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Message from the President

Welcome to Middle East Peace Network

In late 1990, after the first Gulf War, I was fortunate to be joined by a wholesome group of Arab and Jewish Americans who helped me create in Chicago the Middle East Peace Network (MEPN). They believed, like me, that the power of the human spirit is mightier than the sword; it can empower us to take a stand for peace in theMiddle East, a region that has suffered intense violent conflicts.

Shai Har-El, Middle East Peace Network

Dr. Shai Har-El
Founder & President
Middle East Peace Network
shai@mepnetwork.org

Learn about MEPN’s early history

Today, twenty years later, the Middle East remains a giant field of violent disputes. A huge political storm, known as the Arab Spring, has been sweeping across the region since early 2011, awakening its peoples to become a force of change. Casting doubt on traditional diplomacy as the sole way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this dramatic upheaval may nonetheless present a historical opportunity for open dialogues between neighboring nations on a people-to-people basis. This is why I decided to finish what I started two decades ago: reactivate and reinvent MEPN, as an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit, non-governmental organization (NGO) that uses private diplomacy to complement the activities of the Middle Eastern governments in their pursuit of peace and conflict resolution.

MEPN plans to launch a massive strategic campaign to help impact public thinking in the region, primarily among Israelis and Palestinians as peoples, about the possibility of achieving a final settlement of their age-old dispute. At the basis of this campaign is the assumption that no final-status peace agreement will ever be reached until both Arabs and Israelis change their minds about their minds with regard to their conflict.

To create such a paradigm shift, I argue, we must immediately enhance the peace process by adding a nongovernmental peacebuilding component (known as Track Two) to the peace efforts. In this warring region, both tracks—“peace from above” (Track One) and “peace from below” (Track Two)—are needed in order for peace negotiations to succeed. For a genuine peace to occur we must first create an “ecology of peace” in the region—a warm climate that fosters conciliatory interactions, open communications, and genuine opportunities for peace.

You are invited to read my essay, “A Quest for Peace,” published in this website. It expands on the concept of two-track diplomacy and the thoughts behind the need for such a strategy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict arena. You are also invited to subscribe to the e-newsletter PeaceNotes, where I share my thoughts.

To achieve the long-sought peace in theMiddle East, we must be prepared for a long battle for the minds and hearts of both Arabs and Israelis. This is not going to be a quick-fix solution, as our political leaders have attempted for many years to accomplish.

This notion was beautifully expressed by President John F. Kennedy:

Peace does not rest in the charters and covenants alone; it lies in the hearts and minds of all people.

And by the UNESCO Constitution:

Since wars are born in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men where we have to erect the ramparts of peace.”

King Hussein of Jordan observed in 1994 that:

peace resides ultimately not in the hands of governments but in the hands of the people, for unless peace can be made real to the men, women and children of the Middle East, the best efforts of negotiators will come to naught.”

Peace lies in the hearts and minds of all people, not in the words and phrases of international agreements!

We at MEPN accept this fundamental guiding principle and are committed—through a series of bold and innovative peacebuilding projects—to help Arabs and Israelis create the necessary paradigm shift and affect the way they behave towards each other. Engaging in a two-prong strategy that targets the Israeli-Palestinian conflict arena and the surrounding Muslim world, the strategic campaign will have two bold and innovative initiatives—the Israeli-Palestinian Peacebuilding Initiative (IPPI) and the Jewish-Muslim Reconciliation Initiative (JMRI), both of which are designed to create the desirable breakthrough.

Whether you are an Arab, Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, you are invited to join our dedicated team of peace-builders. You’ll be surprised how you, alone or together with friends, can be effective in bringing private diplomacy into the Arab-Israeli conflict arena and making a difference in the lives of millions. Being the beneficiary of peace and victim of its absence, you—like all ordinary citizens—have the right, even the responsibility, to engage in peacebuilding and peacemaking.

While official diplomats serve as conduits between the Arab and Israeli leaders, unofficial private diplomats serve as conduits between the Arab and Israeli peoples. While recognizing that foreign affairs are the traditional domain of nation states and governments, I am convinced that political leaders, particularly in the Middle East, are incapable of making peace on their own. We ordinary citizens have an advantage. We can supplement the work of the official diplomats, especially in areas where they are unable or cannot negotiate. We can build the necessary “ecology of peace,” a warm climate where the traditional diplomats can be more effective on the negotiating table. Watch my recent video expanding on those thoughts.

Peace talks don’t create peace, actions do! Peace ought to be an active process!

The launch of MEPNetwork.org is a major step in making MEPN visible. It is designed to be an online resource for anyone who agrees with our guiding principles and wants to help further our mission. You are invited to continuously access this website in order to not only obtain information and insights about the politics of the Middle Ease but also to make a statement of commitment to the noble cause of peace in this region.

Please do not hesitate to critique us by giving us feedback. But if you find that you align with our vision, then join hands with us and make a difference by e-mailing us and, even better, by clicking here to Get Involved.

I sincerely hope that this message will inspire you to join us in our efforts to build a culture of peace in the Middle East. May God bless all of us with salaam/shalom!

— Dr. Shai Har-El

 

Bio of Dr. Shai Har-El

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