On 16th February 2011, the MEPEACE board met in Jaffa to:
Update: review on 2010 and look ahead to 2011
Approve: the non-profit's statements, activities and progress
Brainstorm: together look ahead to our future: 3-5 years
Please share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions in the comments below.
Here is the heart of our brainstorming (the document is attached here as well):
Eyal: Where do we want to see the Middle East 5 yrs from now? And where do we want to see MEPEACE 3-5 yrs from now?
David: My dream for MEPEACE – close down! No need for us!
Gershon: Maybe not. In 5 years will use MEPEACE to discuss culture, music….instead of politics.
My dream for the Middle East? A strong, stable, democratic Palestine next to a much more democratic Israel.
Vicki: Inspired by this month’s events, I dream of people making change, taking change into their own hands. MEPEACE can be a part of this, as Facebook has been integral to organising revolutions
Dalya: Take a train from Tel Aviv to Baghdad!
Freeman: Complete normalization with all the Arab states and Israel. End to military conscription. Technology is key. Through MEPEACE I met my first Arab and Palestinian friends, which wouldn’t have happened only online. Translation of literature between Arab and Israel states.
Bayan: Egypt shows we can free ourselves. It allows us to dream of the possibility. MEPEACE needs more exposure in Israel.
Eyal: An Israeli ambassador in all Arab countries. In the Knesset a clear voice that represents our dreams that sometimes we are afraid to voice. A clear Israeli voice. Israel officially taking responsibility for its history and its impact on Arab citizens and Palestinians. MEPEACE as a competitor for Facebook (Gershon – should be the 2nd page people open in the morning!) 5 yrs from now, MEPEACE as an interconnected world.
Chaya: Every end is a beginning. Challenge once the revolutionary force fades to find an incentive to coming together post conflict. MEPEACE may be even more relevant then, needs to be as inclusive as possible.
Eyal: Movement. We want to mobilize a movement to win hearts and minds of people. How can we play a role in helping a movement, a new party develop??
Gershon: Numbers count! Need to get more people on the site, if we want to make a movement. Interconnectivity. To get more people involved, needs to be linked to other msn, facebook etc. eg. Share articles from newspaper – get option to share on MEPEACE.
Chaya: you mentioned a movement, are we political?
Eyal: we are not political, right, left, etc. but need to think of where we are going.
David: Unique about MEPEACE – a web presence. MEPEACE exists primarily through the website, which is a shame, because websites are old. Need presence on youtube, facebook and twitter. All MEPEACE events should be facebook events. Recently, orgs don’t even need their own website.
Mossi: Average Israeli spends 1 hour on the internet daily – 14 mins facebook, 7 mins ynet…. How long on MEPEACE?!
Eyal: For the purpose of…? So we have a stronger media presence. What then? Movement – what does that mean to you? Does MEPEACE have a role in creating a new movement?
Vicki: The question is do we want to remain open as platform for inclusive discussion, or head in a direction that we decide?
Eyal: two goals: empower individuals and orgs and mobilize. Do you want to see us support a movement? Do you want to see us out on the street supporting hasmol haleumi?
Dalya: lots of people are out supporting. MEPEACE should be a place for any peace-promoting agenda. Trying to create a movement out of MEPEACE doesn’t match.
Gershon: During the Egypt uprising, where did we get info? Not on MEPEACE. Many people go tinfo via Facebook pages – dynamic source of dialogue and information.
Lemuel: About turning into a political movement. If you build a community where people can share their own ideas, and then impose own agenda.... best for MEPEACE to promote the importance of political involvement, lobbying, how to influence… Left parties are disappearing. MEPEACE’s role can be to advise, encourage, inform about the options…
Gershon: MEPEACE is not just Israeli and cannot support an Israeli political party.
Chaya: Pluses of the online community – value to anonymity. Plenty of other orgs to be active in the street, open to ideas without commitment. When Eyal gives interviews – personal opinion or representing MEPEACE?? Be careful about how representing MEPEACE. General message - get politically involved.
Eyal: diversity, encouragement, anonymity – help people get out in the streets, but don’t tell them where to go.
David: We are a platform. Like Google, youtube… The only things we don’t do is racism, pornography, incitement. No political line.
