It was worth making the 151 mile round trip this evening, through the driving rain, to dialogue with between 80-100 of the most intelligent and articulate Sixth Formers you will find anywhere in Britain.
Stowe is one of the UK’s leading public schools with a wide range of nationalities represented. Members of the faculty invited me to address the historical and political context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, from an Israeli and Palestinian perspective, and summarise the position of the United Nations and rulings of the International Court of Justice.
The Faculty and Stoics engaged in a stimulating discussion, raising questions that centred on why Israel has been able to act with impunity and why the occupation, settlements and separation barrier are largely funded through US loan guarantees. The frustration expressed at the failure of British diplomacy to achieve the implementation of UN Resolutions was most encouraging. As with similar school presentations, I explained to the Stoics their homework – to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict and succeed where their parents generation has failed. If some of the world’s brightest and best young minds cannot bring about a diplomatic solution based on justice and the rule of international law, then God help our world.
“Do you know the definition of a pessimist?” asks Afif Safieh, head of the PLO Delegation to the USA. He answers with a bitter smile: “an optimist with information.” In an interview with Akiva Eldar published in Ha`aretz back in September 2007, Afif said, “My message to the American society as a Palestinian diplomat is not `give up a friend` but `add a friend.` I don`t have a problem with the commitment to Israel`s existence; I`m just asking my American friends if you are also committed to Israel`s territorial expansion? Do your interests include the Israeli occupation in the territories? For this is it worth it for you to fight with the entire Arab world? I`m saying to my American friends that the U.S. is a wonderful society, pluralistic, and a nation of nations. It absorbed eight million Muslims, of them four million who are Arabs and 400,000 Palestinians… Public opinion polls show that 60 percent of Americans would like to see a more balanced policy toward us… and 70 percent support a solution of two states.”