Distributed March 27, 2002
For Immediate Release

News Service Contact: Kate Bramson

Israeli and Palestinian leaders to discuss possibilities for ending conflict

Yasser Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian minister of culture and information, and Yossi Beilin, the former Israeli minister of justice, have embarked on a new peace initiative that includes joint publications and a speaking tour in the United States. They will finish their U.S. speaking tour with a panel discussion at Brown University on April 11. (NOTE: Due to continued conflict in the Middle East, neither speaker is able to travel. See cancellation notice 01-107x.)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A group of Arab and Jewish students at Brown University has organized a panel discussion with an Israeli and a Palestinian leader who have been working together for peace between their peoples. The forum will be held April 11 at 2:30 p.m. in the Avon Theater, 260 Thayer St. It is free and open to the public.

Yasser Abed Rabbo is the minister of information and culture for the Palestinian Authority and a leading spokesman for PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. He has been a member of the PLO executive committee since 1971.

Yossi Beilin was Israeli minister of justice from 1999 to 2001 and was a key Israeli architect of the Oslo peace process. Beilin was also minister of economics and planning in 1995, deputy minister for foreign affairs from 1992 to 1995 and a member of the Knesset from 1988 to 1999.

Aaron David Miller, moderator for the discussion, is the senior adviser on Arab-Israeli negotiations with the U.S. Department of State, where he has worked for the last 20 years.

“[Rabbo and Beilin] are two of the only people in their respective governments who believe there is a way out of this,” said Brown senior Jen Miller of Common Ground, the student group organizing the event. In collaborating on their new “peace initiative,” Rabbo and Beilin have written joint publications and have spoken together about the current state of affairs in Israel.

Common Ground is committed to educating the Brown campus and the greater Providence community about Israel and Palestine and social justice, Jen Miller said. Neither pro-Israeli nor pro-Palestinian, the students seek to educate themselves on the many different perspectives on the issues and back up their viewpoints with knowledge, she said.

The small group of students has been active at Brown this year. The group hopes the panel will generate interest in Common Ground as well interest in peace in the Middle East. They hope to draw about 500 people for the April 11 event.

The panel has been organized at a time when it is vitally important for those working toward peace – such as Common Ground – to get their message out, said Eleanor Doumato, a visiting scholar at Brown’s Watson Institute, whose work focuses on the Middle East. This is the first time that an American president has called for the establishment of a Palestinian state and that Arab states in the region have stepped forward and said they are ready to talk about a comprehensive peace settlement, Doumato said.

“So we have some very strong forces right now which should step forward and take advantage of the opportunity that’s here right now,” she said. “This is a moment of unprecedented violence against civilians on both sides, so the impetus to reach a peace settlement has never been greater.”

Jen Miller said the panelists aren’t interested in harping on the past. “They’re interested in where we are now and what steps we can take to look to the future,” she said.

The forum will encourage the panelists to answer questions from their audience. “We want a critical dialogue between the audience and the speakers and the speakers themselves,” Miller said.

Common Ground is co-sponsoring the event with Seeds of Peace, a nongovernmental organization that brings children from regions of conflict together at a summer camp in Maine. Other sponsors include the Brown Lecture Board, the Watson Institute, Brown/RISD Hillel, the Institute for Non-Violence and the Brown Journal of World Affairs.