Yala online peace conference screenshot 311.
(photo credit: Screen Shot)
Move over Camp David, Israeli-Palestinian peace has gone
Facebook on Monday played host to the first-ever online peace
conference, put together by a group called YaLa Young Leaders, aimed at creating
dialogue between Israelis, Palestinians and Americans.
“I am delighted to
send greetings to all of you who have gathered in this virtual space to help
shape the future of the Middle East,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said
in a pre-recorded video statement, projected on a YouTube billboard in a virtual
Noting the role of technology in fomenting the revolutions of the
Arab Spring, Clinton commended the Israeli and Arab conference participants for
using the Internet to promote peace through dialogue.
“You come to the
table with the hope that you can look past your differences and lay the
foundation for peace, and I admire your resolve to engage in these very
difficult discussions,” Clinton said.
“Your voices will continue to be
invaluable in the process.”
The conference included taped messages from a
wide range of personalities, including President Shimon Peres, Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, former US White House peace envoy Dennis
Ross, UNESCO head Irina Bokova, American actress Sharon Stone and Barcelona
football coach Joseph “Pep” Guardiola.
“Peace,” said Peres, “is not
necessarily a monopoly of governments. It can be and should be peace among
people. So let the governments negotiate, let the administrations build,
but you make the people come together: straight, directly, openly.”
written message to the conference, Abbas said, “Watching the force of reason,
dignity and courage takes us through leaps of hope into a brighter
Ross, who acknowledged that “obviously we are in a difficult
time now,” made clear he didn’t believe the popular movements in the Arab world
– movements that led to the victory by the Islamists in the Egyptian parliament
– do not necessarily make peace more difficult to achieve now.
that while it is critical for leaders to make peace, it is fundamental for the
people on both sides to believe in that peace. And, he added, “I believe that
ultimately if peace is between people, then having states become much more
representative is ultimately a good thing.”
The conference, also
sponsored by the Shimon Peres Center for Peace, took place through a Facebook
software platform called Shaker, which creates a virtual space for users’ online
avatars to walk around, interact and view conference material
This virtual reality, however, was ultimately not divorced from
the hateful reality on the ground, as a number of people took to the organizers’
Facebook page to write anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments.
example, someone named Samer Hussam posted the following: “To all the
Palestinians in this group, you are helping to give the Zionists more time to
create a new reality on the ground. Go back to national resistance. People, do
not cover up the crimes of the Zionists. Do not sell the rights of your people
for trips outside the country.” Another post read, “Go to hell Israel, the big
nation of terrorists. Viva Free Palestine.”
Cnaan Liphshiz contributed to