citizens of Israel. We, therefore, call on the Israelis and the Palestinians to go back to the negotiating table now, and sign a historic peace agreement based on decades of prior peace agreements and negotiations that include land swaps and modified 1967 borders. The most optimal, viable, sane, and rational solution to end the needless conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is through a political solution that can only be achieved through sustained international diplomacy, compromise, and the sharing of land and holy sites.
Years of experience have shown us that peace will not be achieved by elected officials and diplomats alone. There must be an organized, strategic, and a moral based Middle East peace movement that can apply relentless pressure on extremist politicians and citizens inside and outside of Israel and Palestine who actively work against peace. The good news is there is a growing number of Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and people from all walks of life who for years have been working tirelessly for peace and justice, are finding each other, and are beginning to work together for a just Middle East peace.
There will be peace between Israel and Palestine someday. The question is when and how many more will be killed between now and then. There is no better time than now. We see the consequence of failure in the daily news, and it is ugly. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us of the importance of taking advantage of the "fierce urgency of now." There is only the present in which we can work, and it is time that we seize this opportunity for peace!
Harriet Fulbright, President, J. William & Harriet Fulbright Center
Marcia Dyson, Middle East Peace Working Group
Chic Dambach, National Director, Middle East Peace Working Group
Rabbi John Freirich, Middle East Peace Working Group
Reverend Rodney Sadler, Ph.D., Middle East Peace Working Group
Shahin Mafi, Middle East Peace Working Group
Mark Harrison, Middle East Peace Working Group
Hassan Massali, Ph.,D., President, Action For Democracy And Human Rights in the Middle East
Joel Segal, National Policy Advisor, Middle East Peace Working Group
*The Middle East Working Group is a Washington DC based civil society coalition of Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, Christians, faith leaders, academics, and ordinary citizens who want to end the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and advocate for a just two state solution.