On June 6th, 2006, the Palestine-Israel Journal organized a public event at the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem in conjunction with the publication of our issue dealing with the topic of People-to-People (P2P). The scheduled main speakers were PLO Executive Member Yasser Abed-Rabbo and Meretz Party head MK Yossi Beilin. Abed Rabbo was prevented from attending because his permit to travel from Ramallah to Jerusalem was delayed until after the event was over, and Beilin remained in the Knesset trying to deal with the problem.
Palestine-Israel Journal co-editor Ziad Abu Zayyad was also prevented from attending because he had not yet received a renewal of the permit which would enable him to regularly fulfill responsibilities in the journal's East Jerusalem office.
The large audience included many foreign dignitaries, Archbishop Michel Sabbah and a number of Palestinians who made a special effort to come from the West Bank.
The event was opened by PIJ co-editor Hillel Schenker, who said that there was "no logical reason for Abu Zayyad's absence." Ruba Aburoqtti of the Austrian Development Cooperation presented a greeting on behalf of the Austrian and EU supporters of the issue and event.
Daniel Levy, a former advisor to Prime Minister Barak and a central activist in the Geneva initiative and journalist Elias Zananiri, director of the Palestinian Peace Coalition spoke on behalf of Beilin and Abed Rabbo, and PIJ editorial board member Gershon Baskin served as moderator.
In the discussion, some said that while people-to-people activity cannot be a substitute for the hard political work that has to be done, it still can be a very potent antidote to unilateralism. P2P activities serve as a solution to the dehumanization of the other, and can provide practical help on the ground. It was generally agreed that the ultimate goal of P2P activities is to help reach a lasting and genuine peace in the region.
The PIJ is now involved in a campaign to ensure that the question of permits will not serve as an obstacle to our work and to future P2P activity.