By RAY HANANIA
Israeli President Shimon Peres recently launched his own YouTube on-line video channel. No, the videos are not the usual junk you find on YouTube or other on-line video Web sites, but express serious thoughts that explore his dedication to peace.
I met Peres years ago as a reporter in Chicago, and again during the 1993 White House peace signing between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat that both Hamas and the Likud helped to destroy. Peres impressed me as someone who genuinely wants to find a fair compromise to end the conflict between our two peoples.
I watched his videos and listened but I realized I was becoming discouraged. You see, a key element in Peres's message is his outreach to the youth. Peres explained that he has many years experience as a political leader, but he recognizes that young people might be better prepared to offer newer and creative ideas.
That by itself is nothing to worry about. It should be applauded, but I do know from experience that when government leaders start to talk about the need to engage the "youth," that means they have hit a brick wall in their own journeys.
I feel bad that Peres was not successful in breaking through the barricades that have prevented peace between Palestinians and Israelis. He has dedicated his life to peace, and it seems as if he is ready to turn over the mission of achieving peace to the young.
I'm not sure the young are ready. Today's young Palestinians and Israelis were raised in an era consumed by conflict, animosity and even hatred. We are at a time where demagogues have turned complex challenges into simplistic bubbles that can be burst with catchy phrases like "you are either with us or against us."
The reasons that started the conflict have disappeared into the haze of many decades of history, and our youth are left not with a depth of knowledge but a shallow sense of reaction based on what has happened in recent years. And what has happened in recent years is very disturbing.
Palestinians and Israelis have hardened their hearts. Those who believe in peace, like President Peres, possibly, have exhaled their sighs and have slumped back into their own individual lives.
Those who oppose peace have found it easier to whip up public emotions by tapping the anger from an act of violence and turning it into a movement against peace rather than as a mission to support peace.
The extremists are winning, but I know that the majority of people who are taking sides are good people who just don't know what to do.
I'VE ALWAYS believed there were two kinds of people in this world. There are those who hate. And there are those who are angry but don't know how to resolve their anger.
The haters are not a very large group at all. They are usually a minority in a given society. But their hatred is powerful because it is driven by emotion and emotion is a magnet for despondency. It attracts people who can't understand why things don't work.
The other is the larger community of frustrated and confused public. They are the silent majority but they are angry. Their anger is easily exploited and used by the haters to convey a false image of a larger majority voice in society. The small group of haters use the larger silent and frustrated majority to make themselves look like they are more influential and that they speak for the people rather than for themselves.
The answer to our conflict isn't in the past, nor is it in the future hope of some creative young person, although it is important to give our young people better role models who might lead them away from the haters and the extremism and the sense of despondency that today's challenges cannot be overcome.
We already know the answers. What we need are leaders, young and old, who are able to clearly see, who can distinguish between the minority of haters and the confused majority. To listen to the voices of pain and suffering and distinguish them from the stridency of the extremists.
I don't want President Peres to sit back and turn the mantel of leadership over to the youth. I want him to keep fighting until his last breath to do what needs to be done not just for Israelis, but for Palestinians, too.
I REMEMBER Peres once said years ago that the future of the Israelis is tied to the future of the Palestinians. And the future of the Palestinians is tied to the future of the Israelis.
We cannot do anything alone. We have to do it together. I wish Palestinians had that kind of leadership among their elite; leaders with the courage to embrace compromise, who can look past the violence to a vision of prosperity and peace, and who can bring the majority of my people away from the precipice of anguish to the pinnacle of achievement.
I want to be inspired. And I know that whether you are young or old, real inspiration comes from courageous voices that break free of the fear.
Don't sit back, Mr. Peres. Get up and bring our two peoples back together. We know what the answer is. All we have to do is show the answer to our people.
Years ago Mr. Peres, when I was very young, you did inspire this youth with your ideas and actions to stand up and fight for peace.
The writer is a Palestinian columnist and peace activist. He can be reached through his web page at www.YallaPeace.com
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