'Let's seize the day' Two twentysomethings create Pakistan-Israel Peace Forum
by Eric Fingerhut
In Israel, politics is typical workday conversation, but when Dror Topf came to the United States about 3 1/2 years ago, he was advised that might not be a good idea.
Yet on the first day of his job at a consulting firm, he couldn't help himself. A French colleague started attacking Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and even though Topf calls himself a "Labor Party kind of guy," he responded in kind.
Later told he would be sitting side-by-side with a employee from Pakistan, Topf was a little worried. He'd never met anyone from Pakistan, and that country did not recognize Israel.
His new co-worker was not what he had expected.
Waleed Ziad "has more Jewish friends than I do," Topf quipped. And he was "kind of like my counterpart," said Topf, 29.
Just as Topf can sympathize with the average Palestinian trying to get to work, but held up by checkpoints, Ziad, 25, can understand the average Israeli's worry that a suicide bomb might go off at any minute.
"Waleed is able to look [an Israeli] in the eye and see we're not evil," Topf said.
More than two years after that initial April 2003 meeting, the two friends and District residents have joined together to form the Pakistan-Israel Peace Forum, an organization dedicated to promoting dialogue and establishing relations between Pakistan and Israel at the political, cultural, social and economic levels.
The organization's Web site (www.pakistanisraelpeace.org) contains a petition â€¹ which has acquired 91 signatures since its posting in mid-September â€¹ calling for "building of bridges and promotion of dialogue" between the two countries.
"Peace, reconciliation, and activism to benefit all humanity are hallmarks of the two great religions, Judaism and Islam," states the petition, which also emphasizes that the group "expresses no partiality for any political position."
The idea for the forum was sparked by the first meeting of the Pakistani and Israeli foreign ministers on Sept. 1, said Ziad.
"Let's seize the day" and bring together those who "feel this way" in Pakistan and Israel," said Ziad.
"Our first goal is people will talk, people will meet," said Topf, adding that he hopes that through the Web site to create a "chat room" for Pakistanis and Israelis.
Ziad sees the group as perhaps sponsoring an exchange program that would bring Israelis to Pakistan and vice versa, and promoting economic and business ties between the two countries.
While Topf had never met a Pakistani before, Ziad was quite familiar with Israelis and Jews.
He was born in Pakistan and attended high school there, but has lived in a variety of other countries â€¹ including Turkey, Romania and Uzbekistan in addition to the U.S.
And he has been friends with a number of Jews over the years as a result of his international travels; in fact, his first exposure to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was hearing an Israeli friend's opinion of it in the fourth grade.
Ziad also has been involved in interfaith work, helping to organize the first Muslim-Jewish event at his alma mater, Yale University, in the days after Sept. 11.
So when he was paired with Topf â€¹ in their company's library during an office remodeling â€¹ it was nothing unusual.
"We opened up to each other pretty quickly," said Ziad, who noted that not being afraid to "say what you feel" is one of a number of traits that Pakistanis and Israelis share.
Ziad said Pakistanis are also similar to Israelis in the "chutzpah in the way [they] approach a situation," their strong family bonds, and the "grand matriarch" that holds the greatest power in the family.
Topf said that Ziad would probably be a member of the Labor Party if he were in Israel.
Ziad demurred from outlining a specific position on the Israel-Palestinian issue, saying he has not "faced the fire" and lived there.
To him, the area's biggest problem is that "so often on both sides ... there is a refusal to acknowledge the reality" of the other side. But often "extremists have the loudest voices."
Ziad is optimistic that there are many more like him in Pakistan who are willing to reach out to Israel. He cited a trip he took with Jewish friends a few years ago to his home country, saying they got the "red-carpet treatment" from everyday Pakistanis who were intrigued by Jews and wanted to learn more about them.
He also noted that when he sent information about the new group to a Pakistani Yahoo listserv, the initial response was that such an initiative should not occur until there is a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But that was followed by a number of positive messages from people arguing, for example, that one cannot resolve the conflict without dialogue.
He called Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's recent speech to Jewish leaders a hopeful sign, noting that coverage by the Pakistani media was generally positive.
Both Topf and Ziad point to ambivalence in their respective countries as an obstacle for their group. Ziad said that Pakistanis generally support the Palestinian cause, but see it as far away and not an important part of their life.
Topf said that Israelis would be happy to see improved relations with Pakistan, but are much more concerned about Palestinian terrorism.
But both emphasize the possible ramifications of this initiative. They believe that increased ties between the two countries could help Israel in dealing with Iran â€¹ since Pakistan has ties to that country â€¹ and possibly enable Israel to be a peace broker between Pakistan and India.
Topf and Ziad have already acquired one big-name (at least in Pakistan) supporter for their efforts: Salman Ahmad, a rock star so popular in Pakistan that the teachers in the country's madrassas, religious schools, are fans, according to Ziad.
And they have inspired at least one local pro-Israel activist to join their cause.
Michael Berenhaus of Potomac, who assisted Topf and Ziad in setting up the group and serves on its advisory committee, said he is excited by the group's goal of "understanding [each other] at a person-to-person level."
A founder of the media watch group Eye on the Post, which criticizes The Washington Post for what it believes is anti-Israel bias, Berenhaus sees the peace forum as "more productive."
"I've realized building bridges is more productive that breaking them down," he said.
that's encouraging. Thank you for posting.
