YaLa Young Leaders

Gershon Baskin addresses the YaLa Peace Conference

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Gershon Baskin addresses YaLa’s Peace Conference during which political, economic and cultural leaders shared their messages of support and encouragement for the 5th anniversary of the YaLa Young Leaders movement

Dr. Gershon Baskin, Israeli Co-Chairman of the Board of Israel-Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives (IPCRI), Founder and former co-Director of IPCRI, writer and expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, addresses YaLa’s 5th AnnualPeace Conference during which 100 political, economic and cultural leaders shared their messages of support and encouragement for the 5th anniversary of the YaLa Young Leaders movement – 5 years of hope, 5 years of activism, 5 years of peacebuilding among the young generation of the Middle East & North Africa.

YaLa Young Leaders is a movement of Middle East & North Africa (MENA) young leaders who are fostering dialogue & change. Founded in May 2011, by the Peres Center for Peace and YaLa Palestine, 90% of YaLa’s nearly 1 million members come from the MENA region; hailing from Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, among others.

YaLa Young Leaders work together to create and enact a new regional vision of freedom, equality, prosperity and peace. YaLa is more than a network of activists scattered across the region – it is a movement that empowers its members to break down divisions and redraw the map to form a shared community. YaLa connects regional change-makers, allowing them to build their capacities as tomorrow’s leaders while emphasizing core issues such as peace, education, human rights, gender equality and economic development.

YaLa’s flagship project is the YaLa Academy, which is an innovative online institution for the formation of future regional peace leadership through online training by leading experts and practitioners from around the world, coupled with online discussions, activities, events and projects.

Transcript of Gershon’s remarks.

My name is Gershon Baskin, I’m an Israeli living in Jerusalem. I’ve spent my entire adult life, for the past 38 years, bringing Jews and Arabs and Israelis and Palestinians together to work together for peace. I think that today we all suffer in the region from a sense that there are no partners for peace on the other side. This is certainly the reality for most Israelis and most Palestinians. I speak to Israelis from all over Israel and Palestinians from all over Palestine almost every day. I hear the same thing from both sides. They say to me: “I want peace, but they don’t! We have no partners for peace.” This crying out of a sense that we all want peace but the other side doesn’t has to be faced directly by all of us and say “yes, we do have partners, –yes, we have to prove to each other that we’re partners”.

Our leaders spend too much time proving on a daily basis that the saying ‘we have no partners’ is true. Both the government of Israel, Palestinian Authority, and others on both sides of this conflict, on ALL sides of the conflict make a lot of hatred, create a lot of enemies, create the belief that peace is not possible. But we activists, working for peace, have to stand up and say, “It’s not true. There are partners for peace”.

This is why I call on all of you young people from YaLa to join together to create those partnerships to show how we can cross borders and work together. There are too many people here, on all sides of the conflict, who are working for what they call ‘anti-normalization’, who are boycotting even people like myself who are working for peace. We can’t allow ourselves the luxury of boycotting those who are working for peace. I have worked my entire life against the occupation. I have worked for Palestinian freedom. As an Israeli, I say I am pro-Israel. I am also pro-Palestinian because I don’t know any other way. It makes no sense to me, as an Israeli for me to want my neighbors to suffer. I don’t want Palestinians to suffer. I don’t want Israelis to suffer. The only way we can break down the barriers and bring ourselves to a negotiated agreement for peace is for us and the grassroots, in all parts of our societies, to reach across those conflict lines and say “I will not fear. I will cross those lines, I will join hands with people on the other side, I will work with them, I will bring others together with me to work for peace”. This is something that we can do. We have to rebuild the partnerships for peace! This is our job, this is our challenge, and together, we can do it.

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