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Building the Future Middle East
The Members and Staff of the MidEast Web Group
The Middle East is our home. We want to build a beautiful home, a safe and prosperous one for us and our children. However, without cooperation between peoples, there is no hope and no life for any of us. This can only happen after we change our ways of thinking about many things. We need to overcome the effects of decades of conflict, separation and hate propaganda. The MidEast Web Group uses the Web, the Internet and other media to promote and publicize dialog, people-to-people and educational projects, and to make non-violence, tolerance and rapprochement key values in our societies. For charitable organizations and dialog groups, MidEast Web is a shared publicity resource - and a place to find resources to help them in their work. For everyone, it will be a service and, we hope, a useful, interesting and entertaining source of information.
The major goals of MidEast Web are:
Popularizing Humanitarian Values
Building a Common Reality
Building a Human Network
Amplifying the Work of Others
Building Friendships and Skills
Humanizing the "Enemy"
The Future Must be Better than the Past
If you don’t find what you are looking for at our Web site, have patience. MidEast Web is being built slowly. It will always be "under construction" and it is your place to air your views, share your thoughts and help make a difference. Please contact us if you can help.
Some of our peoples have been taught to hate each other for many years. They do not hear much in the school system or media to change these perceptions. Cooperative projects, and even contacts with "the enemy," are considered suspect. They are not acceptable to most people. This is enforced by ignorance propagated in the media and racist stereotypes about the culture of the enemy. A steady diet of hate has given us all indigestion of the mind. Years of national struggle have made violence and assertiveness paramount values in many Middle Eastern societies. What is our image of the "manly man?" What is our image of "the enemy?" A great effort must be made to humanize our image of our neighbors, and to make nonviolence, tolerance and neighborly relations acceptable values and norms of conduct in this region.
Isolation and years of conflict have placed a wall between the two peoples. Each lives in a different dimension and a different reality, with different history and a different view of current events, because the information they have been getting is different. The Mid-East Web site will help break through the wall of non-communication and create a common reality and a basis for common understanding, by providing balanced news and historical sources, as well as a panorama of views. The information will be valuable to students of the conflict and interested bystanders, as well as to citizens of the Middle East.
Human contacts between peoples in different countries of the Middle East, despite physical, language and psychological barriers, are an essential ingredient in building the peace. Initial contacts for rapprochement between politicians cannot really come from nowhere. In the Middle East, achievement of peace between Arab peoples and Israel has been facilitated by informal contacts of volunteer organizations and academic persons meeting in various capacities. Grass roots support for rapprochement must be built in order to win popular approval. Even after the formal peace is made, there must be a "support network" that will help make it a reality.
A veteran peacemaker explained it this way:
In any conflict, history will eventually provide an opportunity for resolution at the political level. When that happens, we must be ready with a network of human contacts between the groups who can work together to implement the political solution and make it work.
MidEast Web is building such a network through e-mail and face-to-face contacts between individuals and groups.
MidEast Web will help build dialog and promote education for coexistence by providing publicity for these projects and by providing resources: games and information for education; information about where to find dialog partners, topics and advice about how to start a dialog project and a news letter for dialog groups. We will also present articles, poems and other materials created by projects for young people that promote peace education and dialog.
Numerous dialog and education projects, as well as interfaith organizations do wonderful work both in the Middle East and abroad. The value of these projects as models for cooperation, for how people should behave as neighbors, would be multiplied many times over if the general public knew about them. How many times a day do you hear about Coca-Cola? How many times a month do you hear about violence in the Middle East? Now think how many times a year the average person hears about cooperative efforts in the Middle East. How many such projects can you name? If you live in the Middle East, you probably remember more names of battles and disasters. This is one thing we need to change.
In order to change attitudes, we need to bring our message to a mass audience. Internet is only one means of doing so - the least expensive. To reach a mass audience, we must:
Be neutral - We must not be agents or spokesmen for one side or the other. MidEast Web is being built by people of all faiths from many countries. We are all united in common values of decency, non-violence and neighborly respect. When we come to MidEast Web, we try to leave behind, as much as possible, our opinions about different conflicts, and to break the habit of finding blame and "finger pointing." We will publicize different views, so long as they are honest, well presented, informed and presented in a non-inflammatory way.
Be useful and interesting - We do not have a captive audience. People come to us because we provide them with information that they need or want: maps, history, reliable and accurate background information, resources for dialog, news, a viewpoint they cannot get anywhere else, a personal story, eyewitness accounts of history, poems...
Publicize our site - MidEast Web is not just a site that tells about the work of an organization. It is in large part the work itself. We invest considerable resources in getting people to MidEast Web. MidEastWeb is a success - so material placed on this site is seen by thousands of people each day.
All of the work of MidEast Web is done by volunteers - people of different nationalities and faiths working together to create materials. Cooperation builds friendship. We hope that students will help us build this site, and we hope to offer resources to schools in Palestine and Israel, including training seminars, to help build technical and language skills and make the Web available to a larger circle of people
The "enemy" takes on demonic proportions in any conflict. Each side may imagine the other with horns and a tail. The enemy may be imagined as engaging in terrorism and sadism most of their waking lives. In reality, the enemy are people quite like their enemies. They (We) eat, they get married, they have children and hopes for the future. They have insights and talents and foibles. They mourn the losses of loved ones. They read books and enjoy a good joke now and then. These simple truths must be brought home to all parties in any conflict through personal contacts, exchange of small talk and jokes and the trivia of life, through accounts of personal tragedies and loss, and of joys and disappointments, through working together, and eating together and relaxing together, as well as through exposure to culture and wisdom of others.
MidEast Web helps build a common language and respect for neighbors by presenting aspects of the cultural life and religion of different MidEast peoples. This will help remove the element of strangeness from other cultures, give respect for the teachings of peace and decency common to all the great religions and teachings, and help motivate people to find out more about their neighbors. We can all be enriched by art from Kuwait, architecture from Jordan, stories from Egypt and Israel and Palestine. We will also help people learn about each other through personal contacts, working together and sharing our lives and thoughts.
The Middle East is our home, the home of many peoples. Most of us are children of Abraham in spirit and according to our religions. If we learn to live together, we can have a beautiful home. It can be built in splendor and use the wisdom and skills of our peoples to create a great life for us and our children. Our lives can be enriched by the multitude of cultures and the great histories of our peoples. This should be the main goal of everyone in the Middle East. The past can be a great resource. Let’s understand the past, and feel each other's pain and pride, but let us leave the bad parts behind us. Let’s devote our scarce energies and scarce resources to build the future together.
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