August 1, 2019

From Northern Ireland, lessons on disrupting the polarization of Israeli and Palestinian youth

In a thoughtful opinion piece in The Times of Israel, writer Jonah Naghi discussed the International Fund for Ireland as a model for promoting Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation. The Irish fund, which helped build people-to-people understanding and establish sustainable peace agreement in Northern Ireland, is the conceptual framework behind ALLMEP’s International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. ALLMEP recently championed the introduction of the bi-cameral, bi-partisan Partnership Fund for Peace Act as a step towards establishing an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. Such a fund, Naghi argues, has the potential to disrupt the polarization of Israeli and Palestinian youth by investing in people-to-people peacebuilding programs at a significant scale:

“These generational divisions may also be explained by the different eras in which they have lived. Older Israelis and Palestinians lived during the time of the Oslo Accords, when there was greater freedom of movement and interaction between them and a stronger sense of hope for peace in the environment. In contrast, Israeli and Palestinian youths have only witnessed violence. Many of them grew up when the Oslo Accords collapsed and they saw the violence that came out of the Second Intifada and the multiple wars in Gaza. They have also had less opportunities to interact with and humanize each other, and have not witnessed any public handshakes between their respective leaders, and are thus more skeptical about the possibility of making peace with their adversaries.

Another explanation for the generational divide may be the change in demographics. Israeli Jewish youths are becoming increasingly Orthodox due to higher birth rates within haredi and other religious communities. Orthodox communities may be more opposed to a two-state solution for several reasons. One is that they may not want to divide the land for religious reasons. Another factor may be that the religious communities in Israel have been neglected by Israel’s peace camp. Indeed, Israel’s peace camp has been historically dominated by the secular Ashkenazi communities, and they have failed to branch out to the Mizrahi and religious communities in Israel, preventing them from having as many interactions with Palestinians.

An international fund, however, may be able to help overcome these obstacles. With more financial capital, grassroots movements could start to bring more Israeli and Palestinian youths together so they can re-humanize each other and develop a culture of peace. Moreover, an international fund would give grassroots movements the financial capacity they need to broaden their base outside of the secular communities and bring more people from the next generation of religious Jews and Palestinians into contact with each other as well.”

Read the full op-ed at The Times of Israel


Photo Credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters 

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