IPCRI

Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information

LETTER TO PRESIDENT BUSH: PEACE EDUCATION NOW!

 

Sunday, June 08, 2003

President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Bush, 

We, the undersigned, are writing to you as one of the leading Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental organizations that have been engaged for the past years in the work of peace making and peace building through dialogue and cooperation.  One of the main lessons learned from the failure of the Oslo peace process is that the “People-to-People” public peace process received much too little attention and far too little financial support.

In October 1998 at the signing of the Wye River Memorandum, Secretary of State Albright announced that the U.S. Government would launch a program of support for Israeli-Palestinian People-to-People programs aimed at reaching out to the Israeli and Palestinian publics so that they would support peace.  After much delay, the U.S. Government funding finally became available in 2001, more than two years later, this was already after the outbreak of violence and the collapse of the peace process.  Nonetheless, the U.S. Government did allocate some $8 million for joint Israeli-Palestinian People-to-People projects including programs in peace education, medical and health cooperation, women’s programs, cooperative scientific research, joint sports activities and more.

Throughout the past thirty-two months of horrendous violence, we the leaders of the organizations sponsoring and initiating dialogue activities between the two sides have continued our activities.  The need and the demand for continuing and expanding these activities is very real.  As an illustration of this, recently the European Union put out a call for proposals for Israeli-Palestinian joint activities.  In one month’s time, the EU received 131 project proposals amounting to more than $40 million. The EU allocated only $4 million.

Mr. President, the U.S. Government’s Wye River People-to-People funding for Israeli-Palestinian People-to-People activities appears to be a one-time event.  There does not seem to be any concrete plans by your administration to allocate additional funds for this public peace process. It should also be pointed out that the US Wye River People-to-People fund was taken from the $400 million that President Clinton promised to the Palestinians and not one cent from the more than $1 billion that was allocated to Israel was taken for the People-to-People fund.  Surely it is possible to find within the U.S. Government’s support to Israel and to Palestine additional funds to support the people-to-people peace process.

At Aqaba you said: Both prime ministers here agree that progress toward peace also requires an end to violence and the elimination of all forms of hatred, and prejudice and official incitement, in schoolbooks, in broadcasts and in the words used by political leaders. Both leaders understand that a future of peace cannot be founded on hatred and falsehood and bitterness.

We agree 100% with your statement.  We have been commissioned by the US Congress to conduct a review of all of the Palestinian Authority new text books with regards to education for peace and tolerance.  We concluded our review and our findings have been submitted to the Congress and to the Palestinian Ministry of Education.  The findings include specific recommendations for amending some 20 Palestinian text books from the 80 text books we reviewed. We are conducting a similar review of Israeli text books at our own expense and will publish the results at the end of the summer – we have also found Israeli text books that should be amended to reflect values of peace, justice and equality.  We are also developing supplementary learning materials, lesson plans and teachers guides for teaching peace in Israeli and Palestinians schools from Kindergarten to grade 12.

Our Peace Education program is the widest and most developed such program in the region.  The main limitation on the expansion of this program to hundreds of more schools is primarily financial.  The commitment of the U.S. Government to Peace Education between Israelis and Palestinians voiced in your words at the Aqaba summit will also be useful in gaining official and greater public legitimacy for these programs now in both Israel and Palestine. Repeated political messages to the officials in Israel and Palestine by yourself and your administration would help in this process.

As recipients of the U.S. Government’s Wye Rive People-to-People fund, we devoted all of our funds towards our Peace Education efforts.  The academic reviews of our work have shown spectacular results, far beyond our expectations.  We are coming to an end of the Wye River funds and we see little replacement funds in sight.  This is the time when great efforts and wide financial resources must be directed towards Peace Education in Israel and in Palestine.  It is a time when those who support the Road Map and the vision presented by you, Mr. President, must also help in ensuring that every Israeli and Palestinian school child be educated in peace and be exposed to children from the “other side”.  We do not have the liberty of time on our side.  The political peace process must be coupled with a people-to-people peace campaign led by those with proven experience in the field.

We would like to urge you and your administration to support these vital activities of ours in trying to rebuild a constituency for peace in Israel and in Palestine.  What could be more American than supporting efforts of bringing enemies to talk to each other and to explore ways of making peace together through joint cooperative projects.  We would like to urge you and your Administration to see that a minimum of $25 million is allocated by the U.S. Government each year in these endeavors.

There is no time to waste.  The supervisors of this program in the State Department, in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and in the Consulate General in Jerusalem strongly support these efforts and have been witness to their value. Mr. President, we hope that you will give this matter your direct and immediate attention and support. 

Yours sincerely,

Gershon Baskin, Ph.D., and Zakaria al Qaq
Co-Directors

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