Lemuel: More advertisement for political activism.
Mossi: If we want to compete with facebook – it is a tool. No agenda. Facebook was the main tool used in Egypt. This is MEPEACE’s contribution to the Israeli-palestinian conflict, enable people to communicate and organize. Don’t need to have a line.
Freeman: great tool, it’s happening right now, meeting, exchanging ideas. MEPEACE is more real than facebook, greater trust, part of a community.
Chaya: what if MEPEACE was expanded not just to peace issues, food, culture, music…? Share recipes, cultural attractions. To learn about each other in real life, not just politics. Upload videoblogs…
David: Social tourism, peace tourism… ‘trips to the other side’
Dalya: needs to be more organized
Chaya: Could be organized by professions?
David: there were groups of professionals meeting before the intifada, psychologists, lawyers, accountants etc…
Eyal: transparency is very important, so this conversation will be put up on the site for all to see. These ideas are what generate practical action. Now I want to ask you for practical actions?
Bayan: Does MEPEACE has to be completely apolitical? Maybe there should be a line, a goal.
Dalya: MEPEACE is about the rules of engagement, the process, not the outcome.
Eyal: My idea is to take some sort of political stand. We have an asset, energy we can direct in a certain direction. We may be able to contribute, to support new movements,
Vicki: MEPEACE can be open and should have input from political events, and organizations/ parties but should be open to all of them.
Thank you for sharing. I find the brainstorming very inspiring.
The one subject which is bothering me is- whether Mepeace should or should't be a place for political involvement. I do not have the answer for this, just the feel that once we let politicians come in - this place will not be the same for ever. I do not wish it to be a platform for politicians. On the other hand, politic is life, in a way. It means - making decisions, making operations in society , it is not just the way we used to use the term - right wing/left wing etc. Perhaps this is the difference between 'politics' and "policy",the line between the two is very thin
Re the suggestion to post Mepeace's events on FB - I am for it ! I think that will serve the purpose.
Thanks for sharing MEPEACE Board meeting's details. I support Eyal's plan but in another way. We have to to work on the ground and let people know about mepeace.org especially about objectives. I can't find a clear meaning for a political movement and who are the members, for this I have a question for Eyal:
Is the political movement going to have both Palestinian and Israeli members?
There are so many very good suggestions and lines of thinking in this transcript regarding the direction in which MEpeace should head. From what I understand, Eyal is concerned with taking MEpeace as a network and transforming that network, composed of heterogenous beliefs and peace efforts, into a unified, political voice for peace. Doing so, however, runs the risk of marginalizing those MEpeace members who disagree with one another. And since MEpeace started as an apolitical, non-partisan group, are we betraying our original purpose by becoming political? As it stands, the main commonality between members of MEpeace's network is that we are in solidarity over peace. In that way, MEpeace's means are more important than (or prior to) its ends. We exemplify peace in our will to come together and discuss it. We empower people to take a stand, any stand, whatever it may be. In terms of movements, we are a social movement in that we come together to break bread over the wall that divides us. Yet there is no one vision as to what peace looks like, and therefore MEpeace runs the risk of fracture when it comes to rallying around any one concrete (political) plan or accord or agreement, whether it is articulated by a political party or individual. Political parties have an end in mind. They strive for X and it is in striving for X that they are said to have a platform. Right now, MEpeace's platform, it's network, and its movement, is social, not political.
