Gershon Baskin shares some ideas/actions that will make a small contribution towards a “bottom-up” peacemaking strategy.
The old saying “Peace Begins at Home” can serve as a guide for individuals who want to make a difference. Think about the things that you can do that will make a small contribution towards a “bottom-up” peacemaking strategy. These are all small actions and by themselves won’t have a large impact, but we need to begin from small steps and build up towards critical masses of people taking action. Here are some ideas:
1. Learn to speak the other language – there is great resistance in Israel towards learning Arabic and in Palestine towards learning Hebrew. Make a decision that you will learn the other language. Organize a small learning group for yourself and for your children. Find a teacher and let your friends and neighbors know that you are doing this.
2. Place a handwritten sign on your house saying “I support peace” and encourage your neighbors and friends to do the same.
3. Find someone on the other side to talk to. Contacts between Israelis and Palestinians have all but disappeared. Make a decision that you will not be part of the silence. There are many differences between the positions of people on both sides, but dialogues begin with two people – you can be one of them.
4. Join an organization that is working on your side for building peace. Some organizations still exist that are working for peace. Find them, join one, and participate.
5. Search for other sources of information. Our newspapers and media have become part of the conflict. Often the “real” story is hidden from the reader or listener. Don’t believe everything you hear or read – check its validity out with other sources of information. With the internet, this is becoming increasingly easier.
6. Tell your children’s teacher that you want them to learn about the other side. Our schools don’t teach us about each other. When they do relate to the other side it is usually in a negative way. Regardless of what their political position is, they have a responsibility to teach our children about our neighbors.
7. Educate yourself about your neighbors. Educate yourself about the issues. The parameters of peace – or the “price” of peace is well known. Learn about it. Test your own willingness to “pay” the price. Challenge your neighbors and friends too.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.