Monday, July 19, 2010

The US Could - and Should - Be Doing a Better Job

Let's take a different look at the American role in the negotiating of peace between Israel and Arabs: local, near and far. Peace is not only a Road Map or Proximity Talks. It isn't only Jimmy Carter or George Mitchell.

To my mind, the United States, foremost, has to project into the process elements that can sustain it for generations after any treaty or arrangement is signed or agreed upon. And those are the concepts of individual freedom and personal liberties as well as democracy and a liberal outlook, as much as possible on life.

It has to make peace seem a better proposition than anything else. At the present, that isn't the case. I cannot properly view how the Arabs see this, so I won't even guess but I am sure they feel they have quite legitimate concerns than are being disregarded.

As for me, well, we see a series of domino pieces: Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Iran, etc. We see borders, then Jerusalem, then the "right of return". Nothing ever seems to end. And my feeling is that with every withdrawal, territorial or position-wise, every backward step to some status quo ante, is not a strengthening but a weakening.

Crude Arab propaganda continues. Anti-Jewish imagery is fomented. Denial of responsibility. Continuing terror and terror attempts. Lack of administrative maturity. No transparency in the PA's court system, financial system, etc. Human rights of Arabs trampled. EU and US Foreign Aid monies are stil embezzled. The list is long.

This is the society, the social and political culture that is expected to maintain peace.

So, what does the US do on this front?

A lot, actually.

On the front page of the US Jerusalem Consulate General, there's this list of Cultural and Educational Activities:

1. US Consulate General Supports the Opening of the Al-Jib Museum in the West Bank

US Consulate General Supports the Opening of the Al-Jib Museum in the West Bank
On May 18, the West Bank community of Al-Jib inaugurated its first cultural heritage museum showcasing Palestinian artifacts and cultural arts. The museum and its gift shop was made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation to the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange (PACE).

2. Gaza Theater Group Presents American Classic Steinbeck’s “The Pearl”

Gaza Theater Group Presents American Classic Steinbeck’s “The Pearl”
“Basma” (Smile), a Gazan cultural arts organization, held its first performance of John Steinbeck’s classic story “The Pearl” on May 12 in Gaza. With a $20,000 grant from the Consulate General’s Public Affairs office, Basma translated Steinbeck’s work into classical Arabic and hired actors and a director to stage the play.
American Corner Gaza Organizes Clean-up of Al-Azhar University Campus

3. American Corner Gaza Organizes Clean-up of Al-Azhar University Campus
As part of U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem’s April “Environmental Awareness Month,” and in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the American Corner in Gaza (AC Gaza) organized a planting and clean-up campaign at Al-Azhar University.
Yaa Samar! Dance Theater Brings American Modern Dance to Bethlehem

4. Yaa Samar! Dance Theater Brings American Modern Dance to Bethlehem
The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem hosted Yaa Samar! Dance Theater, an American modern dance ensemble, for a one-day engagement at the Bethlehem Peace Center on May 2, 2010. Led by Palestinian-American choreographer Samar Haddad King, Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre is a New York City-based contemporary dance company.

5. Celebrating Women’s History Month with a Quiz Night Event in Ramallah
Celebrating Women’s History Month with a Quiz Night Event in Ramallah
In cooperation with Pal-Vision, a Palestinian NGO based in Jerusalem, US Consulate General Jerusalem organized a Quiz Night in honor of Women’s History Month at the Hamra Palace in Ramallah. The Quiz Night is part of a series of monthly events organized by Pal-Vision, made possible with a grant from the US Consulate to support thematic programming.

And there's more:

6. Nature knows best, don’t destroy it

10 Palestinian students are on a 5-week exchange program in Humboldt, California, sponsored by the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem as part of the 2010 Study of the United States Institute for Student Leaders on Global Environmental Issues. Each week the group will share an environmental tip and photo.

7. An-Najah Opens an American Studies Resource Center

The Center, located in the “Old Library” on the University’s campus, is the culmination of months of cooperation between the Consulate General and the University
And there's another section: Speakers & Specialists

U.S. Speakers

The Public Affairs Section hosts U.S. speakers who are experts in a variety of fields, including: governance/rule of law, civic education, youth issues, American Studies, culture/arts, women’s issues, human rights, democracy/elections, economic development, religion, foreign policy, information technology, and journalism. During their 2-3 day programs in the Palestinian Territories, U. S. speakers meet with their Palestinian counterparts and conduct workshops, seminars, and public lectures. In the event that a desired speaker is not able to travel, shorter programs can also be held via digital video conference (DVC) at venues in the Palestinian Territories.

Cultural Specialists

The cultural specialist program brings specialists in the arts and other areas to the Palestinian Territories for 2-6 weeks, working primarily with one group or organization on a specific project, such as producing an American play in a local language, giving master classes to a national theatre company, or classes in writing skills. Costs for the cultural specialist program are shared by the host institution.

Academic Specialists

The academic specialist program provides grants to enable Americans to consult with foreign educational institutions, professional groups or governmental organizations about a specific educational project or to conduct workshops and seminars for faculty or professional personnel. The academic specialist program is co-sponsored by a host institution in the Palestinian Territories.

So, you may ask: what's your problem?

Well, one problem is I am not sure all the above and more is truly working, is turning the Pals. around.

But for sure I know that there are no Jews in those programs or no parallel seminars and activities for over 300,000 Yesha residents (and, if we go according to the Arab yardstick - and let's not forget that the State Department doesn't recognize Israel's claim to sovereignty not only over the new east Jerusalem neighborhoods but West Jerusalem as well) then we add another 200,000.

Yes, the US supports a "Palestinian state" but I do not think that it supports population separation. That is, at the most, a final status issue but nevertheless, if there are Arabs in Israel, can the US really promote expulsion of all Jews? And in supporting these programs I found above, as exclusive for Arabs, that is the result: discrimination.

One possible response could be that Jews even in Yesha can obtain separate but equal services in Israel. The Pals. can't. True, but the Arabs in Israel can obtain such services so why not Jews in Yesha?

More importantly, though, the object is to have the two populations coexist and even maybe empathize with each other.

So why not attempt know to bring them together now?

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