Pressing questions raised and implied are: Should MEpeace be political in the first place? Does it run counter to MEpeace's objectives to become political? How does MEpeace consolidate the diversity of its members and their respective visions for peace in order to take the organization from a social platform or network and transform our latent political agency into palpable political aims and action towards peace (as X)? If MEpeace decides to become political, should we hold a referendum on what peace looks like and strive to attain the objectives of the majority, whether overwhelming (99%) or a mere 51%? When Eyal speaks, is he speaking as MEpeace's founder or as a member of MEpeace? Wouldn't it give MEpeace greater exposure and wouldn't it empower MEpeace to be a more reliable leader in our movement towards peace if we were able to articulate one particular vision of peace? Should MEpeace remain as a social network as is and instead form a political wing that becomes a political movement associated with yet also independent, separate and somewhat distinct from MEpeace as a social a network? If so, couldn't MEpeace continue to promote different peace agendas as a social platform but also garner the strength of agreement among its members willing to make the move to a political platform? What would it take to transition from a social movement/network/platform to a political movement with a political platform? I will take up some of these questions from my personal perspective below in the hopes that my comments might get the ball rolling in a more comprehensive, definitive sense:
To say the least, MEpeace is a successful social network that has demonstrated its resolve in maintaining mutual respect, dignity, and humanity in bringing people together from disparate histories, narratives, and experiences, many of which are derived from or shaped by conflict. It is a reaction to, at the most, war, and at the very least, estranged or alienated neighbors. But at the heart of MEpeace is a simultaneous drive to resolving conflict and bring about peace through instances of dialogue, demonstrations of solidarity, and exhibitions of love. The reason, as I stated above, that it is social and not political, is that there is no definitive end in mind. Different members have different visions of peace (one or two states; border disputes; settlements; recognizing and apologizing for al-nakba; right of return; putting an end to state-sponsored or grass-roots terrorism - what comes first, the chicken or the egg? -- does it matter?, etc.) and that is indeed a good thing and to be expected. But beyond rallying around some amorphous notion of peace as justice and stability and against war, MEpeace is hindered by its heterogeneity if it wants to be a political movement. As it stands (as I understand it), MEpeace could not protest settlements, or the construction of the barrier/wall, or Israeli aggression, or Hamas violence, without offending or generating disagreement from at least one of its members. Put otherwise, every individual would not agree to support any one of these objectives as a whole. And because we cannot, as a whole, stand AGAINST any specific action or set of actions, we cannot stand FOR any one vision of peace (yet, at least).
It is very possible that over the next few years MEpeace members could be the first social group to unify around one vision of peace that is brought about through its own research and information campaigns, followed by intensive and inclusive dialogue that results in one agreement and hence one vision for peace. Most likely it would look like any of the accords struck thus far (each of them more or less resembles the one before it), perhaps relinquishing more settlements than Annapolis here and there, perhaps granting a greater physical right of return and accepting more responsibility for al-nakba than previous accords. As a result, it may be easier to do some research and find out what 'most' Israelis and 'most' Palestinians want, and to rally behind the idea of a democratically constructed vision for peace as such. Another idea might be to solicit the help and assistance of NGOs, peace organizations, and even perhaps branches of Israeli and Palestinians governments to conduct our own independent study that reaches out to ALL Palestinians and ALL Israelis to find out in no uncertain terms what they envision for peace. This would take more time than I can imagine, and still there would be contradictions and visions at loggerheads that might inhibit a final resolution. This is why, after all, politicians and diplomats are sent to "represent" their people, i.e. to make the difficult concessions and compromises required to get to peace through means other than direct democracy (because direct democracy would take years, if not decades, if not lifetimes).
What is clear is that we cannot start a movement without a platform. While it would be a great demonstration of solidarity to stand together with signs that say "peace" on them, once passers by say "hi, this is a great cause, can I join you - what's your vision for peace?," we as a group would be unable to agree and would therefore not garner the support of any reasonable politically minded person. No one wants to rally behind some nebulous, shapeless concept of peace. They want to rally behind an idea that is tangible, visible, and realizable. Of course, we can start off by coming together to hold signs that say "peace - what's your vision?" in order to start an information and awareness campaign that we are trying to decide on a platform, to gain more members and solicit more people to join the discussion. But int he end, in order to be political, we need a vision, a platform, an X.
In my view, part of the problem with peace efforts thus far is that the governments drag their feet. Governments are made up of elected officials most of whom are more concerned with their reelection and personal safety than they are resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all. Governments are corrupt, sloppy, arrogant, and inchoate. They are desultory when they want to avoid some very real problems and contradictions in their own policies, and they run the risk of dissolving under partisan politics when they take a stand. Governments don't think about what is best for ALL Israelis and ALL Palestinians, they consider what is best for their constituents, for SOME Israelis (in the case of the Israeli government), and SOME Palestinians (in the case of the Palestinian governments). I don't have much confidence in governments. I think that MEpeace should offer to work with them, but should not take depend on them.
