Monday, April 11, 2016

Peace alliance seeks to move beyond sharing a plate of hummus

Dov Lieber,

Image from article, with caption: ALLMEP Community Graduate Fair 2016 - Jerusalem April 7 2016

With aid of umbrella network, eclectic group of Palestinian and Israeli NGOs meets to form a stronger union that’s serious about peace-building

And as tenacious as they might be in the fight for peace, grassroots NGOs are ill-equipped to battle foreign lawmakers to keep the money to pay their staff flowing.
In a bid to mitigate such tussling as well as to ensure the flow of grant money, over 90 Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian peace-building groups have joined an international umbrella organization, the Alliance for Middle East Peace.
ALLMEP lobbies in the halls of power to ensure aid continues, and — perhaps most importantly — creates a neutral space for groups from across the incredibly diverse Israeli-Palestinian peace-building community to meet and cooperate.
Last Thursday for the first time, the umbrella group held a conference in which people who had taken part in the groups’ activities, as well as senior brass from around Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, met, networked and attended seminars related to the peace-building community. ...
Joel Braunold, the executive director of ALLMEP, said the conference had one overarching message: to strip the image of these NGOs simply making “nice.”
“This stuff really matters to people’s lives,” he said.
To become a member of the alliance, the NGOs have to sign an agreement saying they are committed to changing the status quo.
In return, the members are represented by ALLMEP’s lobbyists in Washington.
Much of the grant money for such NGOs in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel comes from the US AID Conflict Management and Mitigation Program (CMM), which is reevaluated every year by Congress, as well as from EU grants.
This year, in a testament to ALLMEP’s work, Congress allotted $10 million for CMM grants for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence NGOs. This is the largest chunk from the total $26 million the US government set aside for global conflicts.
Braunold expected that around a third of the groups coming to Jerusalem would be from the West Bank. It seemed, though, that Arabs were in the majority.
Huda Abuarquob, an on-the-ground regional director of ALLMEP and former English teacher from the West Bank town of Dura, described not serious peace-making endeavors as “hummus dialogue.”
“For example,” said Abuarquob, “something like women meeting over plates of hummus and talking about what being mothers is like.”
Her work with ALLMEP, she said, “is dialogue that takes us from talking to walking; dialogue that works toward building real trusting relationships.”
To move beyond hummus peace-making, the conference featured expert panels, which included R. David Harden, mission director for USAID in the region, as well as Richard Buangan, the consul for public affairs and public diplomacy at the US Consulate in Jerusalem. ...

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