This is the final part of a three-part story on Arabs urging better relations with Jews. If you have not done so already, we suggest first reading Arabs for Israel? – Part I and Arabs for Israel? – Part II
Zakariya suggests a similar analysis: “We pinned too much hope on political initiatives that didn’t bear any fruit,” he told the magazine. “We assumed politicians would be able to bring peace. Instead, they ignored technological progress enabling people to interact more freely and did their best to inflame the masses by giving the central stage to anti-Israel elements that distorted the image of the country,” he said.
Taking action into his own hands, Zakariya created a Facebook page allowing Arabs and Jews to conduct an open dialogue aimed at minimizing the hatred. “Israelis and Egyptians should meet, talk, discuss, and come to conclusions. Hatred is pointless,” he pointed out. ‘Talking Peace’ already lists more than a thousand members, becoming one of the most popular sources of knowledge for all those willing to learn more about the Jewish state.
But apart from educating people on the web, Zakariya is also teaching Hebrew, believing his work makes students more objective. “Knowing the language, they will be able to read the material themselves, without consulting various go-betweens, who falsify information and distort facts,” he stated.
Agbariya, however, preferred not to give too much importance to education. “It is surely necessary but reality is more complex,” he said. “For several years now, I’ve been monitoring the education of the young children — both Arabs and Jews – trying to implement the principles of tolerance and acceptance among them. Despite achieving significant progress, all efforts were instantly scrapped the moment another terrorist attack or a military operation took place. My experience shows that unless significant political steps are taken to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hatred will only escalate,” he summed up.
Yet, history shows that political action is not always a panacea. A UNESCO report from 2002 that investigated the failures of the UK government in solving the Northern Ireland conflict revealed that despite the implementation of various policies along with constitutional and institutional changes, the existing divisions have only hardened and deepened.
So until major changes, if any, are implemented, authorities should at least consider tackling the problem of incitement. However, given the fact that anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement has yet to incur any significant penalty from major world powers like the US (despite Washington’s occasional protestations against it), the possibility of any improvement on this issue is very unlikely.
At the same time, practice shows that direct contact between Jews and Arabs is the most efficient tool in conflict resolution. In 2009, only 35% of Israeli Arabs expressed a negative opinion of Jews, while 56% voiced a favorable view. Living side by side with the Jewish people, many Arabs agree that “the devil is not as black as he is painted.”