My vision for peace is by no means "centrist," and I should mention that I would abandon my own vision in a heartbeat (I am neither Israeli nor Palestinian) to support those of Israelis or Palestinians if they are unified, but once again, just to get the ball rolling, it is as follows:
-Israelis acknowledge that at least 500,000 of the 750,000 Palestinians who ended up outside of the Mandate of Palestine following the 1948 war (al-nakba or Israeli independence) were driven out of their homes unjustly.
-Though a complete right of return is not possible (nor is there evidence that all Palestinians in the Diaspora would want to return), a significant right of return, where it will not severely disrupt the lives of Israelis (Jews and Arabs), should be granted, along with a formal apology.
-Palestinians recognize that Jews needed to come to Israel to escape persecution, and that the Ottoman government and successive Arab leaders were unsympathetic to providing Jews with a space in their historic homeland.
-Both Palestinians and Israelis acknowledge that much of their plight, the wars, the violence, and the status quo, was and is brought on by colonial powers, France, Britain, and later the United States, and that from this time forward Israelis and Palestinians should speak to one another as equals, directly, and without outside intervention.
-Israelis request that some of their settlements remain for the time being, simply for practical reasons (it is difficult to envision ALL people in ALL settlements returning to Israel right away), and that under Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty, holy sites and historical landmarks will be open to all peoples who cherish them.
-Palestinians recognize that Israel needs to maintain its Jewish majority and for now, if only because the Holocaust is still a recent memory and anti-semitism is still rife worldwide. Israel is the only and final resort for Jews if persecution is on hand en masse once more. That said, the Jewish character of Israel does not need to come at the expense of the Palestinian character of the state of Israel. There is room for both cultures, both peoples, and both narratives. Once trust is secured, and once longings for stability and justice are behind us, Israelis and Palestinians can come together and see that a majority of one group does not necessarily mean the hegemony or dominance or oppression of one over the other. In time, Israeli and Palestinian narratives and identities can take a back seat to pressing contemporary problems of health, economic security, regional stability, and basic democracy can ensue.
-Jerusalem is made an international city for the time being, at least other issues are resolved. It is overseen by the UN in conjunction with Israeli and Palestinian governments. The Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa are overseen by their respective religious leaders in conjunction with one another where the Wall meets the Mosque.
-A land bridge is constructed between Gaza and the West bank. It is overseen by the UN in conjunction with Israeli and Palestinian governments.
In time, in an ideal world, my vision would be the abolition of collective identities based on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Israel and/or Palestine in ways that construct a binary between "us" and "them." Once Israelis and Palestinians are comfortable with one another as equals, once we can trust one another as human beings first, perhaps all walls can be removed and the two countries can be made into one flourishing democracy under a neutral name (The Land of Abraham) with people free to call it Israel and Palestine as they please. Perhaps the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be a model for the resolution of future identity-based conflicts. Perhaps MEpeace will be the catalyst to world peace, or the closest thing to it, whatever that may look like. But that seems idealistic and very, very far off.
I have raised a number of issues that I will adumbrate below for future conversation's sake:
1. Should MEpeace become political altogether, or should a political wing be attached to or established separate from it in order to preserve MEpeace's original and unique purpose?
2. How does MEpeace transition to a political movement? OR How does MEpeace maintain its current social network and begin a separate and distinct political movement?
3. What does peace look like, in an ideal world, in your opinion? What would you concede if peace was on the horizon but you could not have everything you envision?
This has been an important thought-provoking and rigorous intellectual exercise that I hope has significance and a place on the ground. Most of all, it is with great hope and inspiration from Eyal that I write the aforementioned. I hope that what I have written is met with elaboration, motivation, and reaction, and that we as peacemakers can keep this ball rolling. No doubt peace has been in the works since the conflict started (whatever one believes that starting place to be), but being in the works is imply not good enough. Peace must be realized, and I have full confidence that MEpeace is the network/platform/movement to bring peace about.
With love and an undying drive to mutual understanding,
Thanks, Eyal, for providing transparency.
I enjoyed reading this and will comment soon.
I agree with others in saying thanks for sharing Eyal and the board.
