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article imageOp-Ed: Peace activist holding interfaith events in Israel-Palestine area Special

By Ernest Dempsey     Jul 27, 2014 in World
Jerusalem - Author and peace activist Dr. Fran Romano feels the current leadership in Israel-Palestine region may be feeding on violence to maintain short-term power.
The world is currently witnessing another ongoing series of violence in the Israel-Palestine region and as of today, Hamas and Israel have resumed fighting after a brief truce between the two sides has come to an end. Meanwhile, social media is abuzz with scores of people posting slogans with images and videos supporting either side. My writer and activist friend Dr. Frank Romano, author of Storm Over Morocco, who has been organizing inter-faith peace events in the Israel-Palestine region for years, trying to bring all sides to peace talks and beat the hatred and anger that has caused unspeakable loss of lives and property on both sides.
I corresponded with Frank Romano about the recent unrest in the region, also touching on the incident of protest in Paris, last week, against Israel’s invasion of Gaza — an incident in which the protesters also attacked a synagogue, indicating how violence can potentially spread across political boundaries from the situation in the Israel-Palestine area.
Ernest: Frank, please tell me what you learnt about the attack on synagogue in Paris as you learnt from your sources?
Frank Romano: I used to live in the Jewish district and participated in Bar Mitzvahs at the synagogue that was attacked. The day after the incident, I spoke with a friend who regularly attends that synagogue and told me that the attack was perpetrated by a splinter group of the main pro-Palestinian demonstration centered around the Bastille that day (about 7 minutes walk from synagogue). Another person I spoke with was actually inside praying with 200-300 worshippers and was required to stay a couple hours in the synagogue until the danger had passed. The former confirmed what I had always known that Arabs and Jews get along very well in the 11th district so it seemed logical that the violence came from outsiders.
Ernest: As a peace activist and experienced observer of the situation in the Middle East, were you expecting such a backlash in Europe, or in Paris particularly?
Frank Romano: I am not very surprised as there is a growing movement worldwide against the Gaza Blockade, in which participate many Jews. As such, the catalyst that erupted in major demonstrations is the disproportionate force used by both sides. Perhaps also the average European and American I might add has access to news that is not mainstream and thus not as subject to filtering or even spinning in favor of Israel. That means people are reading more and more about the possibility that Gaza, due to all the circumstances, was provoked by Israel that manifested the inevitable response.
Ernest: How do you see the situation in Gaza region now?
Frank Romano: It’s understandable that strong emotions need to be tempered giving way to reason before a durable solution can be reached. Strong emotions tend to lead to violence and push aside compassion, empathy that both parties need to have for each other before they can sit together and calmly talk as suffering but calm human beings endeavoring to do the right thing for their people and for humanity in general.
Ernest: Speaking broadly, do you see recurring violence as a marker of failure of the political leadership on both sides?
Frank Romano: I do believe it is. But I wonder if the present leaders feed on violence to maintain short term-power by mobilizing their people casting aside long-term repercussions from the violence. In addition, we are presently lacking true leaders on either side ready to take chances, even chancing their own political career to do the right thing. In other words, they are not willing to take the appropriate risks, as true leaders do, to make durable changes, to improve conditions in the Middle East. In addition, many of the politicians are often under the control of private (often corporate) interests leading them by the nose, instead of their heart and their brains.
Ernest: Can the UN or the bigger, more influential countries of the world help establish peace in near or far future in this region?
Frank Romano: The UN and the US could and must take stronger positions and become more actively involved. However, the same leadership issues plague the UN and the more influential countries.
Ernest: And are you and your friends planning to send a new message of peace?
Frank Romano: Yes, God willing, I’m planning two events next week. One, an interfaith discussion (and book signing event) in Jerusalem, and a freedom dialogue/demonstration in Jenin, the West Bank.
Ernest: Frank, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts on the conflict in question.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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