I was selected as one of 30 journalists from around the world to participate in a New Media and Public Diplomacy Seminar focusing on the Disputed Areas in Israel, sponsored by the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Ariel University. What an opportunity! Aside from visiting the areas ceaselessly debated in the news, the intensive course also included detailed analysis from high ranking government officials, military personnel, intelligence representatives, media experts and local civilians. (Photo above: me at the Prime Minister’s office, standing at PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s podium!)
The other journalists chosen to participate, the international colleagues I got to know, were also a treasure. I likely never would have met them otherwise. Mudar Zahran, a Palestinian Jordanian and practicing Muslim with strong opinions that Israel deserves to live and thrive from the river to the sea, with strong borders and fierce security is one such person. Zahran is positioning himself to be the new prime minster of Jordan when King Abdullah eventually falls. This brave fellow speaks the truth about how a Palestinian state already exists. It is called Jordan. He explains that the majority of Jordanians self-identify as Palestinian and support and agree with his position. He is a brave man whose life is in danger because he boldly speaks out in defense of Israel, in support of true co-existence. I stay in touch with Mudar and am proud to call him my friend. I wish him safety and success.
I ended up in the photo with Mudar in the Israeli article below, but it is all about him. You can read Mudar’s writings here.
Lest anyone believe this program was one sided because of the sponsors, let me correct that notion right now. Several of the speakers who spoke to us were extraordinarily critical of Israel and a couple of them, I dare say, were outright anti-Israel. I was very outspoken during the program, challenging the many distortions, half-truths and lies they used to present their agenda-driven case and so was interviewed for a different paper. The article is below.
I am sure I will reference the sites seen and information gathered during this visit in future posts. So, this is a glimpse into the program, but certainly not reflective of the experience in its entirety. I am very grateful that I got to check out the situation from the ground.