Ways to Peace – a handshake in Israel, bigotry nearer to home.

On the day that the Palestinian President Abbas visited Israel to pay tribute to Israel’s late president, Shimon Peres, and shook hands with the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, Derry City and Strabane District Council incites its people to shun Israeli Jews, their culture and learning.

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Israel is the only state in the region where its safe to be Christian and which has a vigorous free press, independent courts and regular democratic elections.

How ironic that those who identify inclusivity, dialogue and parity of esteem as vital to secure peace in Northern Ireland, believe that the best contribution they can make towards peace in the Middle East is to unleash demonization against Israeli Jews, their culture and their learning.

If this is not an act of blatant discrimination against Jewish people from Israel, let Derry City and Strabane District Council announce its shunning the education and culture of a string of nations it has concerns about, and not pick on the world’s only homeland for the Jewish people for “special treatment”.

To be silent on the call of Hamas to kill every last Jew in hiding, and Iran’s frequently heard desire to wipe Israel off the map,  is to show breath-taking hypocrisy and prejudice.

Local councils would do well to remember that just as some communities and political parties in Northern Ireland feel affinity to the Palestinians, there are others that feel affinity to the Israelis.

The lesson that all parties in Northern Ireland can bring to assist peace in the Middle East will not be enhanced by inciting people to shun the education or culture of others. That diminishes us all. There is no shortcut to ending the Arab-Israel conflict than direct peace talks and negotiations between the sides for a permanent and just peace.

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