The hidden peace in the Middle East

On the surface, signs for peace in the Middle East are looking faded.

George Mitchell’s shuffle diplomacy has revealed the naivety of the Obama regime. Camera evidence from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount show that the recent disturbances are the result of deliberate extremist provocation. And with President Abbas calling elections for January 2010, he will not want to portray himself to his electorate as a man of compromise.

So what are we left with? Answer is that if you take out the politicians and let ordinary people get on with it,there are a few yet significant moves to peace taking place.

Take the campus of Beershaba university, where 15 Jordanian students are studying for bachelors in emergency medical care. No, this is not a one-off story. The Save A Child Heart unit at the Wolfson Hospital has spent years treating Palestinian babies and training doctors from Bethlehem or nearby.

Away from the medical arena, a group of Israeli physicists have invested in a new technology to bring electricity to poor Palestinian villages. The Everest Hotel near Bethlehem and the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem are deliberate meeting points for Israelis and Palestinians to get together.

In Jericho, a synagogue, dating back to the sixth century, had been ransacked in the early part of the Intifada. Nearly a decade later, the Palestinian Authority has helped to ensure that the renovations have been completed. With a joint Israeli-Palestinian patrol, a group of ultra-orthodox Jews have begun to hold prayers at the site.

You want more? Check out Jordan and Israel’s work together over protecting the Dead Sea. Investigate the joint sewage and tourist projects in the Jenin/ Gilboah regions. Talk to the tens of thousands of Palestinians who work in Israel during an average week.

Ghadaffi’s calls to give Palestinians nuclear arms – the new calls in the UK to boycott Israeli products, culture or academics – violence against holy sites in Jerusalem; all of these actions are updated versions of the hatred of the past, which resulted in violence and hopelessness and death.

The actions of coexistence described here are the genuine steps towards creating a peace dynamic. They need to be told about, encouraged and copied. It is time for analysts to discover a new genre within the Middle East.

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