Tomaz Humar website. We were all waiting what would happen. Some were even watching online. I think a short video is also on that website somewhere.
Why do we do that? Well, every child spends some time in the mountains, but in our mountains mostly Czechs and Slovaks die. The Nanga Parbat rescue is considered the toughest so far.
Every death in our mountains is a failure of all three states. Humar made people angry, at least he says he'll build a hospital there. We also have a guy who sweam the Mississippi and Yangze rivers.
The Tomaz Humar rescue in the Himalayan Region was the highest altitude rescue ever. It was excellent work by the Pak Army.
This is K2, second highest peak in the world, Pakistan.
Originally Posted by Lasbella
Pervez Musharraf is very impressive. Unfortunately, he has too many enemies in Pakistan who want to see him dead.
A long awaited but not too late step in the right direction. Atlast a Pakistani leader had the courage and strength to do something out of the box.
Overt relations between Pakistan and Israel exsited since the early 1980s but to come out and acknowledge their very existance in public required a great deal of gutts. Kudos to the President Pervaiz Musharraf.
Currently there are talks of Israeli trade and Liason Office being opened in a friendly country's consulte section at Karachi, Pakistan and Pakistan's office at Tel Eviv, Israel.
Israel has asked Pakistan to vote for Israel's membership in the upcoming Red Cross Meeting in December. Red Cross do not accept Israel's red cross version because they use the shield of David.
Pakistan has asked Israel to help Pakistan's membership in USA's nuclear cooperation club.
Israel has alot to offer to Pakistan such as their extremely high output of cotton production per acre and technology whereas Pakistan can offer its influence over Islamic countries. Trade, tourism and international coopeartion between the two countries sitting at two different corners of the world can be anything but beneficial to both.
A lot of Indians will try to create rifts. I hope members here are wise enough to distinguish the positives from the negatives of Pakistan-Israeli relations.
I hope more Pakistanis come forward to support better relations between our countries.
I have always been a firm supporter of the idea of Pakistan recognizing Israel and establishing better relations. Hopefully these recent talks are the beginning of a great future friendship.
A word of caution from a staunch Indian for our Israeli brothers : dont get yourself deluded into this recent outburst of friendship by Pakis towards Israel . Pakis , are intrinsically born opiated with severe anti-semitism . Neither Musharraff , a puppet of George W Bush nor these young pakidefence buffoons reflect the true anti-jew sentiments of mainstream pakis . In a recent survery of global attitudes by Pew , Pakis score high when it comes to hating west . A quote from report on anti-semitism :
The only reason for recent Paki initiative is India . Its innate Paki quality of "If we cant have/do it , India shouldnt too " . Israel should exercise caution and at best use these diplomatic channels to solve it long term issues with Arab world and nothing more than that . Any high tech-transfers of intellectual and military entities to this land of Nuclear Proliferation , land of Extremist mullahs is suicidal .Anti-Semitism in South Asia
Anti-Semitism is not an issue of any significance in India, nor in the smaller South Asian countries, specifically Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Although there are very few Jewish citizens in the country, anti-Semitic press articles are common in the vernacular press. NGO sources point out that since India's 1992 establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel, the Pakistani media, both mainstream and Islamic, sometimes refers to India as the "Zionist threat on our borders." Nonetheless, the attitude of the media is not reflected in the actions of the Government. The Government cooperated in the capture of those responsible for the 2002 abduction and killing of Wall Street Journal Correspondent Daniel Pearl.
InnocentMonster, why have you repeated this post twice? Once here, and once in the "Is this true about Israel" thread?
No worries - I think if it comes down to something like 'India or Pakistan' the choice is quite obvious... India is the natural ally of Israel. I see no benefit in having diplomatic relations with Pakistan - a country that openly supports our enemies. Our foreign minister Silvan Shalom just wants to score some political points and divert attention from the real issues that we are facing. He likes to read his name in the newspapers. It's all hyped up.Originally Posted by InnocentMonster
Maybe there will be a time when you will say that Pakistan WAS a country that USED to support your enemies ????Originally Posted by Ariksan
Pakistan has been standing up to the Terrorist State of India for the past few decades that is 7 times larger then it in almost every aspect. Now they have realized that they cant have their way with Pakistan so they are begging for dialogue. Bafoons !
As far as Israel is concerned, A nuclear armed Pakistan with a massive influence over other Islamic countries and also a friend to Israel like Turkey will automatically become a great value country to Israel in time. Sharon is an ultra Nationalist and he wouldnt even think twice about having friendly ties with Pakistan.
By the way, There are tens of more Islamic countries that sing Pakistan's tune on international forums as compared to the Terrorist State of India. :-).
Originally Posted by Aliph
Why don't you just stop the rhetoric for a moment. Anybody with a brain knows that the only thing standing in the way of Pakistan and India having a nice little cold peace at this moment in time is that Kashmir is a vital water resource. For once, I would like to see people leave religion out of these conflicts and call a spade a spade. If everyone truly cared about the sanctity of their respective faiths, they wouldn't drag them through the political mud. And if you must do it, then don't do it here.
What I am trying to figure out is why every place called Israel has to become a battle ground for some unrelated third parties...
â€œThis is a reality but I wonâ€™t deal with it in terms of recognizing or admitting it.â€
Khaled Mashaal, Hamas leader
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