My big hope for mepeeace is to be able to build an agreed history of the conflict, where x number of members agree to a set narrative of the history of the conflict (or a variety of set narratives). So much of the discussion time degenerates into demonising someone because of the narrative they suggest (as if they are the only person to hold this position or only people from group A hold such a position). One of the challenges with mepeace online is there is so much information here that gets lost. Once discussions are off the main page they rarely get brought back and lie within the coffers of mepeace somewhere.
Bitterlemons.org offered once such an approach at reconciling the various narratives in one place. A mepeace history page, that forms an agreed version of key historical events would, I believe, be a constructive move forwards.
Critics of such an approach may argue we need to think in the future, not what happened in the past. The thing is a key part of peace-making is acknowledgement of the past hurt and pain caused by another and the identification of steps put in place to prevent the reoccurrence of such events.
Here is the way I see it. Though I do not like George Bush, I like it when he said "If you don't stand for anything, then you don't stand for anything". It sounds ridiculous, I know. However, what does mepeace stand for exactly when it comes to peace? I could call peace anything I want. There are dangers, of course, in terms of having a political stand.
If you have a political stand, you will lose some people. It's true. However, you could also gain people. It depends if you first poll Israelis and Palestinians, look at individual questions that were approached in negotiations, look at things like the Geneva Summit. You would have to make a scientific type study, engage in qualitative and quantitative analysis before you adopt a political strategy. You would have to see what Israelis and Palestinians want. Where do they agree? Where can they agree?
I can say for Palestinians talking about peace but not having a clear statement on settlements and how they affect Palestinians when they expand seems counterproductive to them. Some Israelis who sympathize with them would agree with that. However, Israelis who have settler relatives and see no harm in the expansion of settlements and the loss of Palestinians in terms of having land, those are some side facts to people, not real. Forgotten are all the people who have lost land in the past 40 years to build those settlements.
For me, if I were to be in a serious relationship with them I want to know what a marriage means to her. What are her values when it comes to raising kids? Does she want a home or not? What are her political values. I mean we could talk about the desire for peace on mepeace, but the only thing it would contribute is having some Israelis and Palestinians having more of an understanding of their shared humanity and history, but it would end there. Mepeace doesn't have to say that it is for certain, exact borders, it should, however, make some statements in terms of what promotes or harms peace. I am okay with it being a social site and discussing ideas. However, that would just make it interesting for me in terms of sharing my views wit others and vice versa.
I think the transcript shows that the Board itself has yet to successfully clarify the future direction of the organization. It cannot be all things to all people, particularly since personnel and fiscal resources are limited.
What everyone shares is a desire for peace, though that term is nowhere defined. Likewise, and as a consequence, there is no defined roadmap for promoting peace on the site.
One shared idea is that of the importance of dialogue. Mepeace.org has achieved a modest success in this area. There is a firm cluster of people who regularly dedicate time and attention to exchanging views with fellow members. These exchanges, however, can become frustrating--in the long term, they turn into a manifestation of what I'll call the talking heads syndrome. Words leave the lips, words pass into air, words disappear.
I think Matt's comments about having a wing for political/social action are well-taken, as is Basil's critique. There are mepeace members who have the desire and energy to engage in political or social action. Indeed, action is the logical and inevitable outcome of discussions that occur onsite. Compassion and peace-making can *only* be realized in the form of the act.
I know that what I am suggesting brings us into the realm of the political. However, I would argue we are already there. Not to take a political stand in the face of injustice is also political--it puts the organization into a bystander position, and thus compromises our moral integrity and public credibility. How can we witness injustice and not act?
Often, I have wondered if the fuzziness of our profile does not contribute to the lack of commitment of people who join the organization and volunteer, only to disappear after a few months. People need to have a sense of their own agency, and mepeace.org does not facilitate agency adequately.
While mobilization can take place away from the platform in Israel/Palestine, it cannot do so in the case of the vast majority of mepeace.org members who are tethered to the mepeace site. To expect them to enact their social/political engagement elsewhere undermines the viability of our organization. Why would people remain in mepeace if they are forced to go elsewhere to act? The result of such a policy is to transform mepeace into an organization which has the characteristics of a railroad station, as people constantly get on and off, while heading for other destinations. Surely, we can and should be more than a transfer point.
