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Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Modest Proposal for Long Term Peace in the Middle East

One of the greatest tragedies in the Middle East is that Israelis and most of those that consider themselves their enemies are ancestral cousins or even brothers. Trace their lineage back and you will find that all those folks that consider themselves enemies now were of nearly the exact same blood line. In fact, if they don't that one person is Jewish and the other not, it's likely you wouldn't be able to tell each apart.

The thing about hate, bigotry, and racism is that it comes from a position of ignorance. In other words, White racists rarely new any Blacks. Racists of all shapes and sorts come to their racism because they know very few people toward which their hate is directed. In my own experience, that's exactly what happened. Up through high school, I experienced a lot of bigotry because of my Russian birth. I was often the first person that anyone met from Russia. In college, I experienced similar bigotry because of my Judaism. Everyone that made a Jewish remark had made me the first Jewish person they met. Had all these folks been exposed to Jewish children when they were growing up, I think their racist remarks would have been much more limited.

The hate in the Middle East takes on a similar dynamic only in a much more intense and deadly form. Most Palestinians have never known any Israelis in any substantive way and the same can likely be said the other way. Unfortunately, adults filled with hate are likely beyond hope. In order to achieve any lasting peace we all must get to the children before they are corrupted by hate.

That's why I think that an exchange of school children as young as six, Israelis and Palestinians, would be a productive way to bring the two people together. Six year olds have an innocence that allows to get past the hate that their parents can no longer. If Israeli children are brough together with Palestinian children in an exchange in which they all simply act like children, that is the best way for both sides to get past the hate. If children simply interact as children, they will find that they really aren't very different from each other at all.

This is one of those plans that is easier said than done. It's likely many of these children would never allow such an exchange. Furthermore, in the Middle East, there is always the concern of security, especially in such an endeavor. That's why it would make sense for some of this to be created right here in America. Many reporters have mentioned that in private Palestinians dream of one day coming to America. As such, a joint tour of America sponsored and attended by both Palestinians and Israelis is a good place to start.

It's the sort of idea that would need support of leaders of both the Israeli and Palestinian community. It's best place to start is here in America where there is moderates on both sides. It's the sort of idea that for instance AIPAC, the Jewish United Fund, as well as all sorts of pro Palestinian groups in America would all need to get behind.

It couldn't merely be a small token statement to make a difference, but it wouldn't need to involve the exchange of entire populations. Kids talk and they will share their experiences with their friends back home. When they come back with great stories, other kids will also want to share in the same good time. This is the sort of idea that can start with a modest exchange and it could grow. Bringing children of both cultures together is in my opinion a great way for both sides to get past the hate.

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