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Op-Ed

Open Letter to the President by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Founder of The Israel Project

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Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is founder and president of The Israel Project, one of the leading Israel advocacy organizations in the United States today. Though, as previously reported in the Jewish Voice, she has expressed her intent to step down as the organization’s president in the next few months, Mrs. Laszlo Mizrahi hasn’t skipped a beat. And judging by the letter she wrote to President Barrack Obama and released to the media on Monday, her work on behalf of the Jewish people, and in pursuit of peace for the Middle East, is far from over. Presented here for readers of the Jewish Voice, is the text of the letter. We have omitted reference to a 2011 op-ed Mrs. Laszlo Mizrahi included with the original letter, but which we are unfortunately unable to include here. However, we encourage our readers to see it for themselves at www.theisraelproject.org.

Dear Mr. President,
March 5th will be an important day. First in my heart is that it will be the 9th anniversary of when three Israeli families with whom I am close friends each lost a child in a terrorist attack that slaughtered 17 innocent people. Horrible.

Second, it will be the day when you will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss issues of security and peace – issues where I hope you will be able to do good so that no more families will lose their children.

Thus, before this important meeting, I wanted thank you for your commitment to ensuring that Iran does not get nuclear weapons. I hope that you and our government will continue this vital work to ensure that the Iranian nuclear program no longer threatens the world. I think we all agree there is nothing more dangerous than a nuclear Iran.

Also importantly, the “Arab Spring” is changing the Middle East fundamentally. I believe that you could be greatly served by a new approach to break the deadlock in Arab-Israeli peace efforts. Some of this same work can also have massive benefits in a region where many are angry at America for the burnings of Korans and other issues.

The traditional leader-to-leader approach to peace, despite the important focus of yourself, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Prime Minister Fayyad and others, will not succeed without a massive, grassroots people-to-people effort to support those efforts. The new realities mean it is even more important than ever to focus on mutual respect and recognition between the Israeli and Palestinian people, and between Israel and its Arab neighbors. This people-to-people peace effort must demonstrate the benefits they will all enjoy, when and if, an agreement is put into place.
Our group has built an Arabic language media and web outreach program which serves as a prototype of what America could do as well.  We work to encourage ordinary citizens to stand up for mutual respect.  Already, our Arabic language Facebook page, “Israel Uncensored,” has more than 46 MILLION page views, 313,000 likes and 67,000 posts from Arabs.  Half are Egyptians – a key audience for us as we try to maintain the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

We, with the very good efforts of our mutual friend Stan Greenberg, do very detailed public opinion research to understand what will work and what does not to encourage peace and stability. Our polling research shows the most important issue to Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt and Jordan is jobs.

While a stunningly high percentage of Arabs are online and have Facebook accounts, we discovered how few Arabic materials exist online that assist with job creation. Given that there is no U.S., European or other money for a full-scale “Marshall plan” in the Arab world, a hand up is more productive than a hand out. Thus, we developed an online “Job Toolkit” with resources in Arabic. The toolkit is only a pilot but is already immensely popular. This is a program the United States, the European Union and other NGOs on the ground could vastly expand. People with jobs and businesses are far less likely to embrace radical ideologies or bring up their children to hate others.

I know that both State Department and USAID do some excellent training. But it helps only a tiny number of people compared to the need. You can’t find it on the web in Arabic when you go a google search, for example. So why is our government using 2000 tools when it’s 2012? I am hoping your office and you personally will support grassroots action as a key part of the solution. Palestinians and all Arabs in the region need to hope and not hate. They need jobs, not jihad.

Thank you for listening and for your willingness to serve world peace. Let me know if I can ever be of help in the future.
Sincerely,
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
Founder & President
www.theisraelproject.org

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