I note that there has been a lot of reference to Facebook, particularly in the wake of events in Egypt and Tunisia. Much of the media praise for Facebook has been, I think, self-serving. The uprising would have failed without the three years of planning and political agitation by the April 26 movement. Given the small number of Egyptians with access to Facebook, I would suggest that cell phones, flyers and the track record of the April 26 movement were far more instrumental in bringing people onto the streets. In the end, Facebook is a tool, not a solution.
I think one of the priorities of Mepeace should be to engage Palestinian members more. I would very much like to know what their priorities for the organization would be.
I joined MEPEACE last year because I was looking for a Palestinian and an Israeli I met in December 2005, both of whom are part of the Parent's Circle/Bereaved Families Forum. I found them, wrote some posts, but still have no idea what MEPEACE represents. A clear vision is needed!
I know about One Voice, whose work I admire (and I've gone to some of their meetings in London). Their director is well networked into the business community in the US and manages to get significant funding from various trusts. Last I read, Sir Paul McCartney had joined up. You need a really high profile person backing your cause. Natalie Portman, for instance? You know Hollywood/mega corporations tend to make the media sit up!
So, what's the vision? What makes you unique and different to OneVoice, Parents Forum, Peace Direct and all the hundreds of NGOs competing to be allied with solving the Israel/Palestinian situation. And the solution will only come from ordinary people mobilising. The extremists (5% typically) dominate with their weapons, but confronted with daily, focused and peaceful demonstrations, there is no way that bullets, water cannons or grenades can defeat the human spirit. Especially now!
If I can suggest, from a Brit/peace activist perspective, are you looking at linking with the Arab world, in every single country? With young people who are fed up with elite, controlling governments, are prepared to ACT for peace - as the Bahrainis, Tunisians, Libyans, Egyptians etc., are. Actually not just young people, but people who have a moral compass and want peace and more prosperity for the 'ordinary' family.
What are your links like with the Quakers? How about CND - the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament? Then you have a BIG VOTE for me.
The future of Israel will, I think, be determined by the Middle East, including Turkey. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus huge economic deficits in the US (as well as here in the UK), there aren't the funds for another war. (And we Brits are war exhausted.) As Gandhi said: "There is no way to peace, peace is the way."
If you check out my website about my first book, in the news section you'll find information about my next book, to help raise funds for the people of Gaza. My father is the connection to Palestine (1946) http://www.anethiopianodyssey.com
Every day, I pray for peace between your two countries. I do so, because you DESERVE it; there is no question in my mind on that. If I could wave a wand and give you the peaceful conditions we enjoy here, then I would. But it takes vision, strategy, commitment and absolute focus, day in day out. Most of all Courage
Just scrolling down the comments below. No lasting change is achieved without POLITICAL action. Look at Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and South Africa. Northern Ireland, same thing.
You will have to declare what you stand for, politically. Otherwise, why stay with MEPEACE? Talking shop or ...........????
Most crucially, Annette and others, mepeace is a site for those wanting Middle East peace to connect, share thoughts and ideas, discuss and, yes, talk (see our dozens of online events we have had so far). I don't want it to be political. There are enough political parties.
mepeace is different, and I joined it (and became a leading figure) because it is different. Although I'm a political scientist, I don't want it to be political. That's my view.
Everybody here can openly express his/her political views, but there can't be this 'one mepeace political view' we all would have to accept. We have more than 4000 members - and, arguably, hundreds of different views how peace might actually be established.
A "talking shop" is not that bad, Annette.
Mepeace cannot really become something big because it has no real positions beyond dialoguing about "peace". Of course, having a political stance will alienate people, but can you really have sustained, committed people from Israelis and Palestinians if it's simply just a dialogue forum? They can do that without Israel and don't need mepeace for that. I mean it is positive that it is a venue for people to discuss ideas, but people not from the diaspora and who are Israelis and Palestinians would just view it as some dialogue group. Who are you? What do you stand for? For me, mepeace is a chatroom, a place to post threads about different ideas, and have discussions. It's a place for dialogue. You can't accomplish much by simply just talking when you don't know what definitions are at work. Who is going to trust